American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis in the Poema heroico a San Ignacio de Loyola
American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis in the Poema heroico a San Ignacio de Loyola Kathryn Mayers Hispanófila, Volume 155, Enero 2009, pp. 1-19 (Article) Published by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Studies DOI: For additional information about this article [ This content has been declared free to read by the pubisher during the COVID-19 pandemic. ] https://doi.org/10.1353/hsf.2009.0011 https://muse.jhu.edu/article/477748/summary
AMERICAN ARTIFICE: IDEOLOGY AND EKPHRASIS IN THE POEMA HEROICO A SAN IGNACIO DE LOYOLA by Kathryn Mayers Wake Forest University OVER the past several decades, studies of the verbal description of visual art – the literary device known as ekphrasis – have increasingly demonstrated the ways encounters between the “sister arts” bring up issues of power, gender, and alterity.1 For the highly pictorial literature of the Barroco de Indias, this new work on ekphrasis can contribute to the critical reexamination of canonical texts that is currently underway.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, many scholarly studies began to associate texts from the Barroco de Indias with the articulation of a specifically American point of view and with a foundational role in the rupture with Spanish hegemony. Current scholarship, however, is questioning the inclusiveness of this americanismo and is exploring the far more complex role of many works from the Barroco de Indias in forging alternative models of social synthesis. The present essay contributes to recent discussion of criollismo2 in American Baroque writing by exploring the workings of ekphrasis in a pillar of the Colombian national canon – the Poema heroico a San Ignacio de Loyola by the Creole Jesuit, Hernando Domínguez Camargo.3 The epic-hagiographic Poema draws strongly on the tradition of arte por el arte.
However, it borrows and re-frames a series of lyric ekphrases from the peninsular poet Luis de Góngora in a way that historicizes this extreme aestheticism. By exploring the ways Camargo’s ekphrases both evoke and elide Amerindian and Afro-American others, I demonstrate how the Poema’s refiguration of Gongoran ekphrases creates an ideological “space” that visualizes an American model of cultural synthesis. However, as I will suggest, this model simply replaces an imperial disregard for American political legitimacy and 1
suffering with an elite, Creole denial of Amerindian property claims and capabilities for resistance. The Poema heroico emerges during an era that some have called a rising “empire of the gaze” (Shapiro 31). Counter Reformation and Cartesian theories of the power of images brought about an intense proliferation in the production of visual artifacts including a flowering of art and architecture as well as, in literature, a burst of “writing for the eyes.”4 The numerous ekphrases that embellish the Poema heroico register some of these devotional and scientific shifts in viewing. Along with reflecting changes in visuality, they also evoke certain social changes occurring in seventeenth-century society.
In the Poema, Domínguez Camargo borrows and redescribes a number of Gongoran ekphrases in a way that alters both the relationship between the word pictures and their narrative frame and the relationship between the objects within the word picture. By exploring first how Camargo intensifies Góngora’s proliferation of descriptive parentheses within a narrative and then how he modifies Góngora’s elaboration of imaginative fantasies within these parentheses, I suggest that Camargo depicts imaginary works of art in a way that counters Spanish imperialist attitudes toward America yet simultaneously undermines the rights and rationality of nonCreole peoples who shared the colonial experience.
The colonial situation of seventeenth-century New Granada required negotiation between diverse and conflicting social groups. Contrary to the idyllic scenario some have painted, New Granada was not simply a peaceful counterpoint to Mexico’s wars and Peru’s knives and gunpowder.5 Along with major epidemics of smallpox and typhus in 1566, 1587-90, 1633 and 1688, the kingdom suffered conflicts over political and economic issues that divided people along national, racial, and social lines. Peninsularand American-born whites struggled over imperial economic policy, as the former sought to enforce monopolies on labor and trade in the colonies.6 Whites and non-whites clashed over colonial labor policy, as the latter resisted the devastation of the encomienda, the alquiler general, the mita minera and the agricultural concierto.
The hunt for gold created friction even between peoples of identical race and origin, as wealthy Creole bourgeoisie in the mining West vied for power with landowning Creole aristocracy in the East. Beyond monks’ chats, mystical reflections, and Baroque verses, New Granada witnessed collisions between geographic, ethnic, and regional groups with highly disparate values and uneven access to wealth and privileges.
Domínguez Camargo occupied a social and professional position at the intersection of some of these groups. Born in 1606 to a distinguished Spanish father and a well-to-do Creole mother, he entered the Jesuit seminary in Tunja at the age of fifteen and professed the Order at seventeen. Though brilliant in letters and friendly with influential members of the Company, he was dismissed from the Order after only four years on charges of “graves faltas,” the nature of which remains undocumented.7 Upon departure he elected not to 2 Kathryn Mayers
pursue a career in a profession that would have allowed him to remain in an area inhabited by other Spaniards and Creoles but to take a position as a secular cleric in the small Indian village of Gachetá.
For the next twenty-one years, he worked in a succession of small Indian towns, living in close contact with indigenous peoples in Gachetá, Tocancipá, Paipa, and Turmequé. Two years before his death in 1659, again for reasons unknown, he was reinstated into the Company and named beneficiado of the cathedral in Tunja. He was also appointed comisario del Santo Oficio. As a wealthy Creole, an Amerindian village priest, and a guardian of the Inquisition, he experienced contact with a wide variety of ethnic and social groups throughout his lifetime. Since the revival of Domínguez Camargo’s writings that began in the 1910s, scholars have perceived his role in the development of a Colombian national identity through two particular features of his poetry.
