WRITING AND REBELLION IN PLÁCIDO’S POETRY
JACKIE VERNON WILLEY
Thesis under the direction of Professor William Luis
Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés – popularly known as Plácido – is considered one of the most influential and prolific poets of early nineteenth-century Cuba, yet his works continue to face marginalization from the literary canon. As a free mulatto, Plácido operated within intellectual circles dominated by white elites in an epoch in which Afro-Cubans faced growing repression by the Spanish colonial regime. Not surprisingly, his poetry exemplifies his precarious situation.
With its ambiguities, complexities of meaning, and contradictory messages, the poet’s oeuvre defies singular categorization. His imitation of European forms, praise of aristocrats coupled with trenchant barbs against colonialism and slavery, and consistent identity fashioning underscore the liminal space occupied by a free poet of color attempting to navigate a racial caste system that employed both psychological and physical violence to maintain its power. This thesis places Plácido’s poems within their sociohistorical context to uncover both their multiple subversions of dominant discourse and their tremendous contradictions. Frantz Fanon, Kelly Oliver, and Homi Bhabha’s theoretical contributions toward colonialism, racial violence, and identity formation, as well as James Scott’s political theory of hegemony and everyday resistance, underpin my analysis uncovering camouflaged meanings in the poet’s polysemic texts.
Approved __________________ Date _____________
Approved __________________ Date _____________||