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Divergencias y convergencias en la literatura transnacional de principios del siglo XX: El caso de Jorge Luis Borges y Miguel de Unamuno

Bilbao-Terreros, Gorka (2009) Divergencias y convergencias en la literatura transnacional de principios del siglo XX: El caso de Jorge Luis Borges y Miguel de Unamuno. Doctoral thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Abstract

This thesis studies the dialogue that occurs between the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Miguel de Unamuno relative to their views on various issues of a philosophical nature, such as the limits of human knowledge or the possibility of immortality. This study is made from a transnational perspective in which the texts are read not as simple representatives of a local context, but as part of a literary dynamic which transcends geographical limits. In approaching the analysis form this perspective, one can observe the way in which, on occasions, both authors’ works follow parallel lines of reason which thereby mutually clarify and expound upon each other. In other instances, although the ideas expressed with respect to certain arguments – particularly that of immortality– originate from opposite directions, these very ideas become complementary and even find some common ground. The introduction to the thesis sets out a dual approach that has served as a methodological framework to this investigation. Thus, the proposed approach combines perspectives from both comparative and transnational studies which will facilitate the inclusion in the study of concepts derived from different philosophical, literary, cultural and religious sources. This is followed by the core of the thesis which is divided into two parts. The first part consists of two chapters that are dedicated to the analysis of the relationship between the Borges’ and Unamuno’s literary texts and Kierkegaard’s and Schopenhauer’s philosophical works, placing special emphasis on the interest that Borges’ and Unamuno’s texts have in the notions of knowledge –of both the self and the universe– and on the existence of the subject. The first chapter revolves around the study of the existing relationship between the Works of Miguel de Unamuno and the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. A brief section is dedicated to the explanation of some of the fundamental notions of Kierkegaardian ideology, paying particular attention to what he understands as the three principal states of individual development: the aesthetic (in which responsibility is rejected), the ethical (responsibility is accepted), and the theological (one achieves closeness to God). Through this explanation of Kierkegaard’s approaches, one can observe the way in which the analysis of certain Unamunian texts in the light of these parameters will offer new and intriguing shades of meaning. Thus, the concept of accepting responsibility that is so prevalent in Kierkegaard’s works will reveal Augusto Pérez from Niebla as an aesthetic, liminal or Romantic character who feels alienated by his surrounding reality and aspires to iii escape this alienation and embrace a more complete, more ethical existence. The notion of responsibility to others and to oneself is also key in understanding the tortured nature of don Manuel in the novella Don Manuel Bueno, mártir. Don Manuel’s ethics are challenged by the conflict generated between the internal and the external. At the same time, this conflict will help to elevate the moral stature of another character in the story; Angela Carballino. Finally, the notion of a ‘leap of faith’, which according to Kierkegaard is necessary in order to arrive at the theological stage of development, will become fundamental when studying how brother Juan confronts his difficulties relating to divinity and the infinite. If the analysis of the existing relationship between the works of Unamuno and Kierkegaard will permit a broader comprehension of the key ideas in Unamuno, such as personal evolution, the relationship with oneself, reality and divinity, then the study of Borges’ and Schopenhauer’s works, as presented in the second chapter, is equally beneficial. In this chapter, after another brief presentation of some of Schopenhauer’s basic philosophical concepts, one will be able to observe the way in which Borges incorporates these into his stories –however, sometimes subtly modified. The idea of Schopenhauerian will plays a fundamental role when configuring the relationship that man maintains with himself and with the universe in texts such as ‘La forma de la espada’ or ‘ La escritura del dios’, and thereby illustrates the importance of universal causality in certain Borgesian works. The story ‘Deutsches Requiem’ is particularly revealing in this aspect as this narrative acquires a fundamental presence of the notion of a ‘moment of clarity’; an instant in time and space when a human being is capable of modifying the inevitable universal causality through choice. The second part of the thesis, also divided into two chapters, revolves around the study of the creative dialogue between both authors’ texts in relation to two particular issues; the limits of human reason and the challenge of eternity. The first chapter of this part delves deeper into the previously mentioned interest that Unamuno and Borges exhibited in their writings for the relationship between the individual and the universe. Knowledge is fundamental to this relationship, which is problematic due to the limits that reason imposes upon human beings. This chapter will focus on the manner in which both authors’ characters face the inability to comprehend their surrounding realities whilst attempting to satisfy the need for knowledge. There are two main consequences in the search for knowledge: death, at the hands of another or self-induced, or the hopeful resignation to a future where the truth will be revealed. Both Borges’ and Unamuno’s characters throw themselves into the search for wisdom propelled by identical motives. They experience similar moods and suffer the same negative consequences. However, a small number of Borges’ characters are able to go one step further than their Unamunian counterparts and end up in full possession of the knowledge they seek. The result is deceiving as these characters, upon achieving universal wisdom, lose their very essence, thereby demonstrating that human beings are unable to comprehend the ultimate mysteries of the universe. The creative dialogue studied in this third chapter is based upon Unamuno’s and Borges’ communion of perspectives on the fact that humans suffer from the impossibility of absolute knowledge. In this dialectic, Borges’ texts complement Unamuno’s and offer another perspective of the topic in question by introducing new elements to the debate and arriving at the same conclusion. iv Through a narrative dialogue, the second chapter of this part studies how Borges’ and Unamuno’s positions on the afterlife, although seemingly opposite, actually complement each other and even share some common ground. Initially, both authors’ texts play with two completely different perspectives on the existence of the individual in eternity. Unamuno’s texts plead from the very beginning for the need of a human to access an individual immortality in which the personal conscience is preserved at all costs. In spite of the fact that there exists a certain flexibility with regard to the preservation of individuality after death in Unamuno’s texts, their insistence upon perpetuating one’s own conscience separates them from Borges’ narrations. In these texts, passing into eternity is described as collective experience in which an indispensable condition must be observed at all times; the complete dissolution of the individual conscience. These two perspectives on human existence in the hereafter do not only complement and illuminate one another, but also find a point of middle ground in one of Unamuno’s most classic propositions; the concept of intrahistoria.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures
Departments, Research Centres and Related Units:Academic Faculties, Institutes and Research Centres > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Refereed:Yes
Status:Unpublished
ID Code:1279
Deposited On:16 Dec 2010 11:48
Last Modified:03 Aug 2012 09:35

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