Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Surrounding Myself With Spanish Surrealism

These last few days I've really been immersing myself in what seems to be a strange subject, Spanish Surrealism. Strange because there's a way in which it doesn't exactly exist, at least not in the way one would think of French Surrealism, which it is influenced strongly by. I've been thinking a lot about the poets (Lorca, Alexandre, Alberti, Guillen, Cernuda), the painters (primarily Dali and Miro, with some Picasso, although there's your tip-off that Spanish Surrealism is going to be something else), and Bunuel. I think the key in all this is the influence that Breton's manifesto of 1924 has on the Generation of 27, but that the Generation of 27, in being less interested in automatism, and also less interested in Marx than they are in Freud, can only take Breton so far. When Breton issues a new manifesto in 1929, which addresses the need for political engagement (which would make sense to the Spanish, given the growing tensions in Spain), Breton comes out for the communists (which alienates a lot of French surrealists, who suddenly are no longer included in the Surrealist world). But this creates problems too for the Spanish, who number the communists as only one of the many forces that support the Republic (the socialists, the anarchists,the democrats, etc). In addition, French Surrealism seems more of a response to WW I and to modernism, dada, etc. whereas for the Spanish, there's more a sense of trying to find a more unified (and modern) way of thinking about art, literature, etc. Thus the poets, for example, are drawing on the influences of the Generation of 98, of Gongora, etc. Lorca has his great surrealist moments in Poet in New York and there are isolated moments where we see this again (his ode to Dali for example). I think Blood Wedding links the lyrical, the dramatic and the surreal, but it certainly doesn't fit in with conventions (viz Breton of Surrealism). Lorca's idea with La Barraca was that he could create a theater that would serve to unify Spain. I don't think a unified France is Breton's project.

This all interests me because I'm teaching a course next semester on Spanish Surrealism and I'm realizing that it's much more complicated and interesting than I'd anticipated. Getting all the material together is exciting but taking up a lot of time. Which images to use? Which poems? I think with Bunuel I'm going with Un chien andalou and L'Age D'Or. Disturbing in all this is how few women there are to even be able to think about. Remedio Varos does some interesting work in Paris, some exquisite corpses, but few women surrealists emerge out of Spain (culture?).

On other fronts, New Year's was spent in a very home-like way. Jesse and I cooked dinner using his new wok--early in the day we made steamed dumplings, and for dinner we had a quick fried fish in a soy/ginger/white vinegar sauce that was quite good, along with sauteed chinese noodles with garlic and chinese sausage. We watched The Gay Divorcee and Shall We Dance and then at midnight there was champagne and confetti and then bed-time. Today was spent on a traditional lentil stew (ham hock and pigs feet) and lots of college football in the background, while I though some more about Spanish Surrealism. I think I've worked out the details on my Advanced Poetry class (more on this later) so the semester, which begins in three weeks is coming together. Teaching new courses is always fun but the first assembling of material I find a little daunting.

Happy New Year to all! Un abrazo fuerte!

1 comment:

jesse said...

Nice post. But was it really bed time after the movies were over?