Approaches to Iberian Cultural Studies

by Jose Ignacio Alvarez Fernandez (Volume editor)
©2019 Monographs XII, 204 Pages


This collection of essays is an interdisciplinary approach to Spain's contemporary literature and culture. The present essays examine literature, poetry, film, and history as well as cultural giants (e.g., Francisco de Goya, Luis Buñuel) that became icons of Spain as a whole. Ultimately Approaches to Iberian Cultural Studies is an inquiry into the social, cultural, and political shifts that affect how, what, and why individuals, groups, and societies remember and forget. This book would be a valuable addition to scholars and students interested in the exploration of Spanish literature and culture through the optic of interdisciplinary studies.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Agradecimientos
  • Preface (Jose Ignacio Alvarez Fernandez)
  • Chapter 1: Goya and Money (An exercise in materialist biography) (Luis Fernández Cifuentes)
  • Capítulo 2: Goya, el primer guion de Buñuel: con anticipación de su madurez creadora (Victor Fuentes)
  • Chapter 3: Tracing Ghost Stories: Phantasmal Memories and Hauntology in Manuel Rivas’ O lapis do carpinteiro (José Colmeiro)
  • Chapter 4: La otra parte del espejo: Memory and the Reader in Alberto Méndez’s Los girasoles ciegos (James Mandrell)
  • Chapter 5: Performing the Memory of Trauma in Madrid: Palimpsests of the Spanish Civil War, the Transition, and Global Citizenship in the Commemorative Discourses of March 11 (Francie Cate-Arries)
  • Capítulo 6: Del paraíso edénico a un mundo cívico: la dimensión ética de Cántico de Jorge Guillén (Sandra Barriales-Bouche)
  • Capítulo 7: Memoria, historia y nostalgia en Días del desván de Luis Mateo Díez (Jose Ignacio Alvarez Fernandez)
  • Chapter 8: Urban Fortunes: Spatializing the Community of Money in Alex de la Iglesia’s La comunidad (Malcolm Alan Compitello)
  • Chapter 9: Palindrome and Chiasmus in Medem’s “Arctic Circle” (Marta Villar and T. Jefferson Kline)
  • Chapter 10: Where the Wolf Sleeps: The Representation of Spain’s Anti-Fascist Guerillas in Montxo Armendáriz’s Film Silencio roto (2001) (Mary S. Vásquez)
  • Contributors
  • Series index

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Este conjunto de artículos no hubiera sido posible sin la inestimable ayuda del Consulado de España en Boston. Quiero dar especialmente las gracias a los cónsules don Carlos Robles Fraga y don Pablo Sanchez Terán, cuyo patrocinio económico hizo posible que se celebrara Voices, serie de conferencias interdisciplinarias sobre temas relacionados con el mundo hispano que se llevaron a cabo a lo largo de cinco años en Emmanuel College, Boston. Especial mención merece también la colega y directora del departamento de Lenguas Modernas de Emmanuel College, la doctora emérita Arlyn Sanchez Silva, quien siempre me apoyo y me animó a seguir adelante para llevar a buen puerto este proyecto. No quisiera finalizar mis palabras sin dejar también constancia de mi agradecimiento a Josef Kurtz, Professor of Biology and VicePresident of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer of Emmanuel College, and Lisa Stepanski, Professor of English and Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Science, y a todos los compañer@s de mi departamento y de otros que en mayor o menor medida participaron y contribuyeron en la realización de las ponencias. Desafortunadamente, no todas ellas aparecen publicadas en este volumen ya que no trataban propiamente sobre temas relacionados con los estudios de este volumen.

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Emmanuel College

Dear reader, this book has been a long time in the making. Based on a series of colloquia I have organized at Emmanuel College under the title of Voices, the final product of it, the book you have in your hands now, took what seems to me—and definitely to my admired and patient authors— too much time to finish. I wish I could say the delay was due to a labor of love; it was not. Reasons being too ordinary to deserve to be mentioned in this short introduction. Nevertheless, here is the book finally. Fresh from the press and still, I believe, offering relevant questions and insights on the topics it alleges to explore.

With a cadre of important scholars drawn from universities near the Boston area and beyond, the original Voices series conferences were intended to engage students and faculty of Emmanuel College and the Colleges of the Fenway consortium in conversations related to the Hispanic world, in general, and to the Iberian Peninsula, in particular. The essays chosen for this collection, penned by well-known specialist, represent an interdisciplinary approach combining in a varying degree Literary Studies, Film Studies, Memory Studies, Urban Studies, Social Studies, and Performance Studies to Spain’s contemporary material culture.

The most numerous essays on this collection are those that seek to elucidate the effects of tyranny on the material culture produced in Spain after its rapid transformation—during the mid-seventies and early eighties of the twenty century—from a dictatorship into a pluralistic, parliamentary democracy. A dramatic ← xi | xii → transformation, it must be said here that so many people find this period faulty in its inception, that was brought up without civil war, revolutionary overthrow, or defeat by a foreign power.

