The Radical Insufficiency of Human Life: The Poetry of R. de Castro and J.A. Silva
The postromantic works of the Spaniard Rosalía de Castro and the Colombian José Asunción Silva are indispensable in any anthology of 19th century Spanish and Latin American poetry. However, they found few appreciative readers during their lifetimes, even while displaying two of the most sincere voices of the day. Dever's book is unique: it is the first comparison of Castro's and Silva's poetry. Their works have meaningful differences but share remarkable likenesses in theme, tone, and style, though it is doubtful that either was aware of the other's existence. Of interest to feminist critics is an interpretation of Castro's literary vocation within a patriarchal society. Using the ideas of three 20th century Spanish thinkers, José Ortega y Gasset, Xavier Zubiri, and Pedro Laín Entralgo, Dever applies the concept of radical insufficiency to a comparison of the poets' works. Radical insufficiency holds that humans lack a determined being and fixed course for life, thus norms are not available to make the world intelligible. Humans experience feelings of uncertainty and emptiness, which inevitably lead to anxiety. Confronted by the mystery and pathos of human life, Castro and Silva both describe futile attempts to overcome this insufficiency through creation and contemplation of art, human relationships, and religion. The significance of these writers has transcended their own time; when examined in the context of Spanish and Latin American authors and thinkers who succeeded them, the importance of their works will continue to grow.
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