restricted access Chapter 5: Beyond Castro and Maravall: Interpellation, Mimesis, and the Hegemony of Spanish Culture
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138  5 Beyond Castro and Maravall: Interpellation, Mimesis, and the Hegemony of Spanish Culture Anthony J. Cascardi With certain notable exceptions, Hispanism in the twentieth century labored under the reputation that it was a backwater of literary and cultural studies. For reasons that seem at once very old and very new, Spanish studies outside of Spain long seemed to lag at some significant pace “behind” that of cognate fields. If there is reason to hedge this broad-based claim, it is not so much because the picture inside Spain was so very different but because some of the relevant perspectives were. While it may seem too familiar a historical truth to bear repeating, the development of Hispanism in the twentieth century was burdened by two rather ponderous weights. One was the legacy of Franco, the last major dictator of the World War II era to remain in power in Western Europe, and the other was Spain’s ongoing attachment to the “problem” of its own past. But that attachment was at least as old as Quevedo, who was already writing about Spain’s decline at the height of the Golden Age. And yet Quevedo was as given to exaggerated boasting about the prestige of Spanish culture as he was to talking about Spain’s decline. In either case, his literary posture was bound up with ideas about Spain’s cultural hegemony, whether in the form of hyperbolic praise, as in his claims about the antiquity of the Spanish language relative to all other modern tongues, or in the form of elegiac lament about the demise of *MoranaFinalPages.indd 138 12/1/04 7:13:19 PM BEYOND CASTRO AND MARAVALL 139 Spain’s cultural dominion, as in the famous sonnet “Miré los muros de la patria mía.” Quevedo’s contradictory stance is remarkable, but its divided vision is not atypical. Even in the twentieth century, Spanish writers and intellectuals sought to reinforce images of Spain’s cultural hegemony by strenuously defending against notions of decline. Often that defense took the form of efforts to separate and preserve a core of things purely “Spanish” from those not. Vigorous attempts to resolve the “problem of Spain” often masked a much deeper traditionalism whose key points of reference were the Middle Ages and the Golden Age. Little wonder that Menéndez Pidal devoted massive efforts to a historical reconstruction of the Spain of the Cid, that writers of the Generation of ’27 mounted a literary campaign to “return” to the poetry of the baroque, or that both Miguel de Unamuno and José Ortega y Gasset produced major philosophical works oriented around Don Quijote. But attempts to fortify an essential Spanish identity could not easily come to terms with the cultural and ethnic contradictions of what Spanish “national” culture was comprised nor could they adequately represent the many regional interests that remained in contention despite the political unification of the country. Likewise, the task of articulating the relationship between Spanish cultural nationalism, the politics of Absolutism, and the Spanish imperial project remained on the margins, even while it was often said that the twentieth-century “crisis of Spain” was precipitated by the loss of Spain’s last remaining colonies. It is more or less well known that the formation of a Spanish “national identity” was staked on the political suppression of the differences among the various cultures, languages, races, religions, and histories that came together on the Iberian peninsula. The elevation of the interests that centered in Castile and in Christianity into a national ideology was a crucial part of this process. While these issues reach back at least to the time of the Reyes Católicos, the reactions against them are as current as Basque separatism and the resurgence of Catalan as a regional language on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.Yet in part because the writing of cultural history is typically given to the “victors,” scant attention has been paid to many of these questions in mainstream Spanish studies. This is not altogether surprising. The Franco regime hardly provided a climate in which the critique of ideology and empire could flourish. In spite of the influx of exiled Spanish intellectuals to the United States during and after the Spanish Civil War, Hispanism in the U.S. remained too far removed from the political stakes of these issues and too enmeshed in the practices of close reading and textual scholarship for them to have had much of an...


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