The first is his culteranismo and his obvious effort to insert himself into Peninsular literary tradition. Writing largely of European themes and topoi, Camargo emulates the extreme artifice, Latinate syntax and vocabulary, and constant recourse to classical allusion of Peninsular poets such as Herrera, Góngora, and Carrillo de Sotomayor and refers by name to these writers in the titles and margins of his poems. This eristic literary imitation led early twentieth-century scholars to designate Camargo a “primogénito” of the Spanish national family and a torchbearer of Spanish cultural values in the Americas.8 Since the literary Boom era of the 1960s, however, studies began to focus more on Camargo’s americanismo – on his identification of America as his site of enunciation, on expressions of pride in the land and its indigenous people, and on intermittent diatribes against Spain.9 Reinterpreting the poem’s culteranismo as a strategy to express covert antihegemonic sentiments, some scholars designated Camargo a precursor to national liberation: “un avance del triunfo que en el terreno político-social obtendrá más tarde el hombre americano” (Sabat Rivers Estudios 94).10 While Peninsular and protonationalist interpretations alike recognize an important link between aesthetics and politics, both theories tend to overlook the way that, like much writing of the era, this poem shows a shifting and fundamentally contradictory meaning with respect to the ethnic and national questions of the time.
On the one hand, interpretation of the poem as an instrument of the status quo that merely brings gongorismo to a culmination in the Indies misses the way it also alters aspects of this aesthetic and critiques some of the values and attitudes it projected. On the other hand, interpretation of it as antagonistic to the status quo leaves unexplored how the poem’s notion of “America” distorts or excludes a number of the peoples who shared the colonial experience. In fact, the subjectivity Camargo articulates breaks into a number of poetic positions that rarely involve complete identification with the Peninsular administrators of New Granada or with the mestizos, Amerindians, and Blacks who comprised the majority of the region’s population.
American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 3
The Poema’s ekphrases serve as one very useful avenue to discerning these shifting subject positions. Like other poets of the Golden Age, Camargo delights in a kind of pictorial description that creates memorable images through the use of real or fictional art objects.11 The Poema is especially rich in descriptions of two particular types of imaginary art objects: religious portraits or blazons, and cornucopia of natural bounty.12 While the ostensible objects of these representations are religious figures and the fruits of nature, the way Camargo refracts them in language reveals certain social and moral contingencies of his gaze.
This is particularly evident when an ekphrasis takes inspiration from a previous ekphrasis by Góngora. Many of the Poema’s cornucopiae derive directly from the Soledades, a poem that played a fundamental but contradictory role in the discourse of empire. When Camargo draws images from the Soledades into his own poem, he intensifies what, in Góngora’s poetry, was an implicit rebellion against aesthetic conventions. In refashioning these ekphrases from his own perspective, however, he brings the social dimension of his poetic gaze to the fore, setting Góngora’s original peninsular vision against a revised one that evokes American, and specifically Creole, social and political contingencies.
Two of the Gongoran qualities that most distinguish Camargo’s ekphrases – their unusual prevalence over the primary narrative and their indulgence in fabulous metaphorical detail – create a subject position that, while unequivocally American, also suggests the strategies of representation of a Creole minority concerned to inherit the land, wealth, and power of the conquerors.
The first of Camargo’s debts to Góngora appears in the abundance of his ekphrases and in the luxuriousness of their metaphorical content. Typically, ekphrasis serves as something like an ornamental brooch pinned to the epic cloak (Scott 408). But if the Poema heroico is a cloak, it is so richly decorated with icons and other ekphrases that it is undone by their weight. In the first canto of Book I, for example, the narration of Saint Ignatius’ birth and baptism is interrupted by four separate ekphrases which, together, outnumber the stanzas in the canto that narrate the saint’s story. One stanza offers a Petrarchan blazon of the saint’s mother; two describe the sculptural baptismal font; eight stanzas describe a cornucopia of flowers that decorates the baptismal scene; and seventeen more evoke the cornucopia of a banquet table set for the baptismal feast.
The frequent and increasingly lengthy interruption of the poem with apparently accessory scenes draws readers’ attention away from the main narrative, giving the impression that the poet “se pierde sin que parezca poder encontrar su hilo de Ariadna” (Mora Valcárcel 60). It also distracts the reader from the themes that underlie the plot by counterposing scenes of sensuality and luxury to the saint’s purity and mystical asceticism. Ignatius’ mother, for example, is a nectar-veined “Potosí de la hermosura” whose soft, white breasts fire arrows of ambrosiac milk between the infant’s seeking lips: 4 Kathryn Mayers
Con blanco alterno pecho le flechaba Madre amorosa, tanto como bella, de la una y otra ebúrnea blanda aljaba de blanco néctar una y otra estrella; y su labio el pezón solicitaba, si en blanca nube no, dulce centella, en aquel Potosí de la hermosura, venas, de plata no, de ambrosía pura (I.1.16). The accumulation of metaphors for the lady’s breasts in this stanza – breasts as arrows, as quivers, as fountains of white nectar, as clouds, sparks, silver mines, veins of ambrosia – creates a sensuality of the sort the saint combated throughout his life. The flowers that decorate the baptism are described as gems, precious metals, and pagan divinities: El que América en una y otra mina hijo engendra del sol, oro luciente, indiana se vistió la clavellina, y al pie torcido su natal serpiente (talar su mejor hoja) se destina: Mercurio de los huertos que, elocuente (si el caduceo el pie le dio y la copa), del Inca embajador voló a la Europa (I.1.39).13 The opulence of flowers such as this gold-adorned clavellina – its roots twisting through America’s gold-veined soil like the poet’s hyperbaton twists through the conceit-filled stanza – is incongruous with Ignatius’ humble birth in a stable (Meo Zilio, Estudio 32).
