Literary post-avant-gardism: what it is, how it arises and its main features


What is post-avant-gardism?

It consists of a literary movement that developed in Latin America after the avant-garde movements, also known as vanguardism, from which a series of literary currents emerged as a reaction to the historical and social events taking place in different parts of the world. Post-avant-gardism emerged in the mid-twentieth century, around the 1940s.

What is post-avant-gardism

Thus, post-avant-gardism was considered as a movement of aesthetic advance before the proposals of the avant-garde authors. This is because it established a series of theoretical considerations in which several ideas of poetry were rejected, especially classical poetry, consolidating itself as an anti-poetry. In this way they developed a poetry in relation to the notions of avant-garde poetry, however, they were not opposed to modernism as the previous movements.

Meaning of the term

The denomination is associated with the attitude taken by the poets in relation to the avant-garde movements. Thus, experts consider that these writers are in charge of assuming a rupturist language that will soon begin to be projected directly to the reality of Latin America.

Emergence of literary post-avant-gardism

Now, as for the emergence of the movement, between 1940 and 1950 a series of new names for literature in Latin America began to appear. Thus, poets born between 1915 and 1930 will gain recognition within the literary world and will be called post-avant-garde because they begin to adopt a language of rupture in their creations, receiving some values of the previous avant-gardes.

Many experts have referred to the post-avant-garde poets as universalists, since they express a social conscience in relation to Latin America, in addition to a much more critical attitude towards the mentality of their time. Thus, from 1950 onwards, the intention of classifying themselves in the “isms” was left aside, as well as the attempt to copy the models of Europe and looking for new channels for the development of poetry in America.

When Latin American writers become aware of their continental reality, literature will begin to reflect the concern for taking ownership of elements of their own culture and environment, which will later enrich poetry with important contributions, among them, the multiplicity of meanings and bringing attention to the literature that was being produced in this area of the world by local readers.

Development of post-avant-gardism in literature and poetry

One of the most important features of the movement within the development of literature and its advancement has to do with the use of irony and humor as elements for the transformation of information. Through these resources, poets began to create a testimonial poetry or poetry of denunciation, as it was also known, through which they could show a constant concern for the future of humanity.

It is important to take into account that post-avant-garde writers were often close to both surrealism and existentialism, which is why they rejected all those structures that conditioned poetic language and marked it as anti-poetry.

On the other hand, in their development they highlighted elements such as the use of styles that lacked exaggerations or ornaments, preferred to resort to historical and autobiographical themes, sought the truth, exalted the differences between social classes, used a popular language, expressed customs and cultures of their place of origin, included local media and, in general, took their gaze to their own regions, a central aspect of this movement.

Characteristics of post-avant-gardism in literature

Now it is time to move on to review a series of key features about what was considered literary post-avant-gardism, which laid the groundwork for new experimentations within literature, from which other works and processes later emerged. Let’s see:

Use of humor

Among the most important characteristics of post-avant-garde literature is the use of humor, but also of other resources such as irony. This is because poets used it in order to transform political, social and even historical information.

Permanence of subjectivism

One of the aspects that most distinguishes this movement and its closeness to previous avant-gardes has to do with the permanence of subjectivism, since this movement preserves it. In particular, an irrational but also anti-historicist subjectivism of the avant-garde movements is maintained. In addition to this, the breakup of the structure of poetic language is expressed, especially in existentialist and surrealist poetry.

A local perspective

One of the most important axes on which the literature of post-avant-gardism develops has to do with the poets’ gaze. They stopped trying to imitate the model of European literature to take their gaze to the place of origin of Latin American poets, which is why their texts express a relentless search for truth, as well as highlighting fundamental aspects of their social and political context, including censorship, problems between social classes, history, culture, among others.

Frequent themes

According to this intention of leaving aside the European models and focusing on their regions, the themes will revolve around reality, which will become their initial starting point. Through this, the poetry will begin to take in an important amount of information in relation to criticism, politics, society and history itself. However, this information will be presented from resources such as those mentioned above, in such a way that it will transform and present it through testimonies that include irony and humor.

Structure of the poem

In search of eliminating the established structures in poetry, the poets of post-avant-gardism create a “structure” which they called “open work”. This proposal consisted in the creation of poetic forms that included a great variety of meanings in which it is the reader who contributes the meaning through his interpretation and imagination.

Free language

Experts described the language of post-avant-gardism as “rupturist” language, given that post-avant-garde poets did not adhere to a thematic order in their creations and often altered the syntax. In this way they were creating a much freer language in which the reader must resort to his imagination for his reading, which will give rise to various meanings within the texts.

Most important authors of literary post-avant-gardism

Most important authors of literary post-avant-gardism

One of the most important representatives of post-avant-gardism was Octavio Paz, a Mexican poet who mentioned that the movement manifested a non-conformism that had not been present in the avant-garde movements of previous years. That is why post-avant-gardism is often related, also, as a critical literature. On the other hand, other authors are José Lezama Lima from Cuba, Nicanor Parra and Gonzalo Rojas from Chile, also Cesar Vallejo, Mariano Brull, Emilio Ballagas, Celestino Gorostiza, Nicolás Guillén, Amanda Berenguer, José Juan Tablada, Pablo Natura and Jorge Luis Borges.

As for the main works, there are Escalas melografiadas, Fabla salvaje, Más allá de la vida y de la muerte, Hacia el reino de los Sciris, El vencedor by César Vallejo, Libertad bajo palabra and la Estación violenta by Octavio Paz, Dador, La fijeza and Enemigo rumor by José Lezama Lima, among others.

If you want to know more about other literary movements, don’t forget to visit our Literature section within “Types of Art”. There you will be able to access a great amount of information related to this artistic expression, which has had so many stages throughout its evolution.