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Cathy L. Jrade

Chancellor’s Professor of Spanish

Faculty Affiliate, Center for Latin American Studies

Faculty Affiliate, Women’s and Gender Studies

Areas: Modernismo and Modern Latin American Poetry

Professor Jrade was awarded an NEH Fellowship to carry out her research on the poetry of Delmira Agustini, a late modernista.  This project explores the relationship between Agustini’s innovative poetic discourse and the changing gender roles and sexual mores of the day.  More specifically, it examines the unusual way that Agustini’s writing builds upon the tradition begun by earlier modernistas of questioning and critiquing predominant ideological, cultural, and discursive conventions.  These discursive conventions are found both in the language of nation-state formation that circulated at the turn of the century and within modernista poetry itself. 

Within this cultural context, Agustini begins to reconfigure the poetry of Rubén Darío, the undisputed head of the modernista movement.  She sets up sexual conquest and vampiric appropriation as ways of embracing Darío without surrendering herself to his work.  While critics have repeatedly underscored the growing sexualization of her language not only as a breakthrough for Hispanic poetry but also for women writers, this study shows that a central feature of this development has been overlooked.  Agustini, more than simply coming to affirm in her poetry her sexual nature and rejecting the limitations placed upon her by traditional views of women, sets up a creative conceit to deal with the impact of Darío’s writings and his language of literary paternity.  She chooses a sexual model to combat the sense of weakness and ineffectuality suggested by imitation.  She turns herself into a seductress and a partner and, in this way, rewrites from a female perspective much of the sexual images that run throughout Darío’s work.  This work will be published by Yale University Press in the Spring of 2012.

Professor Jrade’s previous books have been published by the University of Texas Press, Rubén Darío and the Romantic Search for Unity:  The Modernist Recourse to Esoteric Tradition in 1983 and Modernismo, Modernity, and the Development of Spanish American Literature in 1998.  The first of these two works was augmented and translated into Spanish for publication by Fondo de Cultura Económica in 1986.  It shows how Rubén Darío, like many great writers before him, turned to esoteric beliefs to confront a growing sense of fragmentation and alienation.  In this ancient tradition, he found both hope for integration and reconciliation and the basis for a worldview in which poet and poetry assume an important new role.  In Modernismo, Modernity, and the Development of Spanish American Literature, the goals were broader, entailing a redefinition of the entire movement.  The book examines how the cultural and political transformations brought about by modern life engendered literary responses which differed in crucial ways from those of previous movements, generating a focus on language that was dual in nature, simultaneously epistemological and political.

Professor Jrade teaches courses on contemporary Spanish American literature, Spanish American poetry, art and literature, and modernismo.  Before coming to Vanderbilt, Professor Jrade taught at Virgina Tech and Indiana University.