The sparkling banquet table set in celebration of Ignatius’ baptism holds such an abundance of crystal, china, linen, and food of every kind that the poet calls it a “theater” of natural bounty and a “New Indies of gluttony”: Paradas mesas la opulencia tuvo al número de huéspedes lustroso, que en lo mucho exquisito se entretuvo si mucho se admiró de lo precioso... (I.1.51:1-4) [...] en los platos es ya tan rara suma, que al paladar su copia nunca vista nuevas Indias de gula le conquista (I.1.58:6-8). [...] ...que es la mesa teatro, en tanta suma, del secreto ignorado aun de la espuma (I.1.62:7-8).
American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 5
The appeal to the gourmand’s appetite in these verses – an appeal that reappears in similar banquets in Books Two, Three, Four and Five – clashes with the fasts and renunciation that mark Loyola’s life. Instead of serving as accessories to the epic plot, these blazons and bodegones take over the Poema. Their abundance slows the narration to the point where the reader loses sight of the “main” story and their luxury becomes the reason for writing and even for reading the poem.
This predominance of sumptuous descriptive parentheses in a heroic work is not entirely original. It derives in large part from Góngora, whose late “heroic” poems display a similar tension between narrative and ekphrastic description.14 In Góngora’s poetry, the ekphrastic unraveling of the primary narrative line suggested a reaction against contemporary aesthetic theory.
To readers of the time, the elevated language of the Polifemo and the Soledades evoked the genre of epic.15 Seventeenth-century Spanish poetics assigned epic the ethical responsibility of inspiring men to moral perfection (Meo Zilio 216) and called for a focus on the deeds of a virtuous male warrior and a censuring of “effeminate,” “Italian” ornamentation (Smith 85). The unified, hero-centered plot and the subordination of “un-Christian,” “un-Castilian” affectation reflected the moral, providential struggle for individual triumph over Moorish paganism and American barbarism that marked the Reconquest of Spain and the Conquest of the New World.
While Góngora in fact claimed to write lyric, not epic, his perceived valorization of the traditionally negative, “feminine” side of the epic paradigm incurred the wrath of literary pundits who charged him with heresy, amorality and atheism (Smith 87, Sasaki 151).16 In the Poema heroico, many of the still lifes Domínguez Camargo uses to adorn his own hagiographic epic invoke the Peninsular poet’s elevation of poetic decoration and of autonomous aesthetic pleasure. The banquet scene following Saint Ignatius’ baptism, for instance, echoes the items, the order of presentation, and even the conceits Góngora uses in a cornucopia in the Soledad primera where the courtly wanderer observes a beautiful parade of animals caught by a group of bucolic hunters on their way to a wedding.17 Góngora’s hunters carry a gaggle of hens whose vigilant, red-bearded and -turbaned spouse (a rooster) is the melodious nuncio of the sun: Cuál [de los mancebos] las pendientes sumas graves de negras [gallinas] baja, de crestadas aves, cuyo lascivo esposo vigilante doméstico es del Sol nuncio canoro, y, de coral barbado, no de oro ciñe, sino de púrpura, turbante.
(Góngora v. 291-6) Ignatius’ baptism table likewise includes the “spouses” of a red-crested rooster who is the turbaned sultan of a harem: 6 Kathryn Mayers
Cuantas copias el gallo perezosas (ceñido de rubí crespo turbante) si bellas no, crestadas celó esposas, Gran Turco de las aves arrogante . (Domínguez Camargo I.1.56). Góngora’s hunters dangle a turkey from their shoulders – an “esplendor . del último Occidente” with its wrinkled wattle hanging over its face: Tú, ave peregrina, arrogante esplendor, ya que no bello, del último Occidente, penda el rugoso nácar de tu frente sobre el crespo zafiro de tu cuello, que Himeneo a sus mesas te destina (Góngora v. 309-314). Ignatius’ table, too, boasts a peregrine splendor from the West (i.e. turkey) – in this case, a feather-crowned Inca who has flown to the Spanish table from America with riches in its coffers: Rojo penda terliz, ya que no bello, sobre el pico, ni adunco ni torcido, o fuelle de zafir sople en su cuello a su canto, ni arrullo ni gemido, el ave que, en el hombro o el cabello, ya del Inca es diadema, ya vestido; que hospedando en sus arcas al oriente, voló a la mesa desde el occidente (Domínguez Camargo I.1.54).
By adopting Gongoran-style digressions into his own epic, Domínguez Camargo reprises the Peninsular poet’s counter-cultural challenge to hero-centered forms of the epic genre and to the didactic and religious demands of Counter Reformation art.
