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Cuba and the Fall

Christian Text and Queer Narrative in the Fiction of José Lezama Lima and Reinaldo Arenas

Eduardo González

Publication Year: 2010

The queer presence that animates and informs the fiction of José Lezama Lima and Reinaldo Arenas, two of the most prominent Cuban writers since the Revolution, nonetheless haunts their work by its absence. Eduardo González draws on the Christian concept of the Fall from grace and the possibility of redemption, on the work of selected Western canonical authors, and on several contemporary films to show how the chosen texts by the two writers both replicate and are enhanced by these sources and illustrate the interplay of word, image, and belief in the story line and moral tale that González develops.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This book has a predecessor and companion in Cuba and the Tempest: Literature and Film in the Time of Diaspora ( University of North Carolina Press 2006 ). Both books invest in the comparative interpretation of literature written by well-known...


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p. xv


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p. xvii

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Introduction: Personal Character, Authorship, and the Incidental Caribbean

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pp. 1-19

Although it may cause quite a different impression in the reader’s mind, this book is intended as an old-fashioned study of literary character in the mold of the British Victorian invention of an impossible craft: to bridge the gap between character...

Part One: Castle Dismal: Reinaldo Arenas as Boy and Girl

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pp. 21-136

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1. A House in the Woods

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pp. 23-47

Sophia Peabody wrote of Castle Dismal, the domestic dark cell in which her mother-in-law dwelled, being herself a former addict to the cloistered bedroom. Sophia had suffered from invalidism more than a decade earlier as a result of severe migraines...

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2. Pan's Labyrinth

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pp. 48-70

Both Hawthorne and Ruskin see two children where there is only one. In the first case, the girl Pearl sees her reflection in the water, and the adult writer who tells her story sees her twice: as one child other than just either as herself or as her figure...

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3. Lady in the Hot Seat

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pp. 71-92

The most scrutinized passage in Milton’s masque brings us back to it for a last glance, now in perspective from our examination of some central themes in del Toro’s sibling films. We will look next at the ordeal of chastity in the Lady, who in the epigraph...

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4. A House of Sand

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pp. 93-113

This chapter and the next rehearse the posthumous and otherworldly authorship connection between Reinaldo Arenas and Nathaniel Hawthorne with some help from William Faulkner, St. Augustine, and Milton. The Hawthorne authorship...

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5. The A-Frame Agony

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pp. 114-136

The Big Thing that Grandma Jacinta in her blasphemous cursing calls God! — and that both she and Old Rosa fear and in Rosa’s case is actually hated in her desperate actions, though not in her expletives — a righteous killer named Mink Snopes calls...

Part Two: The Lord's Envy: Lezama Lima as Satan Knows Best

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pp. 137-210

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6. Son of Gorgo

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pp. 139-164

Like death herself, Gorgo is a thing past and present that won’t go away. A parasite, Gorgo had and continues to have no children of her own except with men driven to make her their macho mother; luckily, this happens only one child...

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7. Mother Nero, Uncle Orpheus, and the Unborn

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pp. 165-186

The poisoned-father-by-his-wife’s-mother-rule (“matria”) passage in the epigraph is taken from Lezama’s thoughts on Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Euripides’ Ephigenia in Tauris, in which the murder of Orestes’ father, Agamemnon...

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8. Paradiso as a Five-Star Inferno

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pp. 187-210

Soon after its publication Paradiso was labeled a Bildungsroman and even before that — during its first season in hell under the eye of some in power upset with the sexual shenanigans in chapter 8 — it was rumored to have been called by Raul...

Part Three: Planet Cuba up in the Clouds

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pp. 211-265

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9. Gargling the Tribe

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pp. 213-225

The tribe paradigm in Lezama’s writing involves fluctuations and clashes between terms of identity stasis and breakup, between ingrained homeliness and unhomeliness, between a pillared or foundational sense of singular national identity...

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10. Babel Hustle and Flow

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pp. 226-243

In his essay “Our Homeland, the Text” George Steiner identifies the “Adamic circumstance” with “a state of linguistic tautology” deployed over “a lasting present.” So, on such strangely pleasured by nomos or law-grounded homeland, “things were as Adam...

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11. Discordance

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pp. 244-265

Proof of discordance or something far worse is business as usual in Joyce’s monster dream-book. In this passage (moving past historians and burned heretics and the universal language of sex and artificial instruments of lingual...


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pp. 267-275


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pp. 277-286


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pp. 287-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780813929873
E-ISBN-10: 0813929873
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813929811
Print-ISBN-10: 0813929814

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 3 b&w illus. (3 redacted)
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 759159919
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cuba and the Fall

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Lezama Lima, José -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Christianity and literature -- Cuba -- History -- 20th century.
  • Homosexuality and literature -- Cuba -- History -- 20th century.
  • Homosexuality -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Homosexuality in literature.
  • Fall of man in literature.
  • Gay men's writings, Cuban -- History and criticism.
  • Arenas, Reinaldo, 1943-1990 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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