Monthly Archives: March 2015

Some notes toward Easter

PR429.S45 G7 1980 is the call number of Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning, in our very own library — a book it would now please us to read. It has been such a fragmenting semester, but overall it has been good. I still suffer but I think it is needless.

About Reeducation: I have not undergone psychoanalysis but in my experience psychotherapy is like talking in circles around thin pamphlets while ignoring the words of profound thinkers. Two different people have suggested that better psychotherapy could be observed in the television program In Treatment, but this show is even thinner than reality as I have experienced it. My psychologist says the show is not written by experts, but Wikipedia says experts are using it in training.

In life, I learned that one must constantly sacrifice and self-harm, do penance, to prove loyalty to the only princes and princesses who had considered one’s application for protection. That would get you a poor living, but it would be better than no living and was the most to which one could aspire.

A result of this is that I do not always know when the care of the self (and I should read Foucault on this) is not another form of self-harm; I can easily transform self-fashioning into self-harm as well. I discern, however, that it is important to build from within and according to one’s will, as opposed to follow rules. Furthermore: what one does, which direction one takes, is immaterial in the end; the important thing is to build from within and according to one’s will.

This sounds very audacious. A Reeducated person, would say I was indulging in arrogance, as I am talking about doing one’s own will. But it only seems so arrogant if one has been taught that sacrifice and penitence were the key tasks at hand. (Why is it that once you have a dissertation to write, and beyond, when you have yet greater intellectual power and freedom, you are suddenly told you must no longer believe you know how to write or what to say? It is the professionalization, someone suggested, and that was an astute comment.)

In Reeducation, it was said: you had parents who drank. Therefore you must be a dishonest person and and egotistical one. Our job is to make you see these things about yourself and break you down. You must renounce the things you love because you do not deserve them, and you must do penitence. It was disappointing news then that I should learn such things, but I learned them and they are difficult to shed.

I was noticing the difference between my ceramics teachers. The one whose work I like best is the lesser teacher and I glimpsed one day that it is because she wants to make sure to remain above us. That means that teaching and research are not intrinsically opposed to one another. What impedes teaching is the clinging to power.



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Alphonse Daudet’s house of pain

Every evening, a hideously painful spasm in the ribs. I read, for a long time, sitting up in bed – the only position I can endure. I’m a poor old wounded Don Quixote, sitting on his arse in his armour at the foot of a tree.

Armour is exactly what it feels like, a hoop of steel cruelly crushing my lower back. Hot coals, stabs of pain as sharp as needles. Then chloral, the tin-tin of my spoon in the glass, and peace at last.

This breastplate has had me in its grip for months. I can’t undo the straps; I can’t breathe…

Since learning that I’ve got it for ever – and my God, what a short “for ever” that is going to be – I’ve readjusted myself and started taking these notes. I’m making them by dipping the point of a nail in my own blood and scratching on the walls of my carcere duro [punitive imprisonment].

All I ask is not to have to change cell, not to have to descend into an in pace, down there where everything’s black, and thought no longer exists…

The clever way death cuts us down, but makes it look like just a thinning-out. Generations never fall with one blow – that would be too sad and too obvious. Death prefers to do it piecemeal. The meadow is attacked from several sides at the same time. One of us goes one day; another some time afterwards; you have to stand back and look around you to take in what’s missing, to grasp the vast slaughter of your generation…

From time to time, a memory of the active life, of happier times. For instance, those Neapolitan coral-fishermen among the rocks, in the evening. The epitome of physical well-being…

Return to childhood. To reach that distant chair, to cross that waxed corridor, requires as much effort and ingenuity as Stanley deploys in the African jungle…

I only know one thing, and that is to shout to my children, “Long live Life!’ But it’s so hard to do, while I am ripped apart by pain.

This was first published in 1930, although Daudet died in 1897. Here is a related article, and here is the one in which I am finding my Daudet quotations. Here is more.



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Unas preguntas televisivas — on culture and human nature

My current television fascination is the European Borgia (not to be confused with The Borgias) — I want to be Césare Borgia, move to Barcelona, and ask Dame Eleanor Hull whether this program offers a realistic depiction of the culture of the time, and to what extent human nature and the conditions of life for most people have, or have not changed since then.

