7 jun. 2005

I've noticed that most narratives of Spanish literary history revolve around concepts of insufficiency and belatedness. For example:

Spain's "enlightenment" was insufficient, and thus Spain never developed a culture of modernity. The consequences are seen even today, in that Spain is not as "European" as the rest of (Western Europe.)

The transition to democracy was insufficient because of the lack of an enlightenment tradition. (the "Subirats hypothesis").

"Postmodernism" in Spain is insufficient and superficial because Spain never had a great enlightenment tradition of modernity.

Romanticism in Spain was insufficient and superficial. It took Luis Cernuda--a 20th century poet--to bring a more profound, Hölderlinian romanticism to Spain.

So basically, I have as my field a literature defined by its problematic relationship to modernity, expressed as a narrative of insufficiency and belatedness. The original sin is not having an enlightenment in the first place. This failure, in turn, stems from the act of reconquering Spain from the Moors and expelling the Jews and later the remaining Arabs. Then setting up the inquisition and resisting Protestantism. Stamping out Jewish and Islamic-tinged mysticism in favor of orthodoxy.

So there are two narratives, really. One, on the left, celebrates anyone who (exceptionally) fights against the central anti-modernization at the heart of Spanish history. Blanco White, Larra, Américo Castro, Cernuda, Goytisolo. The other, on the right, celebrates the achievements of empire and Christianity.

2 comentarios:

A.R.B. dijo...

Very interesting post, Jonathan.

I normally tend to disagree about ?formal? doctrines of enlightenment and modernism. They tend to dismiss underground movements, especially in oral traditions. Spanish poetry may have lagged during inquisitorial and dictatorial periods but the underground has always been present in Spanish letters and the arts in general. (Not so in the sciences where Spain has always lagged behind because that requires $$$$. As simple as that.) But while that may have affected production quantity it has not affected quality, in my opinion, where one Valente or one Gamoneda are worth a hundred poets. Gamoneda, in particular, is exceptional in maintaining his own voice despite vogue and fashion. Additionally, what is not taken into consideration is the diversity of voice in Spain. That has also affected production whereas in Galicia, Euskadi and Catalonia voices were also officially muffled for centuries or apparently so, though in fact not. Regardless, that is no longer the case and I may venture to say that regional poetries today are probably more enforced and of greater quality and quantity (per capita) than national establishment poetry which concentrated far too much energy on confessional styles (though some of high quality). That?s intriguing whether one agrees with it or not, considering the apparent disconnectedness in tradition. But somewhere, somehow, the connection remained whereby new generations simply took the baton, perhaps invisibly, as though no historical break occurred at all.

Good post.

Jonathan dijo...


Gamoneda is my main man. I'm the first to write about him in English, one of the first to translate him. I wrote a detailed analysis of Libro de los venenos which will come out in my next book of criticism. Of course, Valente is also dear to me. I have written a lot on him. Do you know Claudio Rodríguez-Fer, Alberto? He's up in your neck of the woods. He's helped me out with some Valente research.