Assistant Professor Mário Vítor Bastos teaches at the School of Arts and Humanities of the University of Lisbon. In addition, he is a Researcher at the Center for Lusophone and European Literatures and Cultures, where he presently coordinates the Research Group on European Literatures and Cultures. He has studied and published on modern literature and arts in the Portuguese and English-speaking worlds. His ongoing research focuses on the revisions of modernism made in the second-half 20th-century Portuguese poetry
“The Critique of Modernity in the Work of Mário Cesariny”
Mário Cesariny (1923-2005) was born in Lisbon. His involvement with surrealism dates from the 1940s, and he only left Portugal for rare occasional sojourns in places like Paris or London. This paper interprets Cesariny as a challenger of the cultural binarism centre/periphery. Cesariny was always conscious of the repressive forces within the aesthetic, social and political domains. This attitude turned Cesariny against official modernist aesthetics. At the same time, he could not adapt his style and thought to the modernist schools united in opposition to the Portuguese authoritarian regime of the time. According to Cesariny, the regressive Portuguese society of the 30s suffused with multiple modernism. However, the post-modernist possibilities of the 40s also proved too limited for him. Cesariny kept the same non-binary stance after 1974, with the beginning of the post-colonial era and the return of Portugal to Freedom and Democracy. His poetry and painting since the 1940s are post-modernist, for similarly to what happens with his approach to the dichotomy centre/periphery, Cesariny aimed at overcoming the relation between modern/post-modern, which he often succeeds in overcoming.
Within this framework, this paper interprets depictions of Lisbon as a post/non-modernist city made by Cesariny and other fellow surrealists. It also delves into Cesariny’s literary criticism to show his awareness of the contexts in which modernism is perceived as a set of highly repressive forms of control and an authoritarian doctrine within the Western-centred cultural tradition, often turning against individual freedom and growth. Finally, the paper briefly interprets how Cesariny’s critique of modernity is in tune with Antonin Artaud’s and George Bataille’s, particularly on the issue of human brutality.