restricted access Locating Rosalía de Castro within European Romanticism: Sympathetic Reading, “Immediate Knowledge,” and the Vernacular Poetics of John Clare
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Locating Rosalía de Castro within European Romanticism
Sympathetic Reading, “Immediate Knowledge,” and the Vernacular Poetics of John Clare

The status of Romantic literature produced in the Iberian Peninsula has traditionally been problematic within the comparative study of European Romanticism. This problematic status is mainly due to two factors: the first one is related to the fact that Iberian cultures at large constituted a particularly relevant topic for English, German and French Romantic writers, generally as an exoticized and orientalized Other; the second reason is connected to the rather belated production of Romantic literature in Spain in particular when compared to English, German and French Romanticism, constituting in fact a body of work traditionally overlooked by scholars of European Romanticism when approached from a comparative perspective. While the Romantic exoticization of the Iberian Peninsula at large by northern European writers from Germany, England and France has garnered a considerable (and growing) amount of critical attention within studies of European Romanticism, the Romantic literary production by Iberian writers still remains relatively marginalized in comparison within the larger category of European Romanticism.1

In fact, the critical exclusion of the category of “Spanish Romanticism” in particular happens to be a feature shared by arguably some of the key works in the comparative field of European Romanticism since the 1970s. For example, Lilian Furst’s The Contours of European Romanticism (1979) tried to establish a “Romantic essence” beyond national boundaries by focusing exclusively on German and French Romanticism. Another important attempt to define this field is the collection European Romanticism (1990), edited by Gerhart Hoffmeister, that aimed to examine a wide range of heterogenous literary “impulses” of the period in order to demonstrate the “interdependence of national Romanticisms,” but that only focuses on English, French and German Romantic writers in its articulation of the category of European Romanticism. Even more recent works that are explicitly trying to offer a wider comparative framework, such as Larry Peer and Diane Long Hoeveler’s collection Comparative Romanticisms (1998)—which studies works by [End Page 227] English, American, Russian, Italian, German and French Romantic writers—also exclude writers from the Iberian Peninsula from their comparative focus. One of the main exceptions to the general omission of Iberian Romantic literary production (referring here to Romantic literary works in Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan and Basque produced in the Iberian Peninsula) from scholarly studies of European Romanticism is Cultural Interactions in the Romantic Age (1998) edited by Gregory Maertz. By exploring concrete transnational relations between Romantic writers and themes as the basis of its comparative methodology, Maertz’s collection adopts an explicitly transnational approach to Romantic literary production in Europe that includes a chapter by the Hispanist Roberta Johnson on the Spain-based Cecilia Böhl von Faber (a Swiss-born writer who published her works under the male pseudonym “Fernán Caballero”). Even more recent monographs on the topic of European Romanticism also share this same marginalization of Iberian Romanticism, particularly as it relates to the topic of Romantic poetry and poetics, such as Christopher Strathman’s Romantic Poetry and the Fragmentary Imperative (Schlegel, Byron, Joyce and Blanchot), and Patrick Vincent’s The Romantic Poetess: European Culture, Politics and Gender, 1820–1840, that again focuses on French, British and German women Romantic poets.

This traditional marginalization seems particularly problematic at a time in which the very category of “Spanish literature,” as a monolingual and national category seems to be giving way to “Iberian literatures,” as a multilingual and comparative space of relations between the different national literatures and languages that have coexisted in the Iberian Peninsula since the Middle Ages. From this critical perspective, the scholarly paradigm that has traditionally marginalized the category of “Spanish Romanticism” proper, as well as the larger category of Iberian Romanticisms, deserves a thorough critical reconsideration. This essay aims to address and overcome some of the causes for this marginalization by attempting to locate the work of the Galician Romantic poet and novelist Rosalía de Castro (1837–1885) within the category of European Romanticism, particularly as her work relates to the vernacular poetics of the English Romantic poet John Clare (1793–1864). One of the key premises of my argument in...