Certain post-Romantic conceptions have seen literature as a sanctioned space for the articulation of social dissidence and heterogeneity. Yet recent scholarship has shown that literature did not always have an oppositional character; that in its modern form it emerged precisely as a central ideological practice of European absolutism in the 16th and 17th centuries. Literature was one of the conditions responsible for emergence of the modern nation-state; and its institutionalization was founded on the incorporation and neutralization of contradictions. This study attempts to answer the following question: Is there not a way of thinking about literature that is "outside" or "against" literature? Beverley argues for a negation of the literary that would allow non-literary forms of cultural practice to displace literature's hegemony. Beverley reminds us that contemporary theorists speak of literatures with historically and socially-specific conditions of production and reading formations; that is, mediated relations between text and context.
He then begins his explorations with Latin American literature, which he says, is endowed with the legacy of Columbus - discovery, conquest, and colonization - an ambiguous cultural function, making it both a colonial institution and a historical agent of nation formation. He moves from this consideration to an extensive discussion of the post-colonial "testimonio", poised between literature and the dynamics of subaltern culture. Beverley's demonstration - of how the internal logic that has always driven the dominant conception of literature must of necessity explode into cultural politics - is a significant intervention into current debates about cultural studies, the canon, and multiculturalism. John Beverley is the author of "Aspects of Gongora's `Soledades'" and, with Mark Zimmerman, co-author of "Literature and Politics in the Central American Revolutions".