Nineteenth-century Argentine literature and the writings of R.B. Cunninghame Graham

Niland, Richard; Sassi, Carla and Stroh, Silke, eds. (2017) Nineteenth-century Argentine literature and the writings of R.B. Cunninghame Graham. In: Empires and Revolutions. Scottish Literature International, Glasgow, pp. 80-95. ISBN 978-1-908980-25-0

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Abstract

R. B. Cunninghame Graham’s Argentine sketches are characterised by the literary and political traits discernible throughout his oeuvre. These include a sceptical attitude to modernity and progress, an ability to render an evocative autobiographical encounter with changing traditions and cultures, and scrutiny of the evolution of national and imperial politics in Latin America. Graham’s early experiences in Argentina occurred amidst the increasing reach of global networks of economic and cultural exchange in a period when ‘globalization occurred parallel and simultaneously to state- building’. 1 Engaged in a process of modernisation that saw the promotion of the Argentine Republic on to expanding world markets, ‘prevailing opinion’, as David Rock has noted, ‘held Argentina to be a land of boundless natural riches and frontier wildernesses, and the stirring Colossus of the South, destined infallibly to become one of the world’s great nations’. 2 While earlier British writers and travellers, such as Woodbine Parish, Charles Darwin and Francis Bond Head had surveyed the lands known to them as ‘the Argentine’ in the troubled periods following its independence, Graham arrived in Argentina in 1870 at one of these moments of potential and promise. As such, he embodied the enterprising European who might fulfil the dreams of a metropolitan Argentine culture which looked to immigra- tion as a means to offset the indigenous traditions of the country supposedly holding back its progress.