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Great Chiasmus

Word and Flesh in the Novels of Unamuno

by Paul Olson

Publication Year: 2003

"...Unamuno often entertains a view of the universe as an enormous system of embedded and embedding forms, structures nested within other structures in seemingly endless series." -From The Great Chiasmus In The Great Chiasmus, Paul R. Olson explores the use of the chiasmus in the work of Miguel de Unamuno. The chiasmus, a reversal in the order of words or parts of speech in parallel phrases, appears on a variety of levels, from brief microstructures ("blanca como la nieve y como la nieve fria"), to the narrative structures of entire novels, and even, Olson suggests, to encompass the stages in Unamuno's novelistic work. Olson's close readings of the texts in terms of this structure lead to observations on Spanish history, events in Unamuno's life, the psychological dimensions of his characters, and the authorial self found within his texts. The Great Chiasmus shows us how Unamuno uses grammar to reflect apparent contraries as freely reversible and thus identical. In this connection, Unamuno explores concepts usually considered opposites-spirit and matter, word and flesh.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Title page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

My warmest thanks are due to the many illustrious unamunistas to whom I am so deeply indebted, and whose work, bridging the last half of the twentieth century, I have been able only partially to recognize in my text, notes, and bibliography. Very special ...

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Introduction: Chiasmus, Word, and Flesh

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pp. 1-18

The venerable OED defines chiasmus as “a grammatical figure by which the order of words in one of two parallel clauses is inverted in the other.” Its Greek etymon, ...

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Chapter One. History as Presence: Paz en la guerra

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pp. 19-49

As the Tolstoyan echo in its title indicates,1 Unamuno regarded his first novel, based on the Carlist War of 1872–76, as having been created within the great tradition of nineteenth-century historical fiction, and in the prologue to its second edition he ...

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Chapter Two. Invention of the Nivola

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pp. 50-99

In his presentation of the traditionalist/liberal conflict in Paz en la guerra, Unamuno had shown that, like his Pachico Zabalbide, he could be simultaneously conservative and progressive, having both a spiritual need for intrahistoric continuity with ...

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Chapter Three. Novels of Passion: Monsters of Will

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pp. 100-155

When Unamuno wrote in 1923 that the novels that followed Paz en la guerra were set “fuera de lugar y tiempo determinados, en esqueleto, a modo de dramas íntimos” (2: 91), he had already published the greater part of his narrative fiction, ...

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Chapter Four. Lacquer Boxes: Cómo se hace una novela and the Return of the Nivola

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pp. 156-174

In 1914 Unamuno was summarily dismissed from his position as Rector of the University of Salamanca for reasons that Emilio Salcedo (188–90) supposes to be a combination of the indignation of conservatives over the heterodoxy of the recently ...

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Chapter Five. The Return of Intrahistoria: San Manuel Bueno, mártir y tres historias más

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pp. 175-221

The narratives in Unamuno’s last book of fiction are so varied in character, setting, and tone that he felt a need to identify in his prologue the common thread uniting them, which he calls “el pavoroso problema de la personalidad, si uno es lo que es y ...

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Chapter Six. Retrospect: The Great Chiasmus and Beyond

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pp. 222-228

A retrospective survey of these studies of structures and themes in Unamuno’s novels inevitably leads to a review of the major lines of commentary I have attempted to follow in the course...


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pp. 229-248

Works Consulted

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pp. 249-258


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pp. 259-264

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490991
E-ISBN-10: 1612490999
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557532619
Print-ISBN-10: 1557532613

Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures