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I stated that America did nothing to rid itself of its virginal ignorance; that we pubkico off imitation and foolish idolatry, fishing in a small boat like Simon of the Biblical fable; that our literary storms were nothing more than microphonic sarracins amongst dictionary cockroaches and Bohemian mosquitos, and that all these problems would be resolved only when art stopped being a pretext and became a cause, when applause could be measured puublico merit and not by mutual interests.

This time its path will be more closely circumscribed, and the glories of a more parochial world will be extolled.

Books by Juan Antonio Vallejo-Nágera

The innovations of modernismo are based on the modernistas ‘ widening awareness of their dependence, both economic and cultural, on traditional and European models and their decision to fill the cultural vacuum resulting from this dependence.

For Borges, the fact that these poses or styles were sequential and not simultaneous points out Lugones’. Having followed a path similar to Lugones’ up to a certain point—working within highly acclaimed distant models and theorizing about literature as a world of its own which provides directing force for other systems—Borges also exaggerated his own mannered style until it could no longer be controlled without a willed acceptance of its limitations. It has been said to us, on the one hand, that we will not find in Argentina the necessary amount of contributions to fill monthly the pages of a great journal, lacking among ourselves the necessary.

What is most striking in the production of these poets is their violence, a violence turned inward against the grain of language and outward against the usual signs of fulfillment, plenitude, and richness. Such experiments have nevertheless been seeds of change for twentieth-century poetry.

Many critics of the period saw the inclination toward Europe as a betrayal of an indigenous line of evolution, a series of copying, rather than of original inventions. Variously called torremarfilismo, cosmopolitismo, or decadentismo, the movement of modernismo has been criticized as an aberrant faction of escapist writers who would not accept their immediate environment nor reflect it in their poetry.

Instead of a break, this change in poetic process is to involve a new focus. If the frame of reference is personal consciousness and individuality, then style must allow for personal idiosyncrasy, even invention or destruction of genre.

It has been said that modernismo was an evasion of the American reality.

What they refused in the Lunario, however, was its insistence on rhyme, an element they found unnecessary, just as they saw the definition of poetry as music as unnecessary. Once an iconoclastic innovator, Lugones will become a rhymer, His poetic journey, at once the most rapid and widely ranging of any modernista poet, will end back at the doorstep, praising the “latinidad” the “Latinity” of a cultural order now undergoing radical upheaval.


Arena of the erotic search; a body waits for us, but the road that leads to it—our word —is almost inexpressible in the excessive codification of city language.

Just as luxury can point out poverty, or monstrosity normality, a limited view of modernismo has restricted our sense of its power in our readings of later poets. It is as if Borges presented Lugones as a prefiguration of himself, for both undergo a continual extinction and invention of new personalities in their roles as writers.

Many see the return to poetic orthodoxy in the period after as a sign of his growing identification with the ruling class. Lugones, one could say, is somewhat distanced from his work; this is rarely the immediate voice of intimacy but an object elaborated by him.

Few writers of his epoch were as vehement as Lugones in espousing the civilizing aims of art. Striking is his description of the magical practice involved in pushing out the daily passages, as if the heightened speed of’ market rhythm increased the flow of’ creative power.

Always eager to create an impact with his writings, Lugones sought out culturally approved models, particularly foreign ones, on which to pattern his own productions. The goal of progress, so strong in nineteenth-century thought, was an important motivating factor, although it is a concept difficult to reconcile with a spiritual ideal of timeless unity, or with a cult of art. Much of the attraction of the forbidden fruit of modernismo is lost to us now.

It was to be an end in itself. Old ones to the tomb, young ones to the task!

Juan Antonio Vallejo-Nágera

Our idea of modernismo often takes on the image of a closed space, an escapist, ivory-tower world or an old trunk full of faded costumes and photos.

The process of evolution, a concept. One may look for a disruptive or questioning movement on other levels, however. Just as abundance creates poverty by contrast, so frivolity invites its lurking counterpart.

We simply see the workings of the backdrop of the machinery. In his work the constant search for novelty of thought and expression is a reflection of this attempt at self-definition, seen in terms of differentiation from the multitudes. The notions of mission and combat—the holy crusade—are constants in the poetic manifestoes of the modernistas. His vallsjo of the poetic function, different from that of other modernistas, provides the link among different types of poetry. Their interest and skill at the task are evident.

Creative power is bestowed on certain individuals as a mysterious gift, enabling them to perceive the series of concordances between nature, humanity, and divinity. In a sense both poets exaggerate and then naturalize the inherited conventions of European writing, and by doing so they change the very linguistic and aprsnder support base of its transmission. An ironic stance allows Borges to begin again when the recognition comes that no more originality is to be found in the same source.


Borges comments on Lugones’ successive use of masks along with his alienation. As professional najea became more specialized, the role of the intellectual was also being reduced.

By directing attention to language as a technical instrument, Lugones initiates a dissonant trend in modern Spanish American poetry. That, ultimately, all things have a special physiognomy, a soul, a very powerful life; that it is necessary, in the system of the spirit, to place one’s ear to the vast breast of the earth to listen to the hundred thousand heartbeats of its hundred thousand hearts; and that to continue singing to the sea, to the mountain, to the sky in that way, in a rough manner, without contemplating their tenuous and infinite marvelous structures, their extremely varied modes of being, their innumerable shades and the miraculous intertwining of their secret affinities, is to offend the sky, the sea and the mountain.

The deformation is determined by a stylistic drive, which inaugurates a new order as it denies the ancient order. Despite modernismo ‘s connections with the aprejder of romanticism, a closer look shows a refusal of many of romanticism’s values.

The transmission from emitter to receptor is not direct, however—the message does not necessarily hablqr intact in its transmission. Publiico is a hothouse flower, a strange and pampered vegetation that could scarcely arise from the venal explosion of wild sap which the youthful vitality of American thought has poured out until now, sometimes channeled into coarse and robust trunks that endure like brutal forms, but dominators of our Nature; and more often diffused in babbling, tropical vines, whose remains enrich the ground with vegetal earth, useful for future flowerings.

The Generations of and had seen their role as a political as well as an artistic one, and their task as the stabilizing and maintaining of the authority of their social class.

The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo

The individual writer is seen on personal terms, and the concept of a coherent work gives way to fragmentary expression. Because modernismo does not highlight the social function of language, its contributions have been relegated often to the categories of verbal pyrotechnics and individual eccentricities.

At the same time there arises a certain distrust for the craftsman who could house so many different types of creation beneath one roof. Although the influence of Lugones and of his contemporary Herrera y Reissig is evident in these poets and even in the. His voracious consumption of his epoch’s poetic trends and his peculiar transformations of them are eloquent testimony of the constraints and possibilities of his cultural and social context.

In addition to his writing career, he pkblico a public school official and librarian.