Cultural Techniques of Presence : Luis de Góngora and Early Modern Media
Abstract: This dissertation investigates the materiality of Early Modern Spanish poetry and particularly that of Luis de Góngora (1561-1627). Its purpose is to focus on physical and concrete aspects in order to create new knowledge of the past. In understanding the poetry of Góngora as a conceptual object resulting from the ontic operations of cultural techniques, it tries to show how these cultural phenomena were deeply embedded in various spheres held separate by modern institutions.The dissertation shows how the material existence of the poetry associated with the name “Góngora” was far from stable. This today canonic authorship was dispersed throughout a network and no accepted form of material storage of the ephemeral poetic discourse ever existed to his contemporaries. The poetry of Góngora and several other contemporary poets was never printed during their lifetime but existed materially in the various manuscripts produced by different actors. The years after the death of the poet saw the competing attempts to create the final storage of this important cultural memory, but over and over again the attempts were described as frustrated and unreliable. The project of printing the poetry of Góngora can be described as an attempt at stabilizing the unstable, storing the ephemeral in the durable, centralize the decentralized. The need for a “correct” edition reveals an emerging but not yet established notion of authorship that produces a conflict between practices and demands. Author portraits, biographies and euologic verses as well as the codex itself can be understood as attempts of stabilizing and constituting the human subject as a recognizable author of certain pieces of writing.The absence of authoritative and widely disseminated books has further implications for the poetry itself. The dispersed nature of the poetical manuscripts, which presupposed contact with the producer, was mirrored by the dispersed nature of the material and physical referents of the poems. The majority of them were created in a historically specific time and place, with a more or less clear purpose, often pointing with a deictic gesture towards material objects. This dissertation reconstructs and analyzes such material and physical settings by letting the poetry act as informant and juxtaposes it with other historical sources. In this way, it understands the poems not as conceptual objects emanating from the soul of a unified human subject, but as material traces of physical presence.A recurring tendency of this poetry was the employment of concepts and topoi to describe the material components of a given object. In this manner, they reveal a conception of portraits and monuments as objects of storage with the ability to produce effects of presence. Not only do the poetry describe such effects, but they often also direct the attention to how they are produced through a specific employment of materials and techniques. This reversal of the order of things is precisely what motivates the study of cultural techniques of presence in this dissertation.
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