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Just as luxury can point out poverty, or monstrosity normality, a limited view of modernismo has restricted our sense of its power in our readings of later poets. If order is a necessary precondition for transgression or for vice, these static landscapes and enclosed gardens, which seem to offer the reader a single, directed point of view, in effect are engineered for more possibilities.
Their stillness contains a slight wayward movement or distracting gesture that destabilizes the entire backdrop. The metaphor of eroticism as one of the bases for inquiry is not merely a descriptive scheme.
The body, as origin and object of desire, is constantly given to us, sometimes as a lavishly decorated spectacle, other times as a mutilated scrap heap. As one looks closer, this same insistence on dismantling the erotic image is reflected in the framing picture of these prized icons. Things will not stand still under the poetic gaze. Margins are always dissolving, and fin de siglo props are being undermined by the intrusion of off-key elements.
These poems are strategic, outflanking readers by beating them in the distancing game through means of more and more elaborate schemes and of towering lookout points of internal commentary.
The tear Lugones made in modernismo 's fabric of social and sexual dynamics is still being rewoven by contemporary poets. Lugones' intrusiveness created a lingering discordance, and no amount of dispassionate criticism can gloss over the uneasy spaces he created.
The subversive shifts and overt disavowals they make of a veiled authoritative order are the weapons they use in dismantling hierarchical form, including a realignment of the speaking subject. They are not simply naive consumers of European influences. Each in his own way plots a path to lead the reader to question even the poetic forms that tradition supplies.
Devouring several genres at once, lurching back and forth between extremes, Lugones dramatizes the conflict between modernismo 's formalism and the shift into the twentieth century's more private sense of poetic language. Still striving to preserve a mythic framework for poetry, which presupposes an underlying order or ultimate frame of reference, the dynamism of his work prefigures new rearrangements.
Later poets find themselves with the task of reassembling fragments of symbolic structures, of a previous poetic heritage, now devalued as bearers of intention. Lugones' uneven experiments point the way for a revolution in poetic language. The great modernista poets were the first to rebel, and in their mature works they go beyond the language that they themselves have created. Paz, in his now classic study of modern poetry, Los hijos del limo, continues his distinction between the two great poets of modernismo.
With Lugones, Laforgue penetrates Hispanic poetry: Along with poetic techniques, Paz also compares the natures of both poetic movements, modernismo and vanguardismo, in their initial stages. Although both movements were first tied to their European, especially French, models, each movement turned later toward native or American sources. The rebellion against the new cosmopolitanism assumed again the form of "nativism" or "Americanism.
How can it be that modernismo, a movement first celebrated as well as attacked for its audacity and claims to spiritual transformation, now is seen as a series of artifacts in a museum, relics of a deadened, almost asocial language? The paradoxical nature of the claims of modernismo —its espousal of anarchic and egalitarian principles along with an aristocratic claim to power in language—are not so paradoxical as they seem.
Although its poets often used the languages of both mysticism and politics, suppressing their inherent contradictions, their goals were generally directed toward a revolution of personal expression, seen in conflict with an authoritarian state of language itself. Much of the attraction of the forbidden fruit of modernismo is lost to us now. As readers removed from the space of dangerous pleasure by the passage of time and the presence of new surprises, it is sometimes difficult to understand the uproar and scandal that moments of the poetic works of Leopoldo Lugones evoked.
However, we can recreate some sense of understanding by following the traces of this poetry in works more accessible to us. The elements of rarefaction, the flaunting of excess and riches, as well as a heavily loaded surface of verbal texture were in great part a reaction to what they saw as the poverty of their circumstantial reality. If the modernistas remain unforgiven, it is neither for their luxury nor their abundance. The extravagance of style, the heaping up of exotic detail, is surely no sin.
It is the self-containment or exclusiveness that offends. The poets of modernismo shut the door to their garden of delights. Invited in were only the initiates, those who knew the secret codes to decipher the mysterious rites of the poetic process.
