Pasión por el método: Poéticas del modernismo y la vanguardia

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			Gustavo Fierros, Doctor of Philosophy, 2008

Dissertation directed by: Dr. Jorge Aguilar Mora,

			Department of Spanish and Portuguese

This dissertation studies the poetics of Spanish American modernistas and avant-garde poets. I focus on the reflexive texts written by the poets, examining the development of aesthetic autonomy in modern literature as a context for the study of modern Spanish American literature. In chapter one, I consider the relationship between the public sphere and the emergence of critical discourses about art and poetry in Europe and the Americas. This process provides a historical perspective for the poetic discourses of the Romantic period's most relevant poets. My study demonstrates how the emergence of different poetics of the Spanish American modernismo movement surface as a result of comparative tensions between the public sphere and the place of the isolated figure of the poet in Europe.

In the second chapter I discuss the aesthetic conceptions of José Martí. I argue that his critique of modernity serves as a context for his aesthetic ideas. I also explore Martí's idea of the poet as a hero, based on his metaphor of a warrior and the relation of this image to the poetics of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  

In the third chapter I study the aesthetic notions of Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera and Rubén Darío as they relate to the poets' positions within the new market economies of late nineteenth century Spanish America. I discuss their views of the place of the poet within the market economy and the influence of this view on their aesthetic conceptions. In order to interpret the position of these poets I use Bataille's "notion of expenditure", a concept that provides the theoretical support necessary for characterizing the dissident attitude to the market as an "unproductive waste." In the last part of this chapter I explore the tensions between symbol and allegory, showing how they relate to Bataille's concept of expenditure in Darío's poetics. 

Continuing to explore the consolidation of aesthetic autonomy in Spanish American literature, in the fourth and last chapter of this dissertation I explore the avant-gardes' development of two poetic tools-- the image and the metaphor. I study this process by analyzing the poetic vision of Leopoldo Lugones, Vicente Huidobro and Jorge Luis Borges. I offer an interpretation of the tensions between the image and the metaphor by comparing the manner in which each poet implements these poetic tools. I argue that exploring the relationship between the verbs "ser" and "estar" in the Spanish language can explain these tensions. 

This dissertation arrives at the final conclusion that in Spanish America, ideas of aesthetic autonomy -or pragmatic poetics as conceived by Martí- came as the result of tensions in the public sphere, as well as the voluntary choices made by poets. The period examined in this study is also an era characterized by a special flourish of reflexive texts written by Spanish American poets. This passion for poetic methodology can be understood as an urgent search for new answers to the same question:  what is poetry?