Neo-Tipo-Grafía: Material Poetics in the Spanish Historical Avant-Garde

Ludington, Zachary, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Anderson, Andrew, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

My dissertation analyzes the poetry of the beginning of the twentieth century in Spain with an eye to its material characteristics. The project analyzes the work of the poets in Spain who found inspiration in innovative work from across the European avant-garde, and it contends that their typographical experimentation was not just visual and not just mechanical, but was rather a key method for enacting the poetics of “l’esprit nouveau.” These poets wanted to abolish the museums, kill insincerity and bombast, and get rid of the idea of the poet as prophet of the ineffable. Their goal was to herald a new age of intellectual rather than sentimental poetry. Typography was essential to this goal, for attention to the material qualities of the poem could make the artwork a material rather than a spiritual artifact.
I trace the development of avant-garde material poetics theoretically to the historical avant-garde’s challenge to Symbolist transcendence. I analyze the various techniques for enacting this material poetics in writers like F.T. Marinetti, Guillaume Apollinaire, Tristan Tzara, and Vicente Huidobro, and then in Spanish writers Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Guillermo de Torre, Juan Larrea, Antonio Espina, Ernesto Giménez Caballero, and finally Manuel Altolaguirre. My analysis shows that the material poetics of the avant-garde goes much deeper than simple typographical antics. While it is true that novelty was a driving motivator for many artists in the historical avant-garde, their typographical experimentation was anything but directionless buffoonery. Through my close readings of these works from Spain’s historical avant-garde I show how a material poetics united the praxis and the theory of the avant-garde’s attack on the institution of art. The effects of these poets’ efforts in material poetics are still with us today.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Avant-Garde Poetry, Spanish Literature, Modernism, Vanguardia, Typography, Poetics
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