Doctor of Philosophy in Hispanic Studies (PhD)
Spanish essays on politics and ethics (20th and 21st century)
Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
My dissertation Europe(s): The Spanish and Italian 19th Century Political Essay studies the archetypes of an imagined European community posited by four nineteenth-century authors. More precisely, I analyse political essays written by Juan Donoso Cortés, Jaime Balmes, Carlo Cattaneo and Giuseppe Mazzini. While the first two belong to the Spanish Catholic tradition, the latter two are anchored in Italian Liberalism and Republicanism. Once I ascertained that there exists a precise and profound awareness on the part of these authors regarding the necessity to build a broader and stronger connection among the European nation-states, I started to search for the reasons and aims that surround their “proposed community”. Therefore, in my dissertation I inquire into the connection between the interests of the nation itself and the potential supranational entity, exploring contacts and boundaries that define the political struggle of the aforementioned authors in their historical contexts. In order to shed light into the argument, I analyse selected texts through close reading, demonstrating how the socio-political identity of each thinker emerges from the topic they choose to broach, and the strategies they adopt to convince the readers. The epistemology of their discourses is associated to different projects of Europeanism, pinpointing the essential characters of their ideal Europe. The imagined communities that emerge when exploring these texts are often diverse and diachronically opposed to each other, but nonetheless they coincide in subverting the existing hegemonic powers that ruled a good deal of the European nineteenth-century economic and diplomatic spheres. Because of this, I aim to demonstrate that issues that concern contemporary European sovereignty were already present and broached in the Southern European nineteenth-century essay. The use of a comparative research applied in my work offers a novel way to revisit the Spanish traditional discourse as well as the Italian Risorgimento canon. Furthermore, my interpretation of Donoso, Balmes, Cattaneo and Mazzini offers a broader and improved comprehension of these authors, whose theories emerge as being more complex and multifaceted than was previously believed.
This thesis explores the presence of prisons in contemporary Spanish culture, investigating both their portrayal and the place of cultural projects in current and former prisons. I consider how the selected films, written texts, sites of former prisons, and performance art shape attitudes about punishment and its alternatives. The first part focuses on portrayals of the prison experience, as fictionalized on screen in Azuloscurocasinegro (Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, 2006) and Celda 211 (Daniel Monzón, 2009) and as witnessed in writing and theatre work by prisoners, through the work of Elena Cánovas and Teatro Yeses, and Andrés Rabadán’s Historias desde la cárcel (2003). The second part moves into a discussion of transformations – firstly exploring former prison sites (in Carabanchel, Segovia, and Palencia), and then considering how imprisonment is represented through performance art in the work of Abel Azcona and Marcel·lí Antúnez Roca.Through mapping the prison and its relation to contemporary Spanish cultural production, I consider how the presence and portrayal of prisons shapes perceptions and experiences of exclusion and belonging in Spain today, engaging with the wider issue of movement, immigration, and borders. Using notions of ‘borderland’ and liminality to interrogate points of encounter between prisons and culture, this project looks for ways that these intersections can offer potential for movement, dialogue, and connection.
This thesis is the first sustained study of a new wave of Spanish writers. Known in the press as the “Nocilla Generation”, after Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla Project trilogy, the work of these authors responds to changing relations between urban subjects, virtual spaces and local places. This study portrays a broad group of writers, but it focuses on four texts: Agustín Fernández Mallo’s Nocilla Dream, Javier Calvo’s “Una belleza rusa” [“A Russian Beauty”], Gabi Martínez’s Ático [Top Floor Apartment] and Esther García Llovet’s Coda. The new wave authors have been described as belonging to a new digital consciousness wholly shaped by audiovisual media and the Internet. I argue instead that their narrative represents an effort to assimilate global and virtual space with local and physical places. Their varied texts converge around the theme of how subjects locate themselves within a fragmented and interconnected world. They create hybrid fictional spaces where social practices and meaning are produced through a continuous negotiation of the physical and virtual realms.Within this overall theme I delineate two general tendencies. The first emphasizes the subject’s immersion in a global sphere of networked relations, portraying what Roland Robertson defines as a world space where “the local is merely a ‘micro’ manifestation of the global”. The second focuses on the subject’s relation to the particular places where this global space is manifested. However, while each text can be placed closer to one or the other conceptions, both these ideas are present to some degree in all of these narratives. This creates a persistent dialectic tension and shows the difficulty of reconciling the superimposed physical and cultural contexts that shape subjectivity in the contemporary world.What drives these narratives is the search for new subjectivities, open to the plurality of today’s interconnected and fluctuating spaces. However, the hypothetical or metaphorical character of the new fluid subjectivities presented in these fictions underlines the ambiguities involved in seeking this new way of inhabiting the world. These fictions do not present or reflect new subjectivities but rather participate in an ongoing societal dialogue about how to confront a changing cultural environment.
