Department of Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies

Contact Details

Departmental Coordinators:
Ms Alex Lopez Alvarez
Ms Clare Szembek (Mon-Wed)
tel: 020 7679 3109
ext: 33109

Head of Department:
Dr Humberto Núñez-Faraco
tel: 020 7679 4332
ext: 34332


The Battle for Memory in the Contemporary Spanish Novel

Course unit value: 1.0
Duration: Two terms
Day and Time: Mondays, 11-1pm
Room:  TBC
Tutor: Dr Gareth Wood

This course 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 full-course unit will, in the first term, 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. In the second term, we shall move on to study novels published after the year 2000, a moment when cultural, political, and social factors combined to reopen the debate on how to discuss and remember the recent past.

Students who participate in this course 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 eight thought-provoking and engaging novels from the last three decades by some of the best writers of that period.

The primary phase: the Transition to democracy (0.5 CU, Term 1)

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)

The secondary phase: Democracy consolidated (0.5 CU, Term 2)

Primary texts

Javier Cercas, Soldados de Salamina (2001)

Isaac Rosa, El vano ayer (2004)

Alberto Méndez, Los girasoles ciegos (2004)

Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Dientes de leche (2008)

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), 34-56.