Date of Award
This essay examines how two twentieth-century memoirs––the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti’s La Arboleda Perdida and the Portuguese poet José Gomes Ferreira’s Calçada do Sol––attempt to access the structurally lost experience of childhood rather than to represent realities contemporaneous with childhood. This structural loss is defined according to the triangulation of experience, imagination, and knowledge present in Agamben’s critique of modern epistemology. For the child-protagonists, imagination, a cognitive tool by which the child acquires knowledge, is embedded in their experience of the world. Both the adult “characters” within these texts and the two memoirists suffer from the modern attitude that imagination, as an unscientific, irrational mode of knowing, interferes with the practice of categorizing the world as an object of knowledge. These two modes of experience are referred to as, first, the “imaginative mimesis” of the child-protagonists, for whom mimetic behavior is paradoxically rooted in the imagination; accordingly, the memoirists’ attempts to imitate the original mimetic gesture of their child-selves are referred to as “second-degree imaginative mimesis.” Finally, the adult writers, by way of the narrative structure of these texts, sincerely acknowledge the failure of second-degree mimesis to access the world as originally experienced by their child-selves.
Oliveira, Emily, "Imaginative Mimesis: Childhood Experience in Rafael Alberti's La Arboleda Perdida and José Gomes Ferreira's Calçada do Sol" (2022). Comparative Literature M.A. Essays. 10.
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