There is a huge problem regarding the literary contents of most Spanish programs. Spanish Literature has often been subject to lots of political and ideological pressures. Therefore, all the writers on your list should be scrutinized to decide if they fulfill the necessary merits to be part of a university program. For me it would be easier to say that the lists commonly used are fine, but it’s not true, so we all have to work together on improving them. Many important writers got ignored, some of the average ones got more relevance than they should, and even if the names are right… the usual way of presenting them is mostly out of focus 🙁
Hispanists tend to focus too much on the intellectual aspects of the writer and forget that most of them were fighting in constant wars. Even if you take the biography of someone known even by middle-schoolers, like Cervantes, you will find that any author is anxious to get rid of the part where he kills people, fights against the Turks, loses limbs etc. to focus on his captivity, his internal conflicts and his works. And maybe the works are the reason why he is relevant to us, but if you want to understand those writers you must picture them with a feather in one hand and a sword in the other. Trying to turn them into calm and aseptic intellectual figures is dishonest towards History and especially towards your students. The writers are what they are… not an idealized version of our own desires. Was Cadalso a cool intellectual? Yes… but he was also an officer with a passion for war. Was Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer anti-Semitic? Probably yes… Is that anti-Semitism like the one in 1940s Germany? Of course not… The guy has a story where his main character falls in love with a Jewish girl and she refuses to follow her religious stuff in order to be with him. So that would be the impartial and objective focus of a seminar about Bécquer. His anti-Semitism was something cultural, not about racial or genetic superiority. Is that good? Bad? I don’t know… I just present the facts and let my students decide for themselves if the guy was an idiot or not, besides being an important figure in Spanish Romanticism 😀
Was Mariano José de Larra in favor of a strong constitution, power to the people and all that stuff? Of course! But make sure you mention that in one of his volumes he accepts that religion in his time could be a good remedy for a lack of something better regarding morals, ethics and such… Do I agree with him? Nope. Is it my place to ostracize some of his opinions and give more relevance to others? Nope. I might not be the brightest academic in the world, but I learned the basics of this profession long ago: When you are impartial you educate others, when you take part you proselytize.
Just to show you how messed up the traditional literary canons are… Do you know the works of Echegaray? Strange… he won a Nobel Prize in Literature together with Frédéric Mistral and you probably know that one. Do you have lots of material about Jacinto Benavente? Hmm… strange… he also won a Nobel Prize. I wonder if the fact that they aren’t essential in the programs has something to do with them being censored by the political powers of their time… and then we all forgot about them 🙁
Revise the Literature of your Spanish programs! 😉
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