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Naturalism: The Stimulus for Pardo Bazán’s Artistry with Nicknames

From: Romance Notes
Volume 53, Number 2, 2013
pp. 183-191 | 10.1353/rmc.2013.0012

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The recent study “Pardo Bazán’s Literary Use of Three Uniquely Personal Nicknames: Gedeón, Sureña, and Feíta” (Chamberlin 35-45) has demonstrated that Doña Emilia achieved a sophisticated artistry with sobriquets that differentiated her from her contemporaries, Galdós and Leopoldo Alas. However, this achievement was not immediate. In fact, in her first two novels (Pascual López 1879 and Un viaje de novios 1881) there is in each only very slight utilization of two nicknames. It is not until her third novel, La tribuna (1883), that nicknaming can be considered an important aspect of her creativity. The aim of the present study is to demonstrate that naturalism, especially with its emphasis on human and animal comparisons, was the aesthetic that stimulated the countesses’ interest in and successful employment henceforth of sobriquets. Additionally, we shall show how the women workers of La Coruña’s tobacco factory vented their political opinions through nicknaming, and also how the newspaper-nicknamed, title protagonist resisted animalization by becoming a workers’ advocate.

Before writing La tribuna, Pardo Bazán had become attracted to Zolaesque Naturalism, which stimulated her to write a series of twenty articles between November 1882 and April 1883 for the Madrid newspaper La Epoca. These weekly contributions, drawing heavily on Zola’s critical works Le Roman experimental (1880) and Les Romanciers naturalistes (1881) were collected and published as La cuestión palpitante (1883). Her next step was to follow Galdós’s lead of 1881, when he created the first Spanish Naturalist novel La desheredada (1881), and write her own Naturalist novel.

From the Naturalists, Pardo Bazán learned the importance which members of that school gave to preliminary, precise documentation. Zola is well known for his notebooks of extensive preparatory documentation; however, Pardo Bazán says that “[Edmundo] Goncourt fue el primero que llamó documentos humanos a los hechos que el novelista observa y acopia para fundar en ellos sus creaciones” (Cuestión 233). Thus, as she relates in her Apuntes autobiográficos, Doña Emilia was motivated to spend with the women workers of La Coruña’s tobacco factory, “dos meses mañana y tarde, oyendo conversaciones, delineando tipos, cazando al vuelo frases y modos de sentir” (74).

Like other Naturalists, Pardo Bazán had great sensitivity to the brutal, denigrating conditions of most nineteenth century workplaces. She affirmed that “El verdadero infierno social a que puede bajar el novelista […] es la fábrica. […] ¡Pobres mujeres las de la Fábrica de la Coruña! Nunca se me olvida todo lo bueno instintivo que noté en ellas, su natural rectitud, y caridad espontánea. Capaces son de dar hasta la camisa si ven una lástima como ellas dicen” (Apuntes 76).

Twelve years. The popularity of Physiognomy and Zoology in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century stimulated balzac to state in the “Avant-propos” to his Coméie Humaine that the basic idea for his vast panorama “vint d’dune comparaison entre l’Humanité et l’Aninmalité.” (7). Believing that there are social species analogous to animal species. Balzac described himself as “docteur en medicine social, le vétérinaire de maux incurables” (“Dedicace” 53). Critics are in genral agreement with Zola that Balzac was, in fact, the first Naturalist. Zola also believed that the Naturalist novel should have an abundence of animal-like characters and in the preface to his first novel, Thérèse Raquin (1868), he states that the two protagonists “sont des brute humaine, rien de plus” (319). Twelve years later he announced the animality of the protagonist in the title of another novel, Le Béte humaine (1890). With so many characters resembling animals in behavior and / or appearance, it is understandable that, as occurs in every-day, non-fiction life, some characters in both Balzac and Zola would receive animal based nicknames. Even before the advent of Naturalisnm, the verisimilitude of the late nineteenth century novel, as has been demonstrated, often reflected the dynamics of nicknaming as an important facet of personal interactions.

Zola also gave emphasis to unfortunate heredity with the creation of various novels dealing with the vast Rougon-Macquart family. Often unfortunate heredity...

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