Synopses & Reviews
In The Technical Imagination
, Beatriz Sarlo focuses on the ways in which common knowledge was constructed through new technologies in 1920s and 30s-Argentina. Technology, first absorbed by the dominant classes as a tool with which to usher in modernity assimilate the countrys immigrants, also captured the imagination of the working poor. Uncovering a network of relationships between cultural consumers and cultural producers in Buenos Aires, Sarlo speaks of the exchanges between elites and masses in and around the potential uses of such technologies and inventions as electricity, radio, and the telephone. For Sarlo, the periods culture of invention encompasses scientific vulgarization, how-to handbooks, news of the extraordinary and supernatural (including robots and UFOs) marvelous cures, and parapsychology. The book first deals with literature that registered this new world and the how newspapers disseminated popular science. It then focuses on the role of the inventor, real inventors but also wannabes and hobbyists, arguing that technology served multiple purposes as a knowledge of the poor: cultural modernization and the creation of a sense of community, but also the possibility of laying claim to originality based on the on the ability to dream, invent, and renew. If the concept of an aestheticizing avant-garde organized intellectual sectors in the 1920s, a faith in technology simultaneously shaped the common man's quest for knowledge and made for alternative intellectual production outside of institutions and coteries of modernists. This is not, then, a book about the avant-garde's celebration of technology but rather the ways in which the popular imagination celebrated the discovery of technologies and wizardry and set about asserting a new identity even while, in daily life, the lower and middle classes had ever less control over their work.
"This slim yet solid volume provides rare insight into the intersection of culture, technology, and society in early twentieth-century Argentina."The Americas
"The importance of Beatriz Sarlo's work for literary and cultural criticism in Argentina over the last three decades can hardly be overstated. . . The sheer breadth and scope of Sarlo's work, from studies on Echeverria, Payro and Borges to the cultural politics of Peronism, postmodern consumerism or, most recently, the critique of the 'memorial shift' in history, puts her in a league of her own: few in Argentina, or indeed elsewhere, can match the lucidity of Sarlo's 'reading machine', her ability to trace connections and relays across the archive of Argentine culture, high as well as low-brow."Jens Andermann, Bulletin of Spanish Studies
In what Beatriz Sarlo calls six "episodes," ranging from the protoscience fiction of Horacio Quiroga and the apocalyptic urban surrealism of Roberto Arlt through the development of mass media, tales of inventors and inventions, and an entertaining tour of "weird science" and medical quackery, The Technical Imagination
examines how technology entered the popular imagination in 1920s and 1930s Argentina. Often wry, but always sympathetic, and dispensing erudition with a light touch, Sarlo shows how the products of modern technology (radio, the telephone and telegraph, movies, and rudimentary forays into television, among other phenomena) announced an unprecedented break with the past while also provoking an ironic recrudescence of age-old superstitions. Although the new technologies helped to shape notions of modernity at all levels of Argentine society, Sarlo focuses particularly on the working-class amateur inventors of Buenos Aires, and on how their inventionseven when they failed, as they frequently didpoint to what can be recognized today as the reorganization of an intellectual hierarchy, and thus of an era's, and a culture's, intellectual history.
The Technical Imagination explores how technology entered the popular imagination in the Argentina of the 1920s and 1930s and how its products helped to shape modern thinking at all levels of Argentine society.
About the Author
Beatriz Sarlo, one of the most important literary and cultural critics in Argentina and all of Latin America, was a founder of the progressive journal Punto de Vista. She is currently a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Literature at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.