However, on the recommendation of Hattie I have also seen some episodes of In Treatment and I am horrified. This is supposed to be a realistic show about psychotherapy but the characters, including the therapist when he sees his own therapist, are amazingly devoid of self-awareness, and they lie constantly. I would not even say they were deluded, I would say they are alienated, dishonest and self-serving. Are modern people really like this? Is this how they assume others are — and is that why I have difficulty understanding so many people?

The year 1500, when the Borgia show is set, is more overtly savage and people are devious for political reasons, and many characters are conflicted, disturbed, or both, but everyone seems so much more whole. I was always taught the present was better and the past, especially this past (with the Inquisition and all), was worse, but where I live there were people broken on the wheel in the 18th century and burned at the stake, with crowds watching, in the 20th.



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Juan Sánchez Peláez

Our tenacious baroque vocation —the American tendency of looking at words as if they were carnal objects as recent and astonishing as the world they needed to name— and a certain epic spirit in the cultivation of the 20th century aesthetic Left favored that great impetus of the movement founded by Breton. A chapter that opens in 1928, just four years after the publication of the first “Surrealist Manifesto,” when the magazine Qué appears in Buenos Aires, founded by Aldo Pellegrini. At that time Neruda was in Rangoon writing his first Residence on Earth and a few years later Lezama Lima, in Havana, was announcing the “Death of Narcissus”: “The hand or the the lip or the bird were snowing.”

The word, streaked with divergent senses, strips its own materiality. If the accent in the Surrealism of the Americas is markedly erotic, as for example with the Chilean Rosamel del Valle (an explicit influence on Sánchez Peláez), it is, in the first place, because of that visibility of the word as an unsettling object, dislocated from its reference: “The words sound like gold animals,” writes Sánchez Peláez.

Now I know about both this poet and the blog Venepoetics, and its mysterious author.


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Viaje hacia la noche

A documentary on César Moro.


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Terceto autóctono

Here are some lines from the second poem in this trio.

El ojo del crepúsculo desiste
de ver quemado vivo el caserío.

The entire series is worth studying seriously and this one in particular makes it worthwhile and helpful to have visited Santiago de Chuco.


Afílase lo rudo. Habla escarcela . . .
En las venas indígenas rutila
un yaraví de sangre que se cuela
en nostalgias de sol por la pupila.

Las pallas, aquenando hondos suspiros,
como en raras estampas seculares,
enrosarian un símbolo en sus giros.

Luce él Apóstol en su trono, luego;
y es, entre inciensos, cirios y cantares,
el moderno dios-sol para el labriego.


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Final nadería

Note: “El escritor argentino y la tradición” is next, so no, you are not free. And it appears that being only seems to exist because time seems to pass.

No hay tal yo de conjunto. Grimm, en una excelente declaración del budismo (Die Lehre des Buddha, München, 1917), narra el procedimiento eliminador mediante el cual los indios alcanzaron esa certeza. He aquí su canon milenariamente eficaz: Aquellas cosas de las cuales puedo advertir los principios y la postrimería, no son mi yo. Esa norma es verídica y basta ejemplificarla para persuadimos de su virtud. Yo, por ejemplo, no soy la realidad visual que mis ojos abarcan, pues de serlo me mataría toda oscuridad y no quedaría nada en mí para desear el espectáculo del mundo ni siquiera para olvidado. Tampoco soy las audiciones que escucho pues en tal caso debería borrarme el silencio y pasaría de sonido en sonido, sin memoria del anterior. Idéntica argumentación se endereza después a lo olfativo, lo gustable y lo táctil y se prueba con ello, no solamente que no soy el mundo aparencial -cosa notoria y sin disputa- sino que las apercepciones que lo señalan tampoco son mi yo. Esto es, no soy mi actividad de ver, de oír, de oler, de gustar, de palpar. Tampoco soy mi cuerpo, que es fenómeno entre los otros. Hasta ese punto el argumento es baladí, siendo lo insigne su aplicación a lo espiritual. ¿Son el deseo, el pensamiento, la dicha y la congoja mi verdadero yo? La respuesta, de acuerdo con el canon, es claramente negativa, ya que estas afecciones caducan sin anonadar me con ellas. La conciencia -último escondrijo posible para el emplazamiento del yo- se manifiesta inhábil. Ya descartados los afectos, las percepciones forasteras y hasta el cambiadizo pensar, la conciencia es cosa baldía, sin apariencia alguna que la exista reflejándose en ella.