Like the preceding generation who flaunted their wealth by the ritual trip to Europe, thereby making more visible the poverty of those left behind, so the modernistas, rich only in knowledge, separated themselves from others by their European voyage of reading and reworking the treasures they brought back. In the same way they viewed what surrounded them as an impoverished state.
This is the true insult of the excesses of modernismo. The discordant element appears to be banished. Severo Sarduy described this same movement of excess and expulsion of dissonance in the Baroque: In the Baroque, poetry is a Rhetoric: The fixed scene cannot afford dissenting or distracting movement within its confines, and the perspective of the viewer must remain fixed also. Even more pleasurable is the recognition of a fragment from a text by D'Annunzio, signaling perversity and rarefaction not permitted to the masses, whose limitations moral, social, or educational prohibit them from penetrating into the inner sanctum.
Just as the paintings of Gustave Moreau and the Pre-Raphaelites are made increasingly grotesque by later exaggerations and transformations one thinks of the details in paintings by Klimt and the sadistic touches Munch added to his erotic goddessesso the excesses of the forbidden fruit of modernismo are packed so closely together that they begin to decompose.
The spirit of play takes on its darker side.
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Just as abundance creates poverty by contrast, so frivolity invites its lurking counterpart. Lost among the excesses of the textual surface, the speaking or acting subject reasserts itself with a gesture that draws our attention outside the static scene.
The works of both Lugones and Herrera y Reissig show the marks of this intrusiveness into the enclosure of preciosity and abundance. En escritores ulteriores—en Armando Vasseur y paladinamente en Herrera y Reissig adquiere un don de ejemplaridad y los conceptos se entrelazan con un sentido semejante al de los ramajes trabados.
El estilo mismo arborece y es hasta excesiva su fronda. In later writers—in Armando Vasseur and openly in Herrera y Reissig—it acquires the gift of exemplar, and concepts intertwine like knitted branches. The style itself branches out and its foliage is even excessive. Despite our admiration, is not this vehement showiness which covers Los parques abandonados by chance intimately foreign to us, men of the pampa and straight paths? Here he uses a graphic corporal analogy of wounding and scars: El tiempo las cancela y la que antes brillaba como una herida se oscurece taciturna como una cicatriz.
They are a short cut and nothing more. Time cancels them, and what shone before like a wound darkens quietly like a scar. It polished up the images; it sealed its lips to the diction of ancient beauty; it put crushing weights of gold on the world. In verse it searched for pictorial preeminence, it made of the sonnet a scene for the passionate dialogue of the flesh. As it was then for Borges, it is the programmatic and derivative aspects of modernismo which still puzzle many readers.
How could a movement that espoused the romantic principles of spiritual liberty, access to the sublime through synesthetic experiments of sound, color, and rhythm, be best known today for its formalism, for its sometimes grotesque exaggeration of the iconography of French Parnassian, symbolist, and decadent styles?
The modernistas were seemingly shameless in the appropriation of the iconic symbols of all things exotic or distant. The very formalism of the verse form, enriched to saturation, distances the modern reader by its practiced theatricality. Critics rarely treat the movement of modernismo for its intrinsic value. Its worth is measured instead by a series of resemblances—its differences from previous and subsequent changes in poetic practice.
Yet modernismo is, quite distinctly, a movement, a self-identified and coherent esthetic program, despite its internal variations. Though the term avant-garde is applied to a later generation, the modernista quasi-militarist language and messianic claims for their work leave no doubt as to the movement's coherent purpose.
Renato Poggioli discusses the militaristic and apocalyptic terminology adopted by avant-garde movements in The Theory of the Avant-Garde: In this way, deformation fulfills not only a contrasting, but also a balancing, function in the face of the surviving conventions, academic and realistic, of traditional art.
