“Yo, peregrina del amor,
quiero besar la piedra de su tumba
(“El poeta pone punto final a lo escrito,” Diván y el ópalo de fuego, Clara Janés, 122).

In her canonical study of women’s voices in contemporary Spanish literature, Sharon Keefe Ugalde informs us that symbolism in various writers’ works has consistently been re-categorized toward the realm of “cursi” writing vis-à-vis the lens of the phallocentric (or the perspective which views the male as superior to the female, man superior to women, and thus, men’s writing more profound than women’s) (Ugalde, “Conversaciones” ix). Essentially, as part of an existing critical apparatus we observe that sexually-charged and / or sexualized literatures in Spain have become synonymous with our growing understanding of the discourse of power. Among a series of female and male writers grappling with these and related themes, Ana Rossetti’s poetic voice has given rise to a better developed comprehension, on the part of both critics and a more general readership, of the effects of movement toward equality in all senses for all genders and sexes in the country during the post-Franco era. As such, this essay serves first to highlight the strategies by which Rossetti utilizes natural and mystical symbols as references not only to the female body but also to the discourse of female sexuality. In doing so her verses also expand this more well-known deconstructive apparatus to include the rewriting of the male body and of the male/female binary master narrative suppressing the general body politic. Her poetry has ultimately served as a metaphoric and meta-cultural reflection on the embodiment of ideals of female liberation and social re-empowerment in 1980s Spain. Another well-known poet, Clara Janés, seems to see liberation as a total experience of the mind and body. Her poetic voice combines elements of the anti-hegemonic stance in Rossetti’s verses (in this case, the perspective which stands against a hierarchy of power with men at the top) with a strong pull toward a mystical voice. The second focal point of this study will be, then, to analyze Janés’ verse. Here it will become evident that both poetic approaches incorporate diachronic elements (i.e., elements whose significance evolves over a period of time) which support the deconstruction of a male-dominated hegemony which, in turn, finds itself in the process of its own liberation from its own biased foundational mythos.

In previous scholarship, it has been possible to identify a clear mystical process in Iberian poetics of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in the works of Clara Janés, Jesús Jiménez Reinaldo, Blanca Andreu, as well as several Portuguese poets such as Joaquim Pessoa and Vergílio Alberto Vieira. Such a process is based largely on the symbolism present in Saint John of the Cross’ and Saint Theresa of Avila’s poetry and prose. These, in turn, find their root in the Sufi mystical writings of the 11th and 12th Century Iberian philosopher Ibn Árabi. “[Con base en los comentarios sobre su misma obra poética] … Ibn-Árabi exhibe una concepción del lenguaje muy próxima a la de San Juan de la Cruz; se sale de su propio sistema de concordancias; cae en constantes incongruencias gramaticales; tiene versículos totalmente independientes entre sí; infla hasta el infinito los posibles sentidos de sus vocablos” (López Baralt 200). (“[Based on his own comments on his poetic work] … Ibn-Árabi exhibits a very close concept of language to that of Saint John of the Cross; he leaves behind his own subject-verb matching; he falls into constant grammatical incongruences; he has verses which are totally independent of each other; he inflates the possible meanings of his words to infinity”; my trans; 200). Symbols such as the heart, fire, water, and darkness all find their root in this Sufi mystical work (238-41). In sum, the elements of the search for illumination, both in Golden Age writings as well as in those of the postmodern and anti-essentialist tendencies of the contemporary period, hinge on the pseudo-Platonic notion of a binary division between the mundane and divine worlds, the leaving of the former and movement toward the latter, the joining with the “guide,” of the opposite sex (Corbin 162–64), with whose spirit one joins in a space, designated as a “garden” (López Baralt 276–77) or a “house” (Nurbakhsh IV: 74), depending on the particular text (and representing the “heart,” or space for divine mystical contact (Simon, Understanding 106)) so that the now united, and genderless, mystical seeker may make contact with the divine spirit and, thus, find illumination. In the poetic expression of such a process, “[un reconocido símbolo de la iluminación] … es la del alma en estado de unión concebida como jardín” (López Baralt 276). (“[a recognized symbol of illumination] … is that, conceived as a garden, of the soul in a state of union”; my trans; 276). In any case, it is this genderless state which has given the mystical process such a prominent stance in recent years; Rossetti’s poetry takes advantage of the symbolism involved in such a process so that, and in particular when compared with that of Janés, the same notions of equality and relativized master narratives make apparent their transcultural fluidity.

