Translated by Eliot Weinberger

[From “Poetry and Modernity,” the Tanner Lecture on Human Values, University of Utah, October 18-20, 1989. The complete lecture is available at]

The subject I would like to explore — poetry and modernity — is composed of two terms whose relationship to each other is far from clear. The poetry of this fin de siècle is simultaneously a beneficiary of the poetic movements of modernity, from romanticism to the avant-garde, and a repudiation of them. Nor is it obvious what we mean by the word modernity. Its meanings are elusive and changing: the modern is, by its nature, transitory; “contemporary” is a quality that vanishes as soon as we name it.

There are as many modernities and antiquities as there are epochs and societies: the Aztecs were moderns compared to the Olmecs, as Alexander was to Amenophis IV. The “modernist” poetry of Rubén Darío was an antique for the ultraists, and futurism now strikes us more as a relic than an aesthetic. The modern age cannot help but be tomorrow’s antiquity, But for the moment we have to resign ourselves and accept that we live in the modern age, conscious of the fact that the label is both ambivalent and provisional. What does this word modernity mean? When did it begin?

Some believe that it began with the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the discovery of the Americas; others claim that it began with the birth of the nation-states and the institution of banking, the rise of mercantile capitalism, and the creation of the bourgeoisie; others emphasize the scientific and philosophical revolutions of the seventeenth century, without which we would have neither our technology nor our industries. Each of these opinions is partially correct; taken together they form a coherent explanation. For that reason, perhaps, most cultural historians tend to favor the eighteenth century: not only did it inherit these changes and innovations, it also consciously recognized many of those characteristics that we now claim as ours. Was that age a prefiguration of the one we live in today? Yes and no. It would be more precise to say that ours has been the era of the mutilation of the ideas and projects of that great century.

Modernity began as a critique of religion, philosophy, morality, law, history, economics, and politics. Criticism was its most distinctive feature, its birthmark. All that has been the modern age has been the work of criticism, which I take to mean a method of investigation, creation, and action. The principal concepts and ideas of the modern age — progress, evolution, revolution, freedom, democracy, science, technology — were born from that criticism.

In the eighteenth century reason shaped the criticism of the world and of itself, thereby radically transforming classical rationalism and its timeless geometries. A criticism of itself: reason renounced those grandiose constructions called being, good, and truth; it ceased to be the mansion of ideas and became instead a road, a means of exploration. A criticism of metaphysics and of its truths that were impermeable to change: Hume and Kant. A criticism of the world, of the past and present; a criticism of certainties and traditional values; a criticism of institutions and beliefs, the throne and the altar; a criticism of mores, a reflection on passion, sensibility, and sexuality: Jean- Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, Pierre Laclos, the Marquis de Sade; the historical criticism of Edward Gibbon and Montesquieu; the discovery of the other: Chinese, Persians, American Indians; the changes of perspective in astronomy, geography, physics, biology. In the end, a criticism that was incarnated in history: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the independence movements of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. (For reasons I have discussed in other writings, the revolutions for independence in Spanish and Portuguese America failed both politically and socially. Our modernity is incomplete or, more exactly, is a historical hybrid.)

It is no accident that these great revolutions, the roots of modern history, were inspired by eighteenth-century thought. It was an age rich with utopias and projects for social reform. It has been said that those utopias are the most disastrous aspect of that legacy. Yet we can neither ignore nor condemn them: although many horrors have been committed in their name, we owe them nearly all the humanitarian acts and dreams of the modern age. The utopias of the eighteenth century were the great ferment that set in motion the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Utopia is the other face of criticism, and only a critical age could be the inventor of utopias. The empty spaces created by the demolitions of the critical spirit are almost always filled by utopian constructions. Utopias are the dreams of reason. Active dreams that turn into revolutions and reforms. The preeminence of utopias is another characteristic feature of the modern age. Each era may be identified by its vision of time, and in ours the continual presence of revolutionary utopias testifies to the exaggerated regard we have for the future. The past was no better than the present: perfection is not behind us but ahead; it is not an abandoned paradise but a territory we will someday colonize, a city that remains to be built.

