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SPAN2103 - What Women Want: La Regenta

Value: 0.5 course units
Tutor:
Dr Gareth Wood
Teaching structure: La Regenta is a substantial novel, 900 pages in length in most editions. This module will therefore spend the first half of the term reading the novel in stages and looking in detail at how the action develops. In the second half of term, we will move on to discuss the novel in its social and cultural context, engaging in close reading and examining the critical discourses that have grown up around the novel. Background lectures will provide the necessary contextual detail and seminars will allow for class discussion and the sharing of ideas.
Assessment: One 3000-word coursework essay (40%) and a two-hour desk exam (60%).


Module Description:

In this module we shall be reading and analysing the novel La Regenta (1884-85) by Leopoldo Alas. Writing under the penname ‘Clarín’, Alas was the most famous literary critic in Spain at the time he published La Regenta. He had gained a reputation as a scathing cultural commentator but La Regenta surprised many of his contemporaries for the sensitivity with which it depicted a troubled young woman’s search for happiness and a stable identity in a provincial Spanish city. Her name is Ana Ozores, a woman who endures a troubled childhood as the poor relation of an aristocratic family which has fallen on hard times. Still a young adult, she finds herself married to Don Víctor Quintanar, an aged and impotent former judge, but increasingly torn between sexual desire for Don Álvaro Mesía, the local lothario, and a yearning to explore her spiritual life guided by her confessor, Fermín de Pas. It is her struggle with the competing claims of duty, lust, and spirituality that forms the central thread of the novel.

Because he was reading and reviewing much of the new fiction published in Spain and abroad, Alas was well placed to respond to the latest developments in the European novel. La Regenta can therefore be considered as a novel written in response to the Naturalist techniques Émile Zola was pursuing at this time. However, it is regarded today as both one of the best psychological portraits of a female protagonist in nineteenth-century fiction and one of the most biting social satires.

Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:

The edition of La Regenta we shall be using is in two volumes:

Leopoldo Alas, La Regenta, ed. by Gonzalo Sobejano, 2 vols (Madrid: Castalia, 1983 [or subsequent reprints]).

It would be helpful if you could get hold of a copy of this edition for use in class.

A detailed bibliography of secondary sources will be provided via moodle and in class.