This examination of José Lezama Lima’s groundbreaking essay on the controversial late-nineteenth-century Cuban poet Julián del Casal situates the essay in the postrevolutionary context in which it first appeared in a Havana newspaper in 1941, a year after the ratification of the Constitution of 1940 and the publication of Fernando Ortiz’s celebrated Cuban Counterpoint. It explores Lezama Lima’s essay as a response to this moment in Cuban history as one that sought to forge, according to Rafael Rojas, a new “pact of national reconciliation,” and was characterized by anxieties over Cubans’ ability to produce. It argues that Lezama Lima’s essay responded by turning from questions of production and proposing instead an urban aesthetic practice of reception and failure that foregrounds—in a manner not unlike contemporary queer critics—the racial and sexual spectral and ephemeral as sources for alternative forms of productivity and agency.
Lezama Lima’s “Julián del Casal”: A New Aesthetics of Reception and Failure for Postrevolutionary Times
Arnaldo M. Cruz-Malavé is a professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Fordham University. He is the author of Queer Latino Testimonio, Keith Haring, and Juanito Xtravaganza: Hard Tails (2007), a book on high art and queer Latinx popular culture in the gentrifying New York of the 1980s, and El primitivo implorante (1994), a study of the prose fiction of José Lezama Lima, and a coeditor of Queer Globalization: Citizenship and the Afterlife of Colonialism (2002).
Arnaldo M. Cruz-Malavé; Lezama Lima’s “Julián del Casal”: A New Aesthetics of Reception and Failure for Postrevolutionary Times. Small Axe 1 November 2019; 23 (3 (60)): 155–166. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-7912406
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