Volume 4 "Spanish issue" (2013)

Editorial Board "Spanish issue"

Academic Editor

Orla Murphy


Marie-Luise Theuerkauf


Emer Clifford

Kerrill Costello

Niamh Nic Chonmara (Niamh Mc Namara)

UCC Affiliates

Stephen Boyd

Helena Buffery

Fiona Donson

Professor Nuala Finnegan

Cara Levey

Sarah-May O'Sullivan

Seana Ryan

Martin Veiga

International Affiliates

Pilar Aldrete, NUI Galway

Julia Andres, Universität Bielefeld, Germany

María do Cebreiro Rábade Villar, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain

David J. George, Swansea University, United Kingdom

Stuart Green, University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Beth Jorgensen, University of Rochester, United States

Claire Linsay, University College London, United Kingdom

John Macklin, Glasgow University, United Kingdom

Padraig McAuliffe, University of Dundee, United Kingdom

Philip Swanson, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Celia Szusterman, University of Westminster, United Kingdom

Niamh Thornton, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Anne Walsh, University of Sydney, Australia

Christopher Wilde, York University, United Kingdom

Jennifer Wood, NUI Maynooth

Editorial - Niamh Nic Chonmara

This issue of Aigne showcases the diverse and vibrant research currently being pursued by postgraduates throughout Ireland the UK in the areas of Spanish and Latin American Studies.

The seven articles included here first appeared as presentations at the Postgraduate Hispanic Studies Conference of Ireland and the UK 2012. The aim of the conference was to provide scholars from all disciplines, whose work intersected with Spanish or Latin American issues, a space to gather and share ideas and promote their research. The result was a rich dialogue between studies in linguistics, translation studies, history, law, politics and literature.

As the conference itself was open to all disciplines, the editors of this collection decided that the publication should reflect this, and so we refrained from setting any limits, which we felt prescribing a theme or topic would produce.

Gender studies, translation, and problematics of representation and reception are clearly strong areas within contemporary Spanish and Latin American Studies, with all of the articles touching on two or more of these topics.

Mirna Vohsen’s Cinematic Jewish Women and Representations of Argentinidad highlights the lack of representation of Jewish women in Argentine film, and the flaws in conceptualisations of argentinidad because of this omission.

Looking to Chile and the representation of women in the production of literature, Céire Broderick’s Breaking the Silence in Mercedes Valdivieso’s La brecha (1961) and Malditayo entre las mujeres (1991) investigates the work of María Valdivieso and how the use of voice contributes to changing perceptions of women and their role in Chilean society.

Returning to the screen, and traveling back across the Atlantic to Spain, Powerful Women and Historical Representation in Spanish Cinema, by Clare Moley exposes the problems of presenting historical figures on screen, and how representations of women may be altered by contemporary audience expectation.

Broadening the topic of representation and the problematics encountered when coupled with audience expectation, Elisa Serra Porteiro’s Gap in the Craft: Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara on the Galician Stage investigates productions of McDonagh’s play in Galicia, focusing on representations of ‘Irishness’ in a Galician context.

José Luís Penón’s Ecos de Eureka, de Edgar Allan Poe, en la literature española de principios del S. XX. provides an incitefuly discussion on the influence of Edgar Allen Poe’s novel Eureka on several prominent 19th century Spanish writers, including Miguel de Unamuno, Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez.

Marta Perez-Carbonell’s article, Intralingual Translation in Tu rostro mañana, by Javier Marías, delves into the intralingual and interlingual translation, questioning the veracity of representation and communication at a linguistic level.

Céire Broderick

Breaking the Silence in Mercedes Valdivieso’s La brecha (1961) and Maldita yo entre las mujeres (1991)


Historically, in Chilean literature women have not been afforded the same presence or agency as men. This has been a cause of great concern for Chilean women authors and is something they continue to challenge in contemporary Chilean literature. While in the last century some women authors continued to acquiesce to the androcentric expectations of society which called for representations of women as submissive and obliging, others rebelled and refused to conform to such norms. This article discusses how Mercedes Valdivieso used her first publication, La brecha (1961) and her final publication Maldita yo entre las mujeres (1991) to question the expectations of women within Chilean society and to encourage renewed perspectives on the matter. It argues that the primary tool adopted by Valdivieso to accomplish this goal is to give her protagonists a voice allowing them to express opinions on the situations in which they find themselves. With this voice they also criticise generally accepted assumptions such as women’s supposedly innate responsibility for original sin and also the double standards that exist between men and women’s approach to sex.


This article will analyse how Mercedes Valdivieso’s novels La brecha (1961), set in the time it was published, and Maldita yo entre las mujeres (1991), set in the seventeenth century, provide subjectivity to their female protagonists through giving them a voice and allowing them to narrate their story from their own perspective. The novels chosen are the first and last publications of the author and are representative of her career-long preoccupation for women’s place in society. Each explores their protagonists’ reaction to the traditions with which they are forced to contend. Through the voices of her protagonists, Valdivieso demonstrates her disquiet with the position in which women often find themselves due to the norms of society. By virtue of their female agency she actively criticises common expectations for women such as motherhood and marriage, while also seeking to provide a re-visioning of the double standard that exists between men and women when referring to sexual liberty and also the innate blame imposed upon women as descendants of Eve. Joanna O Connell claims that the writing of many “Latin American women writers, both emerges from […] [an] androcentric tradition and responds critically to its denial of female subjectivity and agency” (Connell 1995, 4). As a self-proclaimed feminist author Valdivieso stated, “Hay una ausencia total de la mujer en nuestra historia patria” (Zerán 1991, 5). She saw the need to assert female agency through her writing. Sally Robinson has suggested subjectivity is “not a ‘being’ but a ‘doing’, both product and process at once” (Tierno-Tello 1993, 35). Julieta Kirwood acknowledges this need in feminist activism:

El feminismo no nació hecho: se está haciendo, constituyéndose a sí mismo en su propia acción con la perspectiva de su futuro virtual y ubicándose en esa nueva forma de relación que excluya tanto la discriminación sexista como todo lo que se ha construido en su entorno (Kirkwood 2010, 59).

Valdivieso’s ‘doing’ materialised in the form of novels wherein she created strong women protagonists who dared to transgress the predetermined roles of women in society. Their defiance of tradition is highlighted through the voice they are afforded by the author. This article will suggest that even though the author’s productions served to further the woman’s cause in an androcentric society, the author fails to create the “sujeto múltiple” (Aguirre 2008, 22) which has various facets including social class, generation, and ethnic affiliation. Ana María Stuven and Joaquín Fermandois correctly suggest “No existe la perspectiva femenina” (Stuven and Fermandois 2011, 12). In reference to her texts Valdivieso claims to speak on behalf of women of her generation. This statement fails to acknowledge the complex structure of identities of women in Chilean society.

Valdivieso knew the effect she wanted to achieve through her work: “Recuperar a las mujeres de la tradición oral, aprenderlas y aprehenderlas nos crecerá a los chilenos con la otra mitad de la historia que nos falta” (Valdivieso 2008, 267). Stuven and Fermandois state that historically, Chilean women were not given centre stage in texts and rather: “Su palabra, su voz, su intimidad, sólo aparecían para dar luz a un relato en el cual ellas no eran más que el trasfondo o el contexto” (Stuven and Fermandois 2011, 14). Speaking in 1989, Valdivieso shared the difficulties faced by women writers of her generation: “‘Aunque a las mujeres nos estaba permitido escribir, éste era un escribir acondicionado a un lenguaje que nos hacía mujeres y que nos mentía acerca de nuestras propias aspiraciones, nuestro cuerpo y nuestras emociones’” (Guerra 2008, 31-32). Having been conditioned by the patriarchal order for so long, it was difficult to express their desires through this medium. Published in 1961, La brecha, was hailed as the first Latin American feminist novel. Angélica Rivera describes it as: “la historia de una mujer que, rechazando lo tradicional, opta por una forma de vida que no incluye el matrimonio ni lo establecido” (Rivera 1991, 28). In this text, Valdivieso uses her unnamed protagonist to voice and instigate rejection of norms imposed upon her as a woman in a male-dominated society. With this publication the author joined her woman contemporaries in the struggle to make women’s voices heard and to change the attitude towards them. At this time La brecha’s message was reinforced with the publication of the magazine Paula which discussed in detail feminist issues which were considered taboo within the conservative society that it was published. Amanda Puz, editor of Paula, asserts “Luchar por valores menos materialistas, conseguir más permisividad, criticar la autoridad, cuestionar lo establecido, liberalizar las leyes del divorcio y del aborto. Tal era el panorama que nos presentaba el mundo” (Puz 2008, 248). Paying tribute to this renowned Chilean writer following her death in 1993, Sonia Montecino mentions other achievements of Valdivieso in her article ‘Mercedes Valdivieso. Escritura y Vida’ (Montecino 1993). In addition to publishing La brecha, the author also contributed to the feminist cause in Chile during the 1960s assuming the position of editor of Adán, published by Zig-Zag editorial company. This was a satirical magazine aimed at men in Latin America to encourage a change in their attitude towards women. She also published three more novels, La tierra que les dí (Valdivieso 1963), Los ojos de bambú (Valdivieso 1964), and Las noches y un día (Valdivieso 1971) between the two publications examined in this article. Her career-long devotion to women continued through her academic work in Rice University in the United States. During the 1980s she made several trips back to Chile. During one of these trips “dirigió el primer Taller de Escritura Femenina en el antiguo Circulo de la creación y reflexion literarias” (Montecino 1993). This was attended by prominent women writers in Chile today such as Diamela Eltit and Nelly Richard.

