Current Issue Article Abstracts
Spring 2017 Vol. 85.2
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In Ensayo de un crimen (translated to English as The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz), Luis Buñuel articulates the representational indeterminacy of the corpse in an exceptional way. The corpse is revealed not as an index within rational discursive structures, but as a symbol, a source of various allegories. To structure these allegories, the film expands and problematizes the parallel between the mechanisms of visual capture and reproduction and the reading structure of psychoanalysis. In this context, this article investigates specifically how Buñuel recontextualizes a female corpse through its analogy with two central figures within the symbolic economy of the film: a mannequin and a praying mantis. Through these figures, Buñuel sublimates the direct presentation of the corpse, while at the same time structuring the formless and unheimlich character in which the blurring of the matrices of subjectivity implicit in the corpse is framed; that is, its liminal position between the organic and the symbolic, the sublime and the putrefied.
This article examines four poems published by Cuban author Virgilio Piñera (1912–1979) in the official Revolutionary literary journal Casa de las Américas in 1961. The poems illustrate the depth of Piñera's optimism about the freedom of personal and artistic self-expression he believed Cuba's new government would allow. This attitude is evident in the fact that the texts dramatize personal acts of transcendence in the face of social repression. The speakers of the poems evidence a faith in the power of theatricality to allow the apprehension and revelation of an authentic self. The timing of the texts' publication is of poignant significance, given that later the same year, Piñera found himself the victim of the Revolution's intention to suppress both sexual and intellectual individuality.
Composed around 1575 and published in 1622, Alfonso de Santa Cruz's Dignotio et cura affectuum melancholicorum was one of the most elaborate clinical texts written on melancholy in early modern Spain. Mostly known for its description of glass delusion, the Dignotio has been typically read either as possible "source material" for Cervantes's El licenciado Vidriera, or as a text whose literary features are, at best, accessory to scientific knowledge. Through a close examination of the framing, texture, and focus of the glass man's story, I complicate the facile identification of the narration as a case history, and showcase the importance of close, narratologically sensitive readings of early modern medical texts. Such readings, I argue, reveal the manifold—and sometimes contradictory—views on madness present in medical writing, and offer a new perspective on the medical–literary dialogue in early modernity, without confining it to mere "influence" or "inspiration."
Enrique Lihn’s El Paseo Ahumada is formatted like a 28-page newspaper and emulates the sensationalist tone of the tabloid press, with news pieces and photographs reflecting day-to-day life on the Paseo Ahumada, a pedestrian boulevard iconic of Pinochet’s apparently miraculous neoliberal program at the end of the 70s. The radicality of this work resides not only in the referential and material dimensions of its poems, but also in the notion of ideology it promotes. For Lihn, ideology is something structural, which cannot be unmasked without bringing down the whole building. Using Slavoj Žižek´s concept of ideology as social fantasy, I explore the work’s delirous journey through the fantasy of the economic miracle, which ultimately reveals the obscene violence that underlies social space and everyday speech. I suggest that Lihn’s choice of an immanent ideological criticism is an ethical one that leads him inevitably down the path of a failure of naming.
Though studies on the Cantigas have emphasized them as a personal and collective plea for salvation, investigated the role of the troubadour, or highlighted depictions of daily life, very few have focused on the space and function of the sea in relation to the broader Alfonsine cultural and imperial project. In response to this lacuna, I argue that certain cantigas can and should be read as textual and visual manifestations (maps) of Alfonso's struggle for, and power over, the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, and contrary to critical notions of the shipwreck text as a counterhistoriographical narrative of empire, as articulated by Josiah Blackmore, I suggest that scenes of shipwreck, piracy, and tempestuous seas in the Cantigas are, in fact, carefully constructed narratives used to demonstrate—by way of divine intercession—the authority and influence of Alfonso's empire beyond the limits of the Peninsula, into and throughout the Mediterranean space.
Nineteenth-Century Spanish America: A Cultural History by Christopher Conway (review) by Víctor Goldgel-Carballo