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"La Mirada" in the Poetry of Luis Cernuda-The "Hedgehog on the Prowl"

Kevin J. Bruton
Anales de la literatura española contemporánea
Vol. 21, No. 1/2 (1996), pp. 27-40
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27741291
Page Count: 14
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"La Mirada" in the Poetry of Luis Cernuda-The "Hedgehog on the Prowl"
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Abstract

The title of the article derives from a 1981 study by Roger Cardinal which argues that the attention of many poets tends to be drawn to a limited range of elective objects and sensations and thereby to a series of expanding perceptions, the "hedgehog," as it were, "on the prowl." The article takes up this metaphor and in analogical fashion tracks the obsessive theme of "la mirada" in the poetry of Luis Cernuda in the belief that this approach affords an innovative insight into his work. The article divides Cernuda's poetry into four distinct chronological phases. The first phase (pre-exile poetry, before 1937) is characterised by a "mirada" in isolation from the objects of perception although a late poem from this period moves towards an acknowledgement of the reciprocating gaze of Nature. The second phase (early exile poetry, from 1938-44) focuses on the conviction of divine perception which confirms objective reality and later on the perception of one being by another through love. In the third phase (middle exile poetry, from 1944-49), "la mirada" takes on Platonic and Neo-Platonic overtones with "la mirada" a crucial element in the relationship between love/desire and reality. Whilst the poems of this period avoid the "other realityness" of poetry such as Salinas' Razón de Amor, they increasingly show a distinct movement away from outward vision to "mindsight," with growing importance attached to the memory of reality rather than direct perception of it. In the fourth phase (later exile poetry, from 1950-62), "la mirada" becomes a complex amalgam of contemplation, memory and spirituality. Final retreat from outward vision characterises the prose poems of Variaciones sobre tema mexicano in which perception of the Mexican landscapes is ineradicably linked with childhood memories of Andalusia. The article concludes that Cernuda's "mirada" is an endlessly shifting and developing concept which is self-conscious, obsessive and highly revelatory of his poetic odyssey.

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