2010 Conference on Octavio Paz

2010 Conference on Octavio Paz
World Civilizations, Modernity, and Octavio Paz:
A Plurality of Pasts and Futures

May 14-15, 2010
Golden Eagle Ballroom
California State University, Los Angeles

This cultural event is free and open to the public

Octavio Paz
(México, 1914-1998)

Octavio Paz (México, 1914-1998) is one of the world’s foremost poets and essayists of the 20th century. He lived in France, India, England, and the United States, and served Mexico for many years in the diplomatic corps. As the editor of literary journals, such as Plural and Vuelta, Octavio Paz was also a promoter of literate culture in Latin America. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.

The poetry and essays of Octavio Paz were inspired by plural traditions, from Western Romanticism and the Avant-Garde to world civilizations, ranging from China, India, Japan and Mesoamerica, to modern France and the Anglophone world, among others. More than aesthetic moments or examination of ideas, the poetry and criticism of Octavio Paz were based on ethical and political convictions. His books on poetics (e.g.,The Bow and the Lyre), and literary history (Children of the Mire: Modern Poetry from Romanticism to the Avant-Garde), can be read as an extended revision of literary histories based on national languages and traditions, challenging writers to reflect on modernity and its integral dependence on other world cultures and ancient civilizations. No less significant was Octavio Paz’s affirmation of human freedom, fraternity, and pluralism, and his critique of orthodoxies in politics and religion.

The 2010 Conference on Octavio Paz will be devoted to his poetry, poetics, and essays that examine world civilizations and modernity.

For questions, contact:
Dr. Roberto Cantú
Department of Chicano Studies
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032
(323) 343-2195
Cal State L.A. Map Website: http://www.calstatela.edu/univ/maps/cslamap.htm
Self-Parking (meter) available in Lot C, near the conference site. Note that University parking is enforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nearby Hotels: Alhambra and San Gabriel, CA Make your reservations ASAP

  1. San Gabriel Hilton (San Gabriel, California). This hotel is close to the San Bernardino Freeway (10) and Cal State L.A. It is at the heart of nice shops and several restaurants, with luxurious rooms and beautiful décor. Highly recommended. We have been promised a corporate rate of $119 per room (one King bed, or two Queen beds). The San Gabriel Hilton is located at
    225 West Valley Boulevard
    , San Gabriel, CA, 91776
    . Make your reservations through e-mail: contact manager Mr. Darwin Wang at http://www.blogger.com/darwin.wang@hilton.com. Telephone: (626) 270-2700. Fax (626) 270-2777.
  2. Days Inn-Alhambra (Alhambra, California). This hotel is nearby restaurant row and very close to the University. The manager (Mrs. Dimple) has promised us the following special rates: 1 King Bed: $79 per night; 2 Queen Beds: $89 per night, plus tax. Breakfast is included. You can make your reservation by telephone ([626] 308-0014), or by Fax ([626] 281-5996). Please address all communications to Mrs. Dimple. Hotel guests who are insured with AAA receive an extra 10% discount, but insurance membership must be confirmed when making reservations.

Conference Meals: there will be a luncheon on May 14, and a luncheon and conference dinner on May 15. The full cost of the three meals is a reduced rate of $50 (includes tax and service charge). The deadline for meal payments is May 7. Make checks payable to Golden Eagle Hospitality, and mail to Roberto Cantú (see above address). The three meals are open only to conference participants and to the general audience. After May 7, entrance in the meal program will be closed.

Conference Program

Friday, May 14
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and Pastry
Golden Eagle Ballroom

9:00-9:30 am
Roberto Cantú, Cal State L.A.
Welcome and Introduction

Golden Eagle Ballroom

Featured Speaker
Luis Ríos, Jr.
Director of the Octavio Paz Society

Title of Lecture
The Octavio Paz Society: Purpose and Future
Golden Eagle Ballroom
May 14, 9:30-10:30 am

Session #1
May 14, 10:40-11:50 am
Golden Eagle Ballroom

Octavio Paz: Poetry, Art and Collective Creation

Moderator: Pablo Baler, California State University, Los Angeles
1. Helena Dunsmoor, University of Calgary, Canada
Octavio Paz and Collective Works:Practice, Ethics and Poetics

2. Paula Park, University of Texas at Austin Poetry, Eroticism and the Orient in Octavio Paz’s Essays

3. Jaime Perales Contreras, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México
Octavio Paz y el círculo de la Revista Vuelta

Featured Speaker
Clara Román-Odio
Kenyon College

Title of Lecture
From Cultural Critique to Aesthetics: Octavio Paz’s Sense of Loss in (Post)Modernity
Golden Eagle Ballroom
May 14, 12:00-1:00 pm

Lunch: 1:00-2:15 pm

Session #2
May 14, 2:30-4:00 pm
Golden Eagle Ballroom

Octavio Paz, Art, and Cultural Criticism

Moderator: Louis R. Negrete, California State University, Los Angeles

1. Daniel Chávez, University of Virginia
Dialectics of the Gaze, Octavio Paz Poet-Photographer

2. Frances Chiles, California State University, Los Angeles
The Bildungsreise of Octavio Paz

3. Alfonso González, California State University, Los Angeles
La presencia de Octavio Paz en la obra de Carlos Fuentes

4. Loknath Persaud, Pasadena City College
Octavio Paz: A Vision of India

Session #3
May 14, 4:15-6:00 pm
Golden Eagle Ballroom

Octavio Paz, Poetry, and Modernity
Moderator: Jaime Perales Contreras, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México


1. Gaspar Aguilera Díaz, Instituto Michoacano de Ciencias de la Educación,
Plenitud y fugacidad del instante amoroso en la poesía de Octavio Paz

2. Claudia Mesa, Moravian College, Pennsylvania La cartografía barroca de Octavio Paz en ‘Himno entre ruinas’
3. Saúl Jiménez Sandoval, California State University, Fresno
Love, Memory and Being in Octavio Paz’s
Piedra de sol 4. Edgar Mejía, Providence College
Octavio Paz y el modernismo

Session #4
May 14, 6:15-8:00 pm
Golden Eagle Ballroom
Octavio Paz: Asia, Poetry, and Translation
Moderator: Linda Greenberg, California State University, Los Angeles

1. Domnita Dumitrescu, California State University, Los Angeles La búsqueda de la poesía plural y plurilingüe en Octavio Paz

2. Tomling Jun Liu, California State University, Los Angeles Lichtung in Correspondence with Zen Poetry: Reading Octavio Paz Translating Wang
Wei’s ‘Lu Chan’

3. Laura Torres-Rodríguez, University of Pennsylvania Apariencia desnuda: meta-ironía, traducción y orientalismo

May 15, 8:30-9:00 am
Coffee and Pastry

Golden Eagle Ballroom

Featured Speaker
Maarten Van Delden
University of California, Los Angeles

Title of Lecture
Against Revolution: The Political Thought of Octavio Paz
Golden Eagle Ballroom
May 15, 9:00-10:00 am

Session #5
May 15, 10:15-11:30 am
Golden Eagle Ballroom
Octavio Paz and Post-Colonialism

Moderator: Josema Zamorano, University of British Columbia, Canada


1. Oliver Kozlarek, Instituto de Investigaciones de la Universidad Michoacana
Octavio Paz: In the Labyrinth of (Post)Colonial Experiences

2. Arturo Morales Campos, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo
Octavio Paz: soledad y comunion en
El Laberinto de la soledad

3. Lydia Huerta, University of Texas at Austin
La reformulación del imaginario nacional antes y después de México 68

4. Rosario Herrera-Guido, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo
Octavio Paz: Pensar y poetizar lo mexicano

Featured Speaker
Yvon Grenier
St. Francis Xavier University
Nova Scotia, Canada

Title of Lecture
The Literary Intellectual and Democracy in Mexico
Golden Eagle Ballroom
May 15, 11:45 am-1:00 pm

Lunch: 1:00-2:15 pm.

