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This essay focuses on how the techniques of literary realism bridge the gap between our time and the nineteenth century. It proposes a complexly interactive model of realism, set within a similarly dynamic model of cultural studies. The scope and purposes of cultural studies are framed here in terms of the biosphere, ‘an interacting web of plants and rocks, fungi and soils, animals and oceans, microbes and air, that constitute the habit of life on our planet. To understand the biosphere,’ writes Freeman Dyson, ‘it is essential to see it from both sides, from below as a multitude of details and from above as a single integrated system’ (2003: 4). Similarly, through the discipline of cultural studies we focus on highs and lows as these evolve through an interacting web of emotions, conscious and unconscious; we seek to discern, from outside and inside, the nexus of a ‘multitude of details’ that, all told, sketch out ‘el imaginario social’ – those collective attitudes, behaviours and social practices that underlie the production of a text and which agitate in lively, often invisible ways, in, among and around words and discourses. Selecting a particular lens or window or a ‘crystalline moment’, we seek to give, or at least imply, a comprehensive account of the culture in which a text is embedded (Balzar 2001: 5B). At the same time, we strive to highlight those qualities of a writer’s art that express a personal view or value, one often affirmed over and against a particular culture or historical moment.
The attempt to reconcile the social and cultural contexts of a literary work and the power literature achieves through language, voice and formal expression (Dickstein 2003: B8) often exposes, as in the case of the biosphere, gaps in our knowledge, the limitations of our observations and the obfuscations of our theories. Cultural studies emphasize interconnectedness and yet, as Stephen Kern has noted, commenting on ‘The Next Big Thing’, our findings often appear disconnected from one another. Kern argues for ‘some cooperation in identifying fundamental […] universal elements of all cultures (time, space, causality, embodiment, love, vision, death) and then interpreting their distinctive historical and social variants’ (quoted in The Chronicle of HigherEducation 2004: B4).
This is a short report of a ‘safari’ held in conjunction with the International Congress of Nutrition in September 2005, in Futululu, St. Lucia, South Africa. Participants were several members of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences Task Force on Indigenous Peoples' Food Systems and Nutrition, other interested scientists and members of the Kwa Zulu indigenous community. The paper describes the rationale for and contributions towards understanding what might be successful interventions that would resonate among indigenous communities in many areas of the world. A summary of possible evaluation strategies of such interventions is also given.
The term “Realism,” whether applied to painting, philosophy, literature, or even to what today is called “the real reality TV,” always implies a fundamental duality. There is, on the one hand, the perception of a world of things that simply exists – “inanimate, spatially extended, and subject to quantifiable forces” – and, on the other, there is the mind –“the seat of thought, understanding, sensation, and imagination.” The mind–body dualism of Descartes (1596–1650) and the inventions and discoveries of Galileo (1564–1642) had shaped for Western civilization the scientific worldview. This view delineated three basic intellectual positions vis-à-vis the relationship between mind and world: skepticism, or the idea that what the mind pictures or imagines cannot be a reliable guide to knowledge; idealism, or the conviction that a sensorial and subjective understanding, including certain belief systems, is the only one there is; and Realism, or the perspective that “heroically bridges the gap”.
During the nineteenth century, in Spain as in the rest of Europe, the task of bridging this gap, ever widening under the impact of political and social changes as well as scientific discoveries, technological inventions, and industrial advances, became the heroic project of Benito Pérez Galdós (1843–1920), Spain’s preeminent Realist novelist. He sought to depict the impact of current political, social, and economic factors that jaggedly shaped everyday life: the resurgence of national consciousness and the imperatives of democracy in forming a nation; the rising presence and power of the bourgeoisie, of industrial growth, and the emergence of an exploited laboring class; the rise of banking, the stock market, the invention of institutional systems of credit and debit, and the introduction of paper money; the opening of railway lines, the spread of gas lighting, the construction of roads and waterways; improved sanitation, a developing interest in public and private health, together with the advances of medicine – anesthesia (1840s), germ theory (1847), antisepsis (1867), vaccination (1876), asepsis (1883), and radiology (1895).
Comparative in scope, this volume in the Cambridge Companion series presents the development of the modern Spanish novel from the seventeenth century to the present. Drawing on the legacies of Don Quijote and the traditions of the picaresque novel, the collected essays focus on the questions of invention and experiment, of what constitutes the singular features, formal and cultural, theoretical and philosophical, of the novel in Spain, and how the emergence of new fictional forms articulates the relationships between history and fiction, high and popular culture, art and ideology, gender and society, literature and film.
Three major concepts have guided the theme and structure of the volume:
the role played by historical events and cultural contexts in the elaboration of
the novel; the development of a reflexive, and at times parodic, stance toward
writing and literary tradition; and the conviction, either expressed or implied,
that ambiguity and the lived experience of time, filtered through memory,
have defined human lives in transition, as scene and setting, characters and
events become recreated through the diverse, dialogical modalities of the
The Cambridge Companion to the Spanish Novel presents the development of the modern Spanish novel from 1600 to the present. Drawing on the combined legacies of Don Quijote and the traditions of the picaresque novel, these essays focus on the question of invention and experiment, on what constitutes the singular features of evolving fictional forms. It examines how the novel articulates the relationships between history and fiction, high and popular culture, art and ideology, and gender and society. Contributors highlight the role played by historical events and cultural contexts in the elaboration of the Spanish novel, which often takes a self-conscious stance toward literary tradition. Topics covered include the regional novel, women writers, and film and literature. This companionable survey, which includes a chronology and guide to further reading, conveys a vivid sense of the innovative techniques of the Spanish novel and of the debates surrounding it.