However, Camargo also carries Góngora’s arte purismo a step further, inflecting its challenge to poetic convention with a specifically American character. Like Góngora, Camargo embellishes the items in his ekphrases with metaphorical materials drawn from Europe, the East, and the Americas. But while Góngora refers to America primarily to evoke the continent’s wealth and exoticism,18 Camargo extends this range of associations to allude to the New World’s existence as a political entity even prior to the Discovery. In the passage of Book I where he cites Góngora’s description of a turkey as a “peregrina / del último Occidente,” for example, he transforms the bird from a mere American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 7
wanderer from far away America into the cape and crown of an Incan monarch who has been sent across the oceans accompanied by coffers full of treasure. More than just exotic and distant, America becomes a place from which monarchs, in 1491 (the year of Ignatius’ birth), send political emissaries and gifts to attend the birth of a European nobleman. In the passage of the same book that depicts the floral still life decorating the baptism scene, Camargo describes the clavellina metaphorically as American gold, as the god Mercury, and again as an Incan ambassador.
indiana se vistió la clavellina, ...
Mercurio de los huertos que, elocuente ... del Inca embajador voló a la Europa (I.1.39). Here again, America is not only a land of mineral riches, but also a land of sovereign and generous monarchs (Torres 62).By intensifying the American splendor of Góngora’s ornamentation in a way that alludes to a separate American political community that predates the Spanish conquest, Camargo inflects the peninsular poet’s counter-cultural challenge to traditional forms of the genre with a political tint not evident in the imaginary paintings’ Gongoran rendition. This intensification of Góngora’s embellishment reveals a complexity in Camargo’s culteranismo that points beyond a clear-cut peninsular or protonationalist interpretation of his role in Colombian history.
On the one hand, it complicates an interpretation of the “primogénito de Góngora” as a member of the Spanish national family. Camargo does imitate Góngora, but he imitates an aspect of Góngora’s aesthetic that challenges the discourse of empire, and he does so in a way that inflects this literary challenge with a subtly American political tone. If Góngora’s own arte purismo was perceived as countercultural, Camargo’s goes a step further. His Americanization of Góngora’s ekphrastic cornucopia contradicts his categorization as an instrument of Peninsular hegemony. On the other hand, however, it also belies identification with some fictionally homogeneous, cross-racial “hombre americano.” If Camargo’s ekphrases invoke an “American” point of view, they do so because they include a highly folklorized, mythological Indian from a distant past who bears little resemblance to the actual Amerindians who populated America at the time the poem was written.
The Poema’s fictionalized “Inca embajador” from pre-Columbian Peru who generously collects coffers full of treasure from his American goldgardens and willingly flies them to Europe bears no connection – historical or geographical – to the Muisca and Pijao Indians the poet served in Gachetá, Tocancipá, Paipa, and Turmequé. These peoples bitterly contested Spanish claims to Amerindian ancestral “huertas” and thwarted the flow of gold from 8 Kathryn Mayers
America to Spain by attacking Spanish and Creole mining towns. To interpret the Poema’s “American” point of view as a precursor to a cross-racial liberation movement one would need to overlook the way its “Americanization” of Góngora’s arte purismo in fact substitutes one stereotype for another – a Spanish stereotype that elides Amerindian political legitimacy with a Creole one that erases Amerindian property claims. The Poema’s refraction of Góngora’s artworks positions the poetic voice at a distance not just from the Empire, but also from non-Creole Americans who legitimately contested Creole claims to New Granada’s land and wealth.
A second of Camargo’s debts to Gongoran ekphrases sheds additional light on this Creole subject position. Along with their proliferation within the primary narrative, the Poema’s lengthy enumerations of natural bounty stand out for the imaginatively detailed fantasies they present to the eyes of an inscribed viewer. Early seventeenth-century poets typically handled cornucopia rather mechanically, cataloguing long lists of plants or animals but passing from one item to the next after a brief epithet or two (Woods 88). Domínguez Camargo, however, describes cornucopiae using sequences of elaborate conceits connected by a central theme, which he presents to characters within the poem’s narrative who express some sort of reaction to their often remarkably violent spectacles.
In the ekphrastic scene of the baptism banquet in the first canto of Book I, for example, Camargo describes the dishes on the table using a series of elaborate mythological metaphors that evoke the qualities of the animals while still alive: the golden haired, crescent-horned calf is Isis shining in the sky; the rabbit snug in his den is Daedalus enclosed in his labyrinth: Mentida Isis en la piel, pudiera acicalar en Argos el desvelo de la que el Tauro codició ternera, por darle ilustre sucesión al cielo; lasciva Parca de las flores era la que (la luna el cuerno, el sol el pelo) víctima cayó idónea, y dió la vida por que pródiga fuese la comida (s.55).
Alma de las arterias de la sierra, en blandas pieles Dédalo mentido, aquel que en laberintos mil se encierra en un taladro y otro que ha torcido conejo, aun desde el centro de la tierra espíritus le late al prevenido can, que lo fía en el convite ileso, en fe que es suyo el uno y otro hueso (I.1.57). As one animal after the next experiences the shock of being torn away from his natural-mythological surroundings, the “bodegón” turns into a narrative of slaughter before the eyes of urbane guests who gaze with admiration and anAmerican Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 9
ticipation. The ekphrasis of a banquet still life in the fifth canto of Book II anthropomorphizes the vegetables in a salad according to their color and form: the escarole, with “wrinkled forehead and dress,” becomes furious with the garlic; the lettuce “unsheathes” its pointed leaves, charging, “piqued/minced,” at the cucumber: arrugada la frente y el vestido, la escarola, aunque fría, se enfurece contra el ajo en cabezas dividido, hidra del huerto, que a los más valientes mostró gruñendo sus bruñidos dientes. (II.5.178) Sus hojas desenvaina la lechuga; y el pepino, con ella muy picado, cuando crudo su frente más arruga en la mesa cayó despedazado; en el lienzo sus lágrimas enjuga cuando la sal su herida le ha curado; y porque verlo herido le da pena, triste se retiró la berenjena (II.5.179).
