About

Elena Machado Sáez is a Professor of English at Bucknell University, where she teaches courses on contemporary American, US Latino/a, and Caribbean diaspora literatures. She earned her PhD in English at SUNY Stony Brook and her undergraduate degree in English at Fordham University. Dr. Machado Sáez recently completed an essay offering an MFA teleology for US Latinx literature, two essays on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicals, In the Heights and Hamilton, and is embarking on a research project comparing Miranda’s self-representation and modes of affiliation on Twitter to that of other Latinx writers. She is author of Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction (University of Virginia Press 2015). The book analyzes historical fiction by Caribbean diasporic authors in Britain, Canada and the United States as part of a global literary trend that addresses the relationship between ethnic writers and their audiences. Machado Sáez argues that the novels address the problematic of intimacy and ethics in relation to readership by focusing on how gender and sexuality represent sites of contestation in the formulation of Caribbean identity and history. Dr. Machado Sáez is also coauthor of The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), which discusses how Cuban-American, Dominican-American, and Puerto Rican literatures challenge established ideas about the relationship between politics and the market.

Education

PhD in English, SUNY Stony Brook, 2003. BA in English, Fordham University, 1998.

Publications

Monograph  Machado Sáez, Elena. Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction. New World Studies Series, Modern Language Initiative. University of Virginia Press, 2015. Discusses the historical novels of Robert Antoni, Julia Alvarez, Dionne Brand, David Chariandy, Michelle Cliff, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Díaz, Marlon James, Andrea Levy, Ana Menéndez, and Monique Roffey. Coauthored Book Dalleo, Raphael and Machado Sáez, Elena. The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Analyzes the relationship of politics and the market in the works of Chantel Acevedo, Julia Alvarez, Angie Cruz, Nilo Cruz, Junot Díaz, Cristina Garcia, Ana Menéndez, Pedro Pietri, Ernesto Quiñonez and Abraham Rodriguez. Paperback version issued in January 2013.

Projects

Essay; “Generation MFA: Neoliberalism and the Shifting Cultural Capital of US Latinx Writers.” [For Latino Studies; 10,223 words.] Abstract: This essay describes the emergence of an MFA generation of Latinx writers as a neoliberal phenomenon that offers critics another lens by which to understand the production and critical reception of US Latinx literature. With academic institutions training and credentialing authors through creative writing programs, I argue that the market and culture of an MFA education informs generational shifts within the US Latinx canon. The disciplinary training of writers such as Ernesto Quiñonez, Rich Villar, Julia Alvarez, Junot Díaz, and Sandra Cisneros provide a glimpse into the limited agency of these authors within racist and neoliberal institutions, particularly how they understand their positioning within the academy as writers of color. Looking at the variable and fluid status of authors within the US Latinx canon helps us evaluate critical practices within US Latinx literary studies while also opening up the possibility for alternative historiographies of contemporary US Latinx literature.   Essay; “Bodega Sold Dreams: Middle-Class Panic and 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. University of Michigan Press; 10,133 words.] bstract: 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 Heightshailed it as a welcome change from prior Broadway musicals about Latinxs, namely, West Side Story and The Capeman—in other words, as a musical that challenges the racial borders 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 and threatened by the stereotypes of chaos and poverty associated with U.S. Latinx working-class subjectivities. The musical is also preoccupied with the crowding out of the middle class from urban centers like New York City via the gentrification of ethnic enclaves and the concurrent disappearance of small, local businesses. The tension over what constitutes an authentic depiction of Latinidad informs what I call the cross-over aesthetics of the musical. In the Heights seeks to translate for a predominantly white mainstream audience a set of cultural referents that are specific to a unique ethnic, racial, classed U.S. Latinx literary tradition. The musical acknowledges how decontextualization facilitates the move between U.S. Latinx and mainstream public spheres and, in turn, its vision of a pan-Latinx community. In the Heights is troubled by the work of crossing over and by the history of how U.S. Latinxs have been depicted on the Broadway stage. While it focuses the concerns of a U.S. Latinx business class, the musical also references the ways that the artistic and activist legacy of the Nuyorican community challenges the priorities of cross-over consumption for Latinx culture and history. The nuances of the play’s cross-over aesthetics are flattened out by a reception that is fixated on delimited notions of cultural authenticity. I aim to complicate the expectation of authenticity attached to this play, peeling away the hyper-positive guise of pan-Latinidad celebrated by the reception and even at times the musical itself. In turn, I perform a reading of In the Heights that acknowledges: first, how the musical is in dialogue with a U.S. Latinx Civil Rights generation, and second, how the musical embodies a crisis of imagination and authority on the part of U.S. Latinx middle-class cultural creatives. By adopting the conceptual frameworks from Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez’s essay, “An Octopus with Many Legs: U.S. Latino Theater and Its Diversity” (1999) and Elda María Román’s Race and Upward Mobility: Seeking, Gatekeeping, and Other Class Strategies in Postwar America (2017), I argue that supplementing an analysis of In the Heights with an appraisal of the identity politics of its authors and their discursive inheritances can help us critically examine the musical’s cross-over aesthetics.   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.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

Hamilton and the Digital Archives of Latinx-Caribbean Writing.”
  • Proposed Special Session on “DH in Practice: Caribbean Models.” Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention, New York, New York; [2018].
  • Humanities Symposium, Bucknell U.; [2018].
  • Colloquium for the Study of Latina/o/x Culture and Theory, Graduate Center of the City University of New York; [2018].
  • Contemporary Latina/o/x Aesthetics Seminar. American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Conference, UCLA, CA; [2018].
  • Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Conference; Barcelona, Spain; [2018].
  • 11th International Conference on Chicano Literature and Latino Studies; Salamanca, Spain; [2018].
Blackout over Broadway: The Cross-over Aesthetics of Hamilton.” Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) Conference, Nassau, Bahamas; 2017.

Elena Machado Sáez

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