The question of tradition in Cuba, understood both as absence and as potential, was a preoccupation that spanned the whole intellectual career of José Lezama Lima. This article analyzes Lezama's eccentric use of the term and idea of "Absolute," borrowed from theology (Nicholas of Cusa), transcendental philosophy (Kant), and early German Romanticism (Novalis), and its application to Lezama's reflection on tradition in the 1966 essay "Paralelos: la pintura y la poesía en Cuba (siglos XVIII y XIX)." As the article shows, Lezama appropriates the concept of Absolute found in these philosophers and displaces it to strange verbal and epistemic territories, such as his aesthetico-historiographical theory known as the "imaginary eras." In "Paralelos," aided by these philosophical borrowings, Lezama formulates a theory of tradition that is radically open to futurity—the elements of tradition are not found in the static objects of the past, but rather in the unforeseeable and contingent ways in which the future will make sense of the past. This way of conceptualizing tradition and cultural history is politically significant, for it can be seen as a critique of the teleological and historicist assumptions that underlie Cuban nationalist and revolutionary hegemonic discourses.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 139-158
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.