The deformation is determined by a stylistic drive, which inaugurates a new order as it denies the ancient order. Many have even seen this movement as a trend based in imitation, as mere translation from one literary culture into another. An examination of the nature of information transmission from one culture to another, however, as well as from one language to another, can help in understanding the specific patterns of transmission of poetic traditions.
Given the developments in linguistics and semiology in recent decades, the study of a phenomenon such as modernismo can find methods with which to examine this transposition of literary patterns from one culture to another, taking into account extraliterary codes as parallel ways of enlarging our perspectives.
Even the simplest formulation as the dichotomy langue code, grammar, system as opposed to parole speech, usage is especially relevant to a study of poetic transmission. The use of these terms, along with other concepts, will provide a basis for examining the poetic language of modernismo in its transmission and transformations. Foreign Influences In modernismo we see the collision of several aesthetic codes at once.
The transmission from emitter to receptor is not direct, however—the message does not necessarily remain intact in its transmission. Receptive factors, such as comprehension of a foreign language accuracy of translationcompleteness or incompleteness of texts, cultural factors audience, possibilities for publication are essential factors to consider in the reception of the emitted message. In the case of artistic texts, the transmission is even more complex.
Literature is not an isolable commodity. It is clear that differing opinions about modernistas are not rooted exclusively in the message content they bear nor even in the particular form rhythm, meter, rhyme that shapes content.
Although the modernistas were first attacked for their audacity in breaking the traditional rules, within a decade they were scorned by vanguardista poets for their adherence to rigid form. Surely, cultural and artistic contexts alter not only the transmission of fixed message content but its recpetion as well. It is this reception or reading of texts in different contexts that produces "aberrant" texts or misreadings.
These same variations of reception can be of profound importance for the generation of new texts. A look at the pictorial qualities of modernista verse can clarify some puzzling issues.
As Pierre Bourdieu suggests, the way we design our living spaces reflects and determines our ways of ordering the metaphors by which we live. In the modernistas ' eagerness to fill up space with the treasures of a more highly valued culture do they not also implant in these scenes a seed of doubt? At what point does gentle mocking of their borrowed wares become overt parody? Criticism of Modernismo Any history of the evaluation of poetic modernismo in Spanish America would constitute in itself a history of social and esthetic values of this century.
Although the modern critic does not expect consensus on the relative worth of a particular work nor even dare to prescribe definitive standards for what constitutes an exclusively "literary" work, modernismo is still strongly associated with "dependence. Criticism can reflect a society's ideas about itself, and much recent criticism reflects modernismo 's own self-questioning. With the nineteenth century's emphasis on the idea of romantic "genius," of the specially selected transmitter of spiritual energy or revelations, the classical division of public and private languages breaks down.
And to a large degree, the stability of genre is shaken. The late nineteenth century refuses even more the notion of writer as public spokesperson, either as legitimizer or adversary—critic of society. One has only to think of the role of poet—statesman in early nineteenth-century Spanish America to see the contrast with the generation of modernistas.
The emphasis on interiority and personal expression even fragments the idea of the author or the book concept. The individual writer is seen on personal terms, and the concept of a coherent work gives way to fragmentary expression. As personal consciousness rather than social or ethical norms becomes increasingly the organizing principle, the individual style itself acquires new functions. If the frame of reference is personal consciousness and individuality, then style must allow for personal idiosyncrasy, even invention or destruction of genre.
Except for the clearly defined stance of those who take the adversary role to a certain power group as is the case in protest literatureeven national literatures receive ongoing evaluations and reassimilations.
In this vein, a general tendency in Spanish American criticism has been to lump together all modernista writers under the label "rubenista" and to assume that the enclosure of the rich poetic forms of modernismo were prisons from which more recent poets have needed to liberate themselves.
Although countless studies have pointed out the many styles, sources, and individual patterns of modernista poets, the survival of a facile critical grouping is difficult to overcome.
Texts, books, and discourses really begin to have authors other than mythical, "sacralized" and "sacralizing" figures to the extent that authors became subject to punishment, that is, to the extent that discourses could be transgressive.