Christianity replaced the cyclical vision of time of Greco-Roman antiquity with a time that was linear, successive, and irreversible; one with a beginning and an end, from the Fall of Adam and Eve to the Final Judgment. Alongside this mortal and historical time there was another, supernatural time, invulnerable to death and change: eternity. Thus the only truly decisive moment of terrestrial history was the Redemption: the descent and sacrifice of Christ represents the intersection of eternity and temporality, the successive and moral time of man and the time of the beyond, which neither changes nor moves in succession, forever identical to itself. The modern age began with the criticism of Christian eternity and the appearance of yet another time. On the one hand, the finite time of Christianity, with its beginning and end, became the nearly infinite time of nature’s evolution and of history that remained open to the future. On the other, modernity devalued eternity: perfection was transported to a future that was not in the other world but in this one. In the famous image of G. W. F. Hegel, the rose of reason was crucified in the present. History, he said, is a calvary: the transformation of the Christian mystery into historical action. The road to the absolute passes through time; it is time. Perfection resides in the future and is forever ahead of us. Changes and revolutions are incarnations of the human drive toward the future and its paradises.

The relation between romanticism and modernity is both filial and contentious. Romanticism was the child of the age of criticism, and change prompted its conception and birth and was its distinguishing feature. It was the great change not only in the arts and letters, but also in imagination, sensibility, taste, and ideas. It was a morality, an eroticism, a politics, a way of dressing and a way of loving, a way of living and of dying. A rebellious child, romanticism was a criticism of rational criticism; it replaced successive historical time with a time of origin, before history, and the utopian future with the instantaneous present of the passions, love and the flesh. Romanticism was the great negation of modernity as it had been conceived in the eighteenth century by critical, utopian, and revolutionary reason. But it was a negation that remained within modernity. Only an age of criticism could have produced such a total negation.

Romanticism coexisted with modernity, time after time merging with it only in order to transgress it. These transgressions assumed many forms but only two modes: analogy and irony. I take the first to mean “the vision of the universe as a system of correspondences and the vision of language as a double of the universe." It is a very ancient tradition, reelaborated and transmitted by Renaissance Neoplatonism through various hermetic traditions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Having nourished the philosophical and libertine sects of the eighteenth century, it was recognized by the romantics and their followers through to our own era. It is the central, albeit underground, tradition of modern poetry, from the first romantics to William Butler Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, and the surrealists. Simultaneous to this vision of universal correspondence, its enemy-twin appeared: irony. It was the rip in the fabric of analogies, the exception that ruptured the correspondences. If analogy may be conceived as a fan which, unfolded, displays the resemblances between this and that, microcosm and macrocosm, stars, men, and worms, then irony tears the fan to pieces. Irony is the dissonance that disrupts the concert of the correspondences, turning it into cacophony. Irony has many names: it is the anomaly, the deviation, the bizarre, as Baudelaire called it. In a word, it is that great accident: death.

Analogy steeps itself in myth; its essence is rhythm, the cyclical time of appearances and disappearances, deaths and resurrections. Irony is the coming of criticism to the kingdom of imagination and sensibility; its essence is linear time which leads to death — the death of both man and the gods. Twin transgressions: analogy replaces the linear time of history and the canonization of the utopian future with the cyclical time of myth; irony, in turn, sheds mythic time in order to affirm the lapses in contingency, the plurality of gods and myths, the death of God and his creatures. The twin ambiguities of romantic poetry: it was revolutionary, but it occurred alongside, not as part of, the revolutions of the century; at the same time, its spirituality was a transgression of the Christian denominations. The history of modern poetry, from romanticism to symbolism, is the history of various manifestations of the two principles by which it has been composed since its birth: analogy and irony.