Observa Grimm que este prolijo averiguamiento dialéctico nos deja un resultado que se acuerda con la opinión de Schopenhauer, según la cual el yo es un punto cuya inmovilidad es eficaz para determinar por contraste la cargada fuga del tiempo. Esta opinión traduce el yo en una mera urgencia lógica, sin cualidades propias ni distinciones de individuo a individuo.


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César Moro in Paris


L’amour dédicace à l’amour

Les jours sans pluie

Et comme il convient les beaux jours

Pour l’amour et ses préférences

Au renom du plus vieil amour

À la pluie du mot amour

Au seul amour sans regret sans bonheur sans retour

À l’avenir des fous

Aux fossoyeurs aux gais compagnons du bagne

Au poignant au brûlant souvenir du tatouage

À ma chère mort

À ceux qui doutent encore

Aux trésors des aveugles

Aux larmes

À l’eau au vent au feu à l’amour

À l’espoir de celui qui brise son amour

Au tourment de feu et de glace

Aux premiers événements qui signaleront la révolte et le sang

Aux draps des crimes passionnels

Aux beaux draps des suicides

À la crosse plus tendre que de raison du revolver

Aux départs qui soufflent jusqu’à l’air

Aux déchirants matins de celui que l’amour rejette

Au plomb des balles

Pour que ceux qui n’en sont pas touchés meurent

Comme des chiens empoisonnés

Aux douleurs de ceux qui s’éveillent

Aux nuits vides

À ma vie perdue

À la perte sans regret sans retour sans bonheur de la vie

Pour que ceux qui aiment et croupissent dans leur bonheur

Se lèvent et jettent les premières malédictions

À l’ouragan

Aux mains plus tristes que tout

Pour mieux effacer mon nom

Pour secouer la poussière et retomber en poussière

Pour maudire les instants soi-disant heureux

Pour le réveille-matin chargé de poudre

Aux statues nues de la nuit

Au marbre perdu

Pour avoir un lit de marbre

Pour ne pas avoir de tombeau

Aux signes de feu du poignard

Aux seuls aux uniques souvenirs sexuels

À la bouche de pierre de l’amour

Au froid de l’eau la nuit

Pour ne plus recommencer

Au plus tendre amour.

César MORO.

Le surréalisme au service de la révolution 5 (1933): 38.


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Du levande

Roy Andersson.



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Getting that MLA proposal down to less than 1000 words

Vallejo: Language Itself [I am not sure this title covers it, but a better one is not coming to me, and this has been improved since I posted it … but I am still interested in the question of the title]

Borges said Quevedo was a poet of language: “La grandeza de Quevedo es verbal” (“Quevedo,” Otras inquisiciones, 1952). His contemporary César Vallejo was a Quevedo disciple in his youth, and some of his later language experiments are more Quevedian than avant-garde. This panel considers Vallejo as a poet of language itself, rather than as an “expressive,” or ethical or political poet as has been most traditionally done. Such thematic readings are essential for a politically committed writer whose work uses a great deal of autobiographical material and also closely engages the intellectual life of his time. But the strong emphasis in Vallejo’s critical tradition on his personal circumstances, his vocabulary of pain, and his leftist politics also works reductively, as does the focus on image at the expense of intertext and sound. Vallejo’s language consciousness is well recognized, but is part of his difficulty still an effect of evading questions of textuality? Our papers present close readings not motivated by the most commonly invoked thematic clusters in Vallejo criticism (orphanhood, poverty, suffering, displacement, mestizaje); we contend as well that a focus on language also reveals Vallejo as a more affirmative poet than he is often considered to be. We are particularly interested in the ways in which Vallejo’s use of fragmentation works to create not a static composition but one that seems to transform itself as it is read. We note in addition that although Vallejo criticized the coldness of much avant-garde writing (“Hacedores de imágenes, devolved las palabras a los hombres,” he wrote in “Se prohíbe hablar al piloto” [Favorables París Poema 2, October 1926]), and while his work has an immediate affective and even corporeal impact, the difficulty of his texts has much to do with their intricacy at the level of intellect.

