Tag Archive | Spanish Literature

Baroque and Modernism: Two Styles, Two Souls

3965eadf8b2b9be1b353f0f6b2b1faa3_660The narrator of Death in Venice suggests a very interesting and challenging topic. Among all the worries about art, so typical in Mann’s novels, this one particularly presents a thoughtful question. Is the artistic style and form linked to morality? One could write pages and pages trying to reply and analyse such a dilemma, because it is a dilemma as far as such a reflection involves not just art but the whole of society.

Gustav Aschenbach, the main character of the story, is an artist and as such he is experimenting a change in his conception of beauty. Gustav’s art, since its beginning, has represented the European decadence, a feeling broadly felt in Europe since the turn of the century. But Gustav feels a rebirth in his appreciation of beauty, one which has to do with simplicity. At this point, the narrator shows a chain of reflections, of wonderings regarding such simplicity. If art is simple in its forms, will then moral suffer a simplification?

“does not this in its turn signify a simplification, a morally simplistic view of the world and of human psychology, and thus also a resurgence of energies that are evil, forbidden, morally impossible?”

He is completely joining the representation of art, that is, of aesthetics, to morality. Modernist works indeed are replete by discussions on ethics and aesthetics. To simplify the form of art could mean here for the narrator a primitiveness, a coming back to human simplicity on its moral statements, a less deep thought.

It is possible however to take a general look in the history of literature to affirm, until some extent, the possibility of this statement. If there is a moment in which the form, the style and the meaning of art is opposed to the simplicity looked for by some modernists artists, it is Baroque. The Spanish Golden Age is full of incomprehensible poets, it can be actually considered the most difficult literature in Spain. And, indeed, this literature coincides with the Imperial time, the discovery of America, and the Inquisiton. All that is marked by a strong institutional power, especially the reign, the state and the Church in their most hierarchical display. There is a lack of simplicity both in art and in the representatives of society. It is the opposite side of Mann’s dilemma; the moral code was highly established and controlled. Moreover, when Modernism arrived at Spain, it was condemned by the Church, especially because of its simplistic and free spirituality, which comes back to Mann’s idea.

Modernism is also known by its polemical topics which have to do with their aesthetic representations. Therefore, Mann is not far away of reality, and the adequacy of style and interiority seems to be a fascinating topic within the sociology of literature.

Time in European Modernism

clock-screen01 CFP MDRN conference 1: Time and Temporality in European Modernism and the Avant-Gardes (16-18 Sept. 2013)
 
Call for papers
 
Time and Temporality
in European Modernism and the Avant-Gardes (1900-1950)
16-18 September 2013 – KU Leuven, Belgium
 
This three-day conference aims to canvass the breadth and depth of the issues of time and temporality in European modernist writing and classic avant-garde literature.
It has often been argued that so-called “high” modernist and avant-garde writing were perhaps the first to investigate in detail the problems of time and temporality. As a result, reflection on both issues in (“new”) modernism and avant-garde studies abounds. To date, however, we lack a systematic understanding of the different forms and functions of time and temporality in the writing from the period. It is this lacuna the present conference aims to fill. We are particularly interested in (general as well as innovative case-based) considerations of modernist and avant-garde writing and practices that tackle one of the following questions:
  • How was time represented? What genres, techniques and means were deployed to evoke time?
  • In what ways was the literary representation of time influenced by (changes in) other media and art forms?
  • Which temporalities (bodily and natural time, mechanical and machine time, private and public time, etc.) were evoked and how did they interrelate?
  • How was the flow of time conceived (teleological, multilayered and -directional, cyclical, etc.) and what temporal regimes (for example, favoring the present, past or future; continuity and tradition or rupture and revolution) were at work in modernism, the avant-garde, and cognate phenomena like the so-called arrière-garde? What hitherto ignored temporal modes require further scrutiny?
  • What were the ramifications of modernist and avant-garde conceptions of time for the practice of reading, the history of the book (classics, pockets, …), and more generally for the social and cultural legitimation of literature?
  • What other (perhaps less well studied) discourses (physics, biology, engineering, philosophy, etc.) informed literary reflection on time and temporality and how were insights from these other discourses translated in literary practice?
  • How was time experienced and what were its implications for our understanding of the modern body, identity and subjectivity?
  • Were there noticeable variations in how time was dealt with in modernist and avant-garde writing in different parts of Europe (and beyond)? What, more generally, were the implications of the views of time for the understanding of space and place (in writing)?
  • Does the conception of time change in the course of the period 1900-1950, and, if so, what are the (social, literary, philosophical, …) conditions of emergence and consequences of these changes?
We welcome paper and panel proposals before 15 February 2013 on these and other questions crucial to any mapping of the literary timescape between 1900-1950. By analyzing in-depth how modernist and avant-garde writing reflected on time and change, we ultimately aim to explore the ramifications of these ideas for the literary historiography of the period.
Proposals are welcome from individuals, and from panels of three or four. We especially welcome panel proposals and prefer panels where members are drawn from different institutions, preferably across national boundaries.
Panel proposals should include the following information.
  1. Title of panel
  2. Name, address and email contact of Panel Chair
  3. A summary of the panel topic (300 words)
  4. A summary of each individual contribution (300 words)
  5. Name, address and email contact of  individual contributors
  6. Short biography of all contributors, incl. main publications and areas of expertise
Individual proposals should include the following information.
  1. Title of paper
  2. Name, address and email of contributor
  3. A summary of the contribution (300 words)
  4. Short biography of the contributor, incl. main publications and areas of expertise
Guided tours of the Husserl archive at KU Leuven will be offered to delegates upon request. A conference website is under construction. With proposals or any further questions at this stage contactsascha.bru@arts.kuleuven.be.

From German Modernism to Spanish Golden Age

Dickens_DavidCopperfieldI wish just to recall some influences on Kafka’s Amerika. This novel introduces the wanderings of a young boy, Karl who’s thrown out from home due to his “affair” with the maid. Karl arrives to America alone with a small suitcase and nothing else than his wit to survive. He lives one experience after another, each one more curious than the previous, and meets all kind of people who actually decide his new course. Kafka wrote on his diary on October 8, 1918:

“Dicken’s Copperfield. “The Stoker” a sheer imitation of Dickens, the projected novel even more so. The story of the trunk, the boy who delights and charms everyone, the menial labour, his sweetheart in the country house, the dirty houses, et al., but above all the method. It was my intention, as I now see, to write a Dickens novel, but enhanced by the sharper lights I should have taken from the times and the duller ones I should have got from myself”.

In fact, the adventures of Karl remain the reader Dicken’s boys in the Victorian England. Karl solitude to face all his misfortunes are similar to those of English 19th C. novels. However, if Copperfield ascends in wealth and social position, Karl actually descends (as far as we know in the novel; it’s unfinished). The figure of the wandering boy is also linked to this of the Spanish “pícaro”. The latter could actually be seen as a predecessor of those of the realistic period. The poor origin and the longing for ascending are common in both groups, but I think the cunning of the “pícaro” is something missed both in Copperfield and Karl. However the three types find themselves submitted to different authorities until achieving autonomy or more freedom.

Karl is settled in New York, which I find quite properly for the beginning of the 20th C. New York is the new alienated place of modernity where both fortune and misfortune are possible and dependent to the subject’s sagacity. In short, I think Kafka has placed himself also in the Western tradition of the young wandering born in Spain.