As the vegetables take offense, retreat, and wipe their tears on the “lienzo”/ tablecloth, the salad performs a civil war before the eyes of a group of serranos, who share the bounty with an ecstatic Ignatius. The ekphrasis of a landscape of a hermit’s garden in the fourth canto of Book Five likewise personifies the items in the imaginary painting: the lily seduces a passerby with its perfume (“veneno”); the vine wraps its tendrils (“eslabones”) around his feet; the rosehips discharge fragrant darts into the wind: El lilio, en copa de olorosa plata, . . .
en los dulces venenos que desata, sus sedientos afectos enamora; anulosos al pie grillos le ata, . . . la eslabonada vid que sortijosa, de un olmo se afectó mazmorra hojosa. De su olorosa aljaba las mosquetas con arpontes de ámbar, a su aliento flechando están suavísimas saetas En el arco diáfano del viento ( V .4.105-106) As one plant after the next exercises its wiles, the “landscape” becomes a seductress intent on conquering the asceticism of Ignatius’ disciple. While the abundance of these ekphrases throughout the poem distracts readers from the poem’s primary hagiographic narrative, their fantasies of demise, revolt, and seduction transport readers into a rival world that is completely imagined by the poet.
10 Kathryn Mayers
This technique of clothing the elements of a cornucopia in the fanciful garb of the poet’s imagination, once again, is not original to Domínguez Camargo. Góngora’s own poetry modeled this innovation earlier, inspiring imitation by poets such as Matías Ginovés, Adrián de Prado, Andrés Melero, Soto de Rojas and Polo de Medina.19 In Góngora’s poetry, this highly capricious treatment of the topos served, again, as part of a reaction to current poetic convention. Recent literary developments in the topos had moved it toward lengthier, but still highly laconic enumerations of Nature’s wonders (Woods 99).
Góngora counters convention by overwhelming readers with fabulous metaphorical detail – combs oozing honey, fish leaping into nets, animals cozying up to hunters – fashioning his cornucopiae into independent monuments to his own creativity. In Camargo’s Poema heroico, the animated cornucopiae that dance before viewers’ eyes come to life largely through techniques popularized by Góngora. In some cornucopiae, the Creole poet repeats a sort of metaphorical operation popularized by Góngora: the battling salad in Book II of the Poema adopts Góngora’s technique of anthropomorphizing plants in the famous ballad Del palacio de la primavera.
In still other cornucopiae, Camargo reelaborates a particular theme around which Góngora organized his conceits: the garden that tempts one of Ignatius’ disciples in Book V develops the theme of a group of plants regaling a figure in their midst previously elaborated in Góngora’s Del palacio, where a court of flowers pays homage to Queen Rose.
However, in redeploying these Góngoran techniques within his own poem, Camargo modifies them in ways that indirectly evoke America and its relationship to the metropolis. Like Góngora, Camargo creates fantastical stories that emerge completely from the imagination. But whereas the Peninsular poet’s stories evoke something resembling a colonizer’s ensueño of amenable nature spontaneously rendering up its bounty to the admiring courtier in its midst, Domínguez Camargo’s stories transform this providential daydream into something like a colonial nightmare, where autochthonous creatures of Nature frantically flee the depredations of violent and gluttonous interlopers.
To begin with, Camargo’s bodegones combine material from widely separated passages of the Soledades in a way that emphasizes the consumption to which admiration gives rise. In the Soledades, Góngora separates scenes where the courtly protagonist admires the bounty of a hunting foray from scenes where he feasts on this bounty by hundreds of verses.20 He further dissociates admiration from consumption by omitting mention of key items in the banquet and substituting details that convey the rustic simplicity of the scene (Jammes 382). When Domínguez Camargo draws cornucopiae from the Soledades into the Poema heroico, he collapses scenes of harvest and consumption into a single aesthetic moment, making the banquet still life itself a scene of slaughter: the hens, whose rooster-sultan-spouse laments their capture, lie protesting on a table decorated with all the precious linens, crystal and china of a courtly feast, their fat dripping into the fire.
Juxtaposition of the spectacle American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 11
of Nature’s harvest and its consumption, and description of the obsonium as a “nuevas Indias de gula” (I.1.58:6-8), underscores how European admiratio of Nature lays claim to it and reveals how seemingly innocent wonder at marvelous bounty leads to the slaughter of autochthonous creatures for consumption on the courtly table. Secondly, Camargo’s bodegones borrow individual characters from Gongoran cornucopiae only to intensify their emotions in a way that exposes the anguish produced by courtly “acceptance” of providential bounty. In the Soledades, Góngora characterizes creatures in his cornucopia as tender, defenseless, and oblivious to their imminent demise as their natural surroundings deliver them up freely for harvesters’ consumption.
The spotted kid hanging around the hunter’s neck whines only because it cannot nibble the flowers that have been placed on his head (I, 297-302); the estuary “liberally corresponds” to the desires of the fishermen (II, 81-82).21 This stylization conveys the impression that natural bounty is simply there for courtly man, a reflection of his automatic providential right (Beverley 42).22 In Camargo’s Poema, the same creatures reappear, this time as terrified, suffering, cognizant victims of hostile surroundings, their plight prompting them to flee or to fight. The rabbit – no longer an affectionate “conejuelo”; now a panicked “conejo” – flees frantically from the dog who waits to gnaw his bones; the estuary no longer “liberally corresponds” to the desires of the fishermen, but stands silent as fishermen enchain and trap its “ciudadanos mil del agua” (I, 1, 62); armies of trapped salad ingredients fight each other to the death.