La brecha shocked many readers with the rupture it created between traditional roles and expectations for women and the reality faced by the protagonist. Such controversy was correctly anticipated and Mercedes Valenzuela, as she was known then:

firmó con su apellido de casada de entonces, Valdivieso. Porque de acuerdo con Jaime, su marido, los lectores no tomarían tan a la tremenda ese feminismo desplegado en la novela, y que en los años sesenta eran cosas de desvergonzadas o lesbianas (Rivera 1991, 28)

Seeking refuge behind her husband’s surname seems to contradict the very essence of her novel; however, Valdivieso stated that publishing the book alone was enough to get her point across: “‘hay épocas en la vida en que hay que ser sabio. Yo no claudiqué del hecho de querer ser yo misma, bastaba con el libro’” (Figueroa 1989, A6). The first line of the text already provokes the desired reaction from the reader when the protagonist states with little enthusiasm: “Me casé como todo el mundo se casa” (Valdivieso 1991a, 13). From a young age, she has been prepared for this marriage as if it is something necessary and inevitable. Her maternal grandmother insists: “ ?Eres mujer y aprenderás a zurcir y a estar quieta; nadie querrá que a los diez días de casada te devuelvan por inútil” (Valdivieso 1991a, 14). Oppressed by the female members of her family, the protagonist views marriage as an opportunity to escape. However, she quickly realises the implications that marriage has for her as a woman. “Dejé de pertenecerme por fuera y me amurallé por dentro. La libertad esperada ingenuamente a la vuelta del contrato matrimonial se hacía lejana” (Valdivieso 1991a, 21). Having married at twenty, the protagonist is still quite young and inexperienced enough to accept the marital contract without analysing the ramifications of this action for her, and her freedom. She is shocked by the expectations she must live up to during the honeymoon. Her world seems to fall apart around her when she receives word that she is expecting a child.

Chilean society at the time this novel was published taught women to value motherhood as something to celebrate and welcome. Sonia Montecino asserts that this view has not changed, even in contemporary Chile (Montecino 2008, 402). Valdivieso’s protagonist, however, cannot come to terms with the changes this will implicate in her body and her life. She enters into a depression while expecting Sebastián, her only son. The author herself claimed: “La imagen de la mujer era una imagen social desvalorizada. La mujer tenía que ser la madre sufriente, la esposa abnegada, fina, sus modales no podían ser toscos” (Zerán 1991). La brecha’s protagonist refuses to conform to such views, although she is quiet and submissive as she suffers from depression prior to giving birth. After the birth of her son she realises this is not the life for her and that she never wants to give birth again. “Apreté las manos contra mi vientre sobre las sábanas: ‘Nunca más. Haré lo necesario para impedir que esto se vuelva a repetir. Nunca más’” (Valdivieso 1991a, 34). The rupture between the protagonist and her husband, coupled with that between her actions and the assumptions of patriarchal society continue to grow and develop a tension that becomes unbearable to both husband and wife. Gastón, her husband, declares: “Pensaba que mi mujer debería ser como las que conocí en mi familia, viviendo para su hogar” (Valdivieso 1991a, 66). He sees himself as the victim in their marriage as though she has betrayed him and his expectations. The protagonist on the other hand, eventually asserts her independence and belief stating: “Te lo repito y en definitiva: terminar con eso. No respeto lo que tú respetas; tu fórmula matrimonial es una garra, es dominio, […] y no me gusta” (Valdivieso 1991a, 67). She voices her disinterest in and disdain for his formula for marriage wherein she is expected to perform certain duties that do not appeal to her.

The fact that the protagonist voices her discontent with her situation is quite a breakthrough. According to her grandmother, she should be quiet and submissive. Gastón himself feels let down by her willingness to share her disquiet with him and others. The protagonist: “[se ve] contenta, haciendo reflexiones sobre la libertad. Eso fue lo terrible para una sociedad en que se suponía que la mujer tenía que estar sometida y si levantaba la voz era peligroso” (Foxley 1989, 5). It is her resistance to the silence imposed upon her that allows Valdivieso’s protagonist to truly breach societal norms and push for another existence. In her theorising, Kirkwood called for a new identity to be forged for women, that of a person, separate from her identity as wife and mother. Her means to achieve this was “pensar disidentemente en cuanto mujer” (Patricia 1992, 58). Through La brecha, Valdivieso had already started to encourage such change in attitude twenty years prior to Kirkwood’s call. The author describes the triumph of her debut novel: “[e]l mérito está en que yo me atreví a contar lo que pasaba, es decir, a hablar desde la mujer. Las mujeres en general, hasta La brecha, hablaban desde la mirada que sobre ellas tienen los otros” (Zerán 1991, 4). This is an idyllic vision of the significance of her work held by the author, but this claim to speak for all women is not really supported by the text itself, wherein other facets of identity such as social class and ethnicity are not considered. The ramifications of such an omission will be discussed in detail later in the article.

Valdivieso’s protagonist in her 1991 publication also transgressed societal norms for women. For the author, Maldita yo entre las mujeres, served to extend the arguments that she brought forward with La brecha, while maintaining a focus on women’s voices and their subjectivity. This publication saw a return to the colonial era, to a reworking of seventeenth-century historical figure Catalina de los Ríos y Lisperguer (1604?-1665). As a member of the Chilean oligarchy, Catalina was a particularly powerful woman for her time. In oral tradition and more recent written accounts, la Quintrala (as she is more commonly known) is most renowned as an evil woman who is suspected of committing approximately forty murders in her life. Even more surprising is the fact that she was never convicted of any of these murders. Olga Grau Duhart explains the strength of using this character to provide renewed representations in contemporary Chile: “Una de las primeras evidencias de su fuerza semántica es que el mito ha sido recuperado y reinstalado en distintos momentos de la historia literaria, cultural y política de nuestro país, entendidos como contextos históricos de su reproducción significativa” (Duhart 2008, 491). Very little is recorded in historical accounts about this figure, and until the nineteenth century, her story was readily diffused through oral tradition. Since then, a number of versions of Quintrala’s story have been published, each with a different motive. Two texts in particular which describe Quintrala’s life and were produced prior to Maldita yo entre las mujeres, stand out from other productions. Nineteenth century Chilean historian, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna published his historical text, Los Lisperguer y la Quintrala in 1877 and Magdalena Petit presented her novel, La Quintrala in 1932.

In his text, Vicuña Mackenna claims to provide an objective and truthful account of Quintrala’s life. This text was offered as part of the nation-building effort that took place during the nineteenth century, which was a time for imagining the participants in the recently-established independent nation. In fact what Vicuña Mackenna does is offer Quintrala as an example of what is degenerate with the Chilean nation. He suggests her gender and her mixed heritage, are possible reasons for her malevolent behaviour:

conviene notar desde luego, que, aparte de la educación viciosa, de los malos ejemplos del hogar y de las propensiones generatrices de su ser y de su sexo, tuvo doña Catalina de los Ríos una extraña mixtión de sangre, porque, si por su padre y su abuela, la Encío, era de estirpe genuina de España, por su madre doña Catalina Lisperguer y Flores (Blumen) era dos veces alemana y una vez india chilena. […] ¿Había en esta mezcla de razas fundidas rápidamente en un solo tipo algo que predisponía al crimen y al mal? (Mackenna 1972, 79)

Vicuña Mackenna’s text is a misogynistic account of Quintrala’s life and feeds into the patriarchal views of women of the time who sought to transgress the predetermined boundaries of society. If Quintrala did carry out all the crimes as described then certainly one may find it difficult to feel pity for her, but it seems quite an extraordinary claim to suggest that her behaviour is as a direct result of being a mestiza woman. Petit’s early twentieth-century text La Quintrala is also worth noting before referring toMaldita yo entre las mujeres. Petit was the first woman author to provide an account of la Quintrala’s life. The influence of Vicuña Mackenna’s text is quite evident in Petit’s narrative and a similar stance is adopted when referring to Quintrala’s behaviour. For present day readers, it is disappointing to see Petit falling into the same patriarchal pitfalls as previous authors and not challenging the conventional interpretation.

In consideration of the texts published prior to 1991, Valdivieso took up the challenge to question conventional portrayals and provide a re-visioning of la Quintrala. Her text enters into dialogue with Vicuña Mackenna’s, in particular, questioning its validity. Mariechien Euler Carmona states that: “Valdivieso crea personajes femeninos que rompen con visiones canónicas, en la medida en que se apartan de los roles tradicionales y exploran vivencias que rompen con el orden patriarcal” (Carmona 1999, 343), this is true of the protagonist of Maldita yo entre las mujeres. In previous texts, Quintrala is objectified. Her perspective is not provided. As is true of many women, she was not given a voice in historical accounts. Valdivieso believed in the importance of women and claimed: “Uno de mis proyectos más queridos es recuperar una memoria de mujeres, rescatarlas del olvido” (Rivera 1991, 28). In providing an atypical reading of Quintrala, Valdivieso seeks to de-mythify her protagonist and her life. Andrea Puyol suggests that Valdivieso’s portrayal has a humanizing effect on the protagonist (Puyol 1991, 88). A principal strategy which the author adopts in order to provide this alternative, de-mythified reading is to give Catalina a voice. “Catalina” is used here in reference to Valdivieso’s protagonist because unlike previous texts, Maldita yo entre las mujeres rarely refers to her as Quintrala, placing the emphasis on her real name, serving to further exemplify the protagonist’s human traits.

