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Cities in Ruins

The Politics of Modern Poetics

by Cecelia Enjuto Rangel

Publication Year: 2010

Modern poetry on ruins performs an awakening call to the lurking real, to the violence of history in the making. The attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, and in Madrid on March 11, 2004, provoked diverse political reactions, but the imminence of the ruins triggered a collective historical awakening. The awakening can take the shape of bombs in Kabul and Baghdad, or political change in government policies, but it is also palpable when poetry voices a critique of the technological warfare and its versions of progress. Contemporary events and the modern ruins are reminiscent of the political impact that the Spanish Civil War and the two World Wars had on poetry. In Cities in Ruins: The Politics of Modern Poetics, Cecilia Enjuto Rangel argues that the portrayal in poetry of the modern city as a disintegrated, ruined space is part of a critique of the visions of progress and the historical process of modernization that developed during the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Enjuto Rangel analyzes how Charles Baudelaire, Luis Cernuda, T. S. Eliot, Octavio Paz, and Pablo Neruda poeticized ruins as the cornerstones of cultural and political memory, and used the imagery of ruins to reinterpret their historical and literary traditions.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xi

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-22

Ruins shape modern urban landscapes. They are both the effects of the real and the remains of the past.1 Skyscrapers, with their shiny, clean, complete look characterize the modern city. But decisive historical events constantly disrupt that “finished” scenario, interrupting...

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2. Urban Ruins in Baudelaire's and Cernuda's Poetry

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pp. 23-87

Waste bothers us. Ruins overwhelm us. How can we make a distinction between waste and ruins in the urban landscape? Waste stinks, it causes disgust, though in some cases it even fascinates us; but waste almost never makes us melancholic, while ruins, on the contrary, may...

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3. Cities in Ruins: The Burlesque Baroque in T.S. Eliot and Octavio Paz

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pp. 89-141

The etymological definition of barroco points to something extravagant or bizarre, a pearl with an irregular shape.1 The pérola barroca is the product of the Portuguese commerce with pearls in the East, a result of their explorations abroad in the early sixteenth century.2 ...

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4. The Spanish Civil War: A Transatlantic Vision

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pp. 143-223

How can we address the broken historical memory of Spain? Can we cure that wounded collective self through the reconstruction of the past? Can we really “clean” the past to see its dirty hidden spots? ...

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5. Pablo Neruda's Cities in Ruins: Poetic Histories from Madrid to Machu Picchu

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pp. 225-268

Modern poetry on ruins yields a map of how to read the historical and the literary pasts through its metaphors of destruction. Baroque poems on ruins commemorate Classical ruins and meditate on the decay of a historical space that has lost its grandeur. ...

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6. The Effects of the Real: Reading Ruins in Modern Poetry

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pp. 269-280

Ruins unveil the uncomfortable historical legacy of the city. Ruins are often treated as disposable waste or as valuable sites for the tourist gaze, but modern poems ultimately see ruins as the effects of the real. ...


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pp. 281-306


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pp. 307-339


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pp. 341-363

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About the Author

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Cecilia Enjuto Rangel, University of Oregon, received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Her publications focus on Transatlantic poetics and film. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781612491721
E-ISBN-10: 1612491723
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557535719
Print-ISBN-10: 155753571X

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures
Series Editor Byline: Patricia Hart See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794698947
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cities in Ruins

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Subject Headings

  • Ruins in literature.
  • Poetry, Modern -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Cities and towns in literature.
  • Poetry, Modern -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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