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Theses Doctoral

Nobody There: Acousmatics and An Alternative Economy of Meaning in Latin American Poetry of the 1970s

de la Torre, Mónica

This study focuses on the works of three authors whose first poetry books appeared in the 1970s, in the context of the dictatorial and authoritarian regimes that began seizing power in Latin America in the 1960s and '70s. At a juncture in which both traditional leftist discourse and the programs of earlier avant-gardes had begun to seem inadequate, younger poets sought to articulate, in the realm of the symbolic, coherent responses to increasingly oppressive and polarized political environments. The works in question are the following: Brazilian Waly Salomão's "Me segura qu'eu vou dar um troço" (Rio de Janeiro, 1972); Juan Luis Martínez's "La nueva novela" (Santiago, Chile, 1977); and, by Mexican conceptual artist Ulises Carrión, the unpublished "Poesías," from 1973, as well as a selection of his poetry-based artists books. These are hyper-referential, process-oriented, polyphonic works. They are not only politically motivated, but, given their understanding of the entwinement of politics and genre, are also decidedly against the ideology bolstering the lettered tradition, lyrical poetry, and self-expressive tendencies. At the core of their critique is a rejection of an economy of meaning in which the author's function, as Foucault puts it, equals "the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning." First and foremost, in their goal to burst open the meaning-making process, Salomão, Martínez, and Carrión disembody the utterance and question notions of literary value that set apart literary language from common speech. Relying heavily on appropriation and framing devices, they each posit an alternate model of authorship in which writing and reading are inextricable and, consequently, the work is co-created by the reader.
Key among their strategies is that of acousmatics--here understood as the concealment of the source of the utterances in the text--in order to, primarily, create conditions of reception in which the reader can interact with the material on the page directly, without its being mediated by the poem's subject. Salomão, Martínez, and Carrión each achieve the uttering subject's removal from the text through different procedures that are contrasted in the dissertation. Emulating the cacophony of popular culture, Salomão performatively adopts multiple subjectivities in his works, saturating them to the point that no unitary subject can be said to be manifest in them. Martínez, on the other hand, mirrors the cacophony of printed matter. Besides failing to attribute the copious materials he samples in the wide-ranging word/image works comprising "La nueva novela," in presenting them he adopts the depersonalized institutional tone of textbooks, photographic captions, and paratextual materials such as footnotes, editor's notes, and bibliographical annotations. In Carrión's works the subject seems to have vacated the poem entirely, as author function is reduced to misreading canonical materials and performing interventions and erasures on them. Resulting from Carrión's operations are open structures that serve as models for post-literary ways to engage with texts.
The way these authors assembled and put their books in circulation is also examined, since "Me segura qu'eu vou dar um troço," "La nueva novela," and Carrión's artist books are the result of a thorough rethinking of the politics of the book, the lettered tradition's keystone institution.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Alonso, Carlos J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 27, 2017