Organized around the complete works of John of the Cross, Juan Goytisolo’s Las virtudes del pájaro solitario (1988) presents a radical characterization of mysticism aligned with the spontaneity and immediacy of poetic genius. Through an elaboration of the opposition between critique and creation or theory and practice, Goytisolo aligns his version of mysticism with heresy and negative theology. But how might a return to John of the Cross’s writings wrest this “mystic” and “poet” from the confines of exceptionalism to rethink his exemplarity as grounded and cultivated in community? This article argues that reading John of the Cross’s Cántico espiritual in the context of the Carmelite reform not only destabilizes Goytisolo’s notion of radical mysticism but also makes imaginable a loving critique that offers the politics of queerness and religious difference an alternative to oppositionality per se.

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