La brecha’s protagonist is given the opportunity to narrate her story, unhindered by an omnipresent narrator who is removed from the situation. One experiences the events of the novel through her eyes only and it is only through direct speech quoted by her that it is possible to focus on the perspectives of the secondary characters. This honest and direct approach of the protagonist allows the reader to gain confidence in her version of events. This technique was not a viable one for Valdivieso when writing Maldita yo entre las mujeres. Until the publication of this text, la Quintrala had been portrayed as an object rather than the subject of the narrative. To give her a voice and allow her to narrate her experiences would not be accepted without criticism since for three centuries hers was a tale of caution to Chilean women. The author sought to deconstruct this common belief and create a new perspective. She rewrote the myth from a new angle which demanded a re-questioning of the story and its origins. O Connell suggests that: “Feminist rewriting can […] be thought of in two categories: as an act of demolition, exposing and detonating the stories that have hampered women, and as a task of construction—of bringing into being enabling alternatives” (Connell 1995, 30). In her 1991 publication, Mercedes Valdivieso succeeds in positioning her text in both of these categories. This is clear in the narrative form that is adopted for the novel. The text opens with a fictitious letter written by the governor of Chile, Alonso de Ribera, to the Spanish Viceroy in Lima. In it he describes the development of Chile under Spanish rule in the seventeenth century, and he also introduces Catalina, the protagonist, and some of the female members of the family. The remainder of the text is then divided into fourteen parts, ten of which are narrated by Catalina and four which begin with “Dicen que…”.

The author acknowledges the difficulty in trying to provide a new portrayal of Quintrala stating: “Es como retomar una voz femenina que ha sido bastante maldita, si usted la reflexiona. Ha estado postergada, sumergida, hablada con una voz ajena” (Maack 1991). The frustration of not previously being given a voice is clear in Catalina’s reaction to her family making decisions about her life without consulting her: “Me enfurecía escucharles disponer de mi vida y una tarde grité a mis padres que nadie a mí me casaba mientras a mi cuerpo no le diera ganas” (Valdivieso 1991b, 18). By giving this voice to Catalina, Valdivieso responds to three centuries of the protagonist’s story being told from a patriarchal and supposedly objective perspective which was not concerned with how Catalina may have felt or thought. Frustration with this reality is expressed in the protagonist’s exclamation: “‘Quiero ser mía!’” (Valdivieso 1991b, 17). The heteroglossic structure in the novel aids Valdivieso greatly in demolishing the previous accounts of Quintrala’s story while simultaneously constructing an alternative perspective. Mikhail Bakhtin defines heteroglossia as “a process that enables the mapping of discourses as their contours are outlined in relation to each other, and which thus relativises any claim to a monopoly” (Sellers 2001, 43).  Catalina’s voice is dominant in the text and is afforded authority through juxtaposition with the sections beginning with “dicen que...”. Norberto Flores suggests that “[b]y putting history into the mouths of the ignored […] Valdivieso creates a polyphony of voices that reveals the invalidity of a discourse that has erected itself as truth bearing” (Flores 1995, 283). Valdivieso admitted she chose to write a fictional portrayal of Quintrala because “‘ella representa para mí una fuerza femenina que luchó tanto por manifestarse y fue muy mal recibida. Contra ella ha habido un enorme prejuicio’” (Rivera 1991, 28). Critics such as Flores and Rosa Sarabia agree that the sections beginning with “dicen que…” are paramount to aiding the reliability of Catlina’s own narrative. They represent the rumours and popular myths of Quintrala’s tale which was reproduced by oral tradition and authors who published before Valdivieso. In creating a heteroglossic narrative, Valdivieso cleverly calls into question the legitimacy of one “official” account of a tale and also casts doubt on the previous representations. Flores suggests that “[by] introducing the female voice in the monolithic context of patriarchal discourse, Mercedes Valdivieso questions the validity of history, denouncing its feeble condition as a linguistic construct” (Flores 1995, 279). Sarabia coincides with this belief stating that the “dicen que…” narrative “a pesar de su distancia no logra poseer fiabilidad y objetividad por contrapeso a la seducción que ofrece la primera, la de Catalina, quien domina el resto de la narración” (Sarabia 2000, 43).

The “dicen que...” narrative portrays only negative opinions of Quintrala, “no cupo dudas de que el diablo tenía su voluntad en ella” (Valdivieso 1991b, 77). When contrasted with the first person narrative, this viewpoint raises suspicion and does not seem to hold the same weight it did previously. Bernadita Llanos correctly asserts: “Valdivieso cuestiona el papel de los diversos discursos históricos de la época en la creación de la leyenda” (Llanos 1994, 1027). This, as Rebecca Lee states, helps render Catalina as a more sympathetic character (Lee 2007, 114). Valdivieso’s text represents an upheaval of the traditional perspective of its protagonist. Having been condemned to silence by previous authors, Valdivieso’s Catalina is finally given the opportunity to speak and provide her version of events which, the reader soon discovers, is quite contrasting to other versions. Allowing Catalina the subjectivity to defend her situation has a surprising effect on the reader. Having always been painted in a particularly negative light, it seems unusual that a text could invoke pity for such a character. The text succeeds in doing just that. Not only does Catalina’s voice undermine popular and official discourses which were previously accepted uncritically, it also encourages an approximation between reader and protagonist which would not have been imagined before.

Through both novels, Mercedes Valdivieso criticises certain common beliefs about women, their role, and their behaviour. Since this article is interested particularly in how the protagonists reject the limiting roles afforded to them by the patriarchal order, through their own subjectivity and voice, the following two examples of such restrictions are particularly interesting to analyse. Firstly society’s belief that women are descendants of Eve and so are responsible for original sin, and secondly the double standard that exists between men and women in reference to sexual activity. In her text, From Beast to Blonde, Marina Warner refers to women’s supposedly innate betrayal of man. By breaking her silence and tempting Adam, Eve brought about the downfall for mankind. According to Warner, it is for that reason that silence has long been considered a female virtue by patriarchal order (Warner 1995, 29). La brecha’s protagonist does not possess this so-called female virtue. She explicitly voices her complaints about her situation as a woman and the expectations that are imposed on her due to this fact. Speaking to her conservative childhood friend she states: “ ? Yo creo que la estamos pagando por Adán y Eva. ¿Cómo sabes si la desobediencia no fue sino la tentación del sexo y Adán cayó incitado por su compañera?” (Valdivieso 1991a, 106). She blames both figures for the difficult roles men and women are forced to act out within society, while failing to question the monolithic assumption that Eve was the source of temptation.

The protagonist in La brecha has from an early age shown signs of resistance to conforming to societal norms. Her father reassures her, “? Eres como yo, un poco hijo del Diablo; pero no hay que temerle, es positivo, todo el progreso se lo debemos a él” (Valdivieso 1991a, 27). This insinuates the era within which they live is one of severe conservatism, where any transgression of tradition is viewed as an influence of the Devil. The protagonist remembers this conversation with her father, who accepted her as she was, but her father died shortly after this and so she was left to defend her unique outlook on life to most other people. His reference to them as children of the Devil reflects on the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve chose to break the rules and heed the Devil’s words. This resulted in the pair eating the apple which made them aware of their surroundings and led them to feel shame of their naked bodies and not to accept explanations which had been provided for them until then. In a sense, they progressed to thinking more critically. In the Bible this is condemned as the work of the Devil, but as the protagonist’s father correctly points out, if this is the work of the Devil, the world owes its progress to him. Gastón blames his wife for all that has gone wrong in their relationship. Through her constant rejection and verbal criticism of the patriarchal order and what it has forced upon her she has driven her husband to a point of desperation. Even after agreeing to an annulment of their marriage, he still cannot accept the “brecha” that she has created in their relationship and in his world. He informs her that she was “culpable de todo lo que le sucedía, culpable de haber perdido su alma, culpable de que la vida no tuviera ninguna esperanza, ningún camino” (Valdivieso 1991a, 141). This heritage of fault and responsibility is also mentioned by the protagonist when she has left Gastón, and has successfully set up a new life for herself and Sebastián. They have their own home and she has a job in an office to maintain this. She has broken the mould in tradition and has succeeded independently outside of marriage without resorting to prostitution or other illegal activities to maintain their lifestyle. She realises then that in a short number of years, she has fallen victim to both Adam and Eve’s legacies: “‘Ganarás el pan con el sudor de tu frente’. La terrible maldición de Dios al hombre caído. Y a la mujer: ‘Parirás tus hijos con dolor’ [...] ‘Ambas maldiciones me tocan’” (Valdivieso 1991a, 113). Having broken from societal expectations, she has been doubly punished. Although she is criticised in the immediate aftermath for breaking from these expectations, one cannot deny the positive long term outcomes that come from such a “brecha”. She has set a precedence for women who find themselves in similar situations. In this 1961 publication, the references to Adam and Eve and the author’s questioning of the legitimacy of such blame being afforded to a particular sex as a result of actions carried out by their predecessors is evident. In Maldita yo entre las mujeres, this seems to escalate and a focus is placed specifically on Eve.