Intensification of the characters’ actions and emotions illustrates the way “acceptance” of natural bounty produces panic, strife, and death.
These modifications to Góngora’s stories once again historicize Camargo’s extreme aestheticism, suggesting a perhaps inadvertent political undertone in his intensification of the Peninsular poet’s challenge to literary convention. Without allegorizing specific ethnic or regional conflicts per se, Camargo’s cornucopiae replace the Providential illusion of complicity and harmony between producers and consumers with slaughter and fear that remind the reader of relationships sown on colonial lands and peoples by European conquerors. Furthermore, they set these fearful fantasies before a series of inscribed onlookers whose reactions obey a logic similar to the one that operated in colonial political relationships.
The urbane guests who contemplate the slaughter of terrified animals at Ignatius’s baptism banquet “se entre[tienen . en lo mucho exquisito” (I.1.51), their palates “conquered” by the extraordinary bounty of land, sea, and air (I.1.58). Ignatius, observing at a distance the fighting and weeping of the plants composing the serranos’ salad bodegón, “acepta agradecido . del éxtasis cobrado . cuanto el zagal le ofrece,” imagining himself a “Nuevo Daniel . del que Dios le preparó convite.” (II.5.185). Confronted with great suffering alongside tremendous pleasure, the Poema’s characters surrender to pleasure’s power or translate suffering into a gift prepared by God in much the 12 Kathryn Mayers
same way members of European courts and churches consumed the wealth of colonies abroad despite awareness of colonial exploitation. The Poema’s reconfiguration of Góngora’s cornucopiae lays clear the lapse of conscience in these choices. However, while Camargo’s text appears to offer a subtle critique of colonial exploitation, it does not suggest identification with the victims of European providentialism. If Domínguez Camargo’s cornucopiae allude to relationships of fear and exploitation, they do so through the use of panicked creatures of nature who, in their fantastical relationship to harvesters within the poem, still bear only partial resemblance to the real victims of colonialism in seventeenth-century New Granada.
The victims of courtly “gula” in the Poema’s cornucopiae protest only in isolated outbursts (the rooster on behalf of his wives) and take up arms only against one another (the lettuce against the cucumber). They are leaderless, disorganized, and ineffective. But actual seventeenth-century Amerindian and Black resistance to the labor draft was far from disorganized or ineffective: Muisca Chibchas in the eastern highlands of New Granada protested Spanish social control on a community-wide scale; escaped African slaves organized themselves into well-defended palenques from which they mounted raids on Creole plantations to gain recruits (Safford and Palacios 50); and Pijao Indians carried out devastating attacks on Spanish towns that forced them to move or cease to exist (36).23 In fact, the interaction between producers and consumers Camargo stages in his cornucopia minimizes the threat that the victims of exploitation posed to their victimizers.
Instead of replacing Góngora’s providential illusion with something more indicative of the real threat autocthonous forces represented to all who reaped their wealth, it substitutes, again, one fiction for another – the Spanish fiction of a complicitous colonial subject with the Creole fiction of a disorganized and impotent one. This alternate aestheticization suggests the angst of Creole Americans before non-Creole sectors of society. In addition to contesting Creole claims to New Grenadine land and wealth, Amerindians and Afro-Americans were already resisting imperial power without the need for Creole organization, control, or political leadership.
By recognizing how Domínguez Camargo’s ekphrases both evoke and elide diverse sectors of colonial society, it is possible to reevaluate the significance of the Poema heroico in the Colombian national canon. As I mentioned earlier, scholars of the Barroco de Indias have associated texts like the Poema with the articulation of a specifically American point of view and with the critique of imperial models of hegemony. While Domínguez Camargo’s ekphrases do counter a Peninsular image of the Indies with one that expresses a more American point of view, this point of view is representative not of all the different kinds of individuals in the Colombian territory, but rather of a privileged Creole minority concerned with its rights and claims to American labor, land, and political leadership.
Camargo bequeaths a vision of America that lets American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 13
the Amerindian and the Afro-American enter, but only as archeological symbols of American identity, not as actual co-citizens with legitimate political and territorial claims. The fact that twentieth-century Colombian legislation continues this racial hegemonic model of social synthesis24 suggests the power that Early Modern “writing for the eyes” exercised in the national imaginary. In its combination of the “sister arts,” the Poema’s inclusion and elision of details transforms the pleasant illusion of an object’s visuality into a potent metaphor for social space. The visual immediacy of this metaphor suggests its potential to naturalize social differences.
For today’s world, where visual images proliferate at a rate unequaled in history, the word pictures of this text from the Barroco de Indias provide a reminder of the powerful role that art plays in shaping hierarchical relationships between social bodies. NOTES 1 For studies that explore ekphrasis’s links with reality beyond the domain of pure art, see Heffernan, Mitchell, and Becker.
2 By criollismo, I refer to the strategies by which a certain sector of the population in Latin America has “preserved and reproduced a Western cultural legacy, a kind of social organization, a system of distribution of wealth and power that came from the Iberian Peninsula and has benefited Europeans, Euro-Americans, and other Westernized elites since the colonial period” (Bolaños and Verdesio 42). This definition differs from earlier uses of the term to designate a cultural quality of “lo netamente latinoamericano,” of “mestizaje cultural,” or of “calco aparente.” Outstanding examples of recent scholarship on criollismo include Ross, Martínez-San Miguel, and Mazzotti.