Session #6
May 15, 2:30-4:00 pm
Golden Eagle Ballroom

Myth, Art, and Technology in Octavio Paz

Moderator: Aaron Sonnenschein, California State University, Los Angeles
1. Cynthia Casas, Stanford University Mythical Renderings in Octavio Paz’s Critical Prose

2. Josema Zamorano, University of British Columbia, Canada
Modernity and Technology: Ortega and Heidegger in Octavio Paz

3. Roberto Cantú, California State University, Los Angeles
Science, Modernity, and the Poetics of the Garden in Octavio Paz’s
La hija de Rappaccini

Keynote Speaker
Hervé-Pierre Lambert
Kyushu University, Japan

Title of Lecture
Octavio Paz and Japanese Culture
Golden Eagle Ballroom

May 15, 4:15-5:45 pm.

Conference Banquet

Golden Eagle Ballroom, 6:00-8:00 pm

Conference Panelists & Abstracts of Presentations
Gaspar Aguilera-Díaz, “Plenitud y fugacidad del instante en la poesía de Octavio Paz”
Instituto Michoacano de Ciencias de la Educación,
Michoacán, México

Mi presentación corresponde a un libro mío recientemente publicado por el Instituto Michoacano de Ciencias de la Educación, titulado Plenitud y fugacidad del instante amoroso en la poesía de Octavio Paz. Mi trabajo desarrolla temas relacionados a poemas de Paz sobre el sexo, amor y erotismo en la civilización occidental, de Platón y Petrarca, a Sade y Bataille, incluyendo los antecedentes de imágenes y símbolos en la poesía erótica de Octavio Paz.

Roberto Cantú, “Science, Modernity, and the Poetics of the Garden in La hija de Rappaccini, by Octavio Paz”
California State University, Los Angeles

Octavio Paz turned his creative attention to drama only once in his lifetime in a play titled La hija de Rappaccini (1956). In the notes that accompany the play, Paz indicated that although his work is an adaptation of Rappaccini’s Daughter (1843), a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “son otras mis palabras y otra mi noción del mal y del cuerpo” (Obra poética, p. 777). Paz dedicated this play to Leonora Carrington, the British Surrealist artist who has lived in Mexico since 1942. The unusual place of Paz’s play in the poet’s work, and its believed derivative nature as a mere adaptation, have kept La hija de Rappaccini in the category of works not deserving much critical attention.

In two major tributes to Octavio Paz—one in 1971 by Revista Iberoamericana, and the second in 1979 by Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos—only two brief articles were published on La hija de Rappaccini, one by Mexican playwright Emilio Carballido (“Crónica de un estreno remoto,” 1971: 233-237), and the second by Alberto Blasé (“Artificio e intencionalidad de La hija de Rappaccini,” 1979: 525-532). Carballido’s brief commentary, however, is more of an acknowledgment by one of Mexico’s leading playwrights than a close study of La hija de Rappaccini. Blasé’s essay, on the other hand, pays total attention to the Hawthorne source, wondering why Paz ignored the scientific irony in Hawthorne’s short story and emphasized instead the Tarot symbolism in the figure of the Messenger (1979: 530).

I intend to illustrate the centrality of La hija de Rappaccini in Paz’s theoretical and poetic work published between the years 1956-1967, that is to say, between the publication of El arco y la lira (1956), and “Los signos en rotación” (“Signs in Rotation,” first published in Argentina in 1966), Paz’s poetic manifesto added in 1967 to a new edition of El arco y la lira as an appendix. My argument is as follows: the 1956 edition of El arco y la lira concludes with a chapter titled “Poetry and History,” a sustained critical reflection on the tradition of drama in the West, from Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides to Shakespeare, Calderón de la Barca, Racine and, in our modern era, Bertold Brecht, Federico García Lorca and T.S. Eliot. According to Octavio Paz, Greek tragedy is humanity’s highest poetic creation (“”la más alta creación poética del hombre”, El arco y la lira, p. 205) because it expresses man’s contradictory nature in the face of Fate and his desire for freedom. Within this legacy, Paz finds the seeds for an emerging theatre beyond the modern: “en ella veo el germen de un teatro futuro pues condensa las contradicciones del espíritu moderno y de la historia que vivimos” (Ibid., p. 230). The historical moment that Paz refers to is era of the Cold War, with its fears of a Third World War and the products of modern science: the hydrogen bomb and what has become known as weapons of mass destruction.

La hija de Rappaccini was first performed in El Teatro del Caballito on July 30, 1956, thus simultaneously with the publication of El arco y la lira. Héctor Mendoza directed the play, and Leonora Carrington was in charge of the play’s stage design and wardrobe. My paper will propose that La hija de Rappaccini is the praxis of a dramatic theory published on the same year, one that illustrates what Paz considered the end of “modernity” and the beginning of a new aesthetic age governed by the poetics of freedom. According to Paz, yesterday’s Romantic heroines are now reborn “hermosas y terribles […] en mujeres como Leonora Carrington” (El arco y la lira, p. 245). In its inclusion of various arts—painting, poetry, drama, music—La hija de Rappaccini includes the symbolism of the Tarot, with Leonora Carrington’s oil painting “El Juglar” (1954) as a variant of the Magus, a figure associated in the Cabala with spirit and matter, the hermaphrodite, the marriage of Heaven and Hell, and--in the Hebrew tradition--with the first letter of the alphabet: the Aleph. Thus, I argue that an interpretation of Paz’s play must focus on its critique of science, modernity, and its poetics of the Garden of Eden.

Cynthia Casas, “”Mythical Renderings in Octavio Paz’s Critical Prose”
Stanford University

Paz's main ideas on ancient myth and the influence of modern surrealist, structuralist, and anthropological thought are a vital part of his critical and intellectual legacy. El laberinto de la soledad and Posdata, not unlike many of his texts, are intertwined in their analysis of Mexico’s past and its primordial connection to myth. Posdata, written 20 years after El laberinto de la soledad, is seen by Paz critics as either a prolonged addendum to his first major work, and/or as an auto-critique of it. My paper will explore the nature of myth in these texts and integrates some structuralist theory on myth as seen through the lens of Paz, such as Claude Lévi Strauss o el nuevo festín de Esopo. Former critical studies done on Paz and the presence of myth will also be referenced as a solid foundation for opening up further exploration and discussion of his critical essays. For example, mythical philosophies such as the interpretation of 'Eternal Return' (via Eliade and Nietzsche) are explored in Paz’s work. Studies have initiated critical thought as to how these aspects are part of Paz’s larger framework in redefining Mexico from a universal, historical, cultural, as well as epistemological point of view. My paper will attempt to bring more of a unified and complete analysis of Paz’s theories on myth especially with regard to his critical prose.