Yet it is also necessary to look at their work in its sociopolitical context. Beyond the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and the birth of the new democratic and “liberal” Spanish State (beginning in 1978 with the approval of a new constitution), one could continue to characterize societies in 1980s Spain as still suffering from the social and psychological wounds of the Franco regime. In particular, the regime’s repression of women and, even more so, of women’s ability to form and possess their own identities in all respects succeeded in becoming part of the new culture despite laws and the introduction of practices to suppress those identities. As the country’s government continued on a more progressive, pluralistic, and liberalizing path, the more aged populace revealed itself as slower to catch up. This is shown in the type and level of acceptance of more contemporary art forms up to the early 1980s Madrid. “For years, Spaniards’ attitude to modern art had been … [a] blend of majority hostility and minority enthusiasm … But at some point in the early 80s it underwent a profound change” (Hooper 327). Essentially, the populace regained its respect and admiration art in general; beyond speaking of plastic arts, literary expression during this period also lent itself to an acceptance of both outside influence and a desire to break with the previous generations’ censored voices. This renovation of re-initiation of the Spanish capital as the site of “the creation of new forms of collective identity based largely on a culturally vibrant present” (Stapell 346) allowed for the rupture with the past to coincide with the critical, yet always hopeful, outlook toward the country’s future. It is in this context that Ana Rossetti began her literary career.

Born in 1950, Rossetti grew up during a period of relatively relaxed censorship and came of age in an historical period marked by “a lack of historical perspective, uncertainty regarding the future” (Debicki 179). Her ironic undermining, through a carefully utilized sexual imagery, of cultural “master narratives” concerning the phallocentric (211-21) allows for a deconstruction (through carnavalesque inversion) of the culture of male-dominated hegemony (213). In an interview with Yolanda Rosas, Rossetti herself spoke about the dichotomy of male and female in terms of sensationalism versus sexual gratification for its own sake: “Siempre se ha dicho que la mujer tiene la sexualidad repartida por todo el cuerpo, sin embargo, la de los hombres está en el sexo” (Rosas 637). (“It has always been said that women have their sexuality spread throughout their bodies, and yet, that of men is found only in their sex”; my trans; 637). Such a myth and its obvious consequences become a central part of Rossetti’s deconstructive capacities, in particular when directed toward the fallacy of male-active dominance in sex (implying, of course, that a woman will simply enjoy the passivity of “being taken”). The poetry of Ana Rossetti, one of the members of the now famed “movida madrileña” movement in early 1980s Madrid, utilized a unique combination of classical references to the female body and contemporary contexts of sexual liberation and freedom of expression in order to deconstruct the discourse of male hegemony prevalent in Spanish societies of the time. In deconstructing one body, Rossetti manages to reconstruct the ideal of the body via new, non-traditional norms. These serve to bring a critical eye toward the antiquated ideal of the cisgender male as dominant and active, the cisgender female as passive, and the non-cisgender population as erred, heretical, or non-existent. “By presenting the eroticized body as a coded of ambiguous gender, Rossetti … heighten[s] our awareness of the artificiality of the gendered and heterosexual erotic stimulus …” (Kruger-Robbins 167–68).1 As such, it is evident that Rossetti’s poetry moves beyond the better recognized feminist message into a more broadly defined notion of artistic and social rewriting of gender norms.

Not only does the body itself take on an essential role in the poet’s verses, the spatial and temporal context becomes critical to the deconstruction and subsequent reshaping of the male/female dichotomy’s authority and, as such, rhetorical prowess. The male / female, public / private, exterior / interior split finds itself under intense scrutiny in Rossetti’s work, complicated further due to its range of erroneous suppositions and inability to express a more contemporary worldview. In reference to contemporary work’s effect on the reader’s psyche, one could say that “la vida de la metrópolis se convierte en una amenaza para el orden patriarcal” (Castro 142), and hence moving beyond a personal or intimate rewriting of the self’s place in a deconstructed world toward the rewriting of that world’s effect on the self. “Since the mid-1980s, the Spanish poet has had an interest in images, ranging from consumer icons to classical figures, and she has used such visual texts to subvert traditionally male-centered erotic poetry” (Demeuse 203). This deconstruction of the male poetic body then served as a basis for a newly found female physical and social empowerment. The efforts of writers such as Rossetti, then, must be to “hacer un modo de hacer del espacio un lugar propio” (Castro 143) for the female poetic body and, insofar as the synecdoche holds, the female subject in Spanish society.

