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Aesthetics of Equilibrium: The Vanguard Poetics of Vicente Huidobro and Mário de Andrade

Bruce Dean Willis

Aesthetics of Equilibrium is the first book-length comparative analysis of the theoretical prose by two major Latin American vanguardist contemporaries, Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893–1948) and Mário de Andrade (Brazil, 1893–1945). After an introduction to the transatlantic and regional dynamics of vanguardist tendencies and appropriations in Latin America, Willis offers a comparative study of two allegorical texts, Huidobro’s “Non serviam” and Mário’s “Parábola d’A escrava que não é Isaura.” The analysis exposes the fundamental nature of these parables in establishing a common theoretical background for the authors’ call for balance in the face of avant-garde extremes.

Willis’s analysis of Huidobro’s Manifiestos centers on the creation of a mythos regarding the poet’s orientation in an autonomous artistic realm. The ontological focus on poet and poem, as de€ned against chaos, unites the stylistically varied manifestos and reveals the poet’s conscious need for synthesis in order to create. Mário’s “Prefácio Interessantíssimo” and treatise A escrava que não é Isaura demonstrate the breadth of his theoretical knowledge (including familiarity with Huidobro’s ideas) while advancing his understanding of poetic composition as an equilibrium between the unconscious lyric impulse and its conscious expression. Both authors promote equilibrium through graphic, semantic, and symbolic elements of their poetics. The concluding chapter explores their aesthetics of equilibrium within the temporal anxieties of avant-garde theory.

“This book will be of interest to many across a broad spectrum of our discipline: students of the avant-garde, of modernism, as well as those interested in Pan-American movements that bridge the gulf between Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking countries.” —Ricardo da Silveira Lobo Sternberg, University of Toronto

"Willis's book successfully captures the gusto and commitment of two writers whose texts about poetics, often poems in and of themselves, capture their authors' faith in the importance of words and the inner life of the artist."—Sophia Beal, Brasil/Brazil no. 35 (2007): 109-11.

"This ... is an exhaustive study of two South American Vanguard poets, the Chilean Vicente Huidobro, and the Brazilian Mário de Andrade. ... The book will be useful for any research, but is not recommended as an introduction to each author. ... In concert with the original material, the book is dense in places, but Willis achieves a clear analysis of each author's views on poetic creation." Allison Riley, South Atlantic Review 73.2 (2008): 167-70.

"... su procedimiento se distinque por una lectura analítica e interpretativa fina, convincente y cercana a los textos. ... son lecturas altamente atentas y convincentes ..." Hubert Pöppel, Iberoamericana 35 (2008).

"No conozco otro estudio que explique tan detalladamente la trayectoria intelectual de Huidobro en el período de entreguerras. ... El valor del libro es que se comparan dos figuras centrales de dos tradiciones nacionales que no se suelen comparar." Justin Read, Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos 32.2 (2008): 388-90.

For further reviews, see
Reference and Research Book News May 2007.
Choice Feb. 2007: #44-3191

Bruce Dean Willis, University of Tulsa, focuses his research on Latin American poetry, poetics, and performance. He has published articles and chapters on poets Vicente Huidobro, Mário de Andrade, Pablo Neruda, Manuel Bandeira, and José Carlos Limeira. He edited Essays on Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literature and Film in Memory of Dr. Howard M. Fraser. Presently he is working on a study of representations of the body in early twentieth-century Brazilian literature.

ISBN: 978-1-55753-422-4;
2006. Vol. 36. xxvi, 236 pp. Paper $43.95


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