3 The Poema was begun in 1630 and remained unfinished upon the poet’s death in 1659. It was first published in Madrid in 1666. 4 In a recent book by this name, Frederick de Armas defines “writing for the eyes” as writing with “a strongly visual component,” an important subset of which is ekphrasis, which “s[eeks] to create unforgettable images . through the use of famous paintings or through fictional art objects that are easily visualized” (10). 5 In 1979, Germán Arciniegas contrasted Tunja, the area where Hernando Domínguez Camargo spent much of his life, with colonial Mexico and Peru, with the following words: “Si el fondo de lo mexicano lo daban las guerras que conducía Cortés desde Tenochtitlán a Honduras, y el fondo del Perú los cuchillos y pólvora de los Pizarros y Almagros, por los lados de Tunja todo eran místicas reflexiones en la muerte, vidas de San Bruno, charlas de cartujos, historias en verso, gongorismos desbordados” (El Tiempo, Bogotá, 1979).
6 Opposition to imperial economic policy took the form of an active contraband trade along much of the Caribbean coast from Riohacha on the east to the Atrato River on the west, and of competition between Peninsularand American-born white farmers for severely depleted indigenous labor in the eastern highlands (Safford and Palacios 39-41). 14 Kathryn Mayers
7 Passages of the Poema heroico where the poet eroticizes Catholic religious figures have led some to postulate that he was dismissed from the Order on account of a poetic scandal, a violation of vows of chastity, or a libertarian ideology.
His penchant for metaphors of luxury and the considerable private wealth he lists in his will and testament have led others to postulate a business scandal. See Hernández de Alba (xxxviiixxxix) and Meo Zilio (“Prologue” xii). 8 Gerardo Diego prefaces his discussion of Domínguez Camargo with a description of the poet’s family’s role in the Reconquest, framing the poet’s imitation of Góngora as both an aesthetic and also a political act (107-8). Emilio Carilla discounts the poet’s celebrations of America and criticism of Spain as merely a bad “aftertaste” or “vice” liable to confuse those who might pay them too much attention (9-10).
9 In his adaptation of Góngora’s critique of the explorer’s “codicia” in Book III of the Poema, for example, Camargo makes subtle changes in vocabulary, word order and pronouns to eliminate any ambiguous pride in Spain’s discovery and to reemphasize, from an American point of view, the greed that occasioned the plunder of America’s mines (Sabat Rivers, “Interpretación americana”). In Books II, III and V he pronounces other diatribes against the motherland, calling Spain a “patria ‘matricida’” who “maltrata a sus hijos.” 10 Georgina Sabat Rivers (Estudios) interprets Camargo’s stylistic imitation of Góngora as a political challenge that made way for mestizo liberation in the nineteenth century.
Lezama Lima likewise views Camargo’s Gongorism as a “discurso de contraconquista” that formed the beginning of an inter-racial and cross-class phenomenon (Lírica 303-7). Others who have interpreted Domínguez Camargo from an American point of view include Gimbernat de González (Espacio), Domínguez Matito, and Torres.
11 The Poema offers descriptions of emblems, portraits of religious figures, religious artifacts, murals, and miniatures. Studies that have dedicated special attention to these descriptions include Cancellier, Colombí-Monguió, Mora Valcárcel, Gimbernat de González (Espacio, Nieto, and Poesía), Pascual Buxó, Pinillos, and Sabat Rivers (Interpretación, Estudios, Barroco, and Lírica). 12 The cornucopia topos has been defined as “the systematic listing in a more or less leisurely fashion of a multitude of different natural products and creatures, such as animals, flowers and fruits” (Woods 83).
The topos intersects with the bodegón, which depicts natural products and creatures as the components of a meal and includes, alongside these foods, vessels and domestic utensils. 13 Sabat-Rivers offers a prosification of this syntactically complicated stanza: “Del [color] del hijo que América, en una y otra mina, engendra del sol, hijo que es el oro luciente, se vistió la clavellina indiana (siendo talar [larga] su mejor hoja), y a su pie torcido [la forma sinuosa de la raíz de la flor y de las venas de las minas] su natal serpiente se destina [se apunta, por comparación]: [el oro] es el Mercurio de los huertos que, si elocuente embajador del Inca, voló a la Europa” (Interpretación 95).
14 The literary characteristics of Góngora’s late poems (the Soledades and the Polifemo) inspired a debate over their genre. This debate was fueled by the poet’s claim, in his “Carta en respuesta,” to have written in a “lenguaje heroico.” On the tension between narrative and ekphrastic description in these poems, see Chaffee.
15 One writer reasoned that, since “su principal asunto no es tratar cosas pastoriles, sino la peregrinación de un Príncipe, persona grande, su ausencia y afectos American Artifice: Ideology and Ekphrasis 15
dolientes en el destierro, todo lo cual es materia grave ” that the Soledades were not pastoral but heroic (Martínez Arancón 141). 16 Smith and Quint both show that Góngora was not the first to challenge the generic doxa of the time. However, whereas other poets counterpose a random or circular wandering to epic’s linear teleology (Lucan’s Pharsalia) or simply invert the pleasure/utility paradigm (Marino’s L’Adone), Góngora strives for a state of generic indeterminacy immune to the policing of literary preceptists – an indeterminacy Smith calls “a performance of ‘unpower’” (93).
