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  • Children's Literature Research in Spain
  • Marisa Fernández López (bio)

The history of research on children's literature in Spain is similar to that of other countries where children's literature has been studied primarily from an educational or sociological perspective. Until recently, this has resulted in few "literary" studies. Moreover, the few attempts to systematically study children's literature in Spain during the early twentieth century have been undercut by dramatic changes in the country's political regime, which moved from a monarchy to a short-lived republic to a long dictatorship, finally ending with a return to a stable democracy.

Since 1920, children's literature has developed significantly in Spain, and a number of twentieth-century writers have renewed and even revolutionized the genre. Especially noteworthy are Salvador Bartolozzi, Antoniorrobles, and Elena Fortuún. In 1924, Bartolozzi created his own version of Collodi's puppet, "Pinocchio," chronicling his struggles with a new character, "Chapete," in the children's magazine, Pinocho . Bartolozzi also brought to life other loveable characters, such as Pipo and Pipa, in works that eschewed the repetitious, didactic prose of his contemporaries (a carry over from nineteenth-century Spanish children's books). Antonio Robles Soler ("Antoniorrobles") was even more innovative, introducing surrealistic elements into some of his tales. His Hermanos Monigotes , a prizewinner in the 1932 National Literature Competition, is a classic of modern Spanish children's literature. Elena Fortun's "Celia," heroine of one of the most famous and frequently republished children's adventure series in Spain, recalls the protagonist of Richmal Crompton's "William" series. However, unlike William, Celia's personality develops over the course of the series.

Obviously, there had to be publishers ready to support and distribute these new works. Early in the twentieth century, this task fell to Calleja (the Spanish equivalent of Hetzel). In later years, publishers such as Juventud and Aguilar promoted new authors and hired outstanding illustrators like Penagos, Zamora, and Ribas. Unfortunately, the Spanish Civil War not only divided the country into two irreconcilable camps, but also brought about the exile of many outstanding intellectuals, artists, and writers, including Bartolozzi, Antoniorrobles, and Fortun, all of whom relocated to the United States. The resulting political upheaval was disastrous for writers and artists, particularly because of heavily enforced government censorship, which stifled the writing and publication of children's books, as well as scholarly research about the genre.

Before the Civil War, a few scholarly studies of Spanish children's literature had appeared, such as María Luz Morales' Libros, mujeres y niños (1928) [Books, Women, and Children], which examines what was viewed as "marginal" literature.1 This work grew out of a conference celebrating the Fiesta del Libro (Day of the Book) organized by the Barcelona Book Guild, Cámara del Libro .2 In it, Morales stresses the need for publishers to pay more attention to women and child readers, two groups largely ignored in the early twentieth century, and she defends works of the imagination and women writers for children.

Under the Republic, the Spanish government had encouraged the publication of children's books, but the violent political changes of the 1930s resulted in tight government control of the genre, as well as research about it. Under the dictatorship, the government was keenly aware of the potential use of children's texts as propaganda. During the 1940s, typical children's stories defended values imposed by the dictatorship. Any writing critical of Francoist policies or of the Catholic Church or that failed to exalt moral and social views rooted in Fascism was banned. Through the early 1950s, the only studies of children's literature were the so-called "critical catalogues" that provided moralistic and didactic commentaries. These catalogues were produced by organizations linked to the Catholic Church, for instance the Gabinete de Lectura Santa Teresa de Jesús [Saint Theresa of Jesus Reading Office], and discouraged reading books not sanctioned by the government and church.

In the mid-1950s, government censorship relaxed somewhat, and, in 1957, Carolina Toral published Literatura Infantil Española [Spanish Children's Literature], the first study to specifically discuss the children's literature of Spain. This work is a miscellaneous collection...


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pp. 221-225
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