When we think of realism in fiction, we think first of mimesis – the imitation of life – a concept that at once implies the existence of something outside the writer's own mind which he or she is trying to imitate. The imitation of this supposedly external “thing” undergirds the term “realism,” whether applied to painting, philosophy, literature, or film. As Harry Levin reminds us, “Etymologically, realism is thing-ism. The adjective 'real' derives from the Latin res [meaning 'thing'] and finds an appropriate context in 'real estate'” – land, property, things. The realist novel in Spain places a special emphasis on this primary engagement with the things of this world. In this emphasis, nineteenth-century Spanish realism harks back even to the epic Poema de Mío Cid (1140), in which a close-up focus on things – cages laid bare, emptied of hunting falcons, weeds growing on the threshold of an abandoned castle – participates vividly in telling the story of exile.
Writing in this realist tradition, Benito Pérez Galdós (1843–1920), in his
1870 essay on the art of the novel, first evokes the principle of mimesis. His
stated aim is to reproduce life as objectively as possible, depicting things as
they “really” are – houses, dress, furniture, gestures, and habits of speech. In
a later essay (1897) he affirms that language itself constitutes the most telling
sign of personal and national identity.
The events of Fortunata and Jacinta take place some fifteen years prior to the time of writing and publication, from September 1869, when Juanito first meets Fortunata, to her death in late April 1876. The ancestry of the Santa Cruz family reaches back to the eighteenth century and beyond, originating in a primal blood-tie between female cousins of the Castilian Trujillo clan. The matriarchal line establishes the trunk of the great family tree, while matriarchy and monarchy, alternating with the Republic, determine a reciprocity between history, politics and private life. The alternations correspond to the pervasive, acute state of imbalance that marked Spain's emergence into the modern period, dated approximately from the Napoleonic invasion in 1808, followed by the “liberal codex” of the Constitution of Cádiz of 1812. A constitutional system was maintained during the periods 1834–68 and 1875 – 1923, alternating with periods of absolutism and revolution and culminating in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).
Following the enlightenment and reforms accomplished during the reign of Charles III (1759–88), the nineteenth century in Spain saw, among other conflicts, a sporadic civil war between Carlist factions and the central government in Madrid. Carlism, first as a factious group, then as a military insurgency led by Ferdinand VII's younger brother, maintained divisions throughout the country. Almost a decade (1856–63) of stability was gained by the Unión Liberal government of Leopoldo O'Donnell, which, supported by a new prosperity, encouraged foreign investment and expanded the railway system.
A few photographs, or the portraits by Joaquín Sorolla (1894, 1911), show Benito Pérez Galdós as a plain man, rumpled in dress, his face distinguished only by a curling moustache and sly look. His hands hold a cigar or cane; a scarf trails down his overcoat or a cat lies curled on his lap. Even formal portraits have an informal air – Galdós looks ordinary, much like his friend Máximo Manso, protagonist of El amigo Manso, 1882, who sits stroking a cat to conceal his unease. Plainness, reticence, an ironic smile – these traits seem at odds with Galdós's prodigious literary achievement: seventy-seven novels, fifteen original plays and numerous occasional pieces, written between 1867 and his death in 1920. At least a dozen of his contemporary social novels rank with the best in any language.
Galdós was born in 1843 in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, the last of ten children. He started out modestly enough, leaving home and a domineering mother at the age of nineteen to study law at the University in Madrid. But he hardly attended classes. Café life, the theater and events of a city in political turmoil claimed his attention. In 1867, though still registered as a student, he made a first trip to Paris, discovered Balzac and, as he says, “breakfasted” on the novels of La Comédie Humaine. From Balzac he conceived the idea of writing a series of interrelated historical and social novels, seeing himself as a writer, not a lawyer, and started La Fontana de Oro (The Golden Fountain Café), his first full-length novel.
The entrepreneurial energies of the age appear to build character as Galdós assembles the novel in four parts and juxtaposes titles and subtitles to reflect a dialectic within the patriarchal consciousness that dominates the times. The names of the two protagonists, unattached to married surnames, show how Fortunata and Jacinta preside over the novel, whereas the four parts correspond to the introduction of four male characters, whose presence initially places the two women in the background. Once the story starts, however, imagistic progressions create a female mode as the bird-egg motif mounts up, culminating in the birth of the child. The two main organizing principles – four (male) divisions and the bird-egg motif (female) – which build the unity of the four parts, converge in the child who resolves the dialectic by reconciling the two women.
As the two stories develop within four parts, building with two-by-fours becomes a unifying motif, since the characters as well as the author act as builders. In the role of social historian, the narrator builds his account of the Santa Cruzes with the wood and running vines of the family tree. Guillermina founds her orphanage, petitioning stone, bricks, beams. Barbarita stockpiles provisions as barricades go up in the streets, and holds forth on architecture in her drawing room. In the Rubín household, doña Lupe builds up capital while Nicolás builds his ecclesiastical career on the edification of Fortunata, “digging a foundation” upon which Feijoo will reconstruct and restore the broken Rubín marriage.