Paz’s writings, as well as literary criticism, specifically bring forth originary myths which have manifested in Mexico’s historical and cultural consciousness. These originary myths point to figures in pre-colonial Mexican culture and history such as Quetzalcoátl, a figure of sacrifice and redemption and the cosmogonical connection to Hernán Cortés, La Malinche/Malintzin/Doña Marina, and Cuauhtémoc, the defeated Aztec emperor. Other figures and mythical elements within the works of Paz, like the ideas of ritual and the pyramid, complement an analysis which utilizes a dialectical approach to myth and resonates in his most compelling writing.

Because of the prolific nature of Paz’s literary production through his poetry, texts on poetry/art as well as Mexico and modernity, not to mention his other contributions as a modern thinker and cultural critic, my paper will focus on ancient myth in his prose, primarily in texts where he expounds on its meaning and its relation to not only Mexico’s history, but to a universal understanding of humanity and modernity.

Daniel Chávez, “Dialectics of the Gaze, Octavio Paz Poet-Photographer” University of Virginia
In Paz’s essays and poetry the constant reference to “ways of seeing” or “the gaze” takes sometimes autonomous and reified qualities. In other cases, the gaze is the most reaffirming and positive activity of the poetic voice in his encounter with reality and materiality. In the latter case, with full agency the textual figure of the poet uses the gaze as an epistemological procedure to derive an immense transformative power. But it is especially in those essays and poems addressing the visual arts and the figure of the painter, photographer, or filmmaker that the most intense dialectical discussion on the qualities, failings, and transformative potential of the act of seeing occurs. By analyzing texts dealing with visual artists (Álvarez Bravo, Buñuel, Miró) and their work, I intend to map the range and evolution in the representation of the act of seeing and the idea of the “poetic gaze” in Paz’s work and the role the photographic art played in relation to them.

Frances Chiles, “The Bildungsreise of Octavio Paz”
California State University, Los Angeles

Circular motifs have long been recognized as constants in the poetry of Octavio Paz. Some notable examples are “Piedra de sol” in which the quest for wholeness of being is linked to the cosmic cycles of the ancient Mexican calendar, and “Blanco,” the mandala-poem whose circular structure and symbolism reveal the unity of microcosm and macrocosm, samsara (the realm of the body) with nirvana (the realm of the non-body). In Pasado en claro (A Draft of Shadows) and the four long autobiographical poems in Vuelta (Return), written following Paz’s resignation as Mexican Ambassador to India in 1968, the familiar circular patterns achieve another dimension in the Bildungsreise, the metaphorical educational journey, at the end of which the solitary traveler achieves a higher awareness, the issue of the experiences undergone, and a sense of being at home at last.

As M.H. Abrams shows in Natural Supernaturalism, the Bildungsreise metaphor is integral to late 18th century German metaphysics and to the literature of German and English Romantic writers. The prominence of this motif in Paz’s poetry and thought attests to his long-term affinity with the Romantic literary tradition which, as he notes in Los hijos del limo (Children of the Mire), has come to an end with his own generation of writers. Although a variety of literary influences and confluences are discernible in Pasado en claro and Vuelta, the epigraph of the former as well as parallels and similarities in both collections, point to William Wordsworth’s The Prelude as the source which Paz has drawn on most freely. Like The Prelude, these poems are autobiographical accounts of literal and spiritual journeys which, in retrospect, are regarded as having been crucial to the education and growth of the poet’s mind.

According to the Bildungsreise design, each poem is represented as a circular journey in which the beginning and ending coincide, structurally and metaphorically. The educational experiences are narrated, as in The Prelude, on two levels of consciousness as remembrances of things past, the poet’s personal history and that of his homeland, from the vantage point of the present and the poet’s mature awareness. In each poem, the act of recollecting the past is continuous with the process of composing the poem.

When read together, Pasado en claro and Vuelta constitute a narration of the stages of Paz’s poetic formation and a recapitulation of his total poetic works. These poems also represent Paz’s final draft or “clean copy” of his life and art, which, to use the words of Abrams, reveals “a stage of integrity, power, and freedom in which the protagonist finally learns who he is, what he was born for, and the implicit purpose of all that he has endured on the way.” (p. 194).

Domnita Dumitrescu, “La búsqueda de la poesía plural y plurilingüe en Octavio Paz”
California State University, Los Angeles

Una de las preocupaciones constantes del gran poeta mexicano Octavio Paz ha sido la búsqueda de la universalidad del lenguaje poético, así como la de sí mismo en la voz del “otro” (el poeta al que traduce), y la re-creación (al margen de la traducción) de un texto poético único, transcultural y translingüístico. Como afirmaba en El signo y el garabato (1973:59), “todos los estilos han sido translingüísticos […].En cada período, los poetas europeos—ahora también los del continente americano, en sus dos mitades—escriben el mismo poema, en lenguas diferentes[…], componen una obra colectiva en la que la improvisación es inseparable de la traducción y la invención de la imitación”.

Esta ponencia analiza, desde el ángulo de la teoría de la traducción formulada en varios de sus ensayos por el Nobel mexicano, el singular (y todavía poco conocido, a pesar de cumplirse ya casi 40 años desde que se llevó a cabo) experimento de la creación del Renga, poema cuadrilingüe escrito por Octavio Paz, J. Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguinetti y Charles Tomlinson, así como el experimento siguiente, realizado solo entre Paz y Tomlinson en forma de renga “a tiempo lento” y titulado Airborn/ Hijos del aire.

Ambos volumenes – si bien prácticamente ignorados por la crítica- ilustran en la forma más cabal la obsesión de Paz con la creación literaria concebida como “una traducción múltiple que lleva al desarrollo de una pluralidad de voces, a la anulación de la voz única del autor como productor del poema” (J. Rodríguez Padrón, Octavio Paz, Madrid: Ediciones Jucar, 1975, p.68). Renga y Airborn representan la forma más expresiva de la pluralidad de poetas dentro de una sola obra y la eliminación de las fronteras idiomáticas individuales a favor del poema colectivo, plural y plurilingüe, como manifestación genuina de la poesía contemporánea universal a la que aspiraba el gran mexicano.

Helena Dunsmoor, Octavio Paz and Collective Works: Practice, Ethics and Poetics”
University of Calgary, Canada
My paper examines the “collective poems” created by Octavio Paz with other writers, as well as collaborative projects in which Paz worked with visual artists. Addressing the mechanics and ethics of collaboration, my analysis centres on two projects of collective poetry, Renga (a multi-lingual poem Paz wrote with Jacques Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguineti and Charles Tomlinson) and Hijos del aire (with Charles Tomlinson), as well as two projects that involve both poetry and visual art, Discos visuales (with Vicente Rojo) and 3 Notations / 3 Rotations (with Toshihiro Katayama). In keeping with the conference’s focus on modernity and plurality in and around the works of Octavio Paz, I propose that collective art provides a unique opportunity for Paz to refine and explore some of the basic questions he returns to throughout his work, whether in solo writing or collaborations. For example, writing with others allows Paz to further his practice and theory of poetry as an “other voice,” both in terms of a multiplicity of voices within the work of one author and with regards to relating one’s words to the voices and visions of other artists. Paz’s participation in collective art heralds a return to beginnings with reference, for example, to certain Asian poetic forms or Pre-Columbian Nahua poetry. At the same time, it embodies what Paz considers to be the hallmark of modern poetry; namely, its inherent criticism. Whereas critical poetry carries within itself an awareness of its own finitude, collective poetry is an apt experiment to reveal and push at the limits of this knowledge. My paper concludes with the suggestion that works by Paz, whether created alone or as part of an artistic collaboration, encourage us to conceive of the creative processes of reading, writing and interpretation within a wide and inclusive framework. The plural nature of cooperative projects indicates the workings of a plural or collaborative poetics.

