Writing of the Formless: Joše Lezama Lima and the End of Time

Writing of the Formless: Joše Lezama Lima and the End of Time

Writing of the Formless: Joše Lezama Lima and the End of Time

Writing of the Formless: Joše Lezama Lima and the End of Time


In this book, Jaime Rodríguez Matos proposes the "formless" as a point of departure in thinking through the relationship between politics and time. Thinking through both literary and political writings around the Cuban Revolution, Rodríguez Matos explores the link between abstract symbolic procedures and various political experiments that have sought to give form to a principle of sovereignty based on the category of representation. In doing so, he proposes the formless as the limit of modern and contemporary reflections on the meaning of politics while exploring the philosophical consequences of a formless concept of temporality for the critique of metaphysics.

Rodríguez Matos takes the writing and thought of José Lezama Lima as the guiding thread in exploring the possibility of a politicity in which time is imagined beyond the disciplining functions it has had throughout the metaphysical tradition--a time of the absence of time, in which the absence of time no longer means eternity.


Latin America is a form whose content, looking back into the
colonial era and traveling all the way into the present, was always
already under determination via a crossing-into and a crossing
out-into an exterior.

—Brett Levinson, “Globalizing Paradigms”

The dislocation of form and content: I take my epigraph from a piece in which Brett Levinson reviews the state of the Latinamericanist field in recent years. He emphasizes the extent to which scholarship on Latin America has been fundamentally defined by the need to point to or show phenomena that are most essentially characterized by the lack of graspable form, or formlessness, if by form we understand Western schemata meant to determine universally what is and is not thinkable, and more generally, what can and should be and what falls beneath the dignity of Being. In reference to the subaltern, he explains in more detail what is at issue in the dislocation of form and content that the epigraph thematizes. The subaltern space/time is often represented “as a grumble, murmur, or shout that, not unlike [the sublime …], refuses submission to the Symbolic Order” (70). Understood as any discourse that speaks for or in the name of Latin America—i n the same sense that Orientalism produced “knowledge” of the Orient for the West—the paradox of Latinamericanism is that its “object” is defined as an excessive figure.

The persistence of this paradox is remarkable, for it can be tracked through the various historical turns in academic paradigms. Allow me to illustrate this point by way of a brief description of the shift from the literary and philological methodology that defined the field until the 1990s to the model of cultural, historical, and political interpretation that ensued. If the fiction of Vargas Llosa, Cortázar, Borges, García Márquez, and Lezama Lima, among others, was mediated by the high-aesthetic framework, those authors were nevertheless posited as the transgression of the western frontier of understandability, as the murmur from the other’s mouth itself.

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