The essays by Jose Ignacio Alvarez Fernandez, Sandra Barriales-Bouche, Francie Cate-Arries, Jose Colmeiro, James Mandrell and Mary S. Vasquez are, literally as well as metaphorically, a denunciation of Franco’s regime and of its deleterious effects on the Spanish democratic society. The cultural and artistic productions studied by these articles challenges the country’s present obliviousness—one of the harmful byproducts of the country’s unusual transition to democracy—by exposing the existence of traumatic memories with which democratic Spain has not learn yet to deal with in a successful and restorative fashion.

A small group of the essays of this book has the late 18th and early 19th centuries Spanish giant artist Francisco de Goya as its main subject. Luis Fernandez Cifuentes author a study on Goya’s social and economic worries as shown on the letters—fully concern with money and luxury—addressed to his friend Martin Zapater. The article by Victor Fuentes traces the vicissitudes of Luis Buñuel screenplay on the Aragonese painter. His article underscores Buñuel’s filmic procedures and themes and point out to interesting coincidences. Both artists were from Aragon, deaf, stubborn, and possessed by a critical and piercing look interested in representing the oneiric creatures that the vigil of reason engenders, committed both to understand and show the world and life through images, painted in one case, filmed in the other.

Last but not least, is a series of articles dedicated to contemporary Spanish films. Malcolm Compitello’s essay explores the relationship between community, space and capitalist enterprise in post-Franco Spain through the analysis of Alex de la Iglesia’s movie Common Wealth (2000). T. Jefferson Kline and Marta Villar article studied the use of “palindrome and chiasmus” on Julio Medem’s film Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1988). This rhetorical device is used to emphasis the circular story of a narrative characterizes by love, faith and destiny.

I would like to finish this preface reiterating my thanks to the contributors of this volume for their trust and endurance, to the Emmanuel’s colleagues that help to bring to fruition the Voices lecture series, and to my wife for her support and persistence.

Belmont, Massachusetts, April 27, 2019

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Goya and Money

(An exercise in materialist biography)


Harvard University

Goya’s letters, particularly those to his friend Martín Zapater, have largely disappointed the enthusiasts and the scholars of his artistic production. The letters are numerous but provide surprisingly few and ostensibly uninteresting insights into the conception and realization of his paintings. At best, the letters have been read as specimens of a particular genre, repositories of sexual intrigue, both homo- and hetero-sexual, or transparent but partial documents of certain customs of the bourgeoisie during the waning of the Enlightenment and the transition to Romanticism.1 Moreover, readings of this kind, acute as they often are, tend to limit themselves to a few fragments of the letters, for the fact is that, by and large, Goya’s surviving writings are mostly about money: earning money, spending money, lending and borrowing money, saving and investing money, settling and re-settling accounts, requesting payments and asking for salary raises, all noted down in unabashedly exacting detail. In this regard, there is at least one statement in Goya’s letters that can be taken at face value; when he writes to Martín Zapater concerning their incessant money transactions: “apuntalo todo que yo también lo ago” [take note of everything; I do the same] (Cartas 207).2

To be sure, social etiquette—then as now—restricted talk of personal finances to occasional conversations with family and close friends.3 Goya’s remarkable intimacy with Zapater can, to some degree, justify his prolix discussions of money, but that circumstance alone cannot account for a larger issue: that the omnipresent ← 1 | 2 → consideration of monetary matters becomes the one verbal, factual and ideological trait that brings both unity and complexity to the entire body of Goya’s writings. Moreover, it ultimately—and, perhaps, inevitably—casts an unexpected light on the history, visual and aesthetic configurations, and details of some of his better-known paintings, drawings and prints.