Alfonso González, “La presencia de Octavio Paz en la obra de Carlos Fuentes” California State University, Los Angeles
La relación entre Octavio Paz y Carlos Fuentes podría parecer amistosa o de animadversión. Por una parte se puede comprobar una admiración mutua en el prólogo que escribe Paz a Cantar de ciegos (1964) y en la dedicatoria de Fuentes a Octavio Paz y Marie José de Zona Sagrada (1967). Sin embargo existe un libelo escrito por Enrique Krause sobre la obra de Carlos Fuentes y publicado en la revista Vuelta (septiembre, 1986?) dirigida por Octavio Paz. Como es de esperar, este libelo causó gran revuelo en México y en el extranjero. Esto bien podría caer en el olvido ya que las primeras ediciones son difíciles de conseguir así como los números atrasados de Vuelta. Lo que es innegable e imperecedero es la huella del pensamiento de Octavio Paz en la obra de Carlos Fuentes. En El laberinto de la soledad (1950) Paz nos dice que “La historia de México es la del hombre que busca su filiación, su origen.” Asimismo asegura que el mexicano es un ser solitario pues no ha podido superar la contradicción de su origen: una madre indígena violada y un padre español irascible y violador. La presencia imperecedera del pasado indígena se puede ver ya desde Los días enmascarados (1955) de Carlos Fuentes. El mexicano como hijo de la indígena violada y el padre europeo todopoderoso aparece como metáfora en la persona de Ixca Cienfuegos, el narrador central de La región más transparente (1958). El nombre de los guardianes de la esencia de México así lo indican: Ixca Cienfuegos y Teodula Moctezuma. Una combinación de nombres indígenas—Ixca y Moctezuma—y Cienfuegos, Teódula nombres españoles. Tanto Octavio Paz, a través de su poesía y ensayos, así como Carlos Fuentes a través de su prosa de ficción y ensayos comparten muchas de las percepciones e inquietudes del escritor mexicano de medio siglo veinte. Sin embargo se nota una influencia directa del pensamiento de Paz en la obra de Fuentes. Algunas de estas coincidencias son: 1) la creencia que la esencia del mexicano se halla en el origen e historia de México, las cuales persisten y definen al mexicano; 2) la idea del presente eterno; 3) la mujer como un posible puente de escape a la soledad del hombre; 4) la fuerza redentora del lenguaje vulgar mexicano; y 5) la idea de la otredad.

Rosario Herrera Guido, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo
Octavio Paz: pensar y poetizar lo mexicano
En esta ponencia pretendo mostrar que México en la obra de Octavio Paz es un pensamiento crítico, paralelo a una experiencia poética de la soledad individual y la fiesta colectiva. Desde sus reflexiones sobre la soledad del laberinto, la soledad de la cultura náhuatl, tensando el arco y la lira, hasta el sueño de Sor Juana y el Itinerario de un peregrino en su patria, cual viajero en busca de un santuario, Paz pregunta por la unidad de identidad y la diferencia: una experiencia poética individual y colectiva de nuestra identificación con el pensamiento universal. El sentimiento de soledad y el deseo de reunirse con los otros y con nosotros mismos es una experiencia universal: filosófica y poética. Y toda tentativa por resolver nuestros conflictos mexicanos, si no quiere abismarse en el fracaso, debe aspirar a una validez universal.

Lydia Huerta, “La reformulación del imaginario nacional antes y después de México 68”
University of Texas at Austin
Nunca ha habido un año como 1968, y, probablemente jamás habrá otro igual. La opresión, la violencia, la resistencia y la esperanza de un mundo mejor, caracterizó a un ambiente mundial que se veía en las trincheras ideológicas de la Guerra Fría. Y, aunque explayar ese año en su contexto mundial es un proyecto de mucho interés personal, aquí, me limito simplemente hacer un breve estudio enfocado principalmente en el imaginario nacional mexicano y cómo éste cambia debido a los sucesos del 68.

Será necesario definir brevemente el imaginario nacional usando el marco teórico de Benedict Anderson. Luego abstraer el concepto de Anderson y reformularlo en los marcos ideológicos del Porfiriato; en el período postrevolucionario por medio de El perfil del hombre y la cultura en México (1934) ensayo de Samuel Ramos; durante el periodo precusor al 68 por medio del ensayo de Octavio Paz El laberinto de la soledad (1951); y, finalmente en el período posterior al 68 en los ensayos Posdata de Octavio Paz y Tiempo Mexicano de Carlos Fuentes.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, “Love, Memory and Being in Octavio Paz’s Piedra de sol”
California State University, Fresno

Octavio Paz’s Piedra de sol is one of the poet’s most recognized works. For this reason, critics have written numerous articles that seek to elucidate its meaning; the poem itself is what Derrida calls the différance, as it will both accept and refuse any and all impositions of meaning associated with it. It is within this framework that I seek to analyze Paz’s poem based on a theoretical interpretation of the meaning of memory and history, as they relate to the individual. Love, for Paz, is the force within all humans that possesses the power to unveil our true past -- a past that is based on and revealed by the wonder and fascination one finds in the loved one. It is this knowledge of the past that gives the poetic voice in Piedra de sol a vision that is beyond the ordinary: The poetic voice is able to see the events of the historical past in their full injustice, and the present’s failed vision of past lessons. It is in this capacity that the poetic voice is able to comprehend his present, as he possesses a vision of humanity’s past, as well as his own.

Hénri Bergson’s Matter and Memory presents a concept of memory that illustrates well Paz’s vision of the relationship between self and memory, and the individual and his (own immediate and humanity’s entire historical) past. Bergson’s concept of memory is constituted by a deeply spiritual nature, though it is not fully metaphysical, for the brain serves the need of directing present action by consciously selecting and inserting relevant memories that will enhance one’s experience and interpretation of the present. In distinguishing two types of memory --one that is habitual, automatic and utilitarian, the other a “true” memory that registers the past in the form of "image-remembrance," and is of a contemplative and fundamentally free and spiritual kind-- Bergson presents a theory whose main objective is to establish a link between the lessons learned in the past (personal and historical) and a consciousness of the present.

As such, both writers also insist that true awareness necessitates the united action of body and spirit, for both Paz and Bergson speak against the "impulsive person," or the bellicose person (Piedra de sol is ultimately a poem that clearly establishes a vision against war); such a person suspends his consciousness and stays within the unreflective domain of a reactive automatism. Ultimately, Paz in Piedra de sol and Bergson in Matter and Memory insist that true consciousness implies an almost timeless awareness of oneself that at once anchors itself in the past and articulates the present and future presence of the knowing agent.

