Psychology, Subsidized Journalism, and the Porfirian Public Sphere in Emilio Rabasa’s <em>Novelas mexicanas</em> (1887-1892)

  • Kevin M. Anzzolin Worcester State University
Keywords Latin American Literature
Keywords Latin American Literature


In Psychology, Subsidized Journalism, and the Porfirian Public Sphere in Emilio Rabasa’s Novelas mexicanas (1887-1892), I explore how Mexican letrados engaged with the commercialization, popularization, and state-subsidization of journalistic production, in hopes of defining the character of public life. By providing a careful study Rabasa’s tetralogy, I show the author employed psychological discourses both sardonically and seriously in order to dramatize the vicissitudes faced by Porfirian journalists. In this way, Rabasa participates in one of the Porfiriato’s most prominent discourses, which associated independent journalism with mental disorder—especially, insanity. By reworking Miguel de Cervantes’ El ingenioso don Quijote de la Mancha, Rabasa’s text—comprised of La bola (1887), La gran ciencia (1887), El cuarto poder (1888), and Moneda falsa (1888)—intervenes in this ongoing debate. Just as the legitimacy and logicalness of Don Quijote’s quest to incarnate the values of chivalric romances is ultimately undermined by the knight errant’s insanity, the quest to incarnate the values of independent journalism, undertaken by Rabasa’s protagonist, Juan Quiñones, is similarly challenged. Thus, Rabasa’s tetralogy offers a mordant critique of independent journalism and proposes the governmental subsidization of journalism as the only means by which to foment in Mexico a certain type of public sphere. All told, Porfirian letrados like Rabasa did not task themselves with the creation of a public sphere in the Habermasian sense—a place where social rank could be bracketed so as to cultivate rational-critical debates. Rather, and as Unzueta has cogently proposed, they aimed to forge a public alongside and via mass media, oftentimes from the top-down.

Author Biography

Kevin M. Anzzolin, Worcester State University

Dr. Kevin M. Anzzolin is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish (language and literature) at Worcester State University in Worcester, MA. In 2014, he defended his dissertation entitled “Guardians of Discourse: Journalism and Literature in Porfirian Mexico (1887-1912) at The University of Chicago. Anzzolin’s most recent publications have appeared in a volume from the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, World Literature Today, and are set to appear in Studies in Latin American Popular Culture and Céfiro. This semester, he will teach a course entitled “Mexican National Narratives: Myth and Reality,” and at The University of Chicago, he has taught a class on the narratives of the Mexican Revolution.

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