I think the study of César Vallejo is the only real antidote to the effects of the current election. Our LASA panel on him was rejected–y eso que LASA se realiza esta vez en Lima–surely because it was too poetic and too literary. I was concerned about this possibility and thought the venue could be our salvation, but it was not.
So I am returning to Tulane all the books I had out on him for this presentation, because in the current situation I have two other pieces to finish before I can get back to this. One of them, I am buying since it is a good resource on the texts and it can be bought.
The paper is about biographical criticism of Vallejo, which has been rampant and also underlies much other criticism. What if people did not try to read him as Peruvian (they emphasize his mestizo blood to rescue him for peruanidad, and I think the mestizo background matters but in a much more important way–he has a non-Western or not entirely Western consciousness and perspective, and this matters)?
What if people did not insist that he was sad (remember, sadness is a modernista trope as well) and poor (he is not from a poor background himself, and I don’t think an actually poor person would have sold Georgette’s mother’s apartment to finance a grand tour of Europe)? Wouldn’t it be nice to read his very serious poems as expositions of something other than personal sadness and poverty, and also something more complex than solidarity (although I do realize solidarity is complex)?
Also, given the very conservative state of literary criticism it is strange to me that there are so few close readings of whole poems. Julio Ortega, for instance, is an excellent reader of Vallejo but his writing is so generalizing, as though it were a transcription of a conversation with a friend, and it quotes fragments and then does not sustain the discussion of the text.
I will get further into this and when I am old I will be a great Vallejo critic, it is my future.