Toming Jun Liu, “Lichtung in Correspondence with Zen Poetry: Reading Octavio Paz Translating Wang Wei’s ‘Lu Chan’”
California State University, Los Angeles
Octavio Paz’s fascination with the Chinese Tang dynasty poet and painter Wang Wei’s poem “Deer Park” or “Lu Zhai” is evident: he has made several attempts to translate this wuyan jueju (a five-syllable quatrain). In this essay, I will study Paz’s translation of this poem in order to understand (1) how and why he translates Chinese poetry and (2) why this series of translational efforts is an integral part of his view of modernity. I will argue that this Tang poem, brief as it may seem, illuminates what the “present” of the modern should be, for Paz as for us. The essay therefore falls into two parts.

Paz and the translation of Chinese poetry

Good translation, says Walter Benjamin mysteriously, is the art of giving an afterlife of the original. What he means by “after life” is that the new life gained through translation (a good translation) shows both the translatability of the original and the creativity of the translator. With this theory, Benjamin thus dispels the popular myth that fidelity and freedom are diametrically opposed in translation. To paraphrase Benjamin’s theory, the creativity of a good translator is semelfactive (a phrase coined by Roland Barthes to mean “semi-creative) in that the translator reads, re-imagines and re-creates the original. He must hold a poetic correspondence with the original so that another life can be conceived; he then proceeds to translate—or displace—the original’s signifiers by with a new set of signifiers in an effort to convey the perceived signifieds which include the murky areas of ambiguities and uncertainities. Translation can be likened to traveling, leaving its trail of dispersal (coinciding with diaspora) and differance. Each translational attempt results in what Benjamin calls a “greater language,” “greater” because it is a product of hybridity rather than purity, hetereodoxy rather than orthodoxy. Translation is an after life: it carries the DNA’s of the original but also has a life of its own. Between the SL and TL, there is a likeness analogous to that between a father and a son, proof of a good translation.

Paz, a poet and a translator, intuitively knew that any translation is this “after life,” as is evident in his translation of “Lu Zhai.” As he wrote: “The idea of language contains that of translation: a painter is one who translates words into plastic images; the critic is a poet who translates the lines and colors into words. The artist is the universal translator. That translation, of course, is a transmutation. It consists, as is well known, of the interpretation of non-linguistic signs by means of linguistic signs—or the reverse. But each one of these translations is really another work and not so much a copy as a metaphor of the original” (“Presence and the Present” 48). This view of translation is intuitively sound and theoretically sophisticated. It allows Paz to see how the painter and poet Wang Wei is engaged in an “original” translation of natural signs into a metaphor that captures the Zen notion of a sudden revelation. This is one reason why Paz’s translation, despite the enormous difficulties of translating from ancient Chinese poetry, is as poetic and as quietly powerful as the original.

Like Pound and Fenollosa, however, Paz’s translation of Chinese poetry is not a direct rendition but a trilingual effort: he translates not from the Chinese but from the French and English of the Chinese original. If his version is an after life of “Lu Zhai,” it is the grandson, not the son, of the original. But unlike Pound, who was either deaf to the music of the Chinese or simply abandoned it, Paz bravely and appropriately recreates the music, and successfully. To his credit, Paz has studied various sources to hold a never-ending dialogue with the original. But, in his final attempt to translate Wang Wei’s last word in the last line-shang, he did not so much learn Gary Snyder’s more reliable reading of the original but took the rather doubtful advice from Professor Peter A. Boodberg, a philologist, and rendered it into “asciende.” Amazingly, this change, though perhaps aberrant, works quite well in Paz’s version. There are other similar recreations which will be discussed in this essay.

A Correspondence between Lichtung and Zen

Paz’s repeated attempts at translating “Lu Zhai” is part of his conception of a new sense of modernity which is focused on the simultaneity of time or a redefinition of the present. He re-discovered in Wang Wei’s poem a “clearing in the forest” which is both a reflection of the ancient Zen wisdom and a Western modern trope. While Paz continued the path of translating and reinventing Chinese poetry pioneered by Pound, he differed from Pound not only in his translation practice but also in his appropriation of Wang Wei’s Zen poetry for a different critique. In his critique of the Western modernity dominated by capitalistic consumerism, I find that Paz’s search of presence (paradoxically through a Chinese paradox of absence) is more akin to Heidegger than with Pound. Wang Wei’s “clearing in the forest” suggests an active nothingness urgently needed for Paz’s proposed new art of contemplation. This active nothingness is the Heideggerian lichtung which puns on both clearing and light. Paz’s translation of Wang Wei, therefore, is a reimagination based on the correspondence between the modern/Western lichtung and the ancient/Eastern Zen poetry. In studying such a correspondence, we will find not only many parallels and resonances but also significant differences. Wang Wei’s practice of Zen, in the context of the feudalistic Tang, may seem to be an escape from the madding crowd (called chu-shi, escape from this world) but it is only the gesture and expression of intervening in the politics then (called ru-shi, participating in this world). Wang’s sense of “present” is not quite the same as Paz’s sense of “present.” What they have in common is thus equally important: what appears to be a passivity is really affirmation. Paz’s translation has captured from the original? Nothing, or rather the nothingness of an active vision of the present.

Oliver Kozlarek, “Octavio Paz: In the Labyrinth of (Post) Colonial Experiences” Instituto de Investigaciones de la Universidad Michoacana, México
In Latin America postcolonial experiences have been accumulated for about 200 years. The intellectual debates these experiences have stimulated are especially rich and sophisticated. However, they are hardly taken into account in the recent debates about postcolonialism. In the first part of my paper I will describe two different ways of understanding postcolonial critique. Referring to the sociologist Sérgio Costa, I will call them "postcolonial deconstruction" and "reconstructive postcolonial critique".

In the second part of my paper I would like to focus on Octavio Paz's "restitution" of the colonial and postcolonial history of Mexico. My point will be that Paz's way of discussing colonialism and its consequences could be paradigmatic for "reconstructive postcolonial critique".

Edgar Mejía, “Octavio Paz y el modernismo, “
Providence College
Octavio Paz y el modernismo
En las últimas décadas el modernismo hispanoamericano ha sido sometido a una relectura exhaustiva desde diversos ángulos. De entre esas lecturas, la de Ángel Rama ha logrado un estatus cuasi canónico. Es ya impensable leer el movimiento modernista sin sus estudios sobre las condiciones sociales y económicas en que se produjo –en particular, la profesionalización del escritor y el surgimiento del mercado editorial. En este trabajo me interesa examinar el ensayo de Octavio Paz “El caracol y la sirena”, incluido en Cuadrivio, con el propósito de evaluar su contribución al estudio del modernismo vis à vis la interpretación de Rama. ¿Se equivocó Paz al perder de vista la dimensión socio-económica que problematiza las decisiones estéticas de los modernistas? O ¿su lectura incide en áreas que enfoques como el de Rama no llegan a iluminar tales como la presencia de la espiritualidad o el erotismo?

