Spanish American Poetry at the End of the Twentieth Century: Textual Disruptions

By Jill S. Kuhnheim | Go to book overview

2
Image and Text

READING OUTSIDE LANGUAGE

The visual image has both a privileged and a suspect status in latetwentieth-century cultural production. We live in a global environment dominated by images—in advertising, television and film, comic books, signs, and computer icons—creating a visual vocabulary that communicates around or across languages. At the same time, after structuralism, language itself has become suspicious; it is a shady trader in the economy of signs, not the exception, but one among many semiotic systems. Is the letter an extension of, or in competition with, the visual image? Does the visual image have more power today than its written counterpart? And in these circumstances, what happens to the primacy of the image in poetry? The relationship between the written and the visual image is an ancient problem that has been posed in different ways at distinct moments and places; the competition between the two is exemplified, perhaps, by the ut pictura poesis tradition of contrasting poetry and painting.1 Charting the association of verbal and pictorial traditions in the West, W. J. Thomas Mitchell has observed that “the dialectic of word and image seems to be a constant in the fabric of signs that a culture weaves around itself” (43). In his study Iconologγ: Image, Text, Ideology, Mitchell does not seek to “heal the split” between these traditions, however, but to examine what interests and powers the convention of separating word and icon has served (46).

One place to begin thinking about the specific role of the image in Spanish-speaking countries is with the Dicionar¡o de la Real Academia Española. The dictionary's arrangement of the various definitions reveals its own hierarchical take on what constitutes an image. “Imagen” is first defined as the “figura, representación, semejanza y apariencia de una cosa” and although it does not specify the means for representation, the term “figure,” stressing external form, in conjunction with “similarity” and “appearance,” implies that the principal meaning of an image is visual.

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Spanish American Poetry at the End of the Twentieth Century: Textual Disruptions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction - Textual Disruptions 1
  • 1: Toward a Postmodern Indigenismo 14
  • 2: Image and Text 47
  • 3: Recycling Urban Poetry Al Fin Del Siglo 82
  • 4: Sensual Excess 115
  • 5: Poetry and Technology 145
  • Epilogue - [As I Advance the Water Changes] 170
  • Notes 173
  • Works Cited 189
  • Index 201
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