Dr. Georg Schwarzmann, assistant professor of Spanish at Lynchburg College, has published his first book, The Influence of Emerson and Whitman on the Cuban Poet José Martí (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010).
The book is drawn from research on his doctoral dissertation, “Post-Colonial Perspectives on the Americas: José Martí Reads Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.” (University of South Carolina, 2006)
Dr. Schwarzmann plans to use the book in his classes and to give public presentations about it in the 2010-11 academic year. The book will also be used for instruction at other colleges and universities and will be of particular interest to scholars of Latin American and American history, literature, and political development and of special interest to scholars of comparative literature.
Martí (1853- 1895) is considered one of Cuba’s greatest national heroes and one of Latin America’s most prominent literary figures. He became acquainted with the work of Emerson, Whitman, Twain and other American writers while living in New York City (1880-1895) and working as a correspondent for Latin American newspapers. He admired their philosophy of self-reliance and the importance of the individual and was impressed by America’s growth and its increasing stature as a world power.
While in America he witnessed and wrote about momentous events such as the Great Blizzard of 1888, the Charleston earthquake of 1886, and Emerson’s death in 1882. Through his reporting and essays, Martí gave Latin America a window on America and introduced the writings of Emerson and Whitman to Latin America.
Both writers influenced his plan for Latin America’s future. Their desire for the United States to be culturally and politically independent of England encouraged Martí to advocate for Cuba to become independent of Spain’s influence.
As much as Martí admired America and wished that Latin America could emulate it, he drew attention to the distinctly different Catholic-Iberian culture of Latin America and the Protestant United States in his widely-read essay “Nuestra America” (Our America).
He was also frightened by America’s increasing power and the prospect that it could become a threat to Latin America, Dr. Schwarzmann said, adding, “He could not have foreseen the influence of globalization that is causing the two Americas to become more alike than different.”