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American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis in the Poema Heroico a San Ignacio de Loyola

Hispanofila 2009, Jan, 155

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OVER the past several decades, studies of the verbal description of visual art--the literary device known as ekphrasis--have increasingly demonstrated the ways encounters between the "sister arts" bring up issues of power, gender, and alterity. (1) For the highly pictorial literature of the Barroco de Indias, this new work on ekphrasis can contribute to the critical reexamination of canonical texts that is currently underway. During the latter half of the twentieth century, many scholarly studies began to associate texts from the Barroco de Indias with the articulation of a specifically American point of view and with a foundational role in the rupture with Spanish hegemony. Current scholarship, however, is questioning the inclusiveness of this americanismo and is exploring the far more complex role of many works from the Barroco de Indias in forging alternative models of social synthesis. The present essay contributes to recent discussion of criollismo (2) in American Baroque writing by exploring the workings of ekphrasis in a pillar of the Colombian national canon--the Poema heroico a San Ignacio de Loyola by the Creole Jesuit, Hernando Dominguez Camargo. (3) The epic-hagiographic Poema draws strongly on the tradition of arte por el arte. However, it borrows and re-frames a series of lyric ekphrases from the peninsular poet Luis de Gongora in a way that historicizes this extreme aestheticism. By exploring the ways Camargo's ekphrases both evoke and elide Amerindian and Afro-American others, I demonstrate how the Poema's refiguration of Gongoran ekphrases creates an ideological "space" that visualizes an American model of cultural synthesis. However, as I will suggest, this model simply replaces an imperial disregard for American political legitimacy and suffering with an elite, Creole denial of Amerindian property claims and capabilities for resistance. The Poema heroico emerges during an era that some have called a rising "empire of the gaze" (Shapiro 31). Counter Reformation and Cartesian theories of the power of images brought about an intense proliferation in the production of visual artifacts including a flowering of art and architecture as well as, in literature, a burst of "writing for the eyes." (4) The numerous ekphrases that embellish the Poema heroico register some of these devotional and scientific shifts in viewing. Along with reflecting changes in visuality, they also evoke certain social changes occurring in seventeenth-century society. In the Poema, Dominguez Camargo borrows and redescribes a number of Gongoran ekphrases in a way that alters both the relationship between the word pictures and their narrative frame and the relationship between the objects within the word picture. By exploring first how Camargo intensifies Gongora's proliferation of descriptive parentheses within a narrative and then how he modifies Gongora's elaboration of imaginative fantasies within these parentheses, I suggest that Camargo depicts imaginary works of art in a way that counters Spanish imperialist attitudes toward America yet simultaneously undermines the rights and rationality of non-Creole peoples who shared the colonial experience.

American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis in the Poema Heroico a San Ignacio de Loyola
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: Jan 01, 2009
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
  • Seller: The Gale Group, Inc.
  • Print Length: 31 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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