Perhaps it is time to study discourses not only in terms of their expressive value or formal transformations, but according to their modes of existence. The modes of circulation, valorization, attribution, and appropriation of discourses vary with each culture and are modified within each.
In short, it is a matter of depriving the subject or its substitute of its role as originator, and of analyzing the subject as a variable and complex function of discourse. This type of criticism centers on the rebellious aspects of the movement, its attempt to break away from the models and archetypes of Spain and the colonial heritage. Variously called torremarfilismo, cosmopolitismo, or decadentismo, the movement of modernismo has been criticized as an aberrant faction of escapist writers who would not accept their immediate environment nor reflect it in their poetry.
Less attention has been focused on the reasons for the conscious attempt to join another order of writers, however, an order more far-reaching than their present one. The innovations of modernismo are based on the modernistas ' widening awareness of their dependence, both economic and cultural, on traditional and European models and their decision to fill the cultural vacuum resulting from this dependence.
Their innovations arose from a necessity of invention. Having become aware of the smaller sphere of action accorded to the writer, they sought to reclaim the lost importance and to develop a different role for the poet. In the same manner, their rebellious attitude manifested itself in a willful transgression of the public norm and its tastes. Their rebellion united them in a common purpose, with an emphasis on virtuosity and individual expression.
A look at their social and economic position can clarify the reasons for their decisions. During the last part of the nineteenth century the major cities in Spanish America, especially Buenos Aires and Mexico City, were assimilating European movements at an accelerated pace. The transmission was manifold and simultaneous, and the proliferation of new ideas and styles—in the sciences, in the arts, and in literature—constantly thrust a choice upon the intellectuals.
In part, the adoption of a style inaccessible to a large public was a reaction against the narrow range of roles assigned to the writer. With the diversification of society, due in large part to massive European immigration and growing industrialization, there was no longer an absolute identification between the ruling classes and the intellectual.
New immigration, varying degrees of industrialization, and labor-oriented social movements changed the maps of Spanish American cities in the early twentieth century.
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As the poet was thrust into the marketplace for example, journalism and adoption of new "marketing" techniquesso poetry would follow its poets into turbulent urban spaces.
At the same time that modernismo as a poetic movement is flowering, poets and intellectuals are calling for an upheaval of old traditions. In his "Discurso en el Politeama" of he calls for the overthrow of the old order: We want new trees to give new flowers and fruit!
Old ones to the tomb, young ones to the task! Modernismo 's emphasis on the ideal of an intellectual, and not necessarily an economic, aristocracy was part of a persistent search to create a new role for artists in a society whose hierarchies were being dissolved. As professional roles became more specialized, the role of the intellectual was also being reduced.
No longer a sideline activity in addition to other professional ones, writing was becoming a specialized occupation, although a financially precarious one.
Literary and social critics such as Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault have provided cogent explanations for the elevation of art to a religious discipline in the latter half of the nineteenth century. With the advent of photography and other means of reproduction, literature seemed to be losing its hold on the quasi-mystical role assigned to the artist.
The rising demands of egalitarian social movements also threatened to displace the artist's rank. A cult of writing was aroused to restore confidence in literature as a separate reality, rather than as a range of styles, interchangeable and therefore dispensable.
Poets were to be interpreters of a medium that offered mystical insights. Attention to the techniques of such a discipline was therefore of the highest importance. Several studies in Spanish America have been especially influential in their examination of the changes in the writer's status and the impact of these changes of poetic practice.
The analyses of Rama and Paz point up the two complementary aspects. Yet even to speak of markets, machines, and modernization in terms of the artist hardly brings forth the image of the hurried businessman—writer.