Claudia Mesa, “La cartografía barroca de Octavio Paz en “Himno entre ruinas’” Moravian College, Pennsylvania
Los múltiples ejemplos de poetas novohispanos herederos de Luis de Góngora ponen de relieve la existencia de una tradición poética mexicana aunque no exclusiva de clara raigambre gongorina. Así lo confirma Alfonso Méndez Plancarte cuando señala que las justas poéticas realizadas en México colonial privilegian la imitación de Góngora: el “Oráculo de las mejores musas” (1650), el “Píndaro más lírico” (1665), el “Apolo Cordobés” y “Príncipe de los líricos de España (1682). Mientras que en la península surgen opiniones encontradas acerca del valor de su poesía—recordemos el Antídoto contra la pestilente poesía de las “Soledades” de Juan de Jáuregui—del otro lado del Atlántico los elogios abundan y las obras hijas de este gongorismo bastardo no se hacen esperar. Ya en el siglo XX tras la reivindicación de Góngora por la generación del 27, el “príncipe de las tinieblas” se convierte en “príncipe de la luz” y desde Rubén Darío a Alfonso Reyes pasando por Lezama Lima y Nicolás Guillén, Góngora se convierte en un modelo de escritura para todos aquéllos que como Severo Sarduy dijeron pertenecer “a la tradición tupida y lujosa del barroco español, es decir, a Góngora”.

En Octavio Paz, el barroco español y por extensión el barroco de Indias se manifiesta tanto en su obra crítica como en su poesía. Si en Homenaje y profanaciones (1960) Paz realiza una glosa poética del célebre soneto de Quevedo, “Amor constante más allá de la muerte” en “Himno entre ruinas” el influjo proviene de Góngora. “Himno entre ruinas” está firmado en Nápoles en 1948. El epígrafe que lo encabeza—“donde espumoso el mar siciliano”—registra los versos iniciales de la Fábula de Polifemo y Galatea, composición que según Paz constituye junto con Primero sueño “uno de los dos grandes poemas del siglo XVII”. A partir del Polifemo de Góngora, este trabajo presenta una lectura de “Himno entre ruinas” que recalca la naturaleza dialéctica de la poesía. A la luz del Polifemo y sus variantes—la de Ovidio, la del propio Homero—“Himno entre ruinas” se instaura no sólo como re-escritura de un poema previo sino también como fábula neobarroca que transplantada encuentra una nueva formulación para el monstruoso canto del cíclope.

Arturo Morales Campos, “Octavio Paz: Soledad y Comunión en El laberinto de la soledad”
Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Michoacán, México

El concepto que había sobre la Revolución como movimiento esperanzador de profundo cambio, durante la época en que Paz escribía El laberinto de la soledad, entraba en crisis dentro de ciertos grupos sociales. La razón primordial se explica por la falta de congruencia entre el discurso oficial y la situación de atraso en varios sectores sociales. Las acciones de transformación profunda empezaban a estancarse y petrificarse para convertirse en lugares discursivos comunes y gastados. El estado burgués ponía sus propios límites para encerrarse en sí mismo. El grupo en el poder (bajo fuertes presiones de Estados Unidos, nación que se consolidaba como líder del nuevo orden mundial) había recurrido a un nuevo proyecto nacionalista que pretendía modernizar el país por razón de una forzada industrialización de algunas ciudades clave, lo que afectaba en gran medida al campo y a las clases bajas urbanas. Es, precisamente, ese discurso del estado, inserto en su mismo proyecto, uno de los motivos fundamentales que provocaron reacciones y propuestas diferentes en el ambiente intelectual mexicano.

Octavio Paz, en algunos momentos, participa, ya sea como crítico o como vocero de ese proyecto. Desafortunadamente, gran parte de las críticas hacia él se centran en dos puntos. El primero lo conforman las opiniones que vertió en favor de las medidas “modernizadoras” salinistas que representaba el Tratado de Libre Comercio. Concretamente, según el escritor, esta apertura de mercados acabaría con el paternalismo “tradicional” del estado mexicano..El otro foco de ataques se dirige hacia El laberinto en cuanto a verlo como un estudio sobre el ser del mexicano que resalta más los aspectos negativos psíquico-culturales de esa entidad.

Es verdad que Paz, reiteradamente, centra su interés en contenidos relacionados con la vida mexicana, pero al abordarlos, desvela una complicidad y una influencia ineludibles por parte del estado nacional en los problemas del país. Su teoría política considera una Modernidad heterogénea en la que los pueblos, considerados como tradicionales, entienden, hacen suya y resisten aquella teoría teleológica.

El laberinto es un trabajo con un perfil ecléctico que tiene como objetivos principales revisar, desmitificar y desnudar varias de las ideologías y mitos identitarios, estatistas y sociales, que ejercen una coerción en la cultura mexicana posrevolucionaria. Es aquí donde nos encontramos con formaciones discursivas e ideológicas surgidas de variados ámbitos sociales que Paz atiende.

Nuestro interés se concentra en analizar y encontrar los alcances de la categoría dialéctica soledad/comunión que podría representar uno de los rasgos fundamentales de la cultura mexicana. El primer extremo de la mencionada categoría es un sentimiento común a todo humano, pero, en el caso mexicano, muestra sus peculiaridades. El segundo extremo se materializa en ciertas prácticas de esa misma cultura y aparece como propuesta para salvar, por momentos, esa soledad: la búsqueda del otro o de lo otro. La disyuntiva Modernidad/tradición se complementa con el de soledad/comunión para conformar uno de los principales ejes temáticos en Paz.

Paula Park, “Poetry, Eroticism and the Orient in Octavio Paz’s Essays” University of Texas at Austin
In Conjunciones y disyunciones (1969) Octavio Paz proposes how in a past mythical time there was a primordial unity of all parts and substances. However, this singular body underwent a violent division, an aggressive separation. Language evokes the beginnings of that cosmic time as it expresses the attraction of the resulting divided parts; sounds, letters and words are in suspense until a relation is established. According to Paz, poetry deviates language from its natural finality—communication. This deviation of poetry compares to eroticism, in which two or more individuals engage in sexual play, suspending its consummation. The Mexican poet points out the example of the Tantric practice of retaining semen. Accumulating pleasure symbolically signifies saving up or storing up a life. In retention, there is production of life.

Paz writes towards the Orient with a curios longing revealing a desire of being related, of becoming whole. As he writes or poetically spells out his evoked Orient, he ends up manifesting a fascination, an erotic instinct that is prolonged intensely and exceeds corporal limits. The West is in a kind of cosmic spell that permanently intercedes its convergence with the Orient. My objective is to bring forth the poetic and eroticizing connection between “spells” and “spelling”. Both come from the Germanic root “spellian”, which means “to relate”. There is a suspension of time—and a simultaneous return to a cosmic time—when casting a spell; similarly, there is a delayed finality or “crystallization” of a word as it is spelled, as letters are poetically related to each other. Focusing on essays from La llama doble (1993), I will extend Paz’s comparison between “the poetics of the corporal” (eroticism) and “the erotics of the verbal” (poetry). I will evoke the mythical separation of the primordial substance in order to explore the poetic and productive distance between the Orient and the West.

Jaime Perales Contreras, “Octavio Paz y el ciclo de la revista Vuelta”
Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México
My presentation focuses on my book on Octavio Paz and his circle of friends who published in his magazines (Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Susan Sontag, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Daniel Bell, Irving Howe, Milán Kundera, Czewslaw Milosz, Enrique Krauze, Gabriel Zaid, among others). This international perspective of Paz is relatively new. Although there are numerous studies about Paz and his work, to date there is very little published about his two magazines Plural (1971-1976) and Vuelta (1976-1998) and his work as editor. There has also been little published about the collective participation of the aforementioned group of writers and intellectuals and their substantial benefits to the cultural debate in Latin America. My research has led me to unpublished papers by Paz and interviews with different collaborators of the magazine, including Octavio Paz.

