José Lezama Lima's Paradiso : knowledge and the labyrinth



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In this study Lezama’s Paradiso is “the mysterious labyrinth of the cognitive image,” a metaphor for his search for ultimate enlightenment--knowledge of super nature toward the Highest Good. The Preamble introduces the novel Paradiso as his poetic sum of knowledge generated by the Cognitive Eros like an encyclopedic narrative with revelation at the center. Chapter One presents labyrinth fundamentals and the mythic method to analyze the novel. It identifies a heightened perception or sensation, cognition, and imagination as “new” senses “beyond reason” needed to read this “new other” novel. It also explains how the author’s clues aid comprehension, how the poetic word illuminates a fourfold method for interpretation, and how the double structure of the narrative superimposes a circuitous pathway of multicursal storylines and descriptions of Old World images upon a linear unicursal surface narrative. Chapter Two examines three cognitive images in Lezama’s labyrinth: Confluence analyzes how multiple streams of thought and images flow from chaos into order in the poet’s mind and how the labyrinth’s principle of opposition represents the convergence of contradictory images whose combination will inspire other images. Androgyne or Oneness illustrates the nature of creativity--how symmetrical opposite images unite or copulate to germinate other imagery. Figure and Revelation show Lezama’s use of Scriptural figura to represent the prefigurative sense of his writing. Chapter Three interprets Lezama’s own labyrinthine method and steps for interpreting Paradiso derived from his scrutiny of “the other” analogous novel, Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela. The study concludes that Paradiso delivers Lezama’s Delphic Course, a systematized literary orientation based on the belief that each text transmits wisdom. The protagonist/reader undergoes Anthropophany, is transformed into a learned interpreter and a higher self toward manifestation in the image of the Word/God. With the author-protagonist as mentor Paradiso proclaims Lezama’s ideal program of cultural, intellectual, ethical, and spiritual formation of the individual after the classic Greek Paideia, parallel to the way of purification and redemption achieved through the Paideia of Christ. Finally, the text embodies Lezama’s crusade to restore Cuba as a bridge for cultural exchange and development between the Old World and the New World.