Cities in Ruins

Cities in Ruins: The Politics of Modern Poetics

Cecilia Enjuto Rangel
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Cities in Ruins
    Book Description:

    Modern poetry on ruins performs an awakening call to the lurking real, to the violence of history in the making. The attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, and in Madrid on March 11, 2004, provoked diverse political reactions, but the imminence of the ruins triggered a collective historical awakening. The awakening can take the shape of bombs in Kabul and Baghdad, or political change in government policies, but it is also palpable when poetry voices a critique of the technological warfare and its versions of progress. Contemporary events and the modern ruins are reminiscent of the political impact that the spa Civil War and the two World Wars had on poetry. In Cities in Ruins: The Politics of Modern Poetics, Cecilia Enjuto Rangel argues that the portrayal in poetry of the modern city as a disintegrated, ruined space is part of a critique of the visions of progress and the historical process of modernization that developed during the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Enjuto Rangel analyzes how Charles Baudelaire, Luis Cernuda, T. S. Eliot, Octavio Paz, and Pablo Neruda poeticized ruins as the cornerstones of cultural and political memory, and used the imagery of ruins to reinterpret their historical and literary traditions.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-172-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter One Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Ruins shape modern urban landscapes. They are both the effects of the real and the remains of the past.¹ Skyscrapers, with their shiny, clean, complete look characterize the modern city. But decisive historical events constantly disrupt that “finished” scenario, interrupting people’s daily routines—frustrating their fantasies of tranquility and continuity. Modern poetry on ruins performs an awakening call to the lurking “real,” to the violence of history in the making.

    On September 11, 2001, a few months before I began this work, the world witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the ruins of the Twin Towers. The...

  5. Chapter Two Urban Ruins in Baudelaire’s and Cernuda’s Poetry
    (pp. 23-88)

    Waste bothers us. Ruins overwhelm us. How can we make a distinction between waste and ruins in the urban landscape? Waste stinks, it causes disgust, though in some cases it even fascinates us; but waste almost never makes us melancholic, while ruins, on the contrary, may generate nostalgia for the lost monument or the past it represents. Nowadays, waste can be recycled, transformed into a new product of consumption, while ruins seem to permeate the modern landscape as a lingering trace of what cannot be recycled. Modern ruins provoke anguish, anger, and political indignation, a tension with nostalgic feelings, especially...

  6. Chapter Three Cities in Ruins: The Burlesque Baroque in T. S. Eliot and Octavio Paz
    (pp. 89-142)

    The etymological definition ofbarrocopoints to something extravagant or bizarre, a pearl with an irregular shape.¹ Thepérola barrocais the product of the Portuguese commerce with pearls in the East, a result of their explorations abroad in the early sixteenth century.² In a headlong dive, searching for irregular pearls in the traditional corpus of enigmatic conceits and paradoxical images, Octavio Paz and T. S. Eliot immerse themselves in the poetic and critical endeavor of recuperating from critical oblivion the Baroque and the Metaphysical poets. This is palpable in T. S. Eliot’s critical and aesthetic ties with the English...

  7. Chapter Four The Spanish Civil War: A Transatlantic Vision
    (pp. 143-224)

    How can we address the broken historical memory of Spain? Can we cure that wounded collective self through the reconstruction of the past? Can we really “clean” the past to see its dirty hidden spots? Before facing those questions that arise from Juan Gelman’s speech when he won the prestigious Premio Cervantes, a brief historical overview of the Spanish Civil War is necessary. But which events shall be prioritized as antecedents to the war? One could mention the nineteenth-century guerras carlistas, wars for the throne of Spain that confronted the conservative, Catholic landowners with the liberal, bourgeois establishment. Besides the...

  8. Chapter Five Pablo Neruda’s Cities in Ruins: Poetic Histories from Madrid to Machu Picchu
    (pp. 225-268)

    Modern poetry on ruins yields a map of how to read the historical and the literary pasts through its metaphors of destruction. Baroque poems on ruins commemorate Classical ruins and meditate on the decay of a historical space that has lost its grandeur. This evocation becomes a didactic enterprise that laments the power of time and nature over cultural products. In turn, Romantic poems on ruins tend todehistoricizethis seemingly unreachable past. Romantic poets express the melancholic feelings that those symbols of death and decay cause in the speaker, the overriding poeticI. While in marked contrast, modern texts...

  9. Chapter Six The Effects of the Real: Reading Ruins in Modern Poetry
    (pp. 269-280)

    Ruins unveil the uncomfortable historical legacy of the city. Ruins are often treated as disposable waste or as valuable sites for the tourist gaze, but modern poems ultimately see ruins as the effects of the real. Echoing Baudelaire and Eliot, the modern city is dressed as the “Unreal city,” constantly changing its wardrobe. Buildings are demolished and facades are remodeled according to economic speculation, architectural fashion, and urban planning. The poetic representation of the modern city in ruins is a paradox in itself. The modern urban landscape has always been in a process of destruction and reconstruction; its promises of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 281-306)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-340)
  12. Index
    (pp. 341-363)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 364-365)