Monthly Archives: June 2014

More on Whiteness

I was surprised to discover that the ratio between white and blue in the first one thousand lines of Nájera’s poetry I scanned ( blanca/blanco 0.26328016 vs.     azul/celeste 0.06194827) was incredibly consistent with the results I got using about four thousand lines (see previous post). The first 1,000 were from poems written between 1882 and 1886.

I decided to convert Nájera’s corpus from plain text to a TEI format. So far I have been mining the poems as if they were a long text, not as individual poems. Adding a <date> tag to each poem allows me to group texts by year. I was hoping to discover an interesting pattern in Nájera’s use of colors. However, the number of tokens varied greatly from year to year, not nly because I have only scanned one third of his poems but also becasue possibly due to the demands of his journalistic duties, Nájera’s poetic output from around 1888 to 1895 was sparse. This is, of course, a common problem when having such a small data set.

In the graphic below, azul (including azul, azules, azur, celeste) appears at the beginning of his career (1877) and again towards the end (1895). Blanco (including blanco, blanca, blancos, blancas, blancura), on the other hand, consistently appears throughout the years.

azulesyblancosGrouping poems by date will also become useful in the future as I try to periodize Nájera’s poetry. Unlike Darío, Nájera never published a single book of poetry and most attempts at organizing his poetry in periods seem arbitrary (See González Guerrero’s preface to Poesías completas [1966], for example).

 

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How Blue is Nájera’s Poetry?

It is fascinating to see how Nájera’s status as a modernista writer has changed since the 1960s. While he used to be considered a precursor of modernismo, critics now see him as full-fledged member of the movement.  One of the first things I wanted to do  for this project was to compile a list of the most frequently used modernista words and see how Nájera compares to other members of the group. Eventually, of course, the main objective is to compare stylistic characteristics–not just words– among modernista texts.

I decided to start with something simple, like comparing Nájera’s and Darío’s use of colors. We all know that, for Darío, art is supposed to be “azure,” but is it blue the most common color found in these writers’ poetic texts?

As it turns out, in Darío’s case there is no surprise. Blue is the most frequently mentioned color in his poems, followed by white.

Dario-azul

The surprise comes when one looks at Nájera’s poems. Even though Nájera is known for being one of the founding editors of Revista Azul, white has a stronger presence in his poetry than blue. In addition, I was not able to locate the word “azur” in any of the texts.

najera-azul

[EDIT: I guess I forgot to add the plurals to the graphics above; adding those would tip the scale even more towards “blanco.”  5/28/14]

 

I should mention than in Nájera’s corpus (much more than in Darío’s) the color white is very often associated with skin color. Does it mean that Nájera’s preference for that color is related to the racial views during the Porfiriato? José María Martínez seems to think so.  In his article “Un duque en la corte del Rey Burgués: positivismo y porfirismo en Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera” BSS, LXXXIV (2007), he says about Nájera’s views on race:

Quizá desde este punto de vista se comprenda también por qué en Nájera el color blanco tiene una presencia tan singular—recordemos su emblemático poema ‘De blanco’—, o por qué prefiere los tipos rubios para los héroes y heroínas . . . No se trata de negar la posible y probable deuda libresca—romántica, prerrafaelita, simbolista—de estos personajes ni de este color, pero sí de reivindicar ese contexto sociológico como marco de una de las notas más perceptibles en la creación najeriana y que habría llevado al Duque a configurar un México literario racialmente acorde a las preferencias suyas y de gran parte de su público.

It is definitely important to stress the ideological closeness between Nájera and the Porfirio Díaz regime, as this continues to be an aspect of Nájera’s work that remains understudied. However, the most striking aspect of the quote above is Martínez’s aside: “recordemos su emblemático poema ‘De blanco’ .”  Now, Martínez analysis of Nájera is excellent and the critic supports his description of the poet’s racial views with brief readings of a couple of Najera’s essays, but in asking his readers to “remember” a specific poem, Martínez is using “De blanco” as a synecdochical representation of all of Nájera’s poetry–a common practice in traditional criticism, I suppose. To say “recordemos su emblemático poema ‘De blanco’ ” is tantamount to say “I do not know the exact numbers, but I know that the color white appears very often in Nájera’s poetic work.” I think that in this case, even a simple text mining exercise as the one I have just performed, seems to support Martínez’s argument.