Warner promotes the rewriting of myths and fairytales from a feminist perspective in order to provide subjectivity for women, which is not afforded to them in patriarchal representations of the mythical woman. She also asserts that according to the patriarchal order: “Eve, the pattern of all women to come, sinned through speech, by tempting Adam to eat with her words. So speech must be denied all her daughters” (Warner 1995, 30). In Maldita yo entre las mujeres, Fray Cristobal attempts to warn Catalina against her transgressive behaviour choosing Eve as a prime example of behaviour that one should not emulate. He reminds Catalina that women tend towards evil and weakness of character since “‘mujer  fue quien paso la oreja al demonio y en mujer principió el pecado’” (Valdivieso 1991b, 45-46). Catalina refuses to acquiesce in the face of this imposed generalisation. She displays pride in herself and her origins. This pride and self-assuredness is not valued by a society which prefers women to be seen and not heard. Her continued refusal to conform to social norms results in her receiving much unwanted criticism from male figures in her family and even more frequently from members of the clergy. She is equated with Eve when she and her mother are being questioned about her father’s death. Fray Marciano is unimpressed with their unwillingness to comply with the investigation and exclaims: “‘Eva fue causa del pecado original ejemplo funesto que le sigue’” (Valdivieso 1991b, 115). Catalina quickly reminds him that they are all “¡hijos de mujeres!” (Valdivieso 1991b, 115). Maldita yo entre las mujeres narrated predominately in the first person female voice serves to counter the traditional belief that women are responsible for much of the evil that is carried out in the world. Not only does it break the silence of historical meta-narratives, but it also breaks the norms of myths and fairytales told about Quintrala which also condemned her to silence. It has taken a step beyond the criticism in La brecha, and now seems to disregard any suggestion that one can legitimately argue the position of women in society in reference to Eve’s story. The figure of Eve is revealed as a patriarchal and religious scapegoat, used to justify the idea of male superiority over women.

The double standards faced by women in Chilean society also receive Valdivieso’s severe criticism in her texts. When women are not being held responsible for leading men astray, they are expected to be sexually subservient and are condemned for any promiscuity. Both Valdivieso’s protagonists fall victim to such critical receptions. The author discusses the difficulty that women faced when trying to speak about such issues:

antes había un lenguaje atribuido a la mujer, el de la suavidad y el de la queja pudorosa; a la mujer le asignaron un lenguaje pasado por la censura del hombre. La mujer tenía que ser sensible, amar eternamente, y ser casta (Foxley 1989, 4).

These social norms set out for women confined them to very specific realities where they were not always content. In La brecha, the protagonist has no sexual experience prior to marriage and is not convinced by her sexual encounters with Gastón. The consummation of the marriage results in her unwanted pregnancy and throws her into the depths of depression. More disturbing still are the encounters she has when Gastón is battling with jealousy after seeing his wife dance with another man. He refuses to go down for dinner following the episode and insists on reaffirming his apparent dominion over his wife: “ ?¡Mía! ¡Eres mía! La débil posesión a través del sexo” (Valdivieso 1991a, 18). Of course, this event says more about Gastón’s personal issues about his sense of self and entitlement over his wife rather than what it says about the protagonist. It does lead the reader to feel pity for her in the situation in which she, like many may have found themselves. Even though Gastón clearly is not comfortable with their separation and tends to spend more time out of their home than in it, he refuses to let his marriage fail. “ ? ¿Supones que yo aceptaré haber fracasado en mi matrimonio? Seguiremos juntos aunque sea necesario darte de bofetadas” (Valdivieso 1991a, 54). This remark reflects the tendency to resort to gender violence in the machista culture within which they are living, and unfortunately is an attitude that remains in contemporary society in Chile and elsewhere. There is no love lost between husband and wife, but since it is the protagonist, his wife, who has requested the separation, he will not agree to it. Divorce was still a taboo issue in Chile during this time and so the protagonist’s suggestion would not have been met kindly. In an attempt to alleviate her daily struggle with depression and motherhood, the protagonist joins a drama group where she meets like-minded people. This is also a space for her outside the home where she is not defined solely by her husband and the function she has in their home. This type of freedom is not the norm and Gastón, knowing that she is unhappy with her situation as mother and wife still insists: “Tendremos más hijos, abandonarás cosas tan absurdas como el teatro, no te visitará gente con la que nada tengo que ver, dejarás de lado lo que impide que seamos felices” (Valdivieso 1991a, 66). He sees her actions as impeding his happiness and cannot even conceive the possibility that she may have different things that make her happy as an individual. In his eyes, if he is happy, they must both be happy. In saying this he attempts to dismiss any subjectivity which his wife may try to assert in her self-discovery which neither desires nor requires him to be fulfilled.

The protagonists of both novels seek to assert their “[l]ibertad” (Valdivieso 1991a, 142) through sexual encounters with more than one man. They question the double standard that remains in patriarchal society today which celebrates the virility of a man with several sexual partners while a woman in a similar position is heavily criticised. La brecha’s protagonist questions this stating: “pero la vanidad masculina es ciega: las mujeres se entregan por amor o se prostituyen por dinero. Casos extremos. ¿Y el término medio? ¿Una mezcla de amor y prostitución, de prostitución y amor?” (Valdivieso 1991a, 58). Aware that she does not want to spend the rest of her life with Gastón, she embarks upon sexual relations with other men. She cares for the men but does not agree with the idea that in order for a woman to have sex it must either be out of love or because she is being paid for it. Her direct remark regarding this is shocking in the sense that it highlights just how blatant and extreme society’s view is on this topic. In Maldita yo entre las mujeres, Catalina’s attitude towards sexual activity is moderated from previous portrayals of the protagonist. In traditional myths Quintrala’s lustful ways and so-called sexual perversion is condemned. Valdivieso’s re-visioning of the narrative portrays its protagonist as a sexual being, certainly, but does not emphasise it as something unnatural. Catalina defends her actions against Enrique Enríquez, whom she supposedly murdered, claiming that he had dishonoured her integrity while speaking with his friends: “habló de mi lascivia y de cómo él me la gastaría y sobrado” (Valdivieso 1991b, 15) and she also claims that: “[Enriquéz] gozó imaginándome desnuda, reducida a lo que soy, una hembra para el gozo y olvido” (Valdivieso 1991b, 19). Catalina’s words underline the objectification to which women are subjected, even in contemporary society. The acknowledgement of this objectification demands a more sympathetic relation between reader and protagonist. Valdivieso insists on her strategy of providing a voice to Catalina as a necessary element to understanding her. Having always been referred to in negative terms, the author seeks to reappropriate Catalina’s life, giving her a voice which allows her to explain her actions. It is surprising the alluring qualities that a first person narrative can have on the reader.

It is through her protagonists’ voices that Valdivieso asserted female agency and rescued women from their traditional silence. The unnamed protagonist from La brecha is just that, unnamed. The author used this technique to allow this character be a widely-accepted representative of women from her generation. In the epigraph to the novel she claims “El personaje de esta novela no tiene nombre, pero podría ser el de cualquier mujer de nuestra generación” (Valdivieso 1991a). The voice of the nameless protagonist gains even more relevance when this is revealed as the female reader senses a common channel between her life and that of the protagonist. However, this idea of representing women of her generation through her unidentified protagonist is also a problematic step for Valdivieso. It blindly assumes the idea, which Chandra Talpade Mohanty warns against, that all women are oppressed in the same way, regardless of age, socio-economic circumstances and ethnicity (Mohanty 1994, 196-197). Lucía Guerra too insists that

[r]eaccionando contra el esencialismo de los nuevos discursos feministas producidos en los sectores hegemónicos, la mujer latinoamericana se busca a sí misma en una otredad múltiple y se propone reemplazar la teorización abstracta por multidiálogos que portan en sí una potencialidad política (Guerra 2006, 33)

This is not the case in La brecha, and although the author’s intention is honourable, it is somewhat uncritical and unrealistic in its delivery. The protagonist is of a middle- to upper-class standing where she is expected not to work, but rather devote her time to making and maintaining a home. In these responsibilities she has help from her “empleada” who not only helps with the upkeep of the house, but also with the care of Sebastián. On her way to catch her flight to New York she states: “Besé a Sebastián dormido, lo recomendé a la empleada y partí a pie” (Valdivieso 1991a, 95). Her responsibility towards her son is conferred to the “empleada” who is not given a voice in the text and so the reader is unaware of her situation and how she feels about it. On occasions throughout the text, “la empleada” takes on the responsibility of childminder and housekeeper while the protagonist has the opportunity to analyse the situation she is in and to take action to change it. Her employee is not afforded such a luxury. At no point in the text is any female character, except the protagonist, encouraged to rebel against her oppressive circumstances. For this reason, one needs to be cautious in celebrating this text as universally relevant to women. It is relevant to women of similar socio-economic positions, but its elitist tendencies restrict it from becoming relevant to a wider group of women.

Similarly in Maldita yo entre las mujeres, a special focus is placed on the women in Catalina’s family. She has received her mestiza heritage matrilineally, which Vicuña Mackenna originally argued was the cause of her evil actions, and so in Valdivieso’s publication, there seems to be a particular interest in re-writing the negative portrayals to which these women were previously subjected. In light of this, they are depicted in less barbaric terms. Catalina’s grandmother is even given the opportunity to express the reality the women of their family face as mestiza women, “Doña Águeda contestó que eso era ser mujer primero y también, mujer cruzada por dos destinos, lo que era ser mujer dos veces” (Valdivieso 1991b, 37). This suggests that the women in the family have been doubly distanced from the centres of power on the grounds of gender and ethnicity. Valdivieso’s text inverts this injustice by bringing the female members of Catalina’s family to the forefront and marginalising the male European descendants who share the same blood but are more readily accepted as Spanish. Focus remains on the women of Catalina’s family, and little or no subjectivity is given to other female characters in the text. La Tatamai, who is an indigenous servant and has served all the generations of Lisperguer women, is given a certain status within their world. She is valued for her natural potions and wise sayings. She too verbally criticises the dominance men have over women: “Los hombres pueden darse el lujo de sus ganas y una mujer pagará por ellos” (Valdivieso 1991b, 61), but she is not provided with the same opportunity as the Lisperguer women to assert her subjectivity. Her opinion and actions are respected, but at no point is she encouraged to resist her subordinate position and establish her subjectivity free of her mistresses. Other servants such as Rosario Ay and Perdón del Socorro are scorned for conforming to the duties that the patriarchs assign them. They do not seek to join the Lisperguer women in their quest to corrupt the patriarchal order and indeed, Rosario Ay aids Catalina’s father don Gonzálo by spying on his daughter and reporting back to him. She receives heavy criticism for this in Valdivieso’s text. Her actions are seen as weak and submissive, and yet she is not provided with an occasion to assert subjectivity. This right is reserved for the Lisperguer women who due to their social status are in a more comfortable position to go against the grain and challenge male domination through voicing rejection of its norms. By doing this they do not risk losing their position in society or basic needs such as a roof over their heads and food on their tables. The risk is much higher for their servants who depend on the dominating men for their livelihood. While successfully criticising the essentialist ideas proposed by patriarchal society regarding the roles of men and women, Valdivieso falls into another essentialist trap claiming to speak for “all” women.

