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.

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