Spanish professor receives NEH grant to study avant-garde poetry

Renee Silverman, professor of Spanish Peninsular Literature in the Department of Modern Languages, has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to further her research on Spanish avant-garde poetry.

Renee Silverman stands outside the near the entrance to the Fundación José Ortega y Gasset in Madrid in 2013.

Renee Silverman stands outside the entrance to the Fundación José Ortega y Gasset in Madrid in 2013.

Silverman will use the grant to travel to Spain for a year where she will have access to archives and collections in Spain that are not available in the U.S. Her research will be published in a book titled “The Popular and the Traditional in Spanish Avant-Garde Poetry (1925-1936).”

“I see this project as a chance to bridge the diverse Hispanic cultures here in Miami with the cultures of Spain,” Silverman said. “Avant-garde artistic works are often perceived as unfriendly and a bit strange, but in reality, the avant-garde can be very relevant to popular culture, as well as socially and politically engaged. The avant-garde mixes what is considered regional or national with what is cosmopolitan and international in a way that is new and fresh. Yet it doesn’t necessarily have to forget the past and the traditional. The avant-garde pushes the envelope.”

The concept of avant-garde refers primarily to artists and thinkers whose work has a social or political edge, challenges existing cultural values or is experimental in its form. Avant-garde works are innovative and push the boundaries of what is normally accepted with respect to art, literature, music, culture, politics or the structure of society.

According to Silverman, the Spanish avant-garde is comprised of two waves. The first wave (approximately 1909-1925) rejected the traditional in favor of the cosmopolitan and international. In the second wave (approximately 1925-1936), poets such as Rafael Alberti, Gerardo Diego and Federico García Lorca sought to preserve the traditional by blending Spain’s regional and national popular cultures with the international and cosmopolitan art forms of the avant-garde, in order to create innovative and modern sorts of expression.

“Miami is a wonderfully hybrid place,” Silverman said. “My students are very interested in exploring the relationship between Spain and Latin America. I think Spanish avant-garde literature is very appealing to our community because the hybrid makeup of both are similar.”

Silverman earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan. She joined FIU faculty in 2007. Her research and teaching interests include Spanish and Latin American poetry; Spanish and Catalan literature of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries; the Generations of 1898, 1925 and 1927 in Spain; and modernist and avant-garde studies. Her second book, “Mapping the Landscape, Remapping the Text: Spanish Poetry from Antonio Machado’s Campos de Castilla to the First Avant-Garde (1909-1925),” is currently in press.

Comments are closed.