The LLC Galician Forum runs MLA panels related to Galician Studies.

537. Weaving, Burning, Growing: Material Readings in Galician Literature: session proposal (inc. paper summaries)

Panel 537: Weaving, Burning, Growing: Material Readings in Galician Literature

Saturday, 9 January | 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m.

The aim of this Galician Studies forum nonguaranteed session proposal is to investigate how different Galician writers have explored the interaction between the literary text and the material world. During the last decade and a half, Galician Studies has developed from a closed-off discipline in the national-philological tradition, focused on analysis of a narrow canon of texts, to a multidisciplinary field that dialogues with multiple linguistic areas and theoretical approaches. More particularly, the development of a cultural studies approach to complement the longstanding focus on literary and linguistic studies has been cemented during the last five years by a series of key monographs, including Romero (2010), Hooper (2011), and Miguélez-Carballeira (2013), as well as through essay collections such as Contemporary Galician Cultural Studies: Between the Local and the Global (2011) and A Companion to Galician Culture (2014).

Despite the consolidation of cultural studies as a driving force in contemporary Galician studies, and with it an intensified focus on the relations of power and economics that condition the production and dissemination of Galician culture, relatively little attention has been paid to the intersection between the literary text and the material world. The broader field of material culture studies, which took shape during the last decade (e.g. Buchli, 2002; Tilley et al, 2006; Woodward, 2007; Hicks and Beaudry, 2010), and whose most recent directions are exemplified in the work of Maurizia Boscagli (2014) or Gerritsen and Riello (2015), has not yet impacted upon Galician Studies. This is true also of the material dimensions of the natural world and built environment, for despite the longstanding focus in Galician literary studies on the role of terra (land) in the Galician imaginary, it is only rarely that work in this area has engaged with wider discussions in ecocriticism, urban or maritime studies (e.g. López-Sández, 2007; Davies, 2012; Ayán-Vila, 2014). A key aim of this panel is thus to model the potential of such approaches for understanding Galician literature and culture.

Contemporary Galician-language poetry is a remarkably vibrant field, characterised by a strong commitment to both aesthetic experimentalism and political activism (Bermúdez 2011). Neil Anderson’s contribution, “Os remendos quen nos restitúen: Notes on the Aesthetics of Mending in the Poetry of Luz Pichel and Berta Dávila,” examines two Galician-language poetry collections that develop an ‘aesthetics of mending’, founded on the interrelated metaphors of cleaning, mending, organizing, and displaying the flotsam of the past: Berta Dávila’s Raíz da fenda and Luz Pichel’s Casa pechada/ Cativa en su lughar (both 2013). If, as Dávila writes, “Son os remendos quen nos restitúen/ as cicatrices as que fan fogar” (32), Anderson weaves this into an ‘aesthetics of mending’ energized by the tension inherent in healing and repair, processes that not only allow beings and things to maintain their identities and to avoid becoming “stuff”, undifferentiated matter, but also, in so doing, create something new, perfect in its imperfection. For Anderson, both Dávila and Pichel contemplate writing itself as a practice of mending that, while incapable of restoring that which is lost, may allow the writer to create a new home that hovers between the materiality of the page and the ephemerality of the act of writing.

The second paper, by Carmen Pereira-Muro on “Writing the Land: Ecofeminism in Rosalía de Castro and Emilia Pardo Bazán,” extends the discussion to the Galician nineteenth century, which, despite the iconic status of Rosalía de Castro as the canonical Galician poet par excellence, remains woefully undertheorized. Pereira-Muro takes on the traditional critical attention to terra in the works of Castro and her Castilian-language peer and rival Emilia Pardo Bazán, arguing that while their literary and ideological approaches to land may appear disparate, reading their works through an ecofeminist frame uncovers surprising commonalities. Understanding land as a historical construction, fruit of the interaction between nature and culture, material and immaterial elements, she argues that both authors project the land not as a fixed frame, but as a haunted and haunting element, scripted and inscriptive. They write about it not from an anthropocentric view but from the notion of the interconnectedness of beings and the constant battle of the permanent and the transient encoded into both landscape and text.

Finally, Robert Richmond Ellis in “Manuel Rivas’s Os libros arden mal: Biblioclasm, Bibliophilia, and the Perseverance of Books in the Galician National Imaginary,” addresses how biblioclasm and bibliophilia shape the work of Galicia’s most prominent contemporary writer Manuel Rivas. Ellis’s reading of Rivas’s epic novel Os libros arden mal, which spans over one hundred years of Galician history, takes as the seminal event of the modern period the book burning carried out by the Falangists on the Praza de María Pita in A Coruña on August 19, 1936.  In reading Rivas’s representation of books in Os libros arden mal, Ellis traces images of sewing, threads, and cloth to illustrate how he weaves seemingly disparate texts into a distinctively Galician discursive tapestry.  If the war rent asunder the Galician cultural and national fabric, Rivas’s narrative undertakes the arduous task of repairing it by drawing together a plethora of literary threads and attempting to restore the warp and woof of Galician history. Ellis argues that Rivas conceives of material books not merely as symbols of human beings but as objects of value in their own right, whose continued existence might appear threatened as we enter what Enrique Vila-Matas, in his novel Dublinesca, calls the end of the Age of Gutenberg.

In their novel proposals for closer attention to the interaction between the Galician literary text and the material world, all three papers combine close textual analysis with innovative conceptual inquiry. In doing so, they model a range of much-needed examples not only for developing new ways into even the most familiar Galician authors and works, but also for ensuring that Galician Studies continues to dialogue with the widest possible audience.

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