As Rama points out, "Por el momento, el 'mercado' literario no exist??? La Revista Nacional has been the first periodical in Buenos Aires that has paid its contributors, thus demonstrating that it was time for productions of genius to be valued for what they were worth, to facilitate the advent of professional writers, the only ones who can give us our own literature. Striking is his description of the magical practice involved in pushing out the daily passages, as if the heightened speed of' market rhythm increased the flow of' creative power.
He not only explains the economic necessity of working with periodicals but praises it as a new source of' inspiration. Writing about commonplace events provides practice for less mundane efforts: You have had a good field for experience, and that is the daily newspaper.
I have heard it maligned and depicted as the tomb of the poets. Well, if continued work on different topics doesn't make us agile and flexible in thought and in speech, what then will? It is clear, despite his attachment to the ideals of the superiority of beauty, that the changing sounds and rhythms entered his perception.
In the case of literary production and outlets for publication, the lack of faith in local writers resulted in little financial support for their efforts. In Argentina, for example, publishers cited the scarcity of national literary works of quality and the absence of a large reading public as reasons for promoting mostly foreign works. Paul Groussac, when introducing the influential journal La Biblioteca indescribes the attitude he wished to counter with the creation of his new publication: The devaluing of local writers and of the public in general was heightened by the financial crisis of the last decade of the nineteenth century.
Publishers found it more convenient and less costly to copy foreign works for which they did not have to pay royalties, and they were assured of a readership by the already established fame of major European writers: As if we had made a pact to be constant tributaries of Europe, we maintain ourselves exclusively on what it produces in the arts, science, industry and literature.
What's more, even the texts in elementary schools, high schools and even in the University are, for the most part, foreign ones. In Argentina the literary and social elite that immediately preceded Lugones and his generation was losing its sense of homogeneity and its all-encompassing directive role in the establishment of political and social values. This was due to the realignment of social and economic forces and to the increasing complexity of Argentine society. The Generations of and had seen their role as a political as well as an artistic one, and their task as the stabilizing and maintaining of the authority of their social class.
It was a complete dislocation of categories which, in its grotesque ingenuousness, led us to the point of believing that the ideal society would be composed of poets more or less Baudelairian, or pickled in absinth like Verlaine, or trained in the satanic chiaroscuro of the watercolorist Rops or in the theatre of black masses like Huysmans. The style of excess that Tablada stresses took the form of a rebellion in taste and personal behavior, which often led to an unconscious parody of the very codes the modernistas sought to follow.
Slavish copying was an attempt to approximate as closely as possible the European mode, and much of Lugones' production strikes this note time after time.
The modernistas' cult of the exotic and of the self is in part a reaction to what they saw as their poverty. By striking a blow at the neo-realists among other writers, they were also objecting to diversification and compartmentalization. This article and the one below was sent by Ricardo J. His successes in organizing immigrants show what farmworkers lost -- but can find again, he believes.
The kid from the tiny town in the Central Valley who landed on John Armendariz's doorstep in was totally green — amazed at the city traffic, baffled by Chicago's El and faced with a daunting task: Get supermarkets to stop selling grapes. Armendariz had watched his five children grapple with fear in different ways, and he wondered how Eliseo Medina would cope, without even winter clothes.
How do you talk to people? He did an amazing job of controlling that. Today the trademark smile that lights up his whole face is unchanged, but the scared kid has grown into a graying giant of the labor movement. He has helped orchestrate labor's rise in Southern California, has become a key player in the national immigration debate and now oversees locals in 17 states as executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union SEIU.
If not for Cesar Chavez, Medina might still be in Delano, picking grapes and shooting pool at People's bar. Instead, he is the preeminent example of a generation of activists nurtured by the UFW and its founders.
But Medina is organizing janitors and healthcare workers, not farmworkers. His life illustrates another part of the Chavez legacy: The UFW founder drove out many of the union's most committed labor leaders, who quit the fields and turned their talents to other causes.