In her volume Indicios vehementes, poems such as the well-studied and recognizable “Chico Wrangler” reveal the inversion of the male-female, or dominant-submissive, relationship model in the context of a foreign advertisement (Ferradáns 25):

Dulce corazón mío de súbito asaltado.
Todo por adorar más de lo
permisible. Todo porque un cigarro
se asienta en una y en sus jugosas sedas
se humedece. Porque una camiseta
incitante señala
de su pecho, el escudo durísimo,
y un vigoroso brazo de mínima manga sobresale.
Todo porque unas piernas, unas perfectas piernas,
Dentro del mas ceñido pantalón, frente a mí se
separan. Se separan. (Rossetti, Indicios vehementes 99)

In this single-stanza poem, the inversion of male hegemony is evident. The application of additional aesthetic meaning to a popular object whose purpose is entirely commercial (that is, to gain customers and make money) indicates another, very postmodern aspect of Rossetti’s work. That is, the marking of an absence of universal meaning (Moreiras Menor 108). Although quite a bit less overtly erotic than previous poems (López de Abiada and Wili 438), her work also demonstrates the emphasis on Spanish culture as having become one of “spectacle,” in which the viewer seeks out appearances but not meaning (Moreiras Menor 108). Decentralization occurs, then, through deconstruction of ultimately superficial and vacuous icons, such as the advertisement for pants, as indicative of a superficial and vacuous culture. Ironically, it is this emptiness which points toward, according to Rossetti’s poem, a mark of Spanish cultural identity in the wake of Franco’s death (Mira 11).[1] The combination also remits to the tendency toward pastiche, represented here as a very stylized reaching toward a sublime notion of love via the male figure and simultaneous, empty eroticism of a commercial image. The fact that the woman’s gaze falls upon the male figure emphasizes a shifting of roles in the poem, as Rossetti’s female poetic subject becomes the active participant in the exchange. “Rossetti … is not afraid to explore and to discover still unknown areas of her self [sic]. She does so by adopting an enormous variety of possibilities, playfully adopting different costumes and roles … Through losing herself in the identity of the other, she finds herself ever more clearly” (Mudrovic 98). The self-reflectiveness needed in order that the overt subject / object hierarchy be reorganized as a male / female inversion may then also be linked with the idea of the gaze itself, not into the other but into oneself.

It has been recognized that “the seductiveness of the bodies in Rossetti’s poetry derives from their conformity to cultural models of eroticism, even when their gender or sexual orientation departs from the norms of these models” (Kruger-Robbins 171). This follows both a trend in literature in general during this period as well as that of the poet’s own evolving thematic, although making itself explicit via the perspective of the heterosexual author (Mira 446).2 The male image then serves as a cultural icon for her erotic deconstruction of his authority as both male and iconic.

Yet even the “cultural models” may not conform to what the existing iconographic or cultural hierarchy would expect. Within Rossetti’s poetry it is possible to view another tendency, one which the work of other Iberian poets such as Clara Janés, Jesús Jiménez Reinaldo, Joaquim Pessoa, and Vergílio Alberto Vieira has revealed. As discussed above, mystical symbolism pervades the verses of these poets as part of the deconstruction of social hierarchies as well as a possible route for rediscovering some sort of latent essentialism in the postmodern context. The case of Portugal’s Joaquim Pessoa, for example, takes advantage of the established poetic discourse which inverts traditional sociopolitical symbols and messages, removing them from their position of power. Pessoa then replaces the semiotic of hierarchy with one of mystical union, illumination, and a somewhat Platonic (in remembering the return to the cave from Plato’s Republic) desire to return to the people to aid them in the same quest for knowledge (Simon, Understanding 132–34). Joaquim Pessoa’s Os Olhos de Isa and À Mesa do Amor, in particular, offer this possibility within also the revolutionary spirit of his earlier work: “[The mystic] … possesses the capability of fulfilling the destiny which Pessoa assigned to him … in aiding those who cannot or do not see the true face of the world and guiding them to their freedom” (Simon, Understanding 129). Here the erotic symbolism gives a face to the end of the mystical process as well as the possible return to the world of the mundane in order to serve as “guide” for another.

