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Jill Robbins, Chair 150 W 21st Street, Stop B3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4936

Fall 2003

SPN 380K • Orígenes IN CONTEXT

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
45140 W
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
UTC 1.136

Course Description

In the late 1940s Octavio Paz once called the Cuban literary journal Orígenes“the best publication of its kind in the language." In 1994 Casa de la Americas and the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists organized an ambitious conference to commemorate Orígenes as a precusor of the nationalist martiano spirit of the 1959 Revolution. Published from 1944 to 1956 by poet-writer José Lezama Lima and translator-essayist José Rodríguez Feo, Orígenes was in fact a cosmopolitan modernist journal that featured works by poets of international reknown such as T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Saint-John Perse as well as by the young local authors of the “grupo Orígenes.” Each of the Cuban poets and writers that published in this journal would eventually become a canonical or cult writer, in or out of Cuba. Cintio Vitier, winner of the 2002 Juan Rulfo prize, is a leading poet and essayist identified with the Cuban Revolution and Liberation Theology. His wife Fina García Marruz is one of the most famous women poet-writers in the island. Gastón Baquero, a mulatto Batista sympathizer who lived in exile in Madrid after the Revolution, was regarded before his death as the best poet living in Spain by many critics and readers. Eliseo Diego, another winner of the Juan Rulfo award tagged by some as the "Latin American T.S. Eliot," is among the most quoted poets in the language. Lorenzo García Vega may be the most powerfully acerbic underground writer in Miami today, a type of "secret" cult poet read mostly by small postmodern intellectual communities in Habana, Caracas, and Buenos Aires. Virgilio Piñera has been recognized as Cuba's leading playwright; his raw, absurdist stories won him the reputation of being the "Caribbean Kafka." With Octavio Paz and Jorge Luis Borges, José Lezama Lima remains one of the defining figures of Latin American literature and culture of the twentieth century.

The legacy of these writers in Cuba and Latin America today has been the subject of great intellectual and aesthetic debate given the eccentric, contrasting, and contradictory ways in which origenistas situated themselves vis-à-vis Cuban and global politics and the Cuban revolutionary experience. This course will evaluate the remarkable Orígenes phenomenon both as a reclusive modernist journal published during a time of great political and social repression in Cuba and as a group of poet-writers facing the polarizing challenges of the most transforming political event in Latin America after the Mexican Revolution. It will consider the many scholarly and literary polemics that have come up in Cuba and abroad regarding the works of Lezama Lima, Piñera, Vitier, García Marruz, Baquero, and García Vega, and the impact these authors and these polemics have had in several generations of writers and critics worldwide, including Alejo Carpentier, Wallace Stevens, Julio Cortázar, Severo Sarduy, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Heberto Padilla, Reinaldo Arenas, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Harry Levin, Lydia Cabrera, Nancy Morejón, Zoé Valdés, Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, Jorge Luis Arcos, Antonio José Ponte, and Víctor Fowler.

Grading Policy

Term paper with draft (50%); 20 minute paper-like presentation (25%); seminar participation and short presentation assignments (25%)


Supplementary essays and texts by: Julio Cortázar, Alejo Carpentier, Severo Sarduy, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Heberto Padilla, Reinaldo Arenas, Lydia Cabrera, Nancy Morejón, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Zoé Valdés, Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, Jorge Luis Arcos, Antonio Josee Ponte, Víctor Fowler, and Rafael Rojas.


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