Tag Archives: Pascale Casanova

New Influences lead to Modernity

I was fully convinced that, with the Golden Age…Spanish poetry has entered into decadence…Everything became rigid…And then we have the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century, both of them very poor…And then Ruben Dario came along and made everything new again. The renewal began in America and then came to Spain and inspired great poets such as the Machados and Juan Ramon Jimeniz, to cite only [three]; but undoubtedly there were others…[Dario] was certainly the first of there renovators…[u]nder the influence, of course, of Edgar Allen Poe. What a curious thing – Poe was an American: he was born in Boston and died in Baltimore; but he came to our poetry because Baudelaire translated him…So [the] influence [exerted by all these poets] was French in a way.

Casanova, Pascale. “The World Republic of Letters”. transl. M. B. Devoise. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999. pp. 97.

This passage from Jorge Luis Borges best sums up what this section, by Casanova, is leading up to. The most important aspect of modern literature comes from the break of tradition and culture by allowing influences from authors of different nations. In this case, the idea of an American author that had barely any interaction with Spanish literature can now be a great influence because it can be translated between languages and culture. Thus, the more current Spanish literature can evolve to not only include the influences of their heritage, but also the voices and stories of others.

Literary time

“Paz’s realization that he lived in a place outside real time and history (this present was “somewhere else”) was succeeded by a sudden awareness of a schism in the world, which let to him to set out in search of the present: “The search for the present is not the pursuit of an earthly paradise or of a timeless eternity ; it is the search for reality…  we had to go and look for it and bring t back home” This quest was an attempt to find a way out of from the “fictitious time” reserved for national space into which he had been born and to gain entry into the real time of international life.””

Pascale Casanova, The World Republic Of Letters, translated by M.B. DeBevoise. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007, p93.

Casanova’s example of Octavio Paz’s realization of the literary schism  highlights  the difficulty to be modern, to belong and participate to the international literary life for an outsider of the international time because of the backwardness and remoteness he suffers- not to mention that he has to be aware of those facts in order to achieve it.

Modernity changes with time

“The modern work is condemned to become dated unless, by achieving the status of a classic, it manages to free itself from the fluctuations of taste and critical opinion… Literarily speaking, a classic is a work that rises above competition and so escapes the bidding of time. Only in this way can a modern work be rescued from aging, by being declared timeless and immortal. The classic incarnates literary legitimacy itself, which is to say what is recognized as constituting Literature; what, in serving as a unit of measure, supplies the basis for determining the limits of that which is considered to be literary.”

Casanova, Pascale. “The World Republic of Letters”. transl. M. B. Devoise. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999. pp. 92.

Casanova seems to be suggesting that what it means to be a truly modern work is constantly changing with those writing in different styles and coming up with the “most recent innovations in form and technique”; that is unless it is great enough to reach the status of a classic. From my understanding, Casanova is attempting to describe a modern work with a greater focus on the word “modern” which attempts to constantly grasp at the present while claiming its legitimacy as literature only if it were great enough to become a classic.