The Difficulty of the Text: The Poetics of Homosexuality in José Lezama Lima's Paradiso
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Spanish and Portuguese Honors Theses; 2007
My senior honors thesis deals with a novel called Paradiso by Cuban poet José Lezama Lima, an eminent figure in twentieth-century literature. Lezama’s novel Paradiso formed part of the Latin American Boom, a period of prolific literary production and innovation. Published in 1966, Paradiso was certainly innovative, but perhaps too much so. Lezama’s novel is full of linguistic and cultural hurdles that make it so difficult that many give up reading it, and Paradiso has therefore enjoyed a smaller audience than other novels from the boom. On top of its difficulty, Paradiso handles the social taboo of homosexuality in ways that surprise, shock, and even horrify readers. In this paper, I analyze how the difficulty of Paradiso—Lezama’s dense poetic prose and exhaustive literary, cultural, and religious references—interacts with the topic of homosexuality. I examine two chapters from the novel (eight and nine) that present homosexuality in two different ways. Chapter VIII narrates various ‘deviant’ sexual acts, that is, acts besides heterosexual intercourse. I analyze the images and implications of the pornographic nature of the chapter. The following chapter, IX, presents homosexuality not as action like the previous chapter, but rather as an intellectual debate between the novel’s protagonist, José Cemí, and his two best friends, Fronesis and Foción. The friends debate the moral legitimacy of homosexuality and try to figure out the origins of homosexuality and other types of ‘deviant’ sexuality that seem to have no biological purpose (no possibility of reproduction). The connection that I see between chapters eight and nine is Lezama’s use of the imagen (image), a metaphoric vehicle that links the mundane world of fears and doubts to a separate reality of poetic paradise. I argue that Lezama neither refutes nor accepts homosexuality, but rather uses homosexuality to form images that serve as a point of departure to a beautiful, but obscure and difficult world of poetry.
Items in Knowledge Bank are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.