Raúl Coronado’s teaching and research interests are in Latina/o literary and intellectual history, from the colonial period to the 1940s. In a sense, this field and period allow—indeed force—us to rethink the literature of the Americas in a transnational, hemispheric framework. By returning to the archive, rethinking the category of literature, genres, and disciplines, and engaging with the theoretical-historical problematic of modernity and colonialism in the Americas, we can begin to imagine alternative historical geographies for a literature of the Americas, one where the seemingly impermeable barrier between U.S. and Latin American literary and intellectual history begins to disintegrate in U.S. Latina/o studies.
Coronado’s first book project, A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture (Harvard 2013), explored these questions by focusing on the transnational development of a print and literary culture in Texas. However, rather than take literature as the beginning object of study, his teaching and research historicizes the process by which certain genres came to be identified as literature. Consequently, he emphasizes the contemporary, social meaning of writing. The nineteenth-century specialization of knowledge associated with modernity gave shape to our contemporary definition of literature as a genre distinct from political writing, journalism, and history, for example. By modernity, Coronado invokes the Enlightenment’s dream: the notion that society could, with the benefit of studied knowledge, progress indefinitely. But the spread of modernity from Europe to the Americas was never merely a question of reproducing an original blueprint. How democratic institutions unfolded, how writing fragmented and became specialized into political and aesthetic spheres, and the subjective transformations required for these changes all depended on who and what existed at the local level as well.