To conclude, Mercedes Valdivieso uses La brecha and Maldita yo entre las mujeres to portray new perspectives on women and to encourage a dismantling of traditional patriarchal presumptions regarding women and their limited roles in society. Her primary technique in instigating this upheaval of societal values is by providing agency to her protagonists in the form of a voice. Through the first-person female narrative a direct connection is formed between reader and protagonist as one is privy to their opinions and expectations. Valdivieso utilises the voices of her female characters to criticise popular opinion on the expected roles of men and women. In La brecha she successfully questions the legitimacy of relegating women to the home as wives and mothers. It is clear from this novel that these roles are not desired innately by all women and that forcing them to conform to this is not a productive approach. This novel was poorly received by many people due to the honesty and direct perspective it took on taboo issues such as depression and divorce, presented from the female protagonist’s perspective. Maldita yo entre las mujeres allowed the author to develop arguments which were perhaps more tentatively presented in La brecha. Through the voices of their protagonists, both novels sought to legitimise alternative positions for women in society outside of the previously-established boundaries. They promoted the right for women to “pensar disidentemente” (Patricia 1992) and also criticised the unfair presumptions which the church and patriarchal society as a whole has of women as descendants of Eve. Perhaps most successfully, both La brecha and Maldita yo entre las mujeres, both explicitly criticise the double standard applied to women with reference to sexuality. They reject the extreme categories within which women are placed when speaking about sexual relations and demand a more moderate approach to this subject. All the aforementioned aspects are of great importance to the struggle of establishing female subjectivity within literature and providing women with voices to share their perspectives. However, one cannot ignore the oversight which the author seems to have made in relation to other social factors such as ethnicity and socio-economic background in reference to her female characters. By not providing La brecha’s protagonist with a name, she sought to make her shared experience a more inclusive one. Nonetheless, she simply succeeds in disregarding the very important fact that women are marginalised because of their sex, certainly, but very often other factors such as the ones above are also responsible for their isolation. One cannot assume that all women are oppressed in the same manner and so it is important to bear this in mind when analysing Valdivieso’s approach. This caveat does not take from the basic premise of these novels, as though they may be flawed in their presentation, they each add greatly to the discussion of female subjectivity in Chilean fiction from the twentieth century.


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Mirna Vohnsen

Cinematic Jewish Women in Rural Argentina and the Representation of Argentinidad


From the outset, Argentine cinema has played a significant role in the question of argentinidad. The historical account of how Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in the Argentine interior and became Argentines rooted in the land has not escaped Argentine film. Although period films portray Jewish female characters as nation builders alongside their male counterparts, the study of Jewish women in Argentine cinema has received little scholarly attention. In an attempt to remedy that, this article shows that the examination of the Jewish female onscreen can shed light on the controversial question of argentinidad. It examines the representation of two cinematic Jewish women in the Jewish agricultural colonies of the north-eastern province of Entre Ríos, Argentina, in the early twentieth century. Through the analysis of Miriam’s story in Juan José Jusid’s Los gauchos judíos [The Jewish gauchos] (1975) and Gertrudis’s story in María Victoria Menis’s La cámara oscura [Camera obscura] (2008), the article argues that Argentine cinema advocates the acculturation of the Jewish woman in Argentine society, and asserts that national cinema is on the side of the integration of different ethnicities as a desirable development for Argentine society. However, the stories of these women demonstrate that integration provokes a clash between tradition and assimilation. Placing the Jewish woman at the centre of the study reveals that these women have to break with their identity groups in order to integrate into their host country, a process that comes at a considerable cost.The article concludes that these cinematic females’ agency mirrors the proactive roles which Jewish women have had in building their host nation, and thereby, argentinidad.


Throughout its history, Argentine cinema has contributed profoundly to the question of argentinidad or what it is to be an Argentine. Since its beginning, the national cinema of Argentina has drawn on historical events to inform its narratives, thus making a significant contribution to the discourse of national identity. For instance, the first documentary ever filmed in Argentina was Eugenio Py’s La bandera argentina [The Argentine flag] in 1897. In the 1920s and early 1930s, however, José Agustín Ferreyra, the most prominent director of the time, portrayed argentinidad through the representation of marginal urban characters. In a similar vein, during the following two decades, directors Mario Soffici and Leopoldo Torres Ríos dealt with the configuration of national identity by drawing on rural and urban themes respectively. In the 1950s and 1960s, argentinidad was mainly explored in social-realist films. By 1974, Argentine cinema had entered a period of decline caused by the political turmoil that hit the country and thus argentinidad was scarcely represented (Getino 2005, 17-80). The advent of democracy in 1983 marked a new era in Argentine cinema, and this resulted in the notable representation of argentinidad in the post-dictatorship cinema of the 1980s and 1990s. As Constanza Burucúa explains, “At a time when national identity was in need of reshaping, and a new and more egalitarian array of social habits needed to be promoted, film became a privileged arena in which to give image and voice to a new national project” (2009, 1). Mindful of the link that exists between argentinidad and film, this article intends to examine the representation of two cinematic Jewish women in the Jewish agricultural colonies of the Argentine interior at the beginning of the twentieth century in order to interrogate the discourse of argentinidad. Ever since the first Argentine film depicting a Jewish character was made in 1948, the image of the Jewish woman in Argentine cinema has been defined by her absence or by secondary roles. Pelota de trapo [Ragged football] (1948)—the film that first introduced the Jew onto the screens of the national cinema of Argentina—portrays the lives of a Jewish father and his son in a Buenos Aires neighbourhood but no Jewish female is represented in the plot. However, Argentine cinema does not constitute an isolated example: the marginal position of the female Jewish character in other film industries, such as the American or the British, has been noted by Nathan Abrams:

Strangely, given the growth of women’s and gender studies, little has been written about Jewish female representation in contemporary cinema, especially when compared with television. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that the Jewish woman on film suffered from consistent under-representation, being relegated to a limited number of secondary roles. (Abrams 2012, 43)

In the case of Argentine cinema, the situation has been partly remedied by the following film productions: Los gauchos judíos [The Jewish gauchos] (1975), Un lugar en el mundo [A place in the world] (1992), Sol de otoño [Autumn sun] (1996), and La cámara oscura [Camera obscura] (2008), in which the Jewish woman plays a significant role. Nonetheless, there is more research to be done regarding the representation of the Jewish woman in film. As a consequence of her relegated position on screen, the study of the Jewish woman in Argentine cinema has not been widely explored in academia. This is unfortunate since the examination of the Jewish female on screen can shed light on the controversial question of argentinidad. Through the analysis of Miriam’s story in Juan José Jusid’s Los gauchos judíos and Gertrudis’s story in María Victoria Menis’s La cámara oscura, this article argues that Argentine cinema advocates the acculturation of the Jewish woman in Argentine society. Furthermore, national cinema is on the side of the integration of different ethnicities as a desirable development for Argentine society.

Both films are set in the Jewish colonies of the north-eastern province of Entre Ríos in the early twentieth-century, the period of mass immigration to Argentina, when the country’s national identity was being reshaped. Among the newly arrived immigrants were Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. Due to a thirty-three-year gap between their respective releases, La cámara oscura shows that Argentine cinema has gravitated towards the normalisation of the Jews’ argentinidad. It should be noted that normalisation in the present context means to downplay the representation of Jews as the other. In Los gauchos judíos, the plot includes a series of events that display the gradual assimilation of the Jewish newcomers to their new environment, and the title of the film speaks of merging Jewish with gaucho traditions. Although the Jewish characters progressively incorporate gaucho skills like the cultivation of the land in their novel rural life, the first generation especially continues to observe its own traditions. In La cámara oscura, on the other hand, the Jewish characters appear totally integrated into the rural environment. One of the most conspicuous elements that stresses the distinction between the Jewish characters in both films is costume. Whilst the Jewish characters’ dress and long beards in Los gauchos judíos mark them as the other in relation to the natives of Entre Ríos, the lack of long beards and the traditional gaucho dress worn by the characters in La cámara oscura downplay their otherness. In order to understand the connection between argentinidad and the presence of the Jewish immigrant in the Argentine countryside, it is necessary to provide an overview of certain features of Argentine history.