Returning to the present study and our focus on Rossetti, such a relatively new tradition incorporates erotic symbols (such as the naked body, the lips, and the acts of kissing, embracing, and at times descriptions loosely similar to more intimate acts) as part of the discourse. These poems then denaturalize them by re-ordering them within the framework of a poetic subject seeking illumination (similarly to poems such as “La noche oscura del alma” by San Juan de la Cruz, or Santa Teresa de Ávila’s descriptions of intimate spiritual ecstasy which would accompany her most lucid mystical experiences). The reader may find this process within Rossetti’s verses.

A poem from the work Punto umbrío (1996) aids in elucidating the presence of the body as a point of contact for the themes of mystical union and deconstructive eroticism[2]:

Y así, cada minuto, se alarga en lentos
flotando en el vacío
y la raya que marca el término del día
es un infranqueable y elástico tabique.
Y el diablo, con su lengua vibrante, inducente,
su lengua aljofarada de insidias y tristezas,
su lengua fulgurante como un lirio escarlata,
como una onda, dúctil, pero tan decisiva
como la trayectoria de un arpón;
su lengua, me enloquece.
Si esto es lo que te espera, si esto es ya para siempre,
él me dice,
si esto es lo que le resta al resto de tu vida,
él me dice,
¿merecerá la pena?
año tras año, así, ¿resistirás?, me dice.
Pero mi voluntad no consiente en plegarse
a la razón del tiempo y su artificio
ni se deja atrapar por las prórrogas
que estiran pesadillas, por feroces pantanos
de la imaginación, por convenios impuestos
al destino, por esta incautación
de toda mi existencia.
Mi albedrío, consiste en poder desertar. (Rossetti, Punto Umbrío 17–18)

Despite the work’s evident distancing from the explicit eroticism of Rossetti’s earlier poetic collections, expressive moments such as this one serve to remit to this universal topic in her poems. Essentially, the poem above takes advantage of a variety of symbols, these having been taken directly from the lover’s body, to concretize the feeling of potential abandonment (whether on his or her part) on the part of the poetic subject. The crazed, ecstatic state of the poetic subject in reference to contact with the male lover’s body (ex., “su lengua, me enloquece”), coupled with the unmarked changes between the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person subject positions in the same statement (“Si esto es lo que te espera, si esto es ya para siempre / él me dice”) creates both an expressive tension and a space in which the body serves two distinct functions. One function seems to be that of point of reference for the metaphoric explanation of the link between the erotic act and the eroticized body; the other may then be as a referential space for deconstruction of the male lover’s questionable hegemonic position. Hence, the reader may also feel the resonating spatial relations from a mystical discursive construct, in other words, by utilizing the body of the lover as a place for greater understanding, the poetic subject finds a comfortable moment in which to seek out comprehension of her dual role as seeker of knowledge and seeker of freedom. In this manner, the poetic subject retains the ability to “poder desertar,” or abandon, the situation whenever she feels the need or desire. The notion of desertion as part of a mystical context is always a secondary consideration in, for example, Saint John of the Cross – the first stanza of his “Dark Night of the Soul” (“La noche oscura del alma”) states the intentionality of the act of leaving for the famous encounter, rather than the necessity of such an encounter.[3]

So far it has been possible to suggest evidence of a mystical symbolism via the deconstructive, corporeal images in Ana Rossetti’s verses. This polysemy does not happen in isolation, however; other poets in this period have revealed similar tendencies, as mentioned previously in this study. One of the more recognized poets among them is the Catalan poet Clara Janés.

