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Severo Sarduy and the Neo-Baroque Image of Thought in the Visual Arts

Rolando Pérez
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Purdue University Press
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    Severo Sarduy and the Neo-Baroque Image of Thought in the Visual Arts
    Book Description:

    Severo Sarduy never enjoyed the same level of notoriety as did other Latin American writers like García Márquez and Vargas-Llosa, and his compatriot, Cabrera-Infante. On the other hand, he never lacked for excellent critical interpretations of his work from critics like Roberto González Echevarría, René Prieto, Gustavo Guerrero, and other reputable scholars. Missing, however, from what is otherwise an impressive body of critical commentary, is a study of the importance of painting and architecture, firstly, to his theory, and secondly, to his creative work. In order to fill this lacuna in Sarduy studies, Rolando Pérez’s book undertakes a critical approach to Sarduy’s essays—Barroco, Escrito sobre un cuerpo, “Barroco y neobarroco,” and La simulación—from the stand point of art history. Often overlooked in Sarduy studies is the fact that the twenty-three-year-old Sarduy left Cuba for Paris in 1961 to study not literature but art history, earning the equivalent of a Master’s Degree from the École du Louvre with a thesis on Roman art. And yet it was the art of the Italian Renaissance (e.g., the paintings as well as the brilliant and numerous treatises on linear perspective produced from the 15th to the 16th century) and what Sarduy called the Italian, Spanish, and colonial Baroque or “neo-baroque” visually based aesthetic that interested him and to which he dedicated so many pages. In short, no book on Sarduy until now has traced the multifaceted art historical background that informed the work of this challenging and exciting writer. And though Severo Sarduy and the Neo-Baroque Image of Thought in the Visual Arts is far from being an introduction, it will be a book that many a critic of Sarduy and the Latin American “baroque” will consult in years to come.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-149-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Severo Sarduy’s work has never enjoyed the same level of notoriety as that of other Latin American writers of his generation like Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Gabriel García Márquez. Instead, he remains what is often referred to as a “writer’s writer,” albeit one who, by that same token, has not been ignored by the academic world. Contributing to this interest is the fact that even his literary writing displays a vast amount of knowledge of history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, astronomy, Eastern religions, literary criticism, and art, in ways that blur the common divide between theory and literature. The ideal...

  6. Chapter One Sarduy as Critic of the Baroque and the Neo-Baroque Figure in Science and Art
    (pp. 11-58)

    While Sarduy’s interest in the history of astronomy may at first sight seem rather odd for a postmodern writer, he was attracted to the topic from the position of an art critic/historian. Though he was not the first, he was interested in the way in which the scientific discourse of the Copernican revolution mirrored the formal experiments of Renaissance, Baroque, and Mannerist painting and architecture. As a rejection of the idealized forms of early Renaissance art—Albrecht Dürer’s per-spective grid, the Albertian geometrization of space, and the vanishing perspectival lines of Leonardo and Raphael—first Mannerist, then late Baroque art...

  7. Chapter Two Sarduy’s Figural Art/Writing: Writing/Art Body
    (pp. 59-108)

    While Sarduy alludes in several places to the possible application of semiotics to the visual arts, he himself does not develop these parenthetical suggestions. On the other hand, since Sarduy’sBarroco,La simulación, andEscrito sobre un cuerpo, and since Roland Barthes’sElements of Semiology, a number of art historians like Mieke Bal and Norman Bryson have attempted to work out a semiotics of art. Barthes, they argue, showed how one could “explore the operations of the signs” in a number of image/sign systems (Bal and Bryson 191). And for that we may be thankful to Ferdinand de Saussure and...

  8. Chapter Three Big Bang, Klang Klang, and Painting
    (pp. 109-158)

    Numerous are the reasons why so many critics have stayed away from Sarduy’s poetical oeuvre. None of them, of course, has to do with the quality of the work, but with the difficulty in locating it: both in terms of time (that is to say, when they were written) with respect to the other works, and in terms of publication history (who published them, how were they published, etc). But Sarduy’s work intentionally resists that kind of philological analysis. In fact, to undertake a philological approach to Sarduy’s writings would in my mind constitute no less than an act of...

  9. Chapter Four Colors, Bodies, Voices, and the Click-Clack of Theater
    (pp. 159-200)

    Joan Brossa called his plays “poesia escènica,” and that may be a very good way to think of Sarduy’s poetic radio plays, for that indeed is what they are: plays that are poems, written/painted with Kandinsky’s colors. Unfortunately, to compare Sarduy’s poems to his plays, most of them published under the titlePara la voz(1978),¹ does them little justice; for if Sarduy’s poetry has received scant attention, his radio plays have received even less. This is regrettable, first because the radio plays are among the most beautiful texts Sarduy wrote in any genre, and second, because the theater was...

  10. Conclusions < > Continuities
    (pp. 201-206)

    Sarduy, a life-long student of art, knew and understood the Western European history of art from the time of the Flavian emperors (the subject of his master’s thesis at the Louvre School of Art) to the contemporary period, which included quite a number of artists who were also his friends, such as Luis Feito and Ramón Alejandro. He actively refused to differentiate between the textual and visual langue of Baroque art, sculpture, architecture, science, literature, and poetry. To him, they were all one—different expressions of the cosmologicalcosmetic “arte del arreglo.” Galileo was to Ariosto what Kepler was to Rubens...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. 207-212)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 213-276)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-306)
  14. Index
    (pp. 307-318)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-321)