Confronting death in Soledades and Poeta en Nueva York

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This study confronts representations of death in iconic creations from influential moments of Spanish peninsular literature by linking Soledades and Poeta en Nueva York, complex poetic creations inextricably bound to their creators, Luis de Góngora and Federico García Lorca. Through his “Soledad insegura,” his “Imagen” lecture, and others, Lorca connects himself to Góngora and Soledades. Yet, while scholars have probed Soledades and Poeta individually, none has compared their representations of death in a full-length study. By following the guide provided by Lorca in his lectures to compare two distinct poetic visions and then by focusing on how those distinctions impact representations of death this thesis not only provides insight into each poet’s representations of death but also offers new insight into the general poetics of each. Nadine Ly, Christopher Maurer, Richard Predmore and Miguel García Posada recognize the dialogue between Lorca and Góngora in Lorca’s lectures and justify studying the poets together. Jacques Derrida points out the traps of death studies and contends that studying death essentially means studying human behavior devant la mort. By taking its point of departure from Frederick J. Hoffman’s assertion that representing death in literature leads to a binary choice, whereby death is conveyed as an open doorway or as an impenetrable wall, and focusing on clear choices when dealing with death, this study avoids such traps. Claudio Guillén argues that a promising aspect of comparative literature is the dialogue that it establishes between certain fundamental structures present in distinct literatures across time to shed light on a complex of problems. The virtual dialogue between Gongorine and Lorquian poetics began with “Imagen” and continued with the “Duende” lecture in which he gives his interpretation of the muse and the duende citing an intrinsic bond between duende and death. This study builds on that dialogue by juxtaposing basic poetic choices privileged when representing death, thus exposing two diametrically opposed overarching images of death that not only echo Hoffman’s assertion, but also differentiate two distinct poetic visions that go beyond the distinctions of the baroque and the surreal and thereby sheds further light on the complex problem of representing death in literature. Five chapters examine contrasts between the poets’ choices when representing death. In Chapter one cites Guillén’s assertions, further validating a comparative approach. Elisabeth Bronfen, Sara Webster Goodwin, Fredric Jameson, as well as Derrida and Hoffman help address the complexities inherent when representing death. Scrutiny of “Soledad insegura,” Lorca’s correspondence, and several lectures indicate Lorca’s profound and lasting interest in Góngora. These lectures help elucidate Gongorine and Lorquian poetics. Biographical notes and a review of pertinent criticism contextualize death in the lives of the poets, in their own time, and in these works. Chapter two targets the role of the poetic voice in shaping a distinct image of death. First, it follows the contortions of Soledades as related by a third-person wanderer who maintains the reader at a distance and who, despite being threatened and lost, is always redeemed. Then, in contrast to Góngora, it analyzes the yo poético in Lorca, through whom the reader experiences the omnipresent threat of death. Chapter three explores multiple settings in which death is featured and indicates that regardless of the setting, the image of death represented by each poet remains the same, yet vastly dissimilar to that of the other. Chapter four analyzes how the poetic diction of each text shapes two enduring and divergent images of death. Gongorine diction weaves death into the fabric of a larger whole while the weight of death envelops Lorquian diction itself. Chapter five contains a summary and a conclusion. The contrasts between the two poets’ choices when representing death suggest that Góngora’s choices are driven by the reason of the Muse and convey death as an open doorway via images where death is viewed as part of a larger whole and life’s cyclical processes; whereas Lorca’s choices, possessed by the duende, evoke death as an omnipresent wall that interferes with all things and overshadows life itself.