0 Response to 'Reconfiguring Romanticism (29): Octavio Paz on Modernity and Romanticism'

Post a Comment

Tattoos Picture Page 1 Tattoos Picture Page 2 Tattoos Picture Page 3 Tattoos Picture Page 4 Tattoos Picture Page 5 Tattoos Picture Page 6 Tattoos Picture Page 7 Tattoos Picture Page 8 Tattoos Picture Page 9 Tattoos Picture Page 10 Tattoos Picture Page 11 Tattoos Picture Page 12 Tattoos Picture Page 13 Tattoos Picture Page 14 Tattoos Picture Page 15 Tattoos Picture Page 16 Tattoos Picture Page 17 Tattoos Picture Page 18 Tattoos Picture Page 19 Tattoos Picture Page 20 Tattoos Picture Page 21 Tattoos Picture Page 22 Tattoos Picture Page 23 Tattoos Picture Page 24 Tattoos Picture Page 25 Tattoos Picture Page 26 Tattoos Picture Page 27 Tattoos Picture Page 28 Tattoos Picture Page 29 Tattoos Picture Page 30 Tattoos Picture Page 31 Tattoos Picture Page 32 Tattoos Picture Page 33 Tattoos Picture Page 34 Tattoos Picture Page 35 Tattoos Picture Page 36 Tattoos Picture Page 37 Tattoos Picture Page 38 Tattoos Picture Page 39 Tattoos Picture Page 40 Tattoos Picture Page 41 Tattoos Picture Page 42 Tattoos Picture Page 43 Tattoos Picture Page 44 Tattoos Picture Page 45 Tattoos Picture Page 46 Tattoos Picture Page 47 Tattoos Picture Page 48 Tattoos Picture Page 49 Tattoos Picture Page 50 Tattoos Picture Page 51 Tattoos Picture Page 52 Tattoos Picture Page 53 Tattoos Picture Page 54 Tattoos Picture Page 55 Tattoos Picture Page 56 Tattoos Picture Page 57 Tattoos Picture Page 58 Tattoos Picture Page 59 Tattoos Picture Page 60 Tattoos Picture Page 61 Tattoos Picture Page 62 Tattoos Picture Page 63 Tattoos Picture Page 64 Tattoos Picture Page 65 Tattoos Picture Page 66 Tattoos Picture Page 67 Tattoos Picture Page 68 Tattoos Picture Page 69 Tattoos Picture Page 70 Tattoos Picture Page 71 Tattoos Picture Page 72 Tattoos Picture Page 73 Tattoos Picture Page 74 Tattoos Picture Page 75 Tattoos Picture Page 76 Tattoos Picture Page 77 Tattoos Picture Page 78 Tattoos Picture Page 79 Tattoos Picture Page 80 Tattoos Picture Page 81 Tattoos Picture Page 82 Tattoos Picture Page 83 Tattoos Picture Page 84 Tattoos Picture Page 85 Tattoos Picture Page 86 Tattoos Picture Page 87 Tattoos Picture Page 88 Tattoos Picture Page 89 Tattoos Picture Page 90 Tattoos Picture Page 91 Tattoos Picture Page 92 Tattoos Picture Page 93 Tattoos Picture Page 94 Tattoos Picture Page 95 Tattoos Picture Page 96 Tattoos Picture Page 97 Tattoos Picture Page 98 Tattoos Picture Page 99 Tattoos Picture Page 100 Tattoos Picture Page 101 Tattoos Picture Page 102 Tattoos Picture Page 103 Tattoos Picture Page 104 Tattoos Picture Page 105 Tattoos Picture Page 106 Tattoos Picture Page 107 Tattoos Picture Page 108 Tattoos Picture Page 109 Tattoos Picture Page 110 Tattoos Picture Page 111 Tattoos Picture Page 112 Tattoos Picture Page 113 Tattoos Picture Page 114 Tattoos Picture Page 115 Tattoos Picture Page 116 Tattoos Picture Page 117 Tattoos Picture Page 118 Tattoos Picture Page 119 Tattoos Picture Page 120 Luxury Villa and Home Page 1 Luxury Villa and Home Page 2 Luxury Villa and Home Page 3 Luxury Villa and Home Page 4 Luxury Villa and Home Page 5 Luxury Villa and Home Page 6 Luxury Villa and Home Page 7 Luxury Villa and Home Page 8 Luxury Villa and Home Page 9 Luxury Villa and Home Page 10 Luxury Villa and Home Page 11 Luxury Villa and Home Page 12 Luxury Villa and Home Page 13 Luxury Villa and Home Page 14 Luxury Villa and Home Page 15 Luxury Villa and Home Page 16 Luxury Villa and Home Page 17 Luxury Villa and Home Page 18 Luxury Villa and Home Page 19 Luxury Villa and Home Page 20 Luxury Villa and Home Page 21 Luxury Villa and Home Page 22 Luxury Villa and Home Page 23 Luxury Villa and Home Page 24 Luxury Villa and Home Page 25 Luxury Villa and Home Page 26 Luxury Villa and Home Page 27 Luxury Villa and Home Page 28 Luxury Villa and Home Page 29 Luxury Villa and Home Page 30 Luxury Villa and Home Page 31 Luxury Villa and Home Page 32 Luxury Villa and Home Page 33 Luxury Villa and Home Page 34 Luxury Villa and Home Page 35 Luxury Villa and Home Page 36 Luxury Villa and Home Page 37 Luxury Villa and Home Page 38 Luxury Villa and Home Page 39 Luxury Villa and Home Page 40 Luxury Villa and Home Page 41 Luxury Villa and Home Page 42 Luxury Villa and Home Page 43 Luxury Villa and Home Page 