Medina was once the obvious heir apparent to Chavez. Even in his youth, he displayed a similar charismatic appeal and tactical brilliance. In AugustMedina resigned as a vice president of the UFW, frustrated by Chavez's insistence on an all-volunteer staff and his reluctance to give workers greater power.
Chavez, Medina concluded, was caught up in the idea of creating a poor people's movement. It created a lot of tension. His older sister hears it all the time. At 63, she works in a vineyard six days a week. Bleak numbers like those encourage some friends to hope Medina might return to tackle the unfinished cause that launched his career. A split in the national labor movement this summer heightened such speculation.
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The UFW has joined the coalition, and two other unions in the group have contracts with farmworkers; whether they will join forces remains unclear. Medina voices enthusiasm for a coordinated campaign to organize farmworkers, but demurs about his own role.
It's certainly going to happen in every other occupation. Why should agriculture be any different? They are dedicating it to the town's favorite son, Eliseo Vasquez Medina. He was born there almost 60 years ago, the son of a bracero who worked in the California fields under the guest worker program. At 10, Eliseo moved to Delano, after spending almost two years in Tijuana waiting for permission because his mother insisted on obtaining legal entry.
Eliseo entered fourth grade speaking no English; his mother and two older sisters went to work in the Central Valley fields. Eliseo joined them there full time after eighth grade.
He was skilled at trimming grape vines so they would grow out the right way, not in a clump that would be difficult to pick, but so bad at picking tomatoes just when they showed a touch of red that people thought he was colorblind.
Conditions in the fields were difficult; there were no toilets or drinking water, and often workers would have to camp out in front of the grower's office all day Saturday to get paid for the week. InEl Malcriado, a brash UFW newspaper that combined news with irreverent humor, wrote about how the union had forced the state to fine a major labor contractor who had underpaid his workers.
How clever Chavez was to call the first mass meeting on Mexican Independence Day, when he would get a good crowd. How Medina was taken aback by Chavez's small stature, doubting someone so unimpressive looking could be a great leader — but then blown away by his speech and moral force.
Barely more than a year after he broke open his piggy bank to pay dues, Medina was on the cover of El Malcriado as one of the UFW's "Young Tigers," Chavez's youthful lieutenants successfully taking on the powerful growers.
He was, as he often says in speeches, "one scared kid," so shy that his sister remembers seeing him on television at a news conference where he could not open his mouth.
He soon was moving confidently in many circles, building support through publicity stunts like pray-ins over grapes in supermarket aisles. The sophisticated boycott operation not only stopped the sale of grapes in major stores but also raised thousands of dollars to support the UFW. Medina was already attracting followers. InDorothy Johnson, a quiet boycott volunteer with a wry wit and quick laugh, picked Chicago for her next assignment because of Medina's reputation for innovative and effective campaigns.
She ended up following him to Calexico, Calif. The two were married at his mother's house in Delano in between election campaigns and contract negotiations. Medina's years in the union compensated for the education he never got in school; for someone with an insatiable curiosity about people, the UFW was a sumptuous buffet. He showed a knack for devising clever ways around obstacles. When growers began circumventing the union's election victories by filing objections and dragging the appeals out for months, Medina figured out a solution: Keep striking citrus workers off the job just long enough to extract a promise from the company to recognize the union and negotiate a contract.
The tactic was key to the union's winning more than 3, new members in the spring of — nearly half as many farmworkers as the UFW represents altogether today.
Scott Washburn was at a meeting in Santa Maria where Medina outlined the next organizing battle. They walked outside, and on the way to the car, Medina mentioned that he had quit. But once I decide, I move forward," Medina said in a recent interview. It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that it would be best if I just moved on.
Unlike others who left about the same time and for similar reasons, Medina did not voice criticism. He has always talked publicly about how much Chavez and the UFW did for him, and not about the disappointments that led him to leave, or his conviction that Chavez had taken the union in the wrong direction at the very moment it had an opportunity to become a lasting force.
He did not tell his family why he left, and he has never talked about it with his sister.