Janés’ work as a poet and novelist has become synonymous with mystical and postmodern women’s writing. Born in Barcelona in 1950 to Josep Janés, a well-known book publisher at the time, his death in a car accident the following decade would leave an emotional mark on Janés which only her poetic expression would begin to heal. In doing so, she has created a poetic of the analytical with the mystical, viewing and treating the body as a source of pleasure and illumination. Deconstruction, as far as Janés’ poetry is concerned, stems not from an absolute demolishing of older norms but of incorporating diachronically opposed elements in order to build upon the existing world a better one. In other words, her verses do not destroy; rather, they create and make flourish a better space for the accumulation and analysis of human knowledge.

Much of the criticism surrounding Janés’ earlier poetry stems from Ugalde’s interpretation based in Kristeva’s notion of the “chora,” or origin of life and creation (Ugalde, “Huellas” 203). Janés herself has stated that her chosen symbolic system is that of Iberian mystical origin, which according to her began with the mystical poetry of San Juan de la Cruz (Ugalde, “Conversaciones” 45) and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, among many other poets (Ugalde, “Conversaciones” 45–47). It is also possible to view mysticism as a unique, unrestricted, and defining concept in Janés’ poetry. The stages of “purgation,” “illumination,” and “union with the Absolute” coincide with those present in the prose of Santa Teresa de Ávila (Marson 245), San Juan de la Cruz’s mentor. The most important aspect of this mystical discourse, at least for the analysis below, will be the root of Santa Teresa and San Juan’s mystical symbolism, that of the 11th and 12th Century Sufi mystical scholar Ibn-Árabi; studies have proven the concrete and irrefutable link between this philosopher and the mystical figures mentioned above (López Baralt 11). In other volumes such Tres poetas persas contemporáneos (2000) and Fractales (2005), she has either translated verses from Persian and Arabic-speaking poets, and / or continued to incorporate their traditions into her own. Such a transnational approach to her poetry both distinguishes her poetic voice as more inclusive and, as is the case for Rossetti, creates a new, critical space from which to reinterpret gender and other social norms.

Yet as readers we cannot forget the anti-hegemonic elements in Janés work; indeed, these set the stage for the present comparative study. The manifestation of myth and mysticism surfaces as an attack on the patriarchal and phallocentric hegemony through the presence of elements borne from non-Christian (and, thus, non-Western and, by extension in the criticism concerned, non-phallic) themes (Newton 110). As we will see, this point of commonality between Janés and Rossetti will guide our understanding of the presence of the mythic and mystical in their work as part of a larger process of a contestation, through literary expression, of the aforementioned phallocentric hierarchies present in late 20th century Spain.

In order to exemplify the points above, in the poem “Soy la abeja” from Creciente Fértil, the female poetic body acts as a sexually charged being whose pleasure it is to pollinate, and thus impregnate, the male figure. This obvious inversion of the active/passive, male/female relationship in traditional cultural models happens vis-à-vis a re-tasking of the moment of sex as part of a larger mythical story:

Soy la abeja enviada en pos de ti, ¡oh Telipinu!
En ebrio vuelo emprenderé el acoso;
tomaré cera y lavaré tu cuerpo
melado como el ámbar;
te picaré en las manos y en los pies,
despertaré insolente tu capullo
y podré al fin libar.
Y de una gota desataré una fuente
con labios deslizantes,
cubriéndote a batidas
hasta enjutar tu orto,
para que te sometas
exangüe a mi dominio. (Janés, Creciente Fértil 24)

This poem appears in the aftermath of the deconstructed state of the male discourse. The female poetic voice appropriates the figure of the bee, a traditional symbol of male fecundity and fluidity. Telipinu, whom Janés mentions as the mythical son of the Goddess Auriga (Janés, Creciente Fértil 11), transforms into the passive object to be touched, rather than the one who extends himself actively in the physical act of touching (and, in this context, causing pain for) another. The intersection of love and pain (i.e., the poetic subject’s act of stinging him) as the path to purification (as “exangüe” to her dominion) may also stem from Santa Teresa de Ávila’s designation of the major steps in mystical illumination as described above.

The supposed dichotomy of elements of Christian Neo-Platonic mysticism and Pre-Judaic Middle-Eastern mythology do not actually exist in binary opposition to one another. This means that they are not able to support the type of contrast in opposition needed so that Janés’ poetry may produce the effects discussed above. This effect may be found more explicitly in Janes’ later works, such as Diván y el ópalo de fuego (1996).

