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Cernuda, Luis (1902-1963)  

Luis Cernuda, one of Spain's most important twentieth-century poets, expressed his homosexuality first indirectly and then explicitly in his poetry.

Cernuda was born in Seville, Spain, on September 21, 1902. He was a student at the University of Seville, where he earned a law degree although he dedicated himself professionally to literature. He was also a literary critic and a professor.

Something of a dandy, Cernuda always dressed in elegant clothes. He was a solitary figure, with a somewhat complex and acerbic personality. In earlier criticism of his work, much is made of this "difficult" personality though this characterization may have been in part a rejection of his homosexuality, which was never mentioned directly.

Cernuda is part of the much-praised Spanish "Generation of 1927." For a time, he was obscured by the more famous members of this movement, but recently his reputation as a poet has grown. He is now recognized as one of Spain's most important twentieth-century poets.

Cernuda's awakening to his own sexuality appears to have coincided with his interest in poetry. Through his poetry, he came to accept his homosexuality as an essential part of his being and even to document some of his love affairs. In his early years, surrealism was the means by which he could express his homosexuality directly, but not explicitly; the veils of surrealism enabled him to bypass his own internal inhibitions. Later in life, he would express his sexuality openly.

In his poems, Cernuda is preoccupied with love, which he views always in erotic terms. For Cernuda, desire and sexuality are life itself although social hypocrisy has forced us to deny this truth. The object of his love is often a mere creation of his desire, an erotic ideal.

The poet becomes frustrated when his personal desires confront objective reality although he also senses that what makes the ideal valuable is that it remain unattainable. His romantic failures were seen by him as the result of social hostility toward homosexuality. The only way for desire to become reality would be to create a romantic ideal beyond society's reach.

Cernuda's poetry also speaks of a divided self. The conflict with society because of his homosexuality is translated into a conflict between the self and surrounding reality. Since ideal love is not to be found in another, but rather in the self, the search for love becomes a voyage of self-discovery. This search is particularly poignant for the homosexual, whose love is denied open expression within society. He believes that physical love can help us overcome our sense of isolation and breach the division between reality and desire.

Cernuda saw his homosexuality as a threat to society and accepted the role of the outsider who is justified in attacking those who have violently rejected him. As a young poet, Cernuda was politically committed against a society he found decrepit and deformed. His resentment in part stemmed from the repression he felt within his family and eventually led him to assume the role of exile and rebel. After the Spanish Civil War, Cernuda went into political exile, first in England, then in the United States, and finally, in Mexico. He died in Mexico in November 1963.

Maria Dolores Costa


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Edkins, Anthony, and Derek Harris. The Poetry of Luis Cernuda. New York: New York University Press, 1971.

Jiménez-Fajardo, Salvador. Luis Cernuda. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978.

_____. The Word and the Mirror: Critical Essays on the Poetry of Luis Cernuda. London: Associated University Presses, 1989.

Polo, Milagros. "El erotismo en Cernuda, Alberti y Biedma." Eros literaria: Actas del coloquio celebrado en la Facultad de Filología de la Universidad Complutense en diciembre de 1988. Madrid: Universidad Complutense, 1989. 341-354.

Ramos Otero, Manuel. "La ética de la marginación en la poesía de Luis Cernuda." Cupey 1-2 (enero-diciembre): 16-29.

Silver, Philip. "Et in Arcadia Ego": A Study of the Poetry of Luis Cernuda. London: Tamesis Books, 1965.

Talens, Jenaro. El espacio y las máscaras: Introducción a la lectura de Cernuda. Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama, 1975.


    Citation Information
    Author: Costa, Maria Dolores  
    Entry Title: Cernuda, Luis  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated June 9, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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