Ceaseless Languages: José Lezama Lima's Paradiso as a Challenge to the Bildungsroman



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This project argues that the novel Paradiso (José Lezama Lima 1966) is not a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age novel), contrary to popular and scholarly opinion. Instead, it constructs a world of symbols and metaphors, and the only thing that grows in the novel is this world. Every event hints at having numerous possible meanings. Cemí can be seen to grow in terms of the symbols and meanings that construct his world, but this growth is atemporal and age is irrelevant. There is no starting point at which Cemí begins interacting with his world, nor a point at which he matures into an adult. To show how Lezama Lima challenges the idea of a subject who matures gradually and gains self-knowledge, my chapters focus on The Subject in Time, Language and Metaphor, and The Intervention of Desire. Each chapter touches on subjects of childhood, the acquisition of knowledge, and the construction of meaning. I focus on two relationships within the novel: i) The friendship between José Cemí, Ricardo Fronesis and Foción; and ii) The relationship between Cemí and the mystic Oppiano Licario. I adopt an interdisciplinary approach in my thesis, incorporating philosophy of language, psychoanalysis and literary theory in the construction of my analysis. I focus largely on the theories of Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Severo Sarduy, Paul Ricoeur, Gilles Deleuze, Jorge Luis Borges and Friedrich Nietzsche.



bildungsroman, coming of age, literary theory, Cuban literature, philosophy