Paz’s perspective on politics is original. He always underscored that the debate in his magazine came not from social scientists, but from writers and artists. For Paz, art and literature were tools to criticize politics. From this perspective, Paz, like the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset, believed that writers and intellectuals are not better or worse than the rest of humankind, only different. Following this distinction, literature provides not better or worse perspective on politics, just different.

The subject of intellectuals and politics during the last 12 years has had substantial importance, especially in the publication of Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals. According to Jacoby there are no longer heroes in the world, such as in the past decades. There are no more independent writers such as Octavio Paz, Jean Paul Sartre, Daniel Bell or Phillip Rahv due to the complexity of the world. Recently, intellectuals as topic and its relation to the debate on the world democracy has been the subject of the independent public intellectual Noam Chomsky. The French thinker Bernard-Henry Levy has also discussed the need for independent intellectuals and writers in the United States undomesticated by academia or the media.

In this perspective, literature and politics has influenced and guided much of my own research. My book illustrates one of the few circles of contemporary independent Latin American writers—Paz and his circle—who criticized the political power from a non-state and non-partisan perspective. Thus, art as an instrument of criticism.

Loknath Persaud, “Octavio Paz: a Vision of India”
Pasadena City College
After visiting India in 1951, Octavio Paz returned as Mexico’s ambassador and served from 1962 until 1968. Of the three books that deal with India, he says that what he lived and felt can be be found in his book of poems Ladera este (East Slope, 1968), and in his short prose work El mono gramático (1970). He describes his book Vislumbres de la India (1995) as a sort of long footnote furnishing the intellectual context of the poems and is apologetic for the lacunae in the text due to the immensity and variety of the subject. Nonetheless the book has acute observations about Indian history, politics, poetry, philosophy and religious practices.

In Ladera este and in El mono gramático, the poet chooses places with historical significance such as the Palace of Galta, Vrindaban or monuments in Delhi, as the physical setting for his lyrical contemplation. While describing these places with their ruins and decay, Paz frequently launches into metaphysical or epistemological questions on the nature of being, identity, reality, the relationship of language and reality, or of poetry and language. Paz intuits that the phenomenal world is undecipherable and irreducible, one that resists the mind's attempt to comprehend it, and that words do not help to explain reality. Yet as he notes that permanence is only momentary, he accepts that the will to create should impose form on the inchoate nature of things and create an order, which though momentary, is significant.

With Vislumbres de la India Paz deals with the subject of India intellectually. After giving some personal reminiscences of meetings with Indian leaders such as Nehru and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, he elaborates on several topics of Indian politics, history and culture. Paz's observations are measured, informed, and balanced and are in startling contrast to those of V.S. Naipaul's India: A Wounded Civilization written about the same time. After giving a brief history of India from the arrival of the first Muslim conquerors and the political, social and cultural changes that have resulted, he makes several observations about how did two divergent religions Islam and Hinduism clash and blend, and how the two communities share common traditions but still live separtely. He shows the influence of Sufism on the 'bhakti movement and their similarities and analyses perceptively the function of the caste system in India. Next he analyses the project of nationhood in India that shows that even with a plurality of languages this project shows an unexpected vitality and how modernization, as in Mexico, begins with a critique of the past. As he continues to examine the singularity of Indian history and tries to understand why the clash of the cultures of the conqueror and conquered led to different results in Mexico, he tries to point out what elements made the political evolution of India differ from that of Latin America. His observations about the importance of British culture, about Gandhi's fusing of different traditions, the joining of the religious and the political, the asceticism with pragmatism, and the importance of British culture are useful. The latter part of the book deals briefly with his impressions on Indian music and sculpture but has an substantial introduction with brief quotes on Sanskrit poetry and literature. His comments on chastity and longevity and his critique of liberation in which he compares Christian and Hindu goals in life, and his presentation of different concepts of time in Christianity and Hinduism are thought-provoking and somewhat controversial, and can provide interesting discussion. My presentation will stress how in his poetry and prose , Paz shows an astonishing command of different aspects of Indian culture and history and thus cannot be compared to usual stereotypes of the Orientalist.

Laura Torres-Rodríguez, “Apariencia desnuda: meta-ironía, traducción y orientalismo”
University of Pennsylvania
Este ensayo reflexiona sobre el modus operandi de lo que Octavio Paz denomina como “ley circular de la meta-ironía” en la obra de Marcel Duchamp. La operación meta-irónica le permite al poeta mexicano explorar las posibilidad teórica de rebasar el paradigma de la modernidad, ya que su agencia se manifiesta entre la “modernidad” que agoniza” y algo “nuevo que comienza y aún no tiene forma”. En este sentido, la meta- ironía es lo más cercano que tenemos en el pensamiento del escritor a una incursión en el paradigma del arte “posmoderno”, aunque Paz nunca estuvo de acuerdo con la acepción del término. En este ensayo exploro cómo el desarrollo de una teoría sobre los mecanismos de funcionamiento de la meta ironía está íntimamente relacionado con el estudio de las filosofías orientales, tal y como se ofrecen en su vasto análisis comparativo entre el Gran Vidrio y la imagen tantra de Kali: “el mito de la Virgen y sus solteros es la proyección o traducción de otro mito”. Con esta interpretación, Paz se dedica a rebatir la lectura psicoanalítica del Gran Vidrio, para ofrecer una solución que implica un acto de traducción de la “obra –monumento”, culminación de la modernidad artística, al lenguaje de una tradición no occidental. ¿Significa este gesto que el fin del telos moderno coincide con una recuperación de las religiones periféricas sobre la epistemología occidental? ¿O implica una apropiación creativa de las formas del pensamiento oriental en detrimento de su contenido metafísico o religioso para desarrollar formas alternativas de representación y recepción artística en el ocaso de la modernidad? Estas son algunas de las preocupaciones que este ensayo pretende explorar para dilucidar la original relación entre la crítica de la modernidad en Paz, la traducción cultural y el orientalismo. Por último, contextualizo la singular aportación de Paz al problema dentro de un debate más amplio que incluye figuras como Salvador Elizondo, Severo Sarduy y Roland Barthes.

Josema Zamorano, “Modernity and Technology: Ortega and Heidegger in Octavio Paz”
University of British Columbia, Canada

Heidegger and Paz. Art and technology in the modern age.
Octavio Paz was an important critic of modern times. In several of his
essays Paz wrote about his views on the way technology changes
society, modern self-alienation, and the roll of poetry and art in the
age of mass-media. Martin Heidegger was an influential philosopher for
the poet and wrote several essays on technology, art and modernity. I
assert that a comparison of Paz's essay “La nueva analogía: Poesía y
tecnología” with Heidegger's “The Question Concerning Technology” and
“The Age of the World Picture”, reveals some of Paz's Heideggerian
connections and original twists in his critique of the modern world.
At the end, for both thinkers, technological modernity entails the
risk of the oblivion of the truth of being; however, at the same time,
technology and art bear the power of revealing that truth.

