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A New Association: Helping Launch the “Lezama era”

Posted: July 20, 2010

In tandem with the centennial celebrations of the birth of Cuban writer José Lezama Lima, the Asociación Internacional de Estudios Lezamianos (AIEL) was founded at UCLA on June 4th, 2010. The members that participated in this event, writing the statutes of the organization were: César A. Salgado, from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at The University of Texas at Austin, Jorge Marturano from UCLA, Marta Hernández-Salván from UC Riverside, and Juan Pablo Lupi from UC Santa Barbara. For decades since Lezama’s death on August 9, 1976, many Lezama experts in and out of Cuba have continued to emerge, gather in professional conferences, and go beyond canonical and outmoded approaches towards Lezama’s work. Thus, the AIEL is the formal crystallization of a community of scholars and readers constituted throughout the years by the effort of many.

The objective of the AIEL is to bring together Lezama’s 21st century critics, scholars and enthusiasts. Writing on the need for such an organization, Salgado cites Severo Sarduy’s claim that he had lived and written to bring forth the “Lezama era”, a period of literary culture, in which the poetic image works as a positive instrument of knowledge and redemption. On a more practical note, the AIEL is already in process of creating an electronic portal through which to update Lezama scholars and readers on upcoming conferences, publications or other pertinent news. The association is also strongly committed to investing in the preservation and academic facilitation of Lezama’s archive and papers, presently found at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí in Havana and in other libraries in the US and Spain.

The motivation of the AIEL is somewhat similar to the one around the colossal academic interests for James Joyce. In an article reflecting on his experience writing his book From Modernism to Neobaroque: Joyce and Lezama Lima (2001), interim AIEL president César A. Salgado writes: “I assumed that a thorough examination of Lezama’s complex and ambitious literary achievement required an apparatus of critical work at the scale, sophistication and advancement of what is now globally known in universities as the ‘Joyce industry’ […] I wanted to help the promotion of the ‘Lezama industry’.”

Today there are yearly multidisciplinary conferences celebrating and interrogating Joycean writings and works all around the world. Similarly, the AIEL plans on recruiting members from several universities and areas. It will organize international conferences and promote academic encounters centered on Lezama.

According to Salgado, the idea is to create “a formal group of regular discussion, without national or ideological boundaries, open to a critical and systematic debate on the latest methods, theories of analysis, interpretations, and editorial principles  in order to update the work of Lezama and so achieve, as his verse says, “su definición mejor” (‘a better definition’).” The idea is not to control or direct the study of Lezama, nor to impose a literary legitimacy, but to extend and pluralize his legacy, to activate what Lezama called the potens of poetic writing. The AIEL aspires to expand his constellation by encouraging more readers to experiment the intellectual adventure that his work represents. Through the activities of this association, lezamistas will hopefully combine their multiple talents and perspectives to bring a broader visibility and actuality to Lezama’s work.

 

 

Report written by UT graduate student Paula Park.

Austin, Summer 2010.

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