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".