Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Larson

Abstract

I contend in this study that commercial novels and theater from early twentiethcentury Spain often present male (homo)sexual characters as a point of constellation for anxieties regarding modernization in Madrid and Barcelona. In works by Jacinto Benavente, Josep Maria de Sagarra, El Caballero Audaz (José María Carretero), Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent, Carmen de Burgos, Álvaro Retana, Eduardo Zamacois, and Alfonso Hernández-Catá, concerns about technological and socioeconomic change converge upon hustlers and blackmailers, queer seducers, and chaste inverts. I examine these figures alongside an allegorical interpretation of Goethe’s Faust in Marshall Berman’s book All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (1982) in order to foreground their varying responses to modern innovation. They alternately sell themselves to prosper under consumer capitalism, seduce others into savoring the pleasures of city life, or fall tragically to the conflicting pressures of tradition and change. In the process, they reveal the fear and enthusiasm of their creators vis-à-vis rapid urbanization, fluctuating class hierarchies, the commercialization of art, and the medicalization of sex from the turn of the nineteenth century to the Spanish Civil War.

From a methodological standpoint, I argue that close readings of commercial works are worthwhile for what they reveal about the discursive framing of modernity and male (homo)sexualities in Spain in the early 1900s. Hence, I use techniques of literary analysis previously reserved for canonical writers such as Federico García Lorca and Luis Cernuda to discuss texts produced by their bestselling contemporaries, none of whom has been equally scrutinized by subsequent criticism. Existing scholarship on modernity and sexuality in Spain and abroad helps contextualize my detailed interpretations. Although my project is not a sustained exercise in comparative literature, I do situate Spanish works within historical and literary trends beyond Spain so as to acknowledge the interplay of transnational and local concerns surrounding modern change and sexual customs. By considering the primary texts in relation to varying temporal and geographic contexts, the dissertation aims to be of interest to a readership in and outside Hispanism, and to supplement important studies of modernity, (homo)sexualities, and literature that overlook Spain.

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