44 Luxury Villa and Home Page 45 Luxury Villa and Home Page 46 Luxury Villa and Home Page 47 Luxury Villa and Home Page 48 Luxury Villa and Home Page 49 Luxury Villa and Home Page 50 Luxury Villa and Home Page 51 Luxury Villa and Home Page 52 Luxury Villa and Home Page 53 Luxury Villa and Home Page 54 Luxury Villa and Home Page 55 Luxury Villa and Home Page 56 Luxury Villa and Home Page 57 Luxury Villa and Home Page 58 Luxury Villa and Home Page 59 Luxury Villa and Home Page 60 Luxury Villa and Home Page 61 Luxury Villa and Home Page 62 Luxury Villa and Home Page 63 Luxury Villa and Home Page 64 Luxury Villa and Home Page 65 Luxury Villa and Home Page 66 Luxury Villa and Home Page 67 Luxury Villa and Home Page 68 Luxury Villa and Home Page 69 Luxury Villa and Home Page 70 Luxury Villa and Home Page 71 Luxury Villa and Home Page 72 Luxury Villa and Home Page 73 Luxury Villa and Home Page 74 Luxury Villa and Home Page 75 Luxury Villa and Home Page 76 Luxury Villa and Home Page 77 Luxury Villa and Home Page 78 Luxury Villa and Home Page 79 Luxury Villa and Home Page 80 Luxury Villa and Home Page 81 Luxury Villa and Home Page 82 Luxury Villa and Home Page 83 Luxury Villa and Home Page 84 Luxury Villa and Home Page 85 Luxury Villa and Home Page 86 Luxury Villa and Home Page 87 Luxury Villa and Home Page 88 Luxury Villa and Home Page 89 Luxury Villa and Home Page 90 Luxury Villa and Home Page 91 Luxury Villa and Home Page 92 Luxury Villa and Home Page 93 Luxury Villa and Home Page 94 Luxury Villa and Home Page 95 Luxury Villa and Home Page 96 Luxury Villa and Home Page 97 Luxury Villa and Home Page 98 Luxury Villa and Home Page 99 Famous People Page 1 Famous People Page 2 Famous People Page 3 Famous People Page 4 Famous People Page 5 Famous People Page 6 Famous People Page 7 Famous People Page 8 Famous People Page 9 Famous People Page 10 Famous People Page 11 Famous People Page 12 Famous People Page 13 Famous People Page 14 Famous People Page 15 Famous People Page 16 Famous People Page 17 Famous People Page 18 Famous People Page 19 Famous People Page 20 Famous People Page 21 Famous People Page 22 Famous People Page 23 Famous People Page 24 Famous People Page 25 Famous People Page 26 Famous People Page 27 Famous People Page 28 Famous People Page 29 Famous People Page 30 Famous People Page 31 Famous People Page 32 Famous People Page 33 Famous People Page 34 Famous People Page 35 Famous People Page 36 Famous People Page 37 Famous People Page 38 Famous People Page 39 Famous People Page 40 Famous People Page 41 Famous People Page 42 Famous People Page 43 Famous People Page 44 Famous People Page 45 Famous People Page 46 Famous People Page 47 Famous People Page 48 Famous People Page 49 Famous People Page 50 Famous People Page 51 Famous People Page 52 Famous People Page 53 Famous People Page 54 Famous People Page 55 Famous People Page 56 Famous People Page 57 Famous People Page 58 Famous People Page 59 Famous People Page 60 Famous People Page 61 Famous People Page 62 Famous People Page 63 Famous People Page 64 Famous People Page 65 Famous People Page 66 Famous People Page 67 Famous People Page 68 Famous People Page 69 Famous People Page 70 Famous People Page 71 Famous People Page 72 Famous People Page 73 Famous People Page 74 Famous People Page 75 Famous People Page 76 Famous People Page 77 Famous People Page 78 Famous People Page 79 Famous People Page 80 Famous People Page 81 Famous People Page 82 Famous People Page 83 Famous People Page 84 Famous People Page 85 Famous People Page 86 Famous People Page 87 Famous People Page 88 Famous People Page 89 Famous People Page 90 Famous People Page 91 Famous People Page 92 Famous People Page 93 Famous People Page 94 Famous People Page 95 Famous People Page 96 Famous People Page 97 Famous People Page 98 Famous People Page 99 Famous People Page 100 Famous People Page 101 Famous People Page 102 Famous People Page 103 Famous People Page 104 Famous People Page 105 Famous People Page 106 Famous People Page 107 Famous People Page 108 Famous People Page 109 Famous People Page 110 Famous People Page 111 Famous People Page 112 Famous People Page 113 Famous People Page 114 Famous People Page 115 Famous People Page 116 Famous People Page 117 Famous People Page 118 Famous People Page 119 Famous People Page 120