Humanities Forum - Jennifer McBryan, "The Rehumanization of Art: Ekphrasis and Expressionism in Luis Martin-Santos's Tiempo de silencio"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 ( 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm )

Location: Morton 324, Stevens Institute of Technology

[email protected]

Humanities Forum, March 5, 2014
"The Rehumanization of Art: Ekphrasis and Expressionism in Luis Martín-Santos’s Tiempo de silencio"

By Jennifer McBryan (Teaching Assistant Professor, The Freshman Experience)

The Spanish essayist and philosopher José Ortega y Gasset published an essay in 1925 called “The Dehumanization of Art and Ideas About the Novel,” in which he argued that modernism, with its increasing insistence on abstract representation, constituted a forward step toward “a purification of art,” a process that entailed “a progressive elimination of the human, all too human, elements predominant in romantic and naturalistic production.” This process, in Ortega y Gasset’s view, carried with it the added bonus that it “segregates from the shapeless mass of the many two different castes of men” – those who understand the new art, and those who do not. Thirty-six years later, the psychiatrist Luis Martín-Santos challenged this theory by means of ekphrastic narrative in his only completed novel, Tiempo de silencio. In several key scenes, Martín-Santos deploys modernist visual aesthetics to undercut Ortega y Gasset’s “sociological analysis of art,” recreating modernism’s visual abstraction in a manner that emphasizes modern art’s capacity to rehumanize the subject’s experience in an ailing society. In examining these scenes in relation to Martín-Santos’s many psychological and philosophical influences, this talk explores the role of abstraction in abetting this Franco-era author’s profound sociological critique during a time of extreme political repression.

Jennifer McBryan is a Teaching Assistant Professor of Writing and Humanities at Stevens. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature and the History of Art from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University, where she concentrated her research on Paul Gauguin’s Ancient Near Eastern influences in Noa Noa.  McBryan currently serves as Director of the Freshman Experience at Stevens and continues to explore the intersections of literary and visual aesthetics in her research.