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  • Mapping the Landscape, Remapping the Text: Spanish Poetry from Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla to the First Avant Garde (1909–1925) by Renée M. Silverman
  • C. Christopher Soufas Jr.

Antonio Machado, Guillermo De Torre, Gerardo Diego, Textual Landscapes, Campos De Castilla, Ultraismo, Creacionismo, The First Avant Garde, Perceptual Simultaneity, Regenerist Perspective, Subjectivity, The Delunays, Manual De Espumas, Spanish-Castizo Idea Of Landscape, C. Christopher Soufas, Jr., Renée M. Silverman

silverman, renée m. Mapping the Landscape, Remapping the Text: Spanish Poetry from Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla to the First Avant Garde (1909–1925). Chapel Hill: North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 2014.

Basing this study on the notion of visual-geographical and textual landscapes, along with the phenomenon of subjectivity as it relates to these concepts, Professor Silverman provides a reading of the poetry of Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla, based primarily on the poems that feature panoramic meditations on the Castilian countryside. She charts the differences in approach to this nationalist/“castizo” theme with what she terms the “first avant garde,” the new wave of experimental poets associated with ultraísmo, specifically the poetics advocated by Guillermo de Torre, and creacionismo of the type practiced by Gerardo Diego, somewhat in contradistinction to the formulations of Vicente Huidobro. Central to her reading of Torre is the notion of perceptual simultaneity, the cornerstone of the type of poetry and painting advocated by Robert Delauny, Sonia Delauny-Terk, Blaise Cendrars, and Guillaume Apollinaire, which offered a much different alternative to what was considered by Torre and others as the restrictions inherent in a specifically Spanish-castizo idea of landscape. Silverman thoroughly examines and elucidates a poetics of the textual landscapes of the initial wave of modernism. The interrelations between what still remain largely classical formal conventions of poetry-making add authority to Silverman’s contentions and point out nicely the quickly growing gap between ultraísmo and other poetic formulations of the historical moment. This study is a testimony to tenacious textual exegesis, which has become something of a lost art as we come up on the hundredth anniversary of the initial explosion of modernism all across Europe.

Machado’s poetry serves as something of a foil to the avant garde positions of Torre and Diego. According to Silverman, framing the landscape in Campos de Castilla represents Machado’s attempt to convince the reader to adopt a “regenerationist” perspective as regards the national political and spiritual crisis at the end of the nineteenth century. The placement of details and the contours of the landscape, influenced by realist and impressionist landscape painting, are meant to influence the observing eye and to bring the reader into the scene. As a consequence, Silverman maintains, the poet expects the reader to identify with the landscape represented, which stands for Spain and its essential character. This extended form of recognition hinges on the way in which the use of striking detail and the depiction of the sensory experience inspire memories. Silverman states that “the awakening of the reader’s individual sensory memory, combined with persuasion of the level of rhetorical figure, above all in the form of apostrophe, becomes productive on common remembrance—remembrance of an idealized past rooted in the countryside” (87). While this thesis is very well developed in the chapter [End Page 337] and competently argued, it nevertheless has the unfortunate effect of placing Machado’s poetry squarely in the camp of the conventional, which is a position that actually serves to limit his appeal as both a poet and a modernist. What seems clear to me is that at the time that Machado is composing his most well-known landscape poems, his philosophical bent is finding a focus that actually seems to be the opposite of the essentialism that Silverman endorses in her reading of the landscape poems. Although perhaps not explicitly articulated at the time of the publication of Campos de Castilla, Machado is well on his way to affirming what he calls (slightly self-contradictorily) “la esencial heterogeneidad del ser” only a short time later. It is this position, which permeates a much wider poetic landscape, where the...


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