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Erotic Mysticism: Subversion and Transcendence in Spanish American modernista Prose, 1894-1922

Nancy LaGreca · J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte · 2016 · 224 pp

Crítica · Ensayo

Modernismo, Latin America's first homegrown literary movement, has garnered critical attention for its political and social import during a time of intense nation building and efforts to propel the region into modernity. LaGreca's Erotic Mysticism explores two dominant discourses of the period, Catholicism and positivism, which sought to categorize and delimit the desires and behaviors of the ideal citizen. These discourses, LaGreca argues, were powerful because each promised to allay the individual's existential fears. Yet the coexistence of these two competing ideologies, one atheist and one religious, sowed doubt and unease in the modern intellectual who sought an alternative mode of understanding the human condition. From these uncertainties sprang a seductively liberating mode of writing: non-theistic erotic mysticism. Through analysis of key essays and fiction of Carlos Diaz Dufoo (Mexico), Manuel Diaz Rodriguez (Venezuela), Jose Maria Rivas Groot (Colombia), Aurora Caceres (Peru), and Enrique Gomez Carrillo (Guatemala), LaGreca establishes erotic mysticism as a central philosophical substratum of the movement that anticipated the work of twentieth-century theorists such as William James and Georges Bataille. In modernista texts, the mystic's ecstatic state is achieved through a sublime erotic or sensual experience. The noetic mystical state expands one's consciousness, opening his or her mind to embrace diverse ways of loving and engaging. While science and religion sought to mold heteronormal and pragmatically useful citizens, modernista writers employed mystical discourse to transcend boundaries, opening readers' minds to alternative notions of sexuality, gender, desire, acceptance, and, ultimately, art.