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Optical Melancholy. Fin de Siècle’s Decadence and 20th Century’s Mechanics of Vision in the Poetry, Painting and Photography of José María Eguren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019

King's Authors


This essay studies the poetry, painting and photographic work of Peruvian Jose Maria Eguren. It offers the first interdisciplinary analysis of Eguren’s varied works and poetics understanding them as a whole, locates Eguren within a process of cosmopolitan cultural modernity wider than that presented by literary studies, shows ways in which early twenty century artistic productions transition from romantic fin de siècle concerns into mass media and technology. Specifically, this study explores the role of the senses in Eguren’s literary and visual works, analyses his understanding of the phenomena of vision and visuality during a period in which visual technology and the Avant-garde seemed to have left behind the 19th century, and discusses the subject of literary and visual melancholy from an early 20th century point of view. It addresses the concept of fantasy and argues that Eguren, instead of presenting fantasy and melancholy as Fin de Siècle’s Decadent phenomena, treats and explains them as processes of human understanding and thought closely linked to both the dynamics of optics and contemporary visual technology. It focuses on the role played in the construction of Eguren’s poetics by, both, his conception of the biomechanics of optics, and the ways in which the culture of his time took part in the ways in which one saw, interpreted and gave form to what was seen.

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