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SPAN4408 - The Battle for Memory in the Contemporary Spanish Novel: Part 1, The Transition to Democracy

Value: 0.5 course unit
Tutor: Dr Rhiannon McGlade

Teaching structure:
One coursework essay (3,000 words) and one two hour exam.

Module Description:

This module will examine the changing ways in which the Spanish Civil War and subsequent dictatorship have been represented in the contemporary Spanish novel. Although Spain’s transition from Franco’s thirty-six year dictatorship to democracy has been considered a success-story, underlying tension and resentment between the opposing sides of the country’s political divide remain. A country in which the defeated of the war were treated as second-class citizens and their dead comrades excluded from official commemoration of the victims clearly has some catching up to do when it comes to national reconciliation. Spain's novelists have reflected this situation through their works, questioning the national silence over the uncomfortable past during the transition to democracy and, in more recent times, joining the national debate on how best to acknowledge both sides of the fratricidal conflict. 

This half-course unit will take in the period immediately after Franco's death, when writers tried to negotiate their way through the political minefield of discussing the war and dictatorship when the on-going transition made those topics taboo. The novels we shall read and discuss seek to evade or confront these taboos in a variety of genres including the fictional memoir/fantastic novel, social realism, and the trauma narrative.

Students who participate in this module will gain an insight into Spain's twentieth century history, the factors that determine its past and present political make-up, and how those have shaped debates that are continuing as we speak.

More importantly, they will also read and enjoy four thought-provoking and engaging novels from the last three decades by some of the best writers of that period.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

The primary phase: the Transition to democracy (0.5 CU)

Primary texts

Carmen Martín Gaite, El cuarto de atrás (1978)

Javier Marías, El siglo (1982)

Juan Marsé, Ronda del Guinardó (1984)

Julio Llamazares, Luna de lobos (1985)

A secondary bibliography would include:

A New History of Spanish Writing 1939 to the 1990s, ed. by Chris Perriam and others (Oxford: OUP, 2000), pp. 1-24.

Paloma Aguilar, Memory and Amnesia: The Role of the Spanish Civil War in the Transition to Democracy, trans. by Mark Gordon Oakley (London: Berghahn Books, 2000).

Raymond Carr, Spain 1808-1975, 2nd edn. (Oxford: OUP, 1982), pp. 695-770.

Helen Graham, The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: OUP, 2005)

Alexis Grohmann, Coming into one’s own: the novelistic development of Javier Marías (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001).

Jo Labanyi, ‘The language of silence: historical memory, generational transmission and witnessing in contemporary Spain’, Journal of Romance Studies, 9 (2009), 23-35.

Catherine Orsini-Saillet, ‘En torno a una poética de la frontera: Luna de lobos de Julio Llamazres’, in El universo de Julio Llamazares, ed. by Irene Andres-Suárez and Ana Casas (Neuchâtel: Universidad de Neuchâtel, 1998), pp. 87-103.

Catherine O’Leary and Alison Ribeiro de Menezes, A Companion to Carmen Martín Gaite (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2008).

Alicia Satorras Pons, ‘Soldados de Salamina de Javier Cercas, reflexiones sobre los héroes’, Revista Hispánica Moderna, 56 (2003), 227-45.

Robert C. Spires, Beyond the Metafictional Mode – Directions in the Modern Spanish Novel (Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 1984).

Jeremy Treglown, ‘“A heartless craft”: Spain’s memory wars’, The Dublin Review, 28 (2007).