Paradictatorial Nostalgia: The Exile Poetry of Juan Gelman, Ferreira Gullar, and Gonzalo Millan
Burckhardt, Omega Sunshine
University of Kansas
Spanish & Portuguese
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In this study, recent nostalgia theory and Latin American poems of exclusion, expulsion, and exile at the end of the twentieth century intersect. In the context of Juan Gelman's cartas abiertas, Ferreira Gullar's Poema Sujo, and Gonzalo Millán's La ciudad, exile nostalgia is not merely a melancholic desire for the past but rather an attempt to recreate the self as an excluded member of a community which wrestles with problematic progress and modernization. For this reason, the poetry of this study is both a highly personal (individual) and intra-personal (communal) response to a present trauma, and is based on idealization of the past which affects present and future conceptualizations of identity. The paradictatorial nature of this poetry--residue of violence, alienation, uneven progress--is the fusion of affect (the turmoil of expulsion from the homeland), an idealization of time periods or places, and linguistic exploration such as the neologisms of Juan Gelman's cartas and the abruptly end-stopped lines in Gonzalo Millán's La ciudad. These textual markers are symptomatic of the rupture caused by exile, as well as the violence permeating the space from which the poet was separated. I purposefully exploit the ambiguity suggested by similar words (paramilitary, paradigm, paradox, postdictatorial, etc.), as well as the Greek prefix meaning "alongside" or "against." Thus, in the context of this investigation, the space (exile) that the poets inhabit during the dictatorships is separate, although it is still tainted by the violence and oppression of the authoritarian regimes. This poetry shares some of the characteristics of dictatorial, postdictatorial, and exile writing, but it blends these with a nostalgic longing and idealization that try to subvert the negation of memory that the authoritarian demanded in the Southern Cone. The poems of this study demonstrate paradictatorial nostalgia because they were written in the space alongside the dictatorships, they are infected by the oppression of the violent regimes that caused their exile, and they idealize a time, places, and people to whom they cannot return.
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