This article centers on the paternal and creative crises that afflict the protagonist of Leopoldo Alas’s second novel Su único hijo (1891). Scrutinizing Clarín’s literary and ideological output from the era, I argue that the novel’s obsession with procreation and production articulates concerns for the state of Spanish narrative in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. For Bonifacio Reyes, the failure to compose a literary masterwork portends the paternal illegibility that dominates the novel’s final moments as Emma Valcárcel’s son is left with two possible fathers instead of one. For Alas, who spent the latter half of the 1880s sifting through the wreckage of romanticism, realism, and naturalism in an effort to craft a hybrid aesthetic form that could serve as an avatar for a new wave of Spanish novelists (and solidify the success of La Regenta, 1884-85), Su único hijo evinces an attempt to revive national narrative in the final decades of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, if the son (as text) represents a symbolic asset for the expectant father/author, both in terms of socio-economic capital and the consolidation of familial lineage, the ironic promise made by the novel’s title ensures a world in which all signs of paternity and authority are effectively destabilized.


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pp. 143-161
Launched on MUSE
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