Conference Speakers

Yvon Grenier is Professor of Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the author of Guerre et pouvoir au Salvador (Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 1994), The Emergence of Insurgency in El Salvador (University of Pittsburgh Press and Macmillan, 1999), Art and Politics: Octavio Paz and the Pursuit of Freedom (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001; Spanish trans. for the Fondo de Cultura Económica in 2004), and co-autor with Maarten Van Delden of Gunshots at the Fiesta: Literature and Politics in Latin America (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009). He edited (selection of texts and introduction) Octavio Paz, Sueño en libertad, escritos políticos (Seix Barral, 2001). He is currently writing a book on the politics of culture in post-Soviet Cuba.

Hervé-Pierre Lambert received degrees from the Ecole Normale Supérieure (LSH), Agrégation, docteur es lettres, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Member of Centre de Recherches Littérature et Poétique Comparée. Paris X Nanterre. Currently a visiting professor in Kyushu University, Japan. Former Director of IFAL, French Institute of America Latina in Mexico. Organized a Tribute to Roger Caillois in the presence of Octavio Paz. Former Cultural Adviser at the French Embassy in Switzerland. ExProfessor in the Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexico. Adviser of Encuentro "Artes y Nuevas Ciencias" 2009 in Mexico. Among numerous publications : “ Paz et la génération de la Ruptura“, “Octavio Paz, le Mexique et l’Ailleurs indien“,“Paz et la pensée de l’utopie“, “Les occasions perdues dans les méditations de Lévi-Strauss et Paz sur les rapports entre les civilisations en Inde“, “ Paz, lecteur de Mircea Eliade“, “La présence de Proust dans l’œuvre d’Octavio Paz“. “Le volcan dans l’imaginaire mexicain”. Invited to the Cervantino Festival 2008 with a conference on “Paz and Utopia”, and to “Commemoration of Paz’s tenth death anniversary” Symposium in Paris, with a conference on “Paz and India”.

Luis Rios is founder of the Octavio Paz Society and editor of the Boletín Octavio Paz, a Spanish language publication of the society. For over ten years, he has acted as contributor of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language, an affiliate of the Spanish Royal Academy. He recently contributed in Hablando bien se entiende la gente (Santillana USA, 2010), a Spanish reference book addressing Spanish usage in the United States. Rios was born and raised in Northern California, where he earned his undergraduate degree from UC Davis. He attended the University of Madrid and holds a Ph.D. in Spanish and an Advanced Certificate in Latin American Studies from Columbia University. He has been awarded the 2010 Columbia University Teachers College Distinguished Alumni Award for Early Career. He lives in Davis, California.

Clara Román-Odio is Professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Kenyon College with a specialty in literature and society in late-twentieth century. She has published extensively on the works of Octavio Paz including a book entitled Octavio Paz en los debates críticos y estéticos del siglo XX (Galicia, España: tresCtres Editores, 2006), which examines the Nobel laureate’s long poems in the light of modern and postmodern aesthetics. Salient contributions to the reading of the poetry of Octavio Paz also include “‘Blanco’, a Western Mandala” (Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos. 24. 3 (2000): 503-15) and “Eros retrospectivo / Eros visionario: el sujeto dividido de Piedra de sol.” Hispania 79 (March 1996): 28-35). A parallel research interest for Román-Odio is in theoretical and artistic models in feminist movements of women of color in the U.S. In this area, she is the coeditor of Global and Local Geographies: The (Dis)locations of Contemporary Feminisms (Letras Femeninas. 33.1, 2007). She has various publications on the works of well-known Chicana visual artists and literary critics including Ester Hernández, Alma López, and Chela Sandoval. Her latest book project currently on-going, Transnational Imaginaries: Chicana Mestizaje and the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1974-2008 Cultural Productions, analyzes connections among US feminisms, globalization, international revolts, and religious iconography in Chicana cultural productions. Clara was born in Puerto Rico, where she completed her undergraduate degree, and received graduate degrees from Purdue University (M.A.) and The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Ph.D.).

Maarten van Delden obtained his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 1990. Prior to joining the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA in 2009, he taught at New York University, Rice, and the University of Southern California. He is the author of Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, and Modernity (Vanderbilt University Press, 1998), which was recognized as an “Outstanding Scholarly Book” by Choice Magazine, and co-author (with Yvon Grenier) of Gunshots at the Fiesta: Literature and Politics in Latin America (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009). In addition, he is the author of numerous articles and reviews on topics in the fields of Mexican Studies, Latin American Literature, Comparative Literature and U.S. American literature. He is currently working on two books: Polemical Continent: Culture Wars in Twentieth-Century Spanish America and Mexico and the United States: A Literary and Intellectual History, 1950-2000.

Dr. Jeanine “Gigi” Gaucher-Morales

Dr. Jeanine "Gigi: Gaucher-Morales

The Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Lecture Fund has been established in memory of the late Dr. Jeanine (Gigi) Gaucher-Morales, who passed away on May 20, 2007. Born in Paris, France, Dr. Gaucher-Morales was a professor emerita of French and Spanish at Cal State L.A. She taught from 1965 till 2005, thus devoting four decades of her academic life to Cal State L.A., where her friends, students, and colleagues knew her as Gigi.

During her long and productive tenure at this campus, Gigi taught generations of students the literature and culture of France, of the Anglophone world, and of Latin America, including the Caribbean. With her husband, Dr. Alfredo O. Morales, also professor emeritus of Spanish, she co-founded, directed, and served as advisor of Teatro Universitario en Español for almost 25 years, bringing to Cal State L.A. annual theater productions based on plays stemming from different traditions and languages, such as the Maya (Los enemigos), Colonial Mexico (Aguila Real), Spanish (Bodas de sangre), French (The Little Prince), and English (Under the Bridge). In addition, Gigi was the founder at Cal State L.A. of Pi Delta Phi, the national French honor society. She was recognized and honored by the French government for her contributions to the knowledge of French civilization in Latin America and the United States. Gigi was also honored by her peers at Cal State L.A. with the 1991-1992 Outstanding Professor Award.

On March 7, 1997, Gigi was recognized by the Council of the City of Los Angeles, State of California, with a resolution that in part reads as follows: “be it resolved that by the adoption of this resolution, the Los Angeles City Council does hereby commend Dr. Jeanine “Gigi” Gaucher-Morales valued Professor of Spanish and French at California State University, Los Angeles for her vision and her gift to the people of Los Angeles and for contributing to the richness of multi-cultural arts in Los Angeles.”

Every spring quarter, the Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Lectures will honor Gigi’s academic ideals as a teacher, colleague, and mentor. The lectures will respond to Gigi’s diverse yet interconnected interests in civilizations of the world such as Mesoamerica and that of the Andes, Latin America, Asia, and Francophone America, from Canada to Haiti. Gigi embodied the highest academic standards and a range of academic fields that were truly global and interdisciplinary. The Memorial Lectures shall serve as a forum for distinguished guest speakers who engage vital topics of our age in a world setting, thus offering students, staff, and faculty at Cal State L.A. an opportunity to be critically exposed to different areas of study and artistic traditions that constitute the highest cultural aspirations of humanity. In the Spring 2011, the Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Lecture Fund will sponsor a two-day conference on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: her Work, Colonial Mexico, and Spain’s Golden Age. Details forthcoming.
Roberto Cantú



  1. It is fascinating that Paz is interested in so many cultural poetic works. I really found it interesting that Paz liked Greek tragedy. I can see how it would have an influence on him. Also, it is cool that he translated Chinese poetry. He really did a lot with cultures and literary works of different countries. I just think that that is really cool.

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