Reading Vallejo against the grain of identity
Taking as its point of departure not only the poetic subject in Vallejo as primordially fractured but the intimations in his prose works that like his contemporary Borges (“La nadería de la personalidad,” 1925) he eschewed the idea of a unified self, this presesentation will interrogate the biographical paradigms that have often been brought to bear on readings of Vallejo. Despite advances in scholarship in recent years, such paradigms still inform much of his critical tradition. How have expectations that Vallejo’s work perform Peruvian, Indian, or other identities in particular ways hamper its reading? What is gained by insisting on his mestizo roots, or by declaring his poetry mestizo? What effect has the emphasis on the meagreness of his Parisian circumstances and his allegedly mournful and martyred character had on the interpretation of his poetry? I will argue that it is useful to formulate alternative views of Vallejo not for purposes of better elucidating his work but so as to lift the interpretive shadow the traditional view of his personality has cast over his texts.
The paper strategy.
1. It is traditional to look at the author and certain (social, political, personal) themes–and to focus on the image. I am interested here in grammar and sound, and joy in language.
2. Many Latin American writers and critics give primary importance to the question of identity and construct a self through the incorporation of a non-European other, but the non-Western elements in Vallejo’s texts work differently. If we examine the possibilities here we may find that Vallejo’s corpus is more joyful than is commonly believed.
3. Hart’s biography is helpful for purposes of shaking off myths.
4. I should choose one poem to study in detail.