The term argentinidad was coined in 1910, not by an Argentine, but by the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in his article, “Sobre la argentinidad”, published in the prestigious Argentine newspaper, La Nación. In this concise article, Unamuno, who was a correspondent for La Nación from 1901 to 1914, extolled the book, La restauración nacionalista (1909), by Argentine writer Ricardo Rojas and overtly expressed his agreement with Rojas’s position, which advocated the argentinización, or complete assimilation, of the different groups of immigrants arriving in large numbers in those days (Unamuno 1941, 53-59). The relevance of Unamuno’s article was enhanced by the historical context in which it appeared; in other words, a commemoration and an historical event provided its framework. Firstly, the article was penned the same year as Argentina commemorated the centenary of the May Revolution—a significant event that marked the overthrow of the Spanish king’s delegate in the Viceroyalty of the River Plate and the establishment of the first national government, or Primera Junta. Secondly, Unamuno’s article was precipitated by the impact of mass immigration on the demographic configuration of the country and the subsequent need for reshaping Argentina’s national identity. The genesis of the discourse of argentinidad, however, dates back to the early days of nation-building. In 1845, statesman, writer and intellectual Domingo F. Sarmiento wrote a book that would leave an indelible mark on national identity, namely Facundo o civilización y barbarie en las pampas argentinas. As the title suggests, the book examines the dichotomy between civilisation and barbarism in nineteenth-century Argentina. According to Sarmiento, the vast, empty pampas, combined with the indomitable spirit of the gaucho,embodied barbarism, which in turn hindered progress and civilisation. Like his contemporary, lawyer Juan Bautista Alberdi, Sarmiento believed that Anglo-Saxon immigration would bring civilisation to the country by helping transform the work habits and customs of the native population. Thus, in 1853, the Argentine Confederation, constituted by the provinces of Entre Ríos, Corrientes, San Juan, San Luis, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Jujuy, Córdoba, La Rioja, Tucumán, Catamarca, Mendoza and Santa Fe, approved a National Constitution largely inspired by Alberdi’s 1852 Bases y puntos de partida para la organización de la República Argentina (Luna 2000, 85-86). As Félix Luna explains, “In this work Alberdi put forward a draft Constitution and laid the theoretical foundations of the new country that was beginning to take shape” (2000, 86). According to Alberdi, whose injunction was gobernar es poblar (to govern is to populate), fostering European immigration to Argentina was the answer to enhancing the development of the vast territory of the Argentine Republic, which lacked basic infrastructure and was in the hands of caudillos. Furthermore, Alberdi firmly believed that Europeans had to come to Argentina not merely to bring civilisation to the country, but also to mould a new kind of Argentine (Schulman 1948, 3-17). Between the years 1860 and 1880, moderate numbers of European immigrants started to arrive in Argentina. These Europeans, however, were not the Anglo-Saxons that both Alberdi and Sarmiento had expected. “Where possible, [Alberdi and Sarmiento] wanted Anglo-Saxons with the same mentality they had seen in the United States: self-sufficient, politically self-determining smallholders who did not rely on handouts from the government” (Luna 2000, 92). Protected by the preamble of the 1853 Constitution which provided rights and guarantees to todos los hombres del mundo que quieran habitar en el suelo argentino (all the men of the world who wish to live on Argentine soil), the newcomers were not turned away; on the contrary, they contributed to the development of the budding nation.

Julio A. Roca was inaugurated president of Argentina in 1880 and during his presidency the country witnessed the initiation of mass immigration, propelled by the Immigration Law of 1876, which fomented a type of émigré willing to farm the land. Furthering Alberdi’s ideas, this law represents perhaps the most eloquent example of the 1853 Constitution. Among those immigrants who established themselves in Argentina were Russian Jews. By August 1889, the first organised group of Russian Jewish immigrants arrived on board the vessel SS Weser, and after the year 1891 successive groups of Russian Jews entered Argentina (Weisbrot 1979, 42). In fact, Jewish immigration from Russia was mainly due to the merging of three historical events: first, a year after he took office, president Roca issued a decree that encouraged Russian Jews to settle in Argentina, and also sent an emissary, José María Bustos, to Russia to recruit Jews (Weisbrot 1979, 43). Second, in Tsarist Russia, Jews were victims of pogroms and escalating violence—only a limited number of Jews had access to education and they were deprived of owning land (Feierstein 2006, 61-62). Third, in 1891, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, a wealthy Jewish banker, founded the Jewish Colonisation Association (JCA), with the intention of helping Russian Jews find a new home where they could work the land as farmers, despite the fact that Jews were not acquainted with farming in Russia. Assessing the options for settlement, Maurice de Hirsch wrote:

I made a study, therefore, of different countries, and after careful examination I have become convinced that the Argentine Republic, Canada, and Australia, above all others, offer the surest guarantee for the accomplishment of the plan. I expect to begin with the Argentine Republic, and arrangements for the purchase of certain lands for the settlement are now being made. (Hirsch 1891, 4)

Hirsch believed that in order for Jews to achieve redemption and put an end to Jewish persecutions, they had to go back to farming the land as they had done in Biblical times, hence the reason why land was acquired in Argentina. One of the provinces in which the JCA purchased most land was Entre Ríos. In his study of the Jewish agricultural colonies, Morton Winsberg points out that these purchases led to the establishment of several colonies in that province, among which was the colony of Villa Clara, where the story of La cámara oscura is set (1968a, 287).

In 1895, the total population of Argentina amounted to approximately 4,000,000 people, but owing to the large influx of immigrants, nineteen years later it had doubled. So out of a population of roughly 8,000,000 the census of 1914 reveals that more than 2,000,000 people were foreign nationals (Rein 2010, 33). This means that immigration policy had changed dramatically the demographics of Argentina, hence the need to argentinizar the newly-arrived immigrants, as proposed by Rojas and supported by Unamuno. The term argentinizar in this context entailed the integration of the immigrants into the national community, but without disrupting the existing hierarchy or political practices in Argentine society (García Fanlo 2010a, 63-89). Thus, mass immigration had not only altered the demographic composition of the nation but also shifted the way in which national identity had been conceived. By the opening decades of the twentieth century, then, the question of argentinidad had been transformed from a positivist discourse that had endorsed European civilisation and whose goal had been to conquer Argentine barbarism to a cultural nationalist discourse that eulogised the gaucho figure, Hispanic traditions and la Argentina profunda, a concept that rejected the cosmopolitanism of Buenos Aires in favour of the spirituality found in the traditional values of the Argentine provinces (García Fanlo 2010b, 27). Film was instrumental in carrying out the argentinización of the newcomers because it helped edify the cultural nationalist discourse of argentinidad through documentaries portraying national emblems and topics, and fictional films that praised the gaucho. One of the most successful films of the time was Nobleza gaucha [Gaucho nobility] (1915), an account that praised the courage of the gaucho and depicted the dichotomy between urban and rural Argentina (King 2000, 11). Released in 1975 and 2008 respectively, Los gauchos judíos and La cámara oscura re-enact the period of mass immigration, focusing on newly-arrived Ashkenazi Jews who have to appropriate, apart from a new language, Argentine customs and traditions. That is, the films portray and extol the successful accomplishment of the Jews’ argentinización, which has rendered them a highly assimilable immigrant group on screen.

Los gauchos judíos, directed by Juan José Jusid, is the first Argentine film to portray Jews as a community. It is based on the eponymous book by Jewish Argentine writer Alberto Gerchunoff. Published in 1910 as a commemoration for the centenary of the May Revolution, Los gauchos judíos ties in neatly with the cultural nationalist discourse of argentinidad for it legitimises the assimilation of the newcomers in the Argentine interior. As Edna Aizenberg puts it, “The title and the book were a conscious effort by Gerchunoff to reposition ‘Jews’ alongside ‘gauchos’, and in so doing earn the right for his co-religionists to be respected and, even more importantly, to belong” (2002, 19). The book, which occupies a prominent place in the Argentine as well as the Jewish literary canon, is a collection of twenty-four short stories narrating the experiences of a group of Jewish immigrants in the Entre Ríos agricultural colony of Rajil. Because the film extrapolates the narrative structure of the book, the end result is a fragmented account that consists of parallel stories narrating the settlers’ experiences. Although the film gives prominence to several stories involving Jewish female characters, Miriam’s story stands out from the rest. The importance of her story stems from the fact that she falls in love with a Gentile—a person of non-Jewish faith—and, in doing so, she crosses a boundary set by her ethnic community. Featuring prominent Argentine actors, Los gauchos judíos received national acclaim when released in 1975, and it is one of the few films of the time that engages with argentinidad. Like Los gauchos judíos, La cámara oscura is an adaptation of an eponymous short story from 1983 written by Jewish Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer. In contrast to the narrative structure of Los gauchos judíos, La cámara oscura centres around a Jewish female character, Gertrudis, who lives in the colony of Villa Clara from her early childhood in 1897 until she elopes in 1929. The plot, which is told retrospectively, commences the day after her escape and then shifts back in time to show the events that had led to her elopement. Unlike Los gauchos judíos, La cámara oscura, which is a co-production between Argentina and France, directed by Argentine director María Victoria Menis, does not list prominent Argentine actors. Nevertheless, La Nación’s film critic Diego Batlle has praised the film as, “Una pequeña gran película, de esas que permanecen en la retina, en la memoria y en el corazón mucho tiempo después de que terminan los créditos finales y se prenden las luces de la sala” (A great little film that would remain on the retina, in the memory and in the heart a long time after the closing credits have stopped rolling and the theatre lights have been raised) (Batlle 2008). As mentioned above, these films are literary adaptations, and as such, they have infused new life into the literary works that have inspired them. For example, Angélica Gorodischer’s short story was reprinted alongside others in a book with a still from the film adaptation on its cover. More importantly, these films have not only enabled Jewish Argentine literature to become more visible, but have also brought the Jewish female into mainstream Argentine society.