César Vallejo died in 1938 with much of his major work still unpublished. He has since emerged as one of the most important writers in the Spanish language and as a major figure in world literature. Recent English translations of poetry and prose include Seiferle (2003), Eshleman (2006), Mulligan (2011), Gianuzzi and Smith (2012), and Malanga (2014); additional projects are underway. In 2011 Michelle Clayton published a major study in English; Stephen Hart’s new biography appeared in 2013. Much progress has been made on the collection and edition of his writings in narrative, theatre, and essay as well as poetry. New documentation includes Juan Fló’s discovery of early manuscripts of the later poems (Fló and Hart, eds., Autógrafos olvidados, 2002), Alan E. Smith’s facsimile edition of España, aparta de mí este cáliz (2012), and Andrés Echeverría’s compilation of Vallejo’s correspondence with Pablo Abril (2013). Since most of his writings in Spanish are at last available in responsible editions, research on Vallejo is now possible in a way it had not been earlier.

We aim to contribute to renewed scholarly work on this author who has become monumental without being fully read. We also hope to support the growth of Vallejo studies from an international and comparativist standpoint. This is important since given the translations and the global power of English, it is desirable that Vallejo’s critical traditions in Spanish, English and other languages remain in contact with one another and that the work in Spanish be known outside Peru. In addition Vallejo himself, the traveler with an Andean substratum, writing in Paris about Peru, Russia, Spain, worked from this point of view. Especially with the complex situation of his editions and manuscript tradition, it is essential to follow the networks through which his texts circulate, across languages and borders. The panel engages the Presidential theme “Literature and Its Publics” in that all presentations address questions of readership and audience.

The first two papers offer new readings of well known texts, giving very close attention to verbal play. Pedro Granadós’ “Trilce/Teatro: guión, personajes y público,” focuses on Trilce (1922), Vallejo’s most linguistically daring collection. Granados first shows how Trilce works as a theatrical or performance text, and then considers one of the specific audiences with which this collection enters into dialogue: the journal Colónida (1916) and the Colónida movement that grew up around it. Alan E. Smith’s “Looking for ‘Hallazgo de la vida’” examines the prose poetry of Vallejo’s early Paris years, some of the poet’s darkest, arguing that these are in fact affirmative texts and showing how they work to recover both the human figure and pathos.

The following two presentations focus on translations, adaptations, and Vallejo’s influence on contemporary literature and art. Jonathan Mayhew’s analysis of translations ranges from the earlier work (Los heraldos negros, 1919) to España, aparta de mí este cáliz (1938), drawing contrasts with translation projects on Neruda and Lorca. Vallejo’s modernism, he argues, is characterized not by visual imagery but by what Ezra Pound called “logopoeia,” or the “dance of the intellect among words.” Finally, Stephen Hart examines the poets who commemorated their ‘audience’ of and with Vallejo in a number of poems, focusing mainly on the poems Pablo Neruda dedicated to the Peruvian. His discussion also refers to the novels which have resurrected different aspects of Vallejo’s biography – Juan José Saer’s La pesquisa (1994), Roberto Bolaño’s Monsieur Pain (1999), Luis Freire Sarria’s César Vallejo se aburrió de seguir muerto, Eduardo González Viaña’s Vallejo en los infiernos (2007; English translation César Vallejo’s Season in Hell, 2015) and Jorge Nájar’s Vallejo y la célula Nec plus ultra (2010) – as well as films such as Roy Andersson’s Sånger från andra våningen [Songs from the Second Floor], and Fernando de Szyszlo’s artwork. Questions implicit in Mayhew’s presentation and explicit in Hart’s are what we mean by “public,” and what forces are at play when we talk about the influence a writer wields over other artists.

Papers will be posted online ahead of the convention. In the session, however, they will not be read, but rather summarized and explained. Each presenter will prepare a handout of relevant quotations for the audience, to facilitate assimilation and discussion of their analyses and arguments.


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