- “Andando se hace el camino”. Calle y subjetividades marginales en la España del siglo XIX by Sara Muñoz-Muriana
“Andando se hace el camino”. Calle y subjetividades marginales en la España del siglo XIX identifies the street as an inevitable but significant backdrop for the increased visibility of what Muñoz-Muriana labels “subjetividades marginales” in theatrical works, short stories, and novels from the long nineteenth century in Spain. The dialogue Muñoz-Muriana sets up between “calle” and “subjetividades marginales” is enriched from the start by her framing of the marginal as a term that, on the one hand, may describe individuals who willingly or unwillingly evade established social norms peddled by an increasingly mainstream, bourgeois society, and, on the other, as a term that suggests a peripheral space that leads to, deviates from, and or circumvents geographical and institutional centers. Reminding readers of the symbiotic relationship between the street and the heterogeneous subjectivities that inscribe it with meaning, Muñoz-Muriana convincingly makes a case for this public space’s historical ability to bend to the desires and needs of those who live, work, walk, meander, shop, protest, struggle and thrive in nineteenth-century urban centers like Madrid. At the same time that figures such as the ragpicker and prostitute may be marginalized socially for their inability or refusal to conform to the cultural mainstream, the marginal space they inhabit has the potential to empower them as individuals within (and as) communities, a powerful catalyst for the realization of social change. Muñoz-Muriana invites her readers to approach the fictions of writers from Moratín to Pardo Bazán and Blasco Ibáñez as their own privileged kinds of loci from which these and other authors assay, critique, and imagine Spain’s construction as a modern nation.
The first chapter provides a useful overview of the frameworks and theories of spatiality that inflect and inform Muñoz-Muriana’s approach to reading the street and its protagonists in modern Spanish texts; critics and theorists whose work is explored range from de Certeau to Lévi-Strauss, Merleau-Ponty, and Moretti. Here, Muñoz-Muriana contextualizes her study’s view of “la calle como espacio formativo y conflictivo” (47), a perspective that insists on the active and dynamic interplay between street and subject: those who inhabit the street for any number of reasons are not the passive recipients of top-down disciplinary power but rather are active in determining the street’s use-value (The allusion of Muñoz-Muriana’s title to Machado’s iconic verse—“caminante, no hay camino / se hace camino al andar”—is, therefore, an appropriate and efficacious one).
Chapter two analyzes the street as an escape valve for fictional women who resist or fail to conform to the pervasive domestic discourse of the “ángel del hogar,” even if any apparent freedom rests on a contradiction: the woman who consumes in the street by way of shopping or wandering is also destined to be consumed in the nineteenth-century literary imaginary. In the case of Isidora Rufete, for example, her access to the capital’s central streets allows her to seize Madrid, as does Poe’s eponymous man of the crowd in London or Baudelaire’s poetic subjects in Paris, to “practicar el fino arte de la flânerie, esto es, la entrega a un ‘paseo largo y [End Page 88] sin ninguna meta’” (95). Muñoz-Muriana convincingly demonstrates the street’s capacity as a liberating outlet—if at times or ultimately a still precarious one—for burgeoning or unsettled feminine subjectivities struggling to find representation or realize their desires in a modern city that, like them, is as ever in a state of becoming and flux. The fictional women studied in this chapter (Jerónima, from Moratín’s La petimetra; Isidora Rufete from Galdós’s La desheredada; Mari Pepa and Estrella from López Bago’s La prostituta) preface those who will eventually take to the streets...