The collection narrates the myth of Leila and Majnun, lovers who must challenge social norms of their time and place (approximately late medieval Syria or Iraq) in order that they may realize their desire for one another. It mirrors some elements of Romeo and Juliet and the officialized discourse of La Celestina, although without the family squabbles or murders, and culminates in the death of Majnun for the sake of Leila (who, in turn, does not die, unlike the personages in the above-mentioned stories). Similar to that of Creciente Fértil, the body imagery and power relations between the female and male protagonists invert the relationship which the phallocentric master narrative would expect of them. Within the context of this anti-hegemonic retelling of the story, the images presented, borne as mystical symbols, lend themselves to such an epistemological rewriting.

In the third section of the work it is possible to observe a plethora of such examples. The “Poema del encuentro,” which describes the sexual experience between the two lovers, reveals a series of images closely related to those seen above:

Se cruzaron sus ojos
y ambos cayeron desplomados.
Enmudeció la voz del ruiseñor
que unía sus alientos
y se estremeció el bosque.
La selva insaciable se llevó a Machnún
y en el rostro de Layla
vanos fueron el agua
y el perfume:
un árido horizonte borró
el diurno esplendor de las rosas
y ocupó su memoria. (Janés, Diván 40)

The idea that the lovers “fall deplumed” (Simon, An Iberian Search 160) refers to the idea of Leyla as the divine bird, a frequent symbol in mystical discourse. In this sense, and given the union of bodies the reader avidly observes in the poem, both lovers are referred to implicitly as birds, signifying their purity of spirit (a necessary requirement to reach “Wajd,” or ecstasy (Simon, Understanding 80)). Also, the image of the nightingale’s voice, a force which combines the lovers’ individual act of breathing into a single, combined action may be taken directly from Sufi poetic tradition; as stated in existing criticism on Sufi imagery, this figure symbolizes the “Universal Body” (Nurbakhsh IV: 145) which the now united lovers represent metonymically. Furthermore, that breath’s silence may imply that the impure world, or Khalq in the mystical tradition (again, as spelled out in existing criticism), melts away; the characters’ approximation to the pure world, or Haqq, becomes the only viable conclusion the reader may reach. Also, the idea that the figures of both water and perfume are “in vain” in the eighth and ninth verses is also charged with a mystical semiotic. Water represents existence in a general sense (24). The statement that water leaves the garden may serve as a reference to ephemeral existence leaving the space where the mystic(s) may attempt(s) to attain illumination. Perfume as a useless element also has, by its mere presence in the poem, a more profound significance: “The need for perfume, or a scent applied onto the body but not forming an intrinsic part of it, would also logically disappear, as did that of Majnun’s clothing [as appears in a poem studied previous to this cited comment in its original source], since neither perfumes nor colognes are necessary in the context of Leyla’s absolute beauty” (Simon, An Iberian Search 160). The “arid horizon,” or the desert, appears at the poem’s end erasing the garden from Majnun’s vision and memory. Majnun may not have reached the purity of union, away from the carnal existence of the flesh, in order to reach an illuminated state. Nonetheless, the peeling away of color and exact form, leaving behind only the spirit and the knowledge of a sparse, meaningless physical world, become the ultimate goal at this stage in his mystical journey. In terms of an anti-hegemonic approach, the reader must remember that Majnun cannot hope to attain such a space without the spiritual guidance of the female; the corporeal union of the two, then, reduces the male body to a mere spectacle of a greater illusion to be, itself, removed for the sake of divine purification.

