Poetics to Politics: Imagery of Contrast in the Political Writings of José Martí

Vassar, David Keith, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, University of Virginia

When José Martí was struck down by a sniper’s fire on the sun-drenched Cuban battlefield at the age of 42, he left behind a vast corpus of work. A writer like José Martí can be troublesome for scholars when they attempt to classify his oeuvre according to any one genre; his writings are prodigiously extensive and include such thematic and formal variety that they do not fit easily into any one classification. As a poet, of course, Martí is mentioned as one of the initiators of the principally poetic movement, modernismo. Besides poetry, Martí wrote novels, theatrical works, a magazine for children (Edad de oro), essays on innumerable subjects, speeches, and a copious quantity of journalistic production. Posthumously, his letters and diary of the military campaign have been opened up to the investigative light of the academy.
Given the overwhelming quantity of Martí’s literary production, any detailed study must necessarily focus on only a portion of it. In this essay, I intend to illuminate Jose Martí’s use of figurative language in his political prose. More specifically, I will concentrate on the imagery that Martí uses to differentiate the United States from Spanish America. The Cuban poet’s political prose includes journalistic articles (chronicles), speeches, and letters. By way of these literary vehicles, Martí is able to transfer his poetic sensibility from a genre that is essentially aesthetic—poetry—to another whose ends are more pragmatic, and in many cases, political.

MA (Master of Arts)
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