In this study I examine the literary and philosophical engagement with homosexuality (“homotextuality”) of the Spanish writer Álvaro Pombo (1939). Pombo spent eleven years in exile in England from Franco’s National-Catholic Spain, and he returned to his homeland at the dawn of its transition to democracy in 1976. Pombo’s literary efforts coincide with a re-emergence of Spanish homotextual writing (Goytisolo, Moix, Cardín, de Biedma, et al.) before and during the Transición. Although homosexuality as a central leitmotif encompasses all phases of his prodigious literary output, Pombo’s homotextuality has been, with few notable exceptions, dismissed by gay critics as self-loathing and homophobic, and has been all but ignored by mainstream critics. This omission, I argue, owes to a fundamental misreading of Pombo’s dialectical and philosophical approach to homotextuality.In my analysis I show that Pombo’s opulent, eclectic writing style emerges as an interrogational dialectic that deconstructs the nature of the existential alienation that has perennially shaped the lives of homosexuals living within the preponderant domain of heterosexuality (“heteronormativity”). Pombo’s dialectic is in trenchant engagement with a historical epistemological discursivity (and literary tradition) that essentializes homosexuality as a perversion of the “natural, truthful order” (what I call “heterologocentrism”). Using the deconstructive methodology of queer theory (Edelman, Butler, Llamas, Dollimore, Hocquenghem, et al.) and the philosophical frameworks of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Taylor, among others, I demonstrate that Pombo’s homotextual narrative radically challenges and unsettles heterologocentric discursivity related to “unnatural” homosexual Being (or homosexualisms in all their manifestations). At the same time, I show that Pombo’s dialectic characterizes as “inauthentic” what he perceives to be the frivolous, hedonistic (Dionysian) behaviours of homosexual solipsism. Furthermore, I argue that Pombo’s dialectic forcefully prescribes an authenticity of Being, which confronts the fear and degradation of the homosexual’s historical situatedness and impels the subject to engage truthfully, ethically, morally, and without prevarication or dissemblance with the subjective Other. Pombo’s narrative concerning authentic Being compels the subject to “overcome” the shackles of oppression inherent in the situatedness of a denaturalizing morality and alterity and “to be who one is,” as Nietzsche says, while simultaneously rejecting inward-turning nihilism.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Animation for adult audiences is a booming sector in Hispanic cinema in both fiction and non-fiction films alike. This is particularly true of the documentary genre, in which Spanish and Latin American filmmakers are employing various animation techniques to essentially (re)animate particularly traumatic periods of history. That is to say, they do the work of reconstructing or re-creating history through the cinematic practice of animation. Jairo Carrillo and Oscar Andrade’s Pequeñas voces (Colombia, 2010), María Seaone’s Eva de la Argentina (Argentina, 2011), and Manuel H. Martín’s 30 años de oscuridad (Spain, 2012) do this work of reconstructing periods of political unrest through a blending of animation and archival materials. The recent turn to animation in recounting historical narratives leads us to contemplate the purpose and effect of veering away from conventional live-action portrayals in documentary history. Accordingly, our first research question asks why and how animation is effective as a representational strategy in the re-telling of the historical moments and subjects that the films in our corpus depict. To answer this first research question, we consider the three functions of animation proposed by leading animated documentary scholar Annabelle Honess Roe (2013): non-mimetic substitution, mimetic substitution, and evocation. Beyond being linked by their exemplification of Roe’s three functions of animation, the films in our corpus all have a relationship to the uncanny that arises directly from the juxtaposition of the animated and the audiovisual archival elements. Animated film scholarship has begun to draw connections between Sigmund Freud’s (1919) notion of the ‘uncanny’ and films that combine animation and the archival. Accordingly, our second research question asks: in what ways does the ‘uncanny’ animated aesthetic in these three films manifest itself, and to what end?
In his 2008 work El Dorado, author Robert Juan-Cantavella explores what it means to be ‘Spanish’ through what he claims to be a new genre called Punk Journalism. The protagonist (Juan-Cantavella's alter ego) claims that Punk Journalism is the bastard son of American author Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo Journalism. Several articles have been written about this work, but few have done so with academic rigor—most notably are Maria Egea’s De Las Vegas a Marina D’or. O como llegar desde el New Journalism norteamericano de Hunter S. Thompson hasta la nueva narrativa española de Robert Juan-Cantavella (2011) and Tanteos, calas y pesquisas en el dossier genético digital de ‘El Dorado’ de Robert Juan-Cantavella (2014) by Benédicte Vauthier. While these works tackle the events surrounding its publication—neither of them take a holistic study focused on the themes of authenticity and identity (pertaining to both the narrative, and the publication itself). The first part of this study focuses on the authenticity of the novel itself and serves to validate or discredit critic Maria Egea’s claim that Escargot’s literary creation, Punk Journalism, deserves to be considered “algo nuevo” (Egea 122). I accomplish this through comparative analysis, juxtaposing El Dorado with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) while also addressing Maria Egea’s claims. The second part of this investigation reveals that identity is intrinsically linked to authority and power and that Escargot’s inability to pinpoint the identity of his nation is due more to a symptom of language than Spain itself. This study also finds that although Juan-Cantavella's work is a derivative of El Dorado, due to its scope, subjects, and style—Escargot does indeed achieve the creation of ‘something new.’ This newness comes to fruition through Escargot’s use of hyper self-awareness, extreme narrative experiments like switching from first person to third person omniscient at will, increased political commentary, and a more obvious desire to ‘trick’ the reader.