17 In the Soledades, this scene is ekphrastic primarily in the classical rhetorical sense of the word: it is a vivid verbal description that reproduces a person, place or thing – still or in motion – before our eyes. In the Poema, this scene becomes ekphrastic in the modern, more restrictive sense of the term: it is the verbal description of a bodegón that includes natural products, creatures, and domestic utensils in an arrangement reminiscent of classical obsonia painted on the walls of Roman villas in the first century A.D.
18 Dámaso Alonso observes that “la visión de América como una tierra fabulosamente rica no abandona a Góngora, ni aun en la ocasión en que más decidida y directamente trata de asuntos americanos” (389). 19 Credit for the expansion of the cornucopiae topos in seventeenth-century Spanish poetry also belongs to Lope de Vega. On Hernando Domínguez Camargo’s debt to Lope, see Osuna. However, whereas Lope’s example encouraged poets primarily to lengthen their catalogues, Góngora’s inspired their imagination and attention to detail (Woods 87-8).
20 The hunters’ parade of wedding gifts in Soledades I 291-334, for example, is only finally laid before the bride and groom and their banquet guests in vv.
852-82. 21 Liberalmente de los pescadores al deseo el estero corresponde . ] 22 This sort of characterization, I would note however, is not the rule in the Soledades, but rather a characteristic of Góngora’s cornucopiae. In his ekphrases, Domínguez Camargo focuses on these passages where Góngora’s styles nature as tender and generous, rather than passages where he styles it as ferocious and unforthcoming. 23 Amerindian and Black resistance to colonialism was in fact so effective that English pirates formed alliances with resistance leaders to facilitate their raids on Spanish-controlled ports (Palacios Preciado 170).
24 Columbian legislation celebrates pre-Columbian Indians in the Museo del oro and the almacén artesanal while downplaying the rights and resistance of their present-day descendants in the llanos and the tugurios. WORKS CITED Alonso, Dámaso. Estudios y ensayos gongorinos. Madrid: Gredos, 1955. Becker, Andrew. The Shield of Achilles and the Poetics of Ekphrasis. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995. Beverley, John. “Sobre Góngora y el gongorismo colonial.” Revista iberoamericana 7 (1981): 33-44.
16 Kathryn Mayers
Bolaños, Alvar Félix, and Gustavo Verdesio, Eds.
Colonialism Past and Present: Reading and Writing about Colonial Latin America Today. Albany: State U of New York P, 2002. Buxó, José Pascual. “Hernando Domínguez Camargo: Los fantasmas de la materia y del espíritu.” Ensayos de descubrimiento y colonia. Ed. M. Antonieta Gallegos Ruiz and Alfonso González. Toluca: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, 1996. 145-54. Cancillier, Antonella. “Un banchetto italiano nell’epica barocca ispanoamericana. L ’esempio de Hernando Domínguez Camargo in San Ignacio de Loyola, Poema heroico.” Soavi sapori della cultura italiana: Atti del XIII Congresso dell’A.I.P .I.
Bart Van den Bossche, Michel Bastiaensen, and Corinna Salvadori Lonergan. Firenze: Franco Cesati, 1998. 27-35. Carilla, Emilio. Hernando Domínguez Camargo. Estudio y selección de Emilio Carilla. Buenos Aires: R. Medina, 1948. Chaffee, Diane. “Visual Art in Literature: The Role of Time and Space in Ekphrastic Creation.” Revista canadiense de estudios hispánicos 8/3 (1984): 311-20. Colombi-Monguió, Alicia de. “Piélagos de voz: Sobre la poesía de Domínguez Camargo.” Revista de filología española 66 (1986): 273-96.
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Diego, Gerardo. “La poesía de Hernando Domínguez Camargo en nuevas vísperas.” Thesaurus: Boletín del Instituto Caro y Cuervo: Muestra antológica 1945-1985. Ed. Ignacio Chaves Cuevas. Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1993. 107-36. Domínguez Camargo, Hernando. Obras. Ed. Giovanni Meo Zilio. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1986. Domínguez Matito, Francisco. “El mitologismo criollo de Domínguez Camargo: comentarios al Libro I del Poema heroico de San Ignacio de Loyola.” Edición y anotación de textos coloniales hispanoamericanos. Ed. I. Arellano and J. A. Rodríguez Garrido. Pamplona: Universidad de Navarra, 1999.
Gimbernat de González, Ester. “En el espacio de la subversión barroca: El Poema heroico de Hernando Domínguez Camargo.” Thesaurus: Boletín del Instituto Caro y Cuervo 37 (1982): 523-43. “ ‘ El nieto ciego de la blanca espuma’: Los emblemas de amor en el Poema heroico de Hernando Domínguez Camargo.” Revista de estudios hispánicos 11 (1984): 153-62. “ La poesía emblemática de Hernando Domínguez Camargo.” Actas del VIII Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas. Ed. David Kossoff. Madrid: Istmo, 1986. 615-621.
Góngora y Argote, Luis de. Soledades. Ed. Robert Jammes. Madrid: Castalia, 1994.
Heffernan, James. Museum of Words: the Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993. Hernández de Alba, Guillermo. “Hernando Domínguez Camargo: su vida y su obra 1606-1659.” In Obras / Hernando Domínguez Camargo. Ed. Rafael Torres Quintero. Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1960. 56-80. Jammes, Robert. Études sur l’oeuvre poétique de Don Luis de Góngora y Argote. Bordeaux: Institut d’Études Ibériques et Ibéro-Américaines de l’Université de Bordeaux, 1967.
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