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Sacred Realism

Sacred Realism: Religion and the Imagination in Modern Spanish Narrative

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Sacred Realism
    Book Description:

    In this thoughtful and compelling book, leading Spanish literature scholar Noël Valis re-examines the role of Catholicism in the modern Spanish novel. While other studies of fiction and faith have focused largely on religious themes,Sacred Realismviews the religious impulse as a crisis of modernity: a fundamental catalyst in the creative and moral development of Spanish narrative.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15235-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-56)

    A few years before the novelist Leopoldo Alas (Clarín) wrote his realist masterpieceLa Regenta(The judge’s wife) (1884–85), he talked about the pain and loss he felt after his childhood faith was shaken by liberal conviction:

    Of myself I can say to you that while I believed in God, simply because, becausesomething ineffableflowed through my heart, I was religious, sincere . . . but intermittent. Then came those hours of [spiritual] dryness of which a mystic saint speaks in which neither prayer nor faith is enough to make water spring from a rock . . ....

  5. 1 The Relics of Faith
    (pp. 57-92)

    In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain, the drawing power of Catholicism was palpable. Traces of that fervor show even today in the writings and art of the period. Faith was doubly incarnated as doctrine and as emotional experience. Can a secular age even begin to understand how religious belief imagines itself as sacred embodiment? how the relics of faith are only remains or spiritual residue, if one does not believe in their divine significance? How does one go semantically from one kind of relic to the other, from the sacred to the superfluous? And what effect does such a change have...

  6. 2 The Philanthropic Embrace
    (pp. 93-150)

    History has not treated early nineteenth-century Spain well. Invasion, war, empire breakup, political and socioeconomic upheaval, all these things produced deeply unsettling and often chaotic conditions while moving the nation toward greater secularization and social divisiveness. Religion and literature in the period bear the mark of historic trauma. To understand what happened to both requires seeing them together as part of a larger process in which faith and its institutions were to occupy a new space and role in a society made up increasingly of much more sharply (and politically) etched class differences than ever before.

    The juncture where religion...

  7. 3 The Confessional Body
    (pp. 151-194)

    La Regentaby Leopoldo Alas inhabits a radically different universe fromFortunata y Jacinta.Where Galdós creates a flawed world of communitas founded on the Eucharistic model, Clarín works within the frame of confession. Theologically, confession and Holy Communion are coupled. Galdós, however, chose not to emphasize the practice or mindset of confession, while Clarín did. Rosa Chacel commented that “in Galdós there is a conscious intention of not confessing, which is consistent with his unconscious lack of the need to confess.”¹ She was referring to the absence of the autobiographical in his work, by way of contrast with the...

  8. 4 The Politics of Martyrdom
    (pp. 195-237)

    From 1936 to 1939 Spaniards engaged in a savage conflict over national destiny. They fought for political, socioeconomic, and religious reasons. Their views, ranging from the extreme right to the extreme left, were indicative of a profound ideological splintering of the country. The war has often been reduced to a struggle between fascism and democracy in which each side has a monolithic worldview. Both the Republicans and the Nationalists, however, were made up of diverse groups and mindsets. Franco ultimately merged through forced consensus the Alphonsine monarchists, Carlists, conservatives, and fascist-style Falangists into one National Movement. The Republicans, however, whose...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 238-246)

    In 1940, Ángel Valbuena Prat opened his book on the significance of Catholicism in Spanish literature with these words: “One of the greatest achievements of the twentieth-century Spanish soul is awareness of its Catholicity. . . . While the nineteenth century, essentially prone to mystification and sympathetic with any divisiveness, individualism or anarchy, had an evident attraction for the Protestant forms of religiosity, the new century, tending towards organization, a new classicism, hierarchy and unity, is profoundly characterized by the revalidation of Catholic thought and art. . . . [N]ation and religiosity, Catholicism and empire, have fused into a fasces...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 247-296)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-340)
  12. Index
    (pp. 341-356)