- La novela ideológica (1875–1880): la literatura de ideas en la España de la Restauración by Ignacio Javier López
Novela Ideológica, Novela de Tesis, Hombre Nuevo, Restauración, Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, José María de Pereda, Juan Valera, Benito Pérez Galdós, Realist Novel, Culture Wars, Guerras Culturales, Social Crisis, Romanticism, Folletín, Novela de Luis, Villarminio, Krausism, Ignacio Javier López, Sarah Sierra
Approaches to literary history have often undergone revision when critics recognized that the perception of a text, body of work, or literary period has been distorted by subsequent interpretations that obscure the original context. This is one of many reasons why Ignacio Javier López’s recent publication La novela ideológica (1875–1880): la literatura de ideas en la España de la Restauración is a significant contribution to the analysis of the nineteenth-century novel. As the title denotes, he examines the novela ideológica as a body of work between 1875 and 1880 by contesting the oft-cited evaluation of these texts as a preliminary and underdeveloped passage toward the Realist novel. With a carefully detailed analysis of the political, philosophical, and social realities during the period, Professor [End Page 113] López historically contextualizes the works and authors within their appropriate intellectual milieux pointing to one fundamental element that has often been overlooked: the novels of this period should take as their point of reference not the revolution of 1868, but rather its failure and the subsequent Restauración. He shows ample evidence that the novels in this study form a unified genre that, taken as a whole, offers insightful understanding of the historical moment, as well as substantial contributions toward new understandings of narrative aesthetics in nineteenthcentury Spain.
Divided into two parts, Poética histórica and Crítica, López’s study examines multiple facets associated with the literary production of the members of the generation of ‘68, consisting of Juan Valera, Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, Benito Pérez Galdós, and José María de Pereda. All four contributed to changing the perception of the novel among the educated reading class, but only three participated successfully in the novela ideológica. Here López also includes the predominantly unknown text La novela de Luis written under the pseudonym of S. de Villarminio.
In the first chapter, La literatura y las ideas, López identifies eight works that comprise the novela ideológica, noting that one of its prominent unifying characteristics is the genre’s discursive flexibility. He denotes four distinct orientations that point to this flexibility: the Romantic aesthetic (El escándalo, El niño de la Bola, and the first part of Gloria); the Realist aesthetic (Doña Perfecta, Don Gonzalo González de la Gonzalera, De tal palo, tal astilla, and La familia de León Roch); an intermediate position (the second part of Gloria); and one that is explicitly anti-Romantic, but does not implement Realist tendencies either (La novela de Luis). He examines how the emphasis on contemporary issues in these novels resonated with an educated class whose changing reading habits and expectations revealed an evolution toward a more acute consciousness of a problematic modernity in which individual aspirations and external demands were in conflict. He masterfully details how the stylistic changes created a complex narrative discourse that reflected an awareness of living during a period of intense ideological conflict.
In chapter 2, Restauración frente a revolución, López uncovers the process by which a fairly benign exchange of ideas degenerated into a contentious ideological battle. He seamlessly intertwines national concerns with broader transnational issues, demonstrating that Spain did not experience the tensions of modernity in isolation. Chapter 3, El triunfo de la novela ideológica, considers Romanticism’s influence on these novels. He acknowledges that while writers rejected the vulgarities of popular literature, they continued to incorporate elements of the Romantic aesthetic in the first phase of...