In the Palace of Possession: The Neobaroque Novel and the Pleasure of the Ghost Open Access

Nelsen, Vanessa Anne (2017)

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In the Palace of Possession:

The Neobaroque Novel and the Pleasure of the Ghost

By Vanessa Nelsen

This dissertation studies works by Jose Lezama Lima (1910-1976), Severo Sarduy (1937-1993), Reinaldo Arenas (1940-1990) each of whom holds a singular position within post-revolutionary Cuban literary history, yet they are also bound together by the fact that their work is marked by loss and haunted by specters that obsessively return and claim originary status within their works. This recurrence is intrinsic to the Neobaroque aesthetics that binds these authors. Their works are virtual ‘palaces of possession' that serve to reunite readers, whether marginalized, in exile, or faced with existential and historical doubt, with the stories of a literary generation paradoxically at the center of the Latin American canon of literature and at the edge of erasure within a larger intellectual and international tradition. One reason the Neobaroque authors call forth uncanny and spectral stories is because this form of writing directly resonates with the conditions of having been denied basic rights of existence, censored as they were during in the decades surrounding the Cuban Revolution of 1959. These writers adapt a neobaroque aesthetic, not in order to respond to national context, but for the purpose of abstraction and invocation from their own--physical, discursive, and emotional--states of exile. This dissertation moves beyond the Revolutionary scope of Cuban history as presented in literature and enters into an inquiry for the individual at the boundary of historic obliteration and literary expression. The purpose of this study is identify the spectral forms of the Neobaroque aesthetic as they come together to point to the paradoxical positioning of the self during times when the impact of an historic event or political and social system may be felt and expressed and yet, before a public or a body of readers, still remains underrepresented, unspoken and uncertain. The transatlantic Neobaroque aesthetic, defined by a continuous displacement of meaning or origins, offers a point of entry into 21st-century representations of Cuban exile as it celebrates an indeterminism for which specters are not uncertain and dubious figures, but a proper form of expression.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: Specters, Ghosts, and Neobaroque Possession........................1

Chapter One: Possession: The Writing Possession into Paradiso.......................38

Chapter Two: The Image of Severo Sarduy's Uncanny Exile and the Architecture of the Neobaroque Text.......................71

Chapter Three: Reinaldo Arenas, Ritual and Repossession in Celestino Antes del Alba....122

Conclusion: The Afterlife of Textual Palaces, Past and Future.......................189

Works Cited.......................195


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