Alexander Selimov, Leonardo Romero Tobar, Spanish romanticism
Professor Romero Tobar is a distinguished scholar of Spanish Peninsular Literature, well known in academic circles for his significant contributions to Hispanic literary criticism, and in particular, to the field of Romantic studies. The reviewed volume is a collection of twenty interpretive essays in Spanish, eighteen of which were published as articles between 1983 and 2006, and two, presented as conference [End Page 383] papers in 2003 and 2008. The volume is divided into four sections: "Sobre el nombre y marcas del romanticismo," "Literatura y sociedad," "Romanticismo y géneros literarios," and "Algunos temas," with the first three carrying the bulk of his critical discourse. The essays are written from a perspective that combines insights from rationalist and historicist approaches, and collectively present the author's views on the development, essence and transcendence of Spanish Romanticism.
The volume opens with epigraphs extracted from a sonnet by Juan Meléndez Valdés and a novel by Ramón López Soler. Both works were published prior to the full triumph of Romanticism in Spain in the mid 1830s, which is indicative of the author's broad contextualized understanding of the processes leading to the development of Romantic aesthetics. The articles are organized thematically and can be read in any order. The first articles focus on the etymology of the term "Romantic" and on the concepts of imagination and fantasy in the early Romantic works. Romero Tobar explains their influence on the emergence of the aesthetics of Romanticism, marked by the transition from the empirical sensualist perspective to the predominance of the creative imagination. Many Spanish intellectuals influenced by pan-European cosmopolitanism attempted to reconcile liberal ideology and traditional Spanish cultural and religious values. Some of them maintained a single stance throughout their lives, and others traded allegiances later in life. José Zorrilla is among those who declared himself a traditionalist, even though his early writings show a strong presence of liberal enthusiasm, including a still unpublished invective against the Pope. As Romero Tobar points out, Zorrilla's claim can hardly be taken at face value, yet his fascination with the genre of "literary legend" rooted in the collective imagination of Spanish people and such rich sources as romanceros and epic poetry, does make a case for his conscientious turn to traditionalism.
The transition toward a profound transformation in the Spanish artistic scene is marked by the theoretical quarrel between the partisans of Romantic aesthetics and the classicists, which consequently, and for a long time, became the obligatory point of departure for literary studies of that period. The interest in classical poetics, however, did not vanish with the triumph of Romanticism, and continued to be present in Spanish literary and critical discourse during the nineteenth century. La Lira de Ébano promotes a holistic approach to understanding the dynamics of the transition from Aristotelian poetics to modern aesthetics. The Romantic movement had a positive impact on Spanish society. It contributed to the formation of modern Spanish identity by fashioning national culture and creating communities of readers. Romero Tobar argues that periodicals played an important role in this process. The two fundamental journals in the history of Spanish Romanticism, El Artista and Semanario Pintoresco Español, experimented with [End Page 384] visual components by incorporating engravings on a much larger scale than ever before. This innovative practice enjoyed great popularity among Spanish readers, and may have contributed to the development of costumbrismo, a new literary trend particular to Spain. The fascination with visual culture in European society takes a new turn with the scientific discovery of capturing still images with Daguerre's method, which makes its way into Spain in the late 1840s. The new technology influences literary discourse on different levels, coinciding with the development of Spanish Realism, and as the author implies, such coincidence may be more than merely accidental.
Romero Tobar argues that activity in periodicals was particularly vigorous among Spanish exiles in the early nineteenth century, keeping alive the modern Spanish literary tradition shaped during...