Monthly Archives: October 2006

When Last Words Become First Words: Transgressive Literacies and the Birth of Romance Textuality

Anthony P. Espòsito
University of Pennsylvania

I. Last words Balkan style: Philology and the Bosnia Syndrome (1898).

Last words, the theme for this series of articles that comes out of last spring’s graduate conference of the same name, are somewhat disconcerting for a philologist. Philology’s traditional obsession has usually been with first words — those first and originary scribblings which initialize a culture’s, and a nation’s, textual history. Last words from a linguistic-philological perspective usually imply language death. In comparative Romance philology there is a famous instance of last words that all graduate students learn about; it is invariably told as a cautionary tale, and is meant to remind us of two things: (1) that we always must play the hand we are dealt, that is, often we have less than perfect data; and (2) that we must temper our conclusions in light of this less than ideal data. The setting is the Istrian peninsula at the end of the 19th century. The two characters are the Italian linguist, Matteo Giulio Bartoli, and his informant, Antuone Udaine. Bartoli was born in 1876 in Albona d’Istria and raised within the cultural and linguistic mosaic of pre-World War I Austria-Hungary in present day Croatia. He studied historical linguistics at the University of Vienna in a rigidly neogrammarian program and in 1907 assumed the chair of linguistics at the University of Turin, a position which he held until his death in 1946. Bartoli’s early scholarly interest was the Romance language known as Dalmatian, a bridge language between the north-eastern Italian and Istro-romance dialects to its west and the Romanian dialect group in the east. At the time of Bartoli’s writing, Dalmatian was thought to be extinct, having been replaced through several waves of immigration and subsequent language contact by the more Italian-like dialects of neighboring Venezia-Friuli-Giulia in the north and west and Croatian in the south.

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La Huella Psicológica del Franquismo en el Cine Español de los Noventa

Joaquin Florido Berrocal
The Johns Hopkins University

El cine español ha sufrido durante las últimas décadas cambios generacionales que se han dejado notar en el producto final de muchos directores. Estos directores a los que aludo son un grupo bastante nutrido al cual haré referencia más adelante que han trabajado en la elaboración de un cine que, tras unos años de búsqueda direccional marcados por el fin de la dictadura y el comienzo de la transición democrática, parece haber encontrado un camino con personalidad que lo diferencia de otros cines por la variedad de estilo y de técnicas dentro de su consonancia, y que le ha valido para dar el salto definitivo al reconocimiento internacional.

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The story never ends: Rachid Mimouni’s Le Printemps n’en sera que plus beau and the production of counter-discourse in Algerian state-sponsored literature

Alexandra Gueydan-Turek
Yale University

In the process of post-colonial nation-building, the State often attempts to impose its own discourse as the sole source of national identity in order to homogenize the nation. In his influential work Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Benedict Anderson notes the discrepancy between ‘official’ discourse, which supports the conception of a unified State, and the reality of a diverse people artificially grouped within the same political entity. To account for their disparity, Anderson argues that the nation is primarily a discursive phenomenon, i.e. a fiction supported by narratives. Based on his concept of imagined communities, literary works come to light as essential tools for nation-building, and writers emerge as key figures called upon to embrace the official model of the nationalist narrative. A new nation’s literary production can rely on heavily codified structures of the novel to promote and preserve the fiction of a homogeneous national identity, defined here as an imagined community that shares the same collective values, a common understanding of History, and a profound commitment to the State. Such a propaganda-oriented mindset led Rachid Mimouni to challenge nationalist narrative in his first novel, Le printemps n’en sera que plus beau. This text, all too often disregarded as an early work that shows less aesthetic maturity than Mimouni’s later writing, merits further analysis as an initial attempt to challenge national narrative. In its closing lines, Mimouni contests not only the attempt to fix literary boundaries, but also the official discourse used in nationalist texts.

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Memories in Orbit: Loss in Sergio Chejfec’s Los planetas

Noble Novitzki
University of Pennsylvania

The protagonist of Sergio Chejfec’s 1999 novel Los Planetas (known only by the initial S.), claims to have made the decision to become a writer only because of the disappearance of his friend from adolescence (known by the initial M.) who he declares was much more apt than he at telling stories. The stories, says S., “took on ample and diffuse subjects … that came to him from who knows where, acquiring a new dimension through his voice” (104). S. the writer, by contrast, is uncomfortable with his own voice, and with “[his] inclination towards the replacement, the substitute.” In other words, S. is torn between the desire for conserving and the fear of converting, and of symbolizing.

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On Joy, Death, and Writing: From Autobiography to Autothanatography in Clarice Lispector’s Works

Elena Deanda
Vanderbilt University

How does one state in words the impossibility of writing? How does one translate an author who has depicted herself as silent in the very text? The Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector dares to do so. From Agua viva, oneof her first novels, to Un soplo de vida, her posthumous work, Lispector enters into an egotistic self-referential movement. She dares to speak from her work, from herself, from art, and from literature, thus mixing realities of different dimensions and erasing borders between life and letter. In Agua viva Lispector interrogates the causes and effects of the writing process in order to know it, to govern it. There, she begins to experience revelatory and joyful epiphanies that later, in Un soplo de vida, become mystical. However, the tone of this later text is quite different. There, her writing presages a forthcoming silence, and because of that the illusion of apprehending knowledge by language fades as it becomes certain of the impossible.

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Antonin Artaud et l’essouflement du lógos

Nicolas Valazza
The Johns Hopkins University

Au cours du mois de novembre 1947, Fernand Pouey, le directeur des émissions littéraires de la Radiodiffusion française, sollicite Antonin Artaud – revenu à Paris en mai 1946 après une période d’internement psychiatrique de neuf ans à l’asile de Rodez – pour qu’il prépare une performance radiophonique en vue d’une émission pour le cycle La Voix des poètes, prévue le 2 février 1948. Le choix des textes et des acteurs est laissé à la discrétion de l’auteur. Artaud accepte la proposition : il collecte quelques fragments dans un recueil qu’il intitule Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, et convoque Maria Casarès, Roger Blin et Paule Thévenin pour les réciter. L’annonce de l’émission provoque un tapage médiatique qui conduira le directeur général de la radio Wladimir Porché à en interdire la diffusion. Cette décision suscite un vif débat dans la presse et dans le monde intellectuel parisien ; cependant l’interdiction est maintenue et la performance ne passera sur les ondes que vingt ans plus tard, en mai 1968.[1]

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