restricted access Fortunata, L'Africaine: Slavery and Semitism in Spain's Modern Empire


This essay recasts the central ideological opposition of Benito Pérez Galdós's Fortunata y Jacinta (1887) between the bourgeoisie and the sexually deviant Fortunata, in imperial terms, by exploring the novel's complex racial discourse, which encompasses allusions to Cuban slavery, as well as to an older racial regime concerned with questions of religion and lineage. The construction of bourgeois domestic ideology functions as an attempt to secure its identity as a modern and civilizing power, and is enacted upon the transatlantic stage of Spain's last iteration of its colonial empire. However, the bourgeoisie's continued profiting from slavery and the slave trade evokes an endemic sexual degeneracy and, echoing the Black Legend, raises the specter of its own Semitic heritage, thus undermining its normative identity.