Beyond the Glitter: The Language of Gems in Modernista Writers Rubén Darío, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and José Asunción Silva

Beyond the Glitter: The Language of Gems in Modernista Writers Rubén Darío, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and José Asunción Silva

Beyond the Glitter: The Language of Gems in Modernista Writers Rubén Darío, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and José Asunción Silva

Beyond the Glitter: The Language of Gems in Modernista Writers Rubén Darío, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and José Asunción Silva

Synopsis

This book is an examination of how gems and jewelry contributed to elaborating the expressiveness of the Hispanic literary movement known as Modernismo. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the use of bejeweled images in Parnassianism, Pre-Raphaelitism, Decadentism, and Symbolism are shown to have significantly influenced Modernismo's aesthetics. The underlying premise is that precious gem imagery was not an accessory but fundamental to Modernismo's innovations in poetic expression.

Excerpt

Stones possess a kind of gravitas, something that will never
perish or else has already done so. They attract through an
intrinsic, infallible, immediate beauty, answerable to no one,
necessarily perfect yet excluding the idea of perfection in order
to exclude approximation, error, and excess. This spontaneous
beauty thus precedes and goes beyond the actual notion of
beauty, of which it is at once the promise and the foundation.

—Roger Caillois, The Writing of Stones

Time never erodes HUMANKIND’S fascination with jewels. They are objects of intrinsic, enduring beauty to which human beings attribute a vast array of symbolic meanings. Rank, wealth, and social standing are associated with those who own them, while their mysterious aura gives them value as poetic metaphor and as sacred symbol.

Numerous studies have established the influence of the plastic arts, especially painting and sculpture, upon Modernista literature. Although many have referred to precious gems and jewels in general terms, there is no research dedicated specifically to their role in elaborating Modernismo’s expressiveness. My focus in Beyond the Glitter concerns the significance of gems and jewels in Modernismo’s complex aesthetics.

Modernismo may be described as a new literary sensitivity emanating from a mood of anticipation and apprehension as the dawn of the twentieth century approached. Driven by the pursuit of beauty, Modernista writers brought a sensibility to their art, based upon creative spontaneity and freedom of expression. Their critics judged their work to be undisciplined, unconventional, and decorative, but of no practical or commercial value. Yet their writing was symptomatic of their struggle for self-definition during a tumultuous age.

Gemstones and jewels spoke symbolically to Modernista writers who interpreted their shapes, patterns, textures, and colors with innovative and suggestive modes of literary expression.

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