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Spanish Poetry of the Twentieth Century

Spanish Poetry of the Twentieth Century: Modernity and Beyond

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Spanish Poetry of the Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    Twentieth-century Spanish poetry has received comparatively little attention from critics writing in English. Andrew Debicki now presents the first English-language history published in the United States to examine the sweep of modern Spanish verse. More important, he is the first to situate Spanish poetry in the context of European modernity, to trace its trajectory from the symbolists to the postmodernists.

    Avoiding the rigid generational schemes and catalogs of names found in traditional Hispanic literary histories, Debicki offers detailed discussions of salient books and texts to construct an original and compelling view of his subject. He demonstrates that contemporary Spanish verse is rooted in the modem tradition and poetics that see the text as a unique embodiment of complex experiences. He then traces the evolution of that tradition in the early decades of the century and its gradual disintegration from the 1950s to the present as Spanish poetry came to reflect features of the postmodern, especially the poetics of text as process rather than as product.

    By centering his study on major periods and examining within each the work of poets of different ages, Debicki develops novel perspectives. The late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, were not merely the setting for a new aestheticist generation but an era of exceptional creativity in which both established and new writers engendered a profound, intertextual, and often self-referential lyricism. This book will be essential reading for specialists in modern Spanish letters, for advanced students, and for readers inter-ested in comparative literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5827-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[v])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vi]-[vii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    Any attempt to construct a literary history at the present time must seem problematic. The very notion of a literary history has been questionable, and questioned, for decades. Analytic critics of the 1940s and 1950s (most notably in Spain, Dámaso Alonso) argued, rather convincingly, that traditional literary histories obscured the individuality of specific works and invited readers to reduce complex poems to simplistic examples of movements or trends. To some degree, analytic criticism andestíltsticagained support precisely because of their effort to eliminate such historicizing: works as different as I.A. Richards’sPractical Criticismand Dámaso Alonso’sPoesía española,as...

  4. 1 The Apogee of Modernity in Spain, 1915–1928
    (pp. 8-29)

    After examining various definitions of the termmodernityup to the mid-nineteenth century, Matei Calinescu emphasized Charles Baudelaire’s use ofmodernto describe an aesthetic sense of “presentness.” For Calinescu, this offered a new and fruitful way of characterizing a period of literary and cultural history. Baudelaire’s formulation transcended a purely chronological meaning ofmodernityand stressed, instead, a main goal of the poets of one era: the achievement of timeless immediacy in their works (Calinescu 46–58). Baudelaire thus initiated a poetics that was to underlie Western European letters from the late nineteenth century until at least the 1930s....

  5. 2 Currents in Spanish Modernity, 1915–1939
    (pp. 30-54)

    The idealistic poetics that dominated the 1920s in Spain, and that influenced the major lyric texts of the decade, were somewhat counterbalanced by a different current, consisting of avant-garde writings. This second current was not directly related to the canonical poetry of the decade, and it lets us see another strand of modernity, one that bears a relation to poetic works and movements of succeeding decades and to a much later transition from modernity to postmodernity.

    In describing the development of European modernity, Marjorie Perloff saw a continuing tension between a symbolist and an antisymbolist poetics and mode. The former,...

  6. 3 After the War, 1940–1965
    (pp. 55-97)

    In many and obvious ways, the Spanish Civil War had a long-term negative effect on the possibilities for poetic production. The destruction of war and the focus on material survival during and after the conflict would naturally make literary activity an irrelevant luxury. In addition, the use of verse as propaganda limited creative goals and possibilities, as we have seen. As the war ended and the Nationalists emerged victorious, the country found itself in a climate of ideological concerns, underpinned by censorship, which likewise limited creativity. Most inhibiting, in many ways, was the prohibition on publishing or importing the work...

  7. 4 New Directions for Spanish Poetry, 1956–1970
    (pp. 98-133)

    Because of the preponderance of direct (largely social) verse in Spain after 1944 and of criticism describing a turn to realism after the Civil War, literary historians have often treated postwar Spanish poetry until the late 1960s as the production of one long and almost monolithic period. This organization may seem justified by the continued use of everyday language, as well as by the continued presence of personal and historical referents. Yet from today’s vantage point, we need to divide the postwar era and pay attention to the novelty of poetic outlooks that developed during the late 1950s. These new...

  8. 5 The Postmodern Time of the Novísimos, 1966–1980
    (pp. 134-178)

    A new mode of poetry, founded on new attitudes to literary language, developed in Spain in the late 1960s. Stylistically, it constituted a more dramatic shift than any that had occurred for decades, probably since the 1920s. Its novelty was quickly perceived, and its impact was intensified by the reactions of critics and above all by a widely read anthology, José María Castellet’sNueve novísimos poetas españoles(“Nine Newest Spanish Poets,” 1970). This poetry placed renewed and intense emphasis on creativity through language and on the primacy—and, at times, independence—of linguistic form. Its aestheticism is related to historical...

  9. 6 The Evolution of Postmodern Poetry, 1978–1990
    (pp. 179-217)

    Evaluating the last decade of Spanish poetry poses problems: lack of historical perspective, uncertainty regarding the future path of younger authors, and a general difficulty critics have always had in dealing with recent styles and features suggest a need for caution.¹ Even identifying the most important works and poets proves difficult; for that reason, I have taken a larger number of younger authors into account, however briefly.

    The new poetry published in Spain in the 1980s seems less obsessed with linguistic creativity, with allusiveness, and with self-reflexivity. The younger poets of the decade adopted less polemical attitudes. Several critics have...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 218-220)

    Placing twentieth-century Spanish poetry in the context of European modernism helps clarify some of the principles and goals that underlie it. It also sheds new light on the poems themselves and on their impact.

    A view that grew out of symbolist poetics, and that defined a poem as the verbal embodiment of complex, unexplainable experiences, undergirded Spanish verse in the first decades of the century. It helps us understand texts by authors as different as Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez and provides a telling context for major books that writers of the Generation of 1927—Federico García Lorca, Jorge...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 221-238)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 239-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-262)