In both films, one of the conflicts that the Jews have to face in their new country is the struggle between tradition and assimilation, and one of the cinematic themes that provides a clear picture of this struggle is the position of the Jewish female in relation to marriage. In Los gauchos judíos as well as in La cámara oscura, the action takes place in the microcosm of the rural colony, a locus peopled almost exclusively by Jews, which strengthens the marriage bond among co-religionists. Nonetheless, the presence of the Gentile, albeit slight, opens up an avenue for intermingling, a fact that is not devoid of consequences for the Jewish community and Argentine identity. It is worth noting that the Gentiles that live in the colonies are males that help in farm work, and their presence entails a wider array of potential partners for the Jewish females, as will be seen in one particular narrative from Los gauchos judíos, namely Miriam’s story.

The collective narrative structure in Los gauchos judíos generates parallel storylines that merge in instances of common celebrations. This narrative model is rich in medium and long shots of several characters together, which goes to develop the central idea of the film: with everybody’s help it is possible to make progress in the new country. However, this concept of uniting efforts does not refer exclusively to the members of the immigrant community but to the collaboration between them and the criollos—the descendants of the Spaniards in Argentina. This is confirmed in the 25th May celebration where the setting mixes Jews and criollos. Nevertheless, this union does not transcend the marriage bond between people of different ethnicity; therefore elopement becomes the only viable solution.

Abrams notes that in films prior to 1990 “the Jewish woman presents a threat to the dominant culture, as the children of any relationship, whether with Jew or Gentile, are halachically Jewish [i.e., being born of a Jewish mother], and the husband and children may become more culturally Jewish, as a result” (2012, 80). In Los gauchos judíos, in contrast, the Jewish woman proves to be a worthy and desirable partner for the Gentile. One of the storylines of the film is the romance between Miriam, a newly-arrived young Jewish woman, and Rogelio, a farm worker in the colony. Jusid places his tale of intermingling within the confinement of the colony but, at the same time, secluded from the community. Miriam and Rogelio’s first encounter, for instance, is set at night in one of the stables. Miriam goes into the stable carrying some farm tools to put away, but her intent serves as an excuse to meet Rogelio, who is already inside the stable helping a mare to foal. The point-of-view shots that correspond to Miriam’s gaze directed towards Rogelio’s back, together with the sound of soft music and the intimacy of the place, anticipate the development of a romance, not merely between two people, but between two people from different ethnic groups. After assisting Rogelio in the mare’s labour, Miriam says, “Bueno, me tengo que ir. Mis padres no saben dónde estoy” (Well, I have to leave now. My parents don’t know where I am). This utterance discloses two facts about Miriam: she is there of her own free will, and she is breaking a rule because had she told her parents where she was going, they would probably not have approved. Concerning this, both Los gauchos judíos and La cámara oscura make evident that the norm in the colonies is arranged marriages between co-religionists. When Miriam leaves the stable, Rogelio, who has to remain with the horses, sends his loyal dog Cambá to walk Miriam home. It is worth noting that Cambá and Rogelio are inseparable, so sending his dog with Miriam can be construed as sending a part of him with her, thus highlighting their (imminent) union.

The second time we see Miriam and Rogelio together they are in a palm forest on their own. The tone between them has changed slightly as Miriam now addresses Rogelio employing the familiar vos instead of the formal usted used by both of them in their first meeting. Rogelio, however, still addresses Miriam as usted. Whilst Rogelio’s usted displays the respect he shows for Miriam, Miriam’s vos reveals her openness towards Rogelio. The same soft music is played again, thereby becoming a motif of Miriam and Rogelio’s love. In this scene, they discuss their relationship and for the first time they kiss and embrace each other in the diegesis of the film, but it is Miriam who takes the initiative. The kiss synthesises the union between the Jewish woman and the criollo, and testifies to what Werner Sollors calls “melting pot love”, which he defines as “a marital union or a love relationship across boundaries that are considered significant, and often in defiance of parental desires and old descent antagonisms” (1986, 72). Their way of talking and reacting shows that the characters of Miriam and Rogelio are constructed as two opposites: while Miriam is the adventurous one, Rogelio is the cautious type. Although his gaucho dress and his skills in farm work indicate that Rogelio is indeed a gaucho or as he calls himself, a paisano, he does not behave as a gaucho in Sarmiento’s terms. On the contrary, Rogelio is a cultured gaucho who has a job and honourable intentions since he wants to marry Miriam. As he puts it, “Yo soy un hombre trabajador y honrado” (I am a hard-working and honest man). Rogelio symbolises, in fact, the archetype of the gaucho as envisioned by the cultural nationalist discourse of argentinidad. Miriam, on the other hand, is the newcomer who has fallen in love with the gaucho, and by extension, with her new country. However, the love she professes is devoid of parental consent not merely because Rogelio is not Jewish, but also because romantic love does not seem to be the cultural norm in the colony. This is illustrated in the arranged marriage between the parents of two young Jewish settlers, Raquel and Pascual, who do not love each other, but whose marriage has been arranged by their parents. Due to social and religious constraints, Miriam is willing to give up her parents, her community and her traditions for Rogelio. As she explains to him, they cannot get married so their only hope of staying together is to elope. Rogelio’s negative reaction to Miriam’s proposal is enacted verbally and physically when he lets go of Miriam’s hand admonishing her, “¡Déjese de decir bolazos, quiere!” (Will you stop talking nonsense!). This utterance underscores once more Rogelio’s righteousness. But after pondering, he bends down and entrusts his dog Cambá with a message to Miriam, who is sitting under a palm tree, “Vaya y dígale a esa moza que loca y todo este paisano la quiere” (Go and tell that lady that however crazy she may be this paisano loves her). Significantly, Rogelio identifies himself as a paisano and not as a gaucho.[1] This subtle difference conforms to the transformation the gaucho had undergone by the early twentieth century, namely from being a free rider of the pampas to becoming a farm worker who has settled down. Obediently, Cambá approaches Miriam and delivers his message by means of barking. In a similar fashion, Miriam asks Cambá to tell Rogelio, “Para querer a las locas hacen falta agallas” (It takes guts to love crazy women). The point-of-view shots and the camera height at Miriam and Rogelio’s eye level align viewers with Rogelio and Miriam’s dilemma.

During the scene of 25th May celebration, the most emblematic national holiday in Argentina, criollos and Jews alike meet to celebrate together, a clear sign of Jewish acculturation and integration into the host society. In the scene prior to the celebration, the adult Jewish males, who are holding a meeting in the local synagogue, are informed by their local representative that there will be a day of national celebration. Subsequently, one of the men exclaims, “Si es una fiesta argentina, es fiesta nuestra también” (If it is an Argentine holiday, it is also our holiday). This utterance articulates the Jews’ willingness to become part of broader Argentine society. On the day of the celebration, the mise-en-scène merges the Jew and the criollo as participants of the gaucho games and partners in the chamamé dance—a folk music genre from north-eastern Argentina. Moreover, the editing of the scene, which intersperses a band playing chamamé with dance and gaucho games, reflects once again the acculturation of the Jewish community: Jew and criollo alike are the protagonists of the celebration of argentinidad. The entire celebration amounts to a national nuptial moment whose climax is the elopement of Miriam and Rogelio. Miriam is framed laughing with her friend Raquel, but the arrival of Cambá announces her departure. The camera tilts down and isolates Miriam from Raquel; instead, she is framed with Cambá. The next shot confirms Miriam’s imminent future as Rogelio arrives on horseback. While in tears, Miriam departs from Raquel and Rogelio takes leave with Cambá. This parallelism shows that elopement entails cutting cultural ties: Miriam abandons her kin and Rogelio has to start anew somewhere else. The slicing of the bond that joins Miriam to her Jewish community occurs at the same time as the band finishes interpreting an allegorical chamamé about the criollos that have built the Argentine nation—another illustration of the cultural national discourse of argentinidad. The end of the song marks the end of the relationship between Miriam and her community but indicates the beginning of a new anticipatory era of Argentina’s future in which the different ethnicities mix in a crisol de razas—the fusion of immigrants and Argentines into a homogenous Argentine race. Hence, the new generation challenges the previous one to configure a new country and a new integrated identity. Put another way, Miriam and Rogelio’s elopement is the synthesis of assimilation and can be metaphorically equated with the new Argentine race.

The scene following the celebration represents the condemnation of Miriam and Rogelio’s escape since, from the perspective of Miriam’s parents, Miriam has taken part in an act of treason. Sitting on the floor inside her house, Miriam’s mother prays to God and blames herself for her daughter’s elopement. Similarly, shattered by the news, Miriam’s father equates Miriam’s escape with her death. Nonetheless, Jusid portrays the condemnation in a world that belongs to the past, thus taking Miriam’s side. Her parents do voice their loss but this is done in a mise-en-scène that positions them in darkness: the interior of their house is dimly lit, their clothing signals their Judaism and they invoke God as the ultimate authority. Her parents’ parochial views contrast sharply with Miriam’s outlook on life. Whilst they stand for the replication of the values brought from their home country, she represents the adventurous newcomer who is ready to embrace her new country. This difference, of course, enhances the gap that exists between the two generations.

As I pointed out in the introduction, La cámara oscura is one of the few Argentine films whose protagonist is a Jewish woman. Whereas Jewish characters have become more visible on screen since the 1990s, most of the films depicting Jews focus on the Jewish male. María Victoria Menis is one of the few film directors who have put the Jewish female at the centre of the narrative by making a film about a Jewish woman who becomes the subject of a French photographer’s gaze upon his arrival in the agricultural colony where she lives. The character representation of the protagonist encapsulates, to some extent, the invisibility of the Jewish female on film up until now. This is due to the fact that both the protagonist of La cámara oscura and the cinematic Jewish woman have suffered from consistent relegation before being able to achieve prominence.