A contradiction surrounds economic or financial discourse during this period. On the one hand, sociologists like Craveri and Hellegouarc’h observe that, during the 18th century, the Enlightenment’s mounting sense of freedom and transparency affected in several ways time-honored traditions in social etiquette, and conversation expanded to include a great number of previously unacceptable topics. Apparently, money was not one of them. Craveri points out that “in fact, there were many things which could not be discussed, either because they were uninteresting, like private or domestic matters, or because they were dangerous, like religion or politics.” Salon conversation was expected, above all, to be witty and entertaining, cheerful and polite, which excluded almost automatically such a clearly domestic, cheerless and/or political matter as money or economics (Craveri and Hellegouarc’h 345). On the other hand, though, it is during the late Enlightenment that detailed references to the financial status of an individual and to the economic underpinnings of his or her life found their way into modern autobiography—even before Rousseau’s Confessions inaugurated this genre in 17824—; such references even appeared to become an essential part of autobiography, in some cases at least. Torres Villarroel, who, in the context of the proto-bourgeois economic mores of 18th century Spain, has much in common with Goya, started publishing his Vida in 1743, three years before Goya was born and twenty-four before Rousseau completed the first six books of Les Confessions. In the first installment or “trozo,” Torres rushes to explain not only that he writes his autobiography in order to make money with his life before any unscrupulous biographer does—“si mi vida ha de valer dinero, más vale que lo tome yo que no otro” [if my life is to be worth money, I’d prefer that I get the money and not someone else] (Torres Villarroel 58)—, but also that “yo soy autor de doce libros y todos los he escrito con el ansia de ganar dinero para mantenerme. Esto nadie lo quiere confesar” [I am the author of twelve books and I have written all of them in an effort to make money to support myself. No one wants to confess this] (ibid 71). From that point on, Torres’s relationship with money becomes—in a way similar to Goya’s financial concerns in his letters, although less comprehensively so—one of the few sustained and structural threads in the complex tapestry of his autobiographical writings.

At first sight, both Torres’s and Goya’s understanding and management of money appear to fit comfortably within the economic tenets of the 18th century bourgeoisie, as described and interpreted by so many 19th and 20th century ← 2 | 3 → historians and sociologists, from Sombart to Simmel, from Veblen to Maravall. Sombart, for example, whose prototype of the bourgeois is Benjamin Franklin (127), draws the paradigm of bourgeois virtues mostly from Franklin’s The Way to Wealth (1758): steady work, industry, professional pride, rigorous accounting and, most importantly, the will and the ability to save and stay out of debt. Torres and Goya declare repeatedly and convincingly that their money is exclusively the product of their unfailing commitment to their work. Torres writes: “mis zurrapas astrológicas me dan de comer sin daño de tercero y me divierten sin perjuicio de cuarto” [my astrological smudges keep me fed without causing injury to any third party, and they entertain me without harm to any fourth] (Torres Villarroel 185) and, in another moment, that “mis calendarios me bastaban para vivir” [my almanacs were sufficient for me to make a living] (Torres Villarroel 198). In April of 1785, Goya writes to Zapater: “nos hallamos precisados á ganar el sustento con nuestras obras sin tener sueldo ni auxilios” [we find ourselves obliged to earn a living with our work without a salary or financial aid] (Diplomatario 264). In March of the following year he is more specific: “no tengo más que tú, pues en todos mis trabajos no tengo más con acciones, banco y academia que doce o trece mil reales anuales, y con todo estoy tan contento como el más feliz” [I don’t have more money than you, as with all my work I have no more, with stocks, bank, and the academy’s salary, than twelve or thirteen thousand reales a year, yet all in all I am as content as the happiest man around] (Diplomatario 268). To such happiness contribute well-balanced accounts, reasonable savings and, especially, punctual payments of debts: “no deber nada, que me gusta mucho” [not to owe anything, which greatly pleases me] (Diplomatario 253). This situation will change for both of them, apparently for the better: excelling at your work brings fame, and both fame and hard work, along with good administration, bring wealth, just as Franklin’s handbook had contended. Torres can then boast that “iba corriendo mi vida como la del más dichoso, el más rico y el más acompañado” [my life was proceeding like that of the happiest, wealthiest, and most befriended man] (Torres Villarroel 165); and later on: “Soy, en esta Universidad [de Salamanca] y en todas las de España, el doctor más rico, el más famoso, el más libre, el más extravagante, el más requebrado de las primeras jerarquías y vulgaridades de este siglo” [In this University [of Salamanca] and in all the universities of Spain, I am the wealthiest doctor, as well as the most famous, the most independent, the most extravagant, the most flattered by both the higher and the lower ranks of this century] (Torres Villarroel 232). Goya will declare in turn (in what may be read, on the one hand, as a manifesto of the emancipation of the modern artist from “patronage” and, on the other, as a testimony of the blooming market of luxury commodities): ← 3 | 4 →


XII, 204
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (February)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XII, 204 pp.

Biographical notes

Jose Ignacio Alvarez Fernandez (Volume editor)

Jose Ignacio Alvarez Fernandez is Associate Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Modern Languages Department at Emmanuel College in Boston. His research interests center on the relationship between literature and history and its intersection with memory and trauma in contemporary Spanish literature. Alvarez Fernandez’s scholarly publications include Memory and Trauma in the Testimonies of Franco’s Political Prisoners (2007) and Franco’s Prisoner: Anarchists in the Struggle Against the Dictatorship (2010). His edition of El crimen de Cuenca, a novel by Alicio Garcitoral, is forthcoming. He has also authored research articles on a variety of subjects and has taught courses on Spanish language and culture, on contemporary Spanish novel and on Hispanic film.


Title: Approaches to Iberian Cultural Studies