Current Issue Article Abstracts
June 2017 Vol. 70.1
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Daniel Aguirre-Oteiza (Harvard)
This article explores Antonio Muñoz Molina's recuperation of Max Aub's literary testimony of uprootedness for Spanish national culture. Muñoz Molina's reading is inflected by the concept of cosmopolitan memory as it has been developed in Holocaust studies. Muñoz Molina's recuperation can be critiqued for his controversial use of the Holocaust as a template for a transnational cultural history based on a supposedly shared Jewish past. Muñoz Molina generalizes on two levels: he turns Aub into an exemplary witness of two historical junctures—the Spanish Civil War and World War II—and he subsumes both junctures under the general rubric of totalitarianism. As a result, Muñoz Molina paradoxically downplays Aub's main tropes of testimony, the alias and the apocryphal, and disregards his testimonial poetics of alterity, plurivocality, and opacity in favor of a rhetoric of equivalence, univocality, and self-evidence that is derived from cosmopolitan memory. Thus, Muñoz Molina turns Aub into a precursor whose place he tries to symbolically usurp—along with other Jewish authors, Aub is made to occupy a trans-historical topos to which Muñoz Molina wants to discursively return
Jason A. Bartles (West Chester University of Pennsylvania)
In the 1960s, Calvert Casey wrote fiction and essays in support of the Cuban Revolution as a member of Lunes de Revolución and Casa de las Américas before going into exile. This essay argues that he developed a revolutionary, though ultimately wasted, model by which individuals can form a political community despite the rigid social barriers that persisted from Cuba's colonial and neocolonial past. In his writings, Casey explores Havana's sewers and the forgotten stories of the capital city. His focus on literal and figurative waste is not an isolated moment in the history of Cuban aesthetics, but one that he locates in the works of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Cuban authors, including Cirilo Villaverde, Ramón Meza, and Miguel de Carrión. Casey critiques a certain Romantic vision of the past that, in his view, idealized pre-Revolutionary Cuba as a tropical paradise set for epic struggles and sublime realizations. Against this mythical, Romantic image of the Cuban nation, he proposes an aesthetics and politics without the lofty, normative values that exclude images of sullied objects, disreputable places, and people getting wasted. The essay concludes with an analysis of the film P.M. alongside Casey's posthumously published short story "Piazza Margana" to situate both of these seemingly aberrant texts within a long-standing, though infrequently celebrated, national tradition of reveling in filthy places packed with writhing, drunken bodies.
Brian Brewer (Trinity College Dublin)
Set during the fifteenth-century Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the Moorish novel El Abencerraje articulates a meticulously stratified system of contractual exchanges in which the aristocracy's symbolic economy of honor functions in counterpoint to the warrior economy of kidnapping and ransom, the erotic economy of love, and the mercantile economy of the commercial class. These economic divisions transect both Christian and Muslim spaces, transcending ethnic and religious distinctions and reinforcing a shared aristocratic identity that supplants financial greed and violence along a military border. While this hierarchy of value exists in all three surviving iterations of El Abencerraje, it is particularly developed in the version of the text included in Antonio de Villegas's Inventario, a miscellany published in Medina del Campo in 1565. Medina del Campo was then the site of the most important merchant fair in Castile and the hub of financial activity in the Peninsula, at a time when increasingly globalized commercial and currency exchange markets provided unprecedented opportunities of enrichment to those merchants in a position to profitably exploit them. This economic context, therefore, may have been determinative of some of the distinctive aspects of the Inventario version of the text, which contrasts the financial disinterestedness of its noble Christian protagonist, Rodrigo de Narváez, with the figure of the greedy merchant. The Inventario variant of El Abencerraje is therefore less a plea for interfaith tolerance than a didactic instrument for inculcating aristocratic values within a socially mobile merchant class with pretensions to nobility.
Pablo García Martínez (City University of New York)
This article analyzes how the Argentinean art magazine Ver y Estimar received the art exhibitions spanning from 1948 to 1955, in Buenos Aires, by the Argentinean-Galician artist Luis Seoane. During those years, the magazine, led by art critic Jorge Romero Brest, advocated for the imposition of geometric abstraction as the hegemonic trend to be followed in order for Argentinean art to engage with the international development of modernity. This essay shows the fictional quality of those accounts meant to institute hegemonic models for the consumption of cultural productions. These are processes leading to the configuration of a canon, composed by choices and omissions. And the main purpose of this canon is to legitimize a given discourse—rather than creating knowledge about an art object in relation to the conditions of its production. This article shows how, in analyzing Seoane's paintings, the first omission is related to his belief in an idea of a popular art as one meant to be effective beyond museums' walls. Critics of the time also disregarded Seoane's conception of his own work as a process based on an idealization of art's potential for building a transatlantic dialogue with both Galician history and culture. At the same time, Seoane's shapes are a result of his effort to establish a dialogue on art techniques, interacting with the different voices present in the metropolitan art scene of postwar Buenos Aires.
Ezequiel Zaidenwerg (New York University)
This essay offers a political reading of the poetry of Manuel Ramos Otero, focusing on its formal aspects instead of its content and themes, which have traditionally been the center of critical attention. After studying the Puerto Rican author's use of the life and poetry of Luis Cernuda as a mask for his own ethics of marginality, in which breaking the rules of social decorum becomes an act of resistance, the essay goes on to expand that very same notion of decorum to a formal category, analyzing Ramos Otero's trajectory from El libro de la muerte—heavily influenced by both Anglo-American modernism and Latin American modernismo—to Invitación al polvo, which in an apparent paradox draws upon less modern influences, such as a popularist strand of Spanish Baroque poetry and traditional Puerto Rican and Latin American popular music lyrics. Rather than centering on Ramos Otero's poetic chronicling of his struggle with AIDS, the formal anachronism in the Puerto Rican's posthumous poetry collection is read alongside the traumatic neoliberalization of the city of New York—where Ramos Otero resided—specifically through the lens of his romantic relationship with José, a Cuban blue-collar migrant. In its conclusion, the essay argues that, by opposing neoliberal modernization and the transformations and invisibilizations in the work sphere it brings about, Ramos Otero resorts to a politically charged (and anachronistic) use of poetry as manual, artisanal labor.
Michael Ugarte (University of Missouri-Columbia): Border Wars on the Coast!
Cristián H. Ricci. ¡Hay moros en la costa! Literatura marroquí fronteriza en castellano y catalán. Iberoamericana, 2014, 286 pp. Jessica A. Folkart. Liminal Fiction at the Edge of the Millennium: The Ends of Spanish Identity. Bucknell UP, 2014, 262 pp.