Memory and exile in the poetry of Luis Cernuda
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Luis Cernuda (1902-1963) was exiled from Spain in 1938 due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. He lived in Great Britain, America and Mexico and he never returned to his homeland. Until the mid-1960s, he was considered by the Spanish literary establishment to be an evasive and astringent poet. Since then, critics have recognised and praised the ethical quality and nature of his work and he is now considered to be one of the most profound and influential Spanish poets of the twentieth century. Despite the growing body of critical work on Cernuda, the salient role played by memory in his poetry has received little sustained critical attention. Critics have tended to stress the nostalgic and the evasive rather than the ethical and contemplative role played by memory in his work both before and after his departure from Spain. The objective of this thesis is to provide a more balanced view of the poet’s use of memory in his early and mature poetry. Rather than limiting his concept of memory to nostalgia for his youth or his homeland, it argues that he deploys memory as an instrument of self-analysis, self-discovery and self-criticism. The first chapter concentrates on his pre-exilic poetry in order to show that memory plays a fundamental role in his poetics prior to the experience of physical exile. The central body of the thesis examines the increasingly analytical and philosophical role played by memory in a selection of his mature prose and verse texts written outwith Spain.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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