In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Nineteenth-Century Literature

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Anthologies
  • Critical Collections
  • Memoirs/Testimonios/Autobiographies
  • Databases
  • Tobacco Workers (Key West, Tampa, and New York)
  • US Civil War
  • Afro-Latinas/o in the 19th Century

Latino Studies Nineteenth-Century Literature
Carmen E. Lamas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0135


Research on 19th-century Latina/o literature offers readers a burgeoning and flourishing field of study. Nevertheless, while scholars have made multiple critical interventions in the study of 19th-century Latina/o literature, the field simultaneously remains ripe for new research because of the depth and breadth of the subject and its continually expanding literary and historical archive. Three major factors define the study of 19th-century Latina/o literature and differentiate it from other areas of study. First, while Latina/os did write in English during the 19th century, many works were also written in Spanish and other languages. This was due to the transamerican, transnational and transatlantic experiences of many of the writers in question. Consequently, while these writings have been excerpted and translated in anthologies, the corpus by and large remains unpublished and untranslated. A second factor concerns the terminology used to refer to Latina/os of the 19th century. Latina/o and Hispanic are both terms in general use in the 20th-century, each with its own historical and contextual demarcations. Both have proven to be insufficient inasmuch as they are insufficiently precise, and as a result different terms have been coined to identify the authors and figures under study. This terminological issue signals the indispensability of a thorough knowledge of the historical and political concerns of the countries from which the authors in question originate. To understand and contextualize the lived realities of Latina/os of the 19th century and the literature they produced, readers must situate the writers within not only US history, but Latin American, European, African, Asian and indigenous histories as well, since these authors negotiated the political realities of varying nations, geographies, and peoples concurrently, while also negotiating multiple racial and ethnic experiences. As the researcher, student, or general reader explores and studies 19th-century Latina/o literature, he or she will find that academic and historically defined terms are challenged by the 19th-century archive and by the lived experiences of the individuals who produced it. A third variable is genre. While those interested in 19th-century Latina/o literature will encounter such traditional literary genres as novels, short stories, poetry, drama, and essays, they must also take into account more diverse sources such as newspapers, pamphlets, political tracts, broadsides, government documents, diplomatic records, speeches, travel diaries, journals, Spanish readers and grammar books, personal correspondence, maps, and corridos. In short, those interested in the literary manifestations of Latina/os in the 19th century will find a vast and growing archive of materials that document not only the literary history of Latina/os, but also the experiences and cultural expressions of Latina/o communities of that era.

General Overviews

Comprehensive general references that exclusively address 19th-century Latina/o literature do not exist currently. However, certain general reference works include comprehensive discussions of 19th-century literary works. While discussions of 19th-century Latina/o literature are found within larger projects that address Latina/o literature in general, to date Kanellos 2003 is particularly useful for the general reader. Kanellos 1990 includes a survey of 19th-century Latina/o theater, and Kanellos and Martell 2000 provides a comprehensive bibliographic listing of 19th-century Latina/o periodicals.

  • Kanellos, Nicolás. A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States: Origins to 1940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.

    A comprehensive study of Hispanic theater from colonial times to the 1940s, and the only monograph exclusively dedicated to theater during this time period to date.

  • Kanellos, Nicolás. Hispanic Literatures of the United States: A Comprehensive Reference. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.

    Masterly incorporation of 19th-century Latina/o literature as part of and essential to 20th-century literary manifestations. Introductory overview is thorough and detailed. Every chapter includes discussions of the 19th-century precursors of these works. From the “Who’s Who” to “Publishing Trends” to “Drama,” 19th-century literary manifestations are given their proper place and context.

  • Kanellos, Nicolás, and Helvetia Martell. Hispanic Periodicals in the United States, Origins to 1960: A Brief History and Comprehensive Bibliography. Houston, TX: Arte Público Press, 2000.

    The most comprehensive bibliographic listing of Latina/o periodicals in book format. Includes introductory essays on the history and development of the Hispanic press in the United States and divides the Hispanic press into three categories: “The Press in Exile,” “The Immigrant Press,” and “The Native Hispanic Press.”

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