Professor Lisa Rabin
Department of Modern and Classical Languages
George Mason University
233 Thompson Hall
The Avant-Garde in Paris and Latin America
Session II May 30 - July 18
Guillaume Apollinaire (France, 1880-1918) called it "l' esprit nouveau." Vicente Huidobro (Chile, ) named his version of it creacionismo. The literary Avant-Garde in Paris (1909 - 1930) and Vanguardia in Latin America (1916 – 1935) were distinguished by their radical stance on culture, their desire to turn away from the traditions of the past and to make battle -- hence the military metaphor -- with conventional values of art and society.
There are several tendencies that are common to both the French and Latin American literary vanguards. On both sides of the Atlantic, writers saw their work as a public event, issuing manifestos and proclamations, founding numerous periodicals, and gathering frequently together in public for discussion or performances. The writers in both movements were significantly influenced by their associations with other artists and intellectuals, with whom they often collaborated. Finally, the Parisian and Latin American vanguards found expression in a variety of genres, in the dramatic works of Jean Cocteau’s Orphée and Antonin Artaud’s La ConquLte du Mexique, in Huidobro’s En la luna and Xavier Villaurutia’s Parece mentira; in the poetry of Apollinaire’s Calligrames, André Breton’s Poisson soluble, Huidobro’s Altazor, and Pablo Neruda’s Residencia en la tierra; in the novels of Jean Giraudoux’s Bella, Miguel Angel Asturias’ Leyendas de Guatemala, and the Brazilian Mário de Andrade’s Macunaíma.
In this course we will follow the outlines of the avant-garde movements in both Paris and Latin America, analyzing their similarities and differences. We will also be attentive to how writers and artists in Paris and Latin America were attracted to and influenced by the culture on the other side of the Atlantic. The appeal of the Argentinian gaucho for Raymond Queneau, Antonin Artaud’s fascination with the Mexican drug peyote, Breton’s meeting with Trotsky in Mexico, Huidobro’s collaboration with Pierre Reverdy on the cubist journal Nord-Sud, and Alejo Carpentier’s interview with European avant-garde artists are just a few examples of these cross-cultural encounters.
One take-home exam (35%); a final 8-10 page paper (35%); diligent attendance and participation (15%); oral report on a critical work, or group theater presentation in class (15%).
Details on these requirements will be made on the first day of class and described more fully on hand-outs throughout the semester.
To be bought in the bookstore. Be aware that some texts may not have arrived there yet:
Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years
Vicky Unruh, Latin American Vanguards: The Art of Contentious Encounters
Guillaume Apollinaire, Calligrames
André Breton, Manifestes du surrealisme
Maurice Nadeau, Histoire du surrealisme
The 20th-Century Art Book
José Olivio Jiménez, ed. Antología de la poesía contemporánea hispanoamericana
Miguel Angel Asturias, Legends of Guatemala
Other texts pertinent to our course of study will be made available to you either as xerox copies to be bought in the JLC Copy Center or to be read on reserve in the library.
Tentative course schedule:
May 25 Optional tour of Remedios Varo lecture at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2:30 p.m. (Metro: Red line, Metro Center stop)
May 30 Introduction.
All: begin reading Shattuck, and read sections on Cubism and Surrealism in The 20th-Century Art Book.
June 1 The French Avant-Garde and its historical and political context.
Discuss art and Apollinaire poems
All: finish Shattuck
Student assignments on Apollinaire
June 6 Discuss Apollinaire poems and the context of World War I in Europe. Introduction to Surréalisme and the culture of the manifesto in Paris and Latin America.
All: read Nadeau
Student assignments on Bréton, Iluard, and Huidobro, and the theory of automatic writing
June 8 Discuss Bréton, Iluard, and Huidobro, and automatic writing.
Introduction to the Latin American Vanguardia
All: begin reading Unruh.
Student assignment on Ortega y Gasset’s “The Dehumanization of Art”
June 12 Optional tour of the Salvador Dalí exhibit at the Hirschhorn Museum, 9:30 a.m.
June 13 The Latin American Vanguardia. Political and historical contexts
Discuss Ortega’s essay.
Read Huidobro and Borges poems in class.
All: finish reading Unruh
Student assignments on Vallejo and Guillén poems
June 15 Discuss Vallejo and Guillén. Review for take-home exam, due in class on June 20.
June 20 Buñuel film.
June 22 Cocteau.
June 27 Latin American vanguardist theater, including Xavier Illarrutia’s play Parece mentira
June 29 Theater presentations
July 4 Holiday (make up to be announced)
July 6 Introduction to European Primitivism, through visual art.
Student assignments on James Frazer, The Golden Bough; Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo; James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture, and Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives
July 11 Dada.
Introduction to Legends of Guatemala
July 13 Legends of Guatemala
July 18 Wrap up