Gender, Politics, and Poetry in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Gender, Politics, and Poetry in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Gender, Politics, and Poetry in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Gender, Politics, and Poetry in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Synopsis

Olga Orozco, considered one of the most important contemporary women poets in Latin America, serves as the touchstone for Jill Kuhnheim's examination of the tension between literature and life - or, as Kuhnheim quotes a student, of the universal question "Why read poetry?" Born in 1920 in Argentina, Orozco has produced nine volumes of poetry, a play, and a narrative work. As a member of the "lost generation" of the forties, she is prominent among a group of poets whose work reveals a range of responses to historical circumstances. Taking a feminist approach, and focusing on the specific history of Argentina, Kuhnheim relates Orozco's writing to that of T. S. Eliot, Oliverio Girondo, Alejandra Pizarnik, and more recent Argentine women poets such as Cristina Pina, Diana Bellessi, Ines Araoz, and Liliana Lukin. Though much of their work appears to be far removed from social reality, Kuhnheim's reading reveals how even the most apparently distant poetry is inevitably involved with the political processes of the,time. Her comparative approach offers a method for reading lyric poetry that connects the aesthetic strand, which views a poem as something distant from the world, to a social thread that marks a particular historical moment.

Excerpt

This book began from a desire to examine the separation between social and aesthetic concerns characteristic of the analysis of twentieth-century Latin American poetry. I wanted to reconnect the aesthetist strand, founded in modernism, that viewed the poem as an artistic construct, distant from the world, to the social thread that came to fruition in the late vanguard emphasis on literature's role in social transformation. With this theoretical problem in mind, I also sought an answer to a question frequently posed to me by my students: Why read poetry today? This study combines these problems and attempts an answer via the specific case of Argentina. I suggest that twentieth-century Argentina may offer us an instance in which lyric poetry's increasing marginality from mainstream social discourse and from an escalating attention to narrative has allowed it to work against hegemonic discourse and to open a space for the construction of different subjectivities.

Highlighting the work of female poets, but not reading them in isolation, I also wanted to bring some part of the Spanish American women's tradition to an English-speaking audience. To do so I construct a lyrical overview by reading a constellation of voices that lead us to comprehend this poetry historically, in terms of literary, social, and political changes. in the process it becomes clear that while gender differences are always a factor to be considered, the construction of a gendered subjectivity is not monolithic -- in every case it is necessary to speak in the plural, of subjectivities. Adding to the growing corpus of feminist scholarship in the Latin American realm, this study should interest scholars of the region, those who work in comparative literature, and readers attentive to contemporary theoretical approaches to the lyric.

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