Thesis Abstract and Dissertation
The Politics of Letters: José Martí’s Revolutionary Discourse
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Toronto, 2006
Martí’s life and work exemplify the intellectual activist whose contribution to human progress is founded on the principle that self-development, freedom, justice, and dignity for everyone are achievable through historical transformation. His writings occupy a central place in the “literature of combat” in the new political and economic era that emerged in the final decades of the 1800s. They place him alongside radical revolutionary thinkers for whom humanism is the necessary foundation of the political and social consciousness required to transform nations into independent and just societies, and for whom also moral progress is as important an indicator of national development as material accumulation and technological growth.
Martí’s humanism is the foundation of his revolutionary activism. His commitment to human progress and nation-building generates his creative impulse and forges an integral link between writing and his other political activities. The transformative spirit of Martí’s creativity and aesthetic will brings together the activist and the inner poet and gives form to distinctive texts that challenge literary boundaries and mark significant contributions in the struggle to create, legitimize and establish authentic, original literature in Spanish America. It is exemplified in El presidio político en Cuba, his revolutionary oratory and “Nuestra América.”
Martí’s revolutionary discourse incorporates the link between the aesthetic and political dimensions of America’s transformation and brings the poet’s creativity and aesthetic will together with the political purpose and ethical appeal imposed by the realities of history and the activist’s place in it. It is a discourse of inclusion that recognizes the marginalized sectors and integrates them into the march of human progress.
Martí’s emancipatory poetics combines factual information and poetic expression in the poeticized prose, figurative language and proliferation of images that characterize his style. In the politics of letters, Martí’s excels in the employment of the rhetorical arts to inspire leaders, mobilize the people, and convey truth in the service of the nation through the rational appeal of facts and arguments strengthened by power of the schemes and tropes of poetic language to speak to people’s souls and intellects and move their passions.