Vallejo: Language Itself | Leslie Bary | University of Louisiana, Lafayette

A special session at the 2016 MLA Convention, offering new readings of César Vallejo by Pedro Granados (Vallejo Sin Fronteras Instituto, Lima, Peru), Alan E. Smith (Boston University), Jonathan Mayhew (University of Kansas-Lawrence), and Stephen Hart (University College London). Respondent Michelle Clayton (Brown University). Presiding Leslie Bary (University of Louisiana, Lafayette).

We are Panel 690, convening Saturday, January 9, 2016 from 5:15-6:30 PM in 203 JW Mariott. Bary and Smith will also participate in Panel 396, "César Vallejo: New Contexts," Friday, January 8, 3:30-4:45 PM, 205 JW Mariott, with Rosario Bartolini (Vallejo Sin Fronteras Instituto, Lima, Peru) and Julio C. Ortega (Brown University).

Leslie Bary

Borges said Quevedo was a poet of language: “La grandeza de Quevedo es verbal.” His contemporary César Vallejo was a Quevedo disciple in his youth, and some of his later language experiments are more Quevedian than avant-garde. This panel considers Vallejo as a poet of language itself, rather than as an “expressive,” or ethical or political poet as has been most traditionally done. Such thematic readings are essential for a politically committed writer whose work uses a great deal of autobiographical material and also closely engages the intellectual life of his time. But the strong emphasis in Vallejo’s critical tradition on his difficult personal circumstances, his vocabulary of pain, and his leftist politics also works reductively, as does the focus on image at the expense of intertext and sound. Vallejo’s language consciousness is well recognized, but is part of his difficulty still an effect of evading questions of textuality and grammar? Our papers present close readings not motivated by the most commonly invoked thematic clusters in Vallejo criticism (orphanhood, poverty, suffering, displacement, mestizaje), and reconsider the artistic response to his work. We contend that a focus on language also reveals Vallejo as a more affirmative poet than he is often considered to be.

César Vallejo died in 1938 with much of his major work still unpublished. He has since emerged as one of the most important writers in the Spanish language and as a major figure in world literature and international modernism, which his Andean voice helped to form.
See complete panel description and information on speakers.
Trilce/Teatro: guión, personajes y público
Pedro Granados

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Looking for "Hallazgo de la Vida"
Alan E. Smith
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Pedro Granados and Alan E. Smith offer new readings of well known texts, engaging questions of voice, embodiment, movement, and verbal play. Granadós’ “Trilce/Teatro: guión, personajes y público” focuses on Trilce (1922), Vallejo’s most linguistically daring collection. Granados first shows how Trilce works as a theatrical or performance text, and then considers one of the specific audiences with which this collection enters into dialogue: the journal Colónida (1916) and the Colónida movement that grew up around it. Smith’s “Looking for ‘Hallazgo de la vida’” examines the prose poetry of Vallejo’s early Paris years, some of the poet’s darkest, arguing that the poems are in fact affirmative texts and showing how their uses of plural personae and highly textured voices work to recover both the human figure and pathos, discovering a “door to life.”

Vallejo and the Trials of Translation: The Erasure of Logopoeia
Jonathan Mayhew
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César Vallejo's Publics
Stephen Hart
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Jonathan Mayhew and Stephen Hart consider translations, adaptations, and Vallejo’s influence on contemporary literature and art. Mayhew’s analysis of translations ranges from the early collection Los heraldos negros (1919) to España, aparta de mí este cáliz (1938), drawing contrasts with translation projects on Neruda and Lorca. Vallejo's modernism, he argues, is not characterized by visual imagery but by what Ezra Pound called "logopoeia," or the "dance of the intellect among words." Hart examines the poets who commemorated their ‘audience’ of and with Vallejo in a number of poems, focusing mainly on the poems Pablo Neruda dedicated to him. He discusses as well the five novels which have resurrected different aspects of Vallejo’s biography (Saer 1994, Bolaño 1999, Freire Sarria 2007, González Viaña 2007, Nájar 2010), Roy Andersson’s film Songs from the Second Floor (Special Jury Prize, Cannes 2000), and Fernando de Szyszlo’s artwork. Questions implicit in Mayhew’s paper and explicit in Hart’s are what we mean by “public,” and what forces are at play when we talk about the influence a writer wields over other artists.

Michelle Clayton

Michelle Clayton is the author of Poetry in Pieces: César Vallejo and Lyric Modernity (U of California P, 2011) and other work on Vallejo.

Page created and maintained by Leslie Bary
Last revised 17 December 2015