This entire section of the collection, titled “El loco,” describes the sensations associated with Majnun’s wandering the desert. He is essentially insane with love for Leyla, and spends most of the period writing poetry in her name. One poem of special interest, “De cuando Machnún partió al desierto,” describes his entrance into his self-imposed desert exile:

Arde de amor Machnún
y el desierto se quiebra en manantiales.
Las aves hacen nido en sus cabellos
y las bestias le siguen y custodian
su templo, carne viva,
su corazón, que es ópalo de fuego. (Janés, Diván 49)

As Majnun becomes closer to nature, a consequence of his erotic mystical process as seen in Vivir and repeated here, we see the description of his heart as the “Opal of Fire,” from which the book takes its title. It should be of interest to the reader that the heart, or “qalb,” is the space from which the enlightened mystic may achieve divine illumination (Nurbakhsh IV: 108). A conflict appears which, although a shift from traditional mystical processes, also serves a deconstructive function. Given that Ibn Árabi had stated that “qalb”[4] was borne of the divine feminine’s heart transforming into “Alam-al-Mithal,” or the intermediary space in which the lovers’ spirits may achieve “Wasl,” or union (Falconar 61), the notion that this heart could be born from the male body contradicts the process. In this more contemporary, and contextually postmodern, retelling the process whereby Majnun’s heart transforms is due entirely to his love for Leyla; indeed, she does not appear as a secondary figure to the male but as an equal, one whose body (as an active participant in their meeting) forces the change in his. He could not have become “the crazy one” without her, nor would have been able to take part in the Sufi mystical process without Leyla serving as catalyst. Thus, “qalb” is borne from the combined love of Leyla and Majnun. That it becomes realized within Majnun, rather than within the female heart and / or as a distinct entity beyond the bodies, or souls, of either lover, is of primary importance to the notion of anti-phallic deconstruction.

A comparison of each author’s more overt mystical and anti-hegemonic expression may yield a better understanding of the possibilities each writer’s works offer the reader. Rossetti’s focus on taking a clearly anti-phallic stance via her various poetic voices diligently encompasses a socially oriented perspective at first. In later works (as exemplified above) her poetry begins to focus on individual, intimate notions of identity and body awareness by way of an intertext written as the two bodies become one. Janés, on the other end of the spectrum of deconstruction and mystical essentialism, has built a series of poetic subjects whose stronger mystical tendencies take on many of the characteristics of an anti-hegemonic and anti-phallic discourse. The union of the female and male in an erotic/spiritual ecstasy, for example, does not shun the deconstructive; rather, it incorporates deconstruction into a discourse of binary transforming into non-binary.

The presence of the female subject in her corporeal, intertextual, mystical, and mythical representations signifies a true maturation of Spain’s acceptance of views on the feminine and its place within the greater society. Concomitantly, as Rossetti’s poetic subject denatures, and thus demystifies, the master narrative of the male/female binary, this voice progresses toward further deconstruction of the male, heterosexual subject as an abject form of expression for such a hierarchy. An explicit and palpable mystical resonance in the poetry of these two internationally recognized, canonical writers only supports this more balanced literary view. In essence, this process of reclaiming the female body and re-tasking the male body via mystical symbolism and the endeavor to illuminate adds yet another re-conceptualization of what steps the literary voice in Spain had taken toward a more equality-driven epistemology in the late 20th century.

  1. Mira notes that only after the “movida” period did a more internally borne voice on life in Spain for homosexuals become a more widely-accepted artistic mode (447).

  2. It should be noted that in works such as Punto Umbrío (1995) (a work which also appears in this study), Rossetti’s poetic voice becomes more inwardly focused in an effort “to re-establish the connection between art and pleasure” (Mayhew 143). Also, in a later article, Jill Robbins notes that the figure of the transvestite also serves to bring conscientiousness concerning the falsity of the heterosexual erotic binary (Robbins 140) on the part of the reader.

  3. In trans-literary and comparative terms, the corporeal nature of the erotized mystical process (such as that seen above) happens also in a somewhat unlikely place – Manual para Amantes Desesperados (Note 3) (Eng., Manual for Desperate Lovers, my translation) by the Angolan historian and poet Ana Paula Tavares:

    “[In the work] … the female poetic voice finds an attempt to consolidate the notion of self based on the connections between what appears as the intimacy of physical love and a notable transcendence of fluid spatial and temporal relationships … This awareness of the self’s otherness, or the poetic subject’s implicit alterity, when coupled with an approximation to a resonance of what we may classify as a mystical experience and a simultaneous distance from the essentialism common in a mystical discourse.” (Simon, “Love” 82)

  4. It should also be noted that the term “qalb” is not capitalized in texts describing Sufi mysticism, despite the names of various steps in the mystical process having upper-case names.