Work in Progress

Essay; “Blackout on Broadway: The Cross-over Aesthetics of In the Heights and Hamilton.” [For Hamilton: A Special Issue of Studies in Musical Theatre, Ed. Peter C. Kunze; 6,694 words.]

This essay explores how the musical Hamilton inherits the cross-over aesthetics of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. The creative tension in In the Heights and Hamilton centers on how decontextualization facilitates the cultural translation necessary to bring the story of a Caribbean immigrant to the Broadway stage. I aim to isolate the moments where the musicals display an ambivalence about the efficacy of this strategy via the metaphor of blackness. A metaphorical blackness, or what Toni Morrison in Playing in the Dark (1992) calls the Africanist presence, pervades the moments where the musicals attempt to manage the tension between representation and invisibility. Both musicals are marked by a desire to counter Broadway stereotypes of working-class Latinidad (for example, West Side Story and The Capeman) that conflate Latinidad (or brownness/blackness more generally) with poverty and disempowerment. In the Heights relies upon the invisibility of working-class bodies in order to posit the US Latinx business class as a normative ideal, however, the song “Blackout” references the underlying violence that necessitates such an erasure. The metaphorical blackness of the blackout with its abjection of working class bodies in In the Heights is a precursor to the visibility of brown bodies in Hamilton. The origin story of the American Revolution in Hamilton allows Miranda to map the thematic concerns about stereotypy on Broadway without, however, actually depicting the experiences of people of color. The casting of the founding fathers with a multicultural, predominantly brown cast, alludes to how the emplotment of the musical necessitates the silencing of certain voices from the narrative. The working class struggles of people of color are the inspiration behind this origin story of the United States, but the musical is haunted by how those same marginalized voices cannot speak from within a framework of white patriarchy.

215px-In_the_HeightsEssay; “Bodega Sold Dreams: The Cross-over Aesthetics of In the Heights.” [For Dialectical Imaginaries: Materialist Approaches to U.S. Latino/a Literature, Eds. Carlos Gallego and Marcial González; 10,133 words.]

Abstract: Puerto Ricans Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda brought Dominican York to Broadway with In the Heights, which won a Tony for Best Musical in 2008. The reception of In the Heights hailed it as a welcome change from a limited lineage of Broadway musicals about Latinos, namely, West Side Story and The Capeman—in other words, as a musical that challenges the racial borders and stereotypes of the Great White Way. I instead read In the Heights as representative of a middle class politics that is haunted by the inability to speak for a working class experience of Latinidad, while also threatened by the stereotypes of chaos and poverty associated with such US Latino/a subjectivities. At the same time, the bourgeois ideology that informs the musical is preoccupied with the crowding out of the middle class from urban centers like New York City via the upper class gentrification of ethnic enclaves and the concurrent disappearance of small, local businesses. The nuances of the play’s cross-over aesthetics, with its complex class and racial politics, is flattened out by a reception that is fixated on delimited notions of authenticity. By contextualizing In the Heights in terms of identity politics and a Sixties Nuyorican imaginary, my goal is to complicate the simplistic label of authenticity attached to this play, peeling away the hyper-positive guise of pan-Latinidad that the reception, and even at times the musical itself, celebrate. In turn, I want to encourage a reading of In the Heights that acknowledges: first, how the musical is in dialogue with a set of 1960s US Latino/a precursors, and second, how the musical embodies a crisis of imagination and authority on the part of US Latino/a middle-class cultural creatives.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 8.06.43 PMEssay; “Canon of One: Critical popularity, the MFA generation and US Latino/a literature.” [Under review; 9,942 words.]

Abstract: The academic reception of Julia Alvarez and Junot Díaz illustrates canonization trends within the fields of US Latino/a and American literature as well changes in the neoliberal marketplace. I analyze the rise and fall of Julia Alvarez’s critical reception and Junot Díaz’s ascendance as the representative Dominican–American writer by engaging three historical contexts: that of US Latino/a literary anthologies, the emergence of an MFA generation of creative writers, and neoliberalism’s professionalization of cultural production. In order to flesh out these contexts, I turn to the coauthored essay that Raphael Dalleo and Elena Machado Sáez wrote on “The Formation of a Latino/a Canon” for the Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature (2012), Mark McGurl’s The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (2009), and Arlene Dávila’s Culture Works: Space, Value, and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas (2012). I am interested in exploring how these historical contexts shape the critical reception of certain writers within the pan-ethnic Latino/a canon and the ways in which our work as literary critics is informed by these contexts. I also want to highlight the (in)visibility of different critical practices that contribute to the canonization of authors within US Latino/a literary studies.

Current Research Project; “Hamilton and the Digital Archives of Latinx-Caribbean Writing.”

Abstract: Branching out from my conclusion chapter in Market Aesthetics about digital paratexts, I’m now researching the the market aesthetics of Latinx-Caribbean digital production. I’m particularly interested in how Lin-Manuel Miranda’s use of social media speaks to his understanding of the relationship between institutions, audiences, and aesthetics. I’m therefore engaging in the ongoing debate about representation in Hamilton by placing the musical within the context of the online archive produced by Miranda.

By data scraping his Twitter account, I am identifying Miranda’s primary discourses of self-representation and affiliation. I’ll be performing text analysis to map out intersections with the musical’s racialized rhetoric of independence and sentimentality. I’m also comparing Miranda’s strategies for negotiating intimacy and ethics online with those of other Latinx-Caribbean writers, like Kristoffer Díaz and Jennine Capó Crucet.