Jose Garcia Villa: Vicissitudes of Neocolonial Art-Fetishism and the “Beautiful Soul” of the Filipino Exile
The publication of Jose Garcia-Villa’s Doveglion: Collected Poems by Penguin Books in 2008 is remarkable not because it reveals a renewed interest in Villa’s work (as Luis Francia claims in the introduction of the book) but because it presents the nostalgic posthumous return of the repressed. Francia, a Villa critic, fails to situate the poet in the context of the Philippines’ neocolonial status. Francia’s mapping of Villa’s trajectory as a poet is teleological; it elides those historical contexts that allowed US imperialist power to dominate the Philippine political economy in certain periods. Timothy Yu, a Chinese-American Stanford scholar, contends that Villa is a “universal” writer whose mastery of the “imperial” language is impressive, not unlike Conrad’s or Nabokov’s. Both critics’ evaluations, in fact, reify the poet as a transnational figure, belying the Philippines’ neocolonial status. In the face of criticism that rests easy with a pat labeling of the poet as a proponent of “art for art’s sake,” what this paper suggests is a reading of this artistic practice as a symptom of the bourgeois artist’s alienation from neoliberal globalization. In reading this as a symptom, I wish to frame Villa’s work around conditions of possibility that are responsible for the resurrection of Villa as a classic.