As well as the film style, the narrative structure of La cámara oscura differs greatly from that of Los gauchos judíos because it centres on the leading character of the story, Gertrudis. To reinforce her prominence, Menis frequently employs medium shots and close-ups of Gertrudis. Paradoxically, even though Gertrudis is given cinematographic prominence, her family pays her little attention. Because she goes unnoticed in the eyes of others, Gertrudis becomes marginalised, thus emphasising the theme of the film: the beauty that nobody sees. But her invisibility is linked to her own identity as an Argentine Jewish female settled in a rural area. In her insightful book on Argentine Jewish women, Sandra McGee Deutsch observes that

Jewish women who settled in the countryside inhabited a frontier zone. [...] Women who suffered from poverty and discrimination were outsiders, the ones who lived on the edges. Their sex and minority-group status seemingly made all Jewish women outsiders. (McGee Deutsch 2010, 5)

Indeed, it is this discrimination that is articulated in the story of Gertrudis, whose argentinidad constitutes a point of controversy from the moment she is born. Owing to the fact that Gertrudis’s mother gives birth to her on the gangplank of the vessel that has brought her family to Argentina, Gertrudis cannot become an Argentine citizen. Upon the family’s arrival in Argentina the immigration authorities notify her parents that she has to be registered as German or Russian. Whilst the former alludes to the nationality of the ship, the latter refers to her parents’ citizenship. Yet the name she is given is Argentine not because it is her parents’ wish, but because the immigration officer suggests it. As her parents do not have a name for their newborn daughter, the immigration officer proposes, “Podrían ponerle Gertrudis, es lindo nombre. Mi novia se llama así. Es bien de acá” (You could name her Gertrudis, it’s a nice name. My girlfriend is called like that. It’s a very Argentine name). So from the beginning of her life her identity has been questioned in terms of both her citizenship and her ethnic group belonging. On the one hand, her name, which symbolises integration into mainstream Argentine society, reveals that she has been partly accepted by her host country. In this regard, partly accepted should be understood vis-à-vis fully accepted as she has not been granted Argentine citizenship. On the other hand, the fact that her parents do not have a name for her, coupled with her brother’s first comment about her, “Oyb zi is a mies!” (How ugly she looks!), manifests her exclusion from her own family. This exclusion is also seen in the first scene representing her childhood.

The key motif of photography, which in the film is associated with group belonging and group identity, marks Gertrudis as the other. The first scene that illustrates Gertrudris’s childhood is the portrayal of her family by a photographer. Five years have passed since she was born and she is now one of five children, but, unlike the rest of her siblings, she has a squint and is thereby different (or ugly, as her brother puts it). Just before the family photograph is taken, her mother reminds her, “Acordate que cuando mires a la cámara tenés que bajar la cabeza para que no se note el desvío del ojito” (Remember to look down when he takes the picture; that way, your squint won’t be noticeable). Gertrudis goes one step further than her mother’s recommendation and covers her face with a doll, thus stressing her otherness. Her first picture foreshadows what becomes of Gertrudis, an invisible person that does not belong to her identity group. The two shots after the family picture is taken mirror Gertrudis’s isolation and invisibility, respectively. The first is a medium shot that enhances Gertrudis’s isolation by framing her alone, hiding behind the doll whereas the second is a long shot of the entire family, which accentuates Gertrudis’s invisibility since it is the doll that takes precedence over her. Hence, Gertrudis cannot be seen. The next time a group picture is taken Gertrudis is in primary school, together with her classmates. Standing in the back row, Gertrudis runs away the moment the photograph is being taken so that a blurred image is all that is seen of her in the picture. The wish to hide herself from the gaze of the camera whenever a group picture is taken is replicated several times in the film. Furthermore, the power that the gaze of the camera exercises demarcates her as an outsider. Her otherness in relation to her classmates, however, is also observed in the classroom scene which precedes the taking of the school photograph. It is probably the first years of the new century and Gertrudis attends a Jewish school, a fact that is conveyed by her teacher, who speaks Spanish with Yiddish accent and talks about Moses and how God saved “nuestro pueblo” (our people). In his article on the Entre Ríos colonies, Winsberg explains that “the JCA sponsored a network of educational facilities with the Entre Ríos colonies” and this seems to be the case here (1968b, 425). Getrudis’s otherness is illustrated, first, by being the only one who is able to answer the teacher’s question about the presence of God in the quotidian, and second, by her classmates’ laughing at her when she actually provides the answer. Aside from Gertrudis’s discrimination, the scene enacts a noticeable signal of acculturation in the mise-en-scène, namely the integration of what Saúl Sosnowski calls “two languages”, when discussing Jewish and Argentine identities:

There are, in fact, two languages with their respective cultural code that signal different messages to those who have to opt for one or strive to integrate some elements of each into a more global concept of self-identification and of one’s role in society. (Sosnowski 1978, 4)

So while the teacher is talking about Moses and God, the point-of-view shot, which corresponds to what Gertrudis and her classmates can see, discloses the words “1810, 25 de mayo, Primer Gobierno Patrio” (1810, 25th May, First National Government) written on the blackboard. Also, on the teacher’s desk a model of the Buenos Aires Cabildo (City Council), the building where the first national government was proclaimed on 25th May 1810, is exhibited. While the pupils learn about their Jewish roots, they are exposed to Argentine history. This is consonant with Rojas’s view on education, which emphasised the importance of Argentine history and literature in education in order to further acculturation (DeLaney 2002, 631). The mise-en-scène thus underscores both the process of acculturation to which the second generation of Jewish immigrants is being exposed, and the place where that acculturation takes place, namely the school. The result is vividly demonstrated in the impeccable Argentine Spanish that Gertrudis speaks in comparison with the accented Spanish her parents and her teacher speak.

As depicted in Los gauchos judíos and La cámara oscura, arranged marriage seemed to be the cultural norm in the Entre Ríos colonies. McGee Deutsch’s study provides a reason for this: “Guarding women’s morality also maintained borders, in that it helped guarantee the reproduction of a minority group by insuring that Jews married among themselves and raised children within their community” (2010, 124). This is indeed the case with Gertrudis, whose arranged marriage to Cohen, a prosperous widower from the colony, results in her having five children. The marriage proposal scene unveils three aspects of marriage in the Jewish colonies: firstly, young women were not free to select a spouse without parental consent. It is Gertrudis’s parents who speak on her behalf while she is framed alone in the kitchen overhearing Cohen asking her father for her hand in marriage and her father’s consent. Secondly, women did not usually leave the intimate domestic space inasmuch as doing that denoted not complying with the precepts of a good Jewish wife. On seeing Gertrudis, Cohen recalls his late wife, and by means of a flashback viewers gain access to an episode in which Cohen reprimands her, “No me hagas pasar vergüenza. Sos mi esposa. No vayas otra vez sola al pueblo. La gente va a comentar. Solo vas para ir al almacén de Aaron [...]. A ver, ¿qué te falta hoy? ¿Harina te falta? ¿Mate te falta? ¿Té acaso?” (Don’t shame me. You’re my wife. Don’t go to the village alone. They’ll gossip. You go to Aaron’s shop every day [...]. What do you need today? Flour? Maté? Tea maybe?). Cohen’s late wife, in fact, has crossed the geographical border of the colony, and by doing so, she has transgressed a cultural boundary from which women are supposed to shy away. Thirdly, the eldest daughter was to marry first. Being the eldest daughter of the family, Gertrudis has to marry before her sisters. The mise-en-scène of the marriage proposal underlines not only Gertudis’s otherness—she is dressed in black, wears glasses and hardly utters a word—but also her imprisonment in a situation where she has no voice. As a matter of fact, all that she says in the entire scene is, “Buenas tardes” (Good afternoon).

After the wedding celebration, an empty frame in the film signifies the passage of twenty years of marriage. The unfilled frame is followed by an establishing shot of the interior of Cohen’s house in which an informative title reads “20 años más tarde” (20 years later). The temporal ellipsis may suggest that Gertrudis has lived an ordinary and predictable life. She is now in a relationship that reflects McGee Deutsch’s findings:

As long as marital partners fulfilled their duties, even if they cared little for each other, they generally remained together. Women were supposed to maintain a clean home, cook adequate meals, and raise the children, whether or not they worked for wages; men would provide most of the income and abstain from beating their wives. They would have sexual relations and accord each other a minimum of respect. Infringing these boundaries was ground for ending a marriage. (McGee Deutsch 2010, 137)

In the eyes of the cultural nationalists such as Rojas, Gertrudis’s family has succeeded in integrating their Jewishness and their argentinidad in an unproblematic way: dressed in gaucho clothes, her husband and sons work the land together with the other paisanos, share their food and their table with them, play Yiddish songs alongside Argentine folk songs, her youngest son attends a public primary school, and one of her daughters is a primary school teacher. McGee Deutsch states that schools “fostered a sense of argentinidad” and she adds that school was indeed the place where Jewish and Gentile students mingled, learned about Argentina and, some of them, acquired the Spanish language (2010, 23). Becoming a primary school teacher, on the other hand, signified three things: being part of the liberal project introduced by Sarmiento, upward mobility for Jewish women and the acceptance of these women in mainstream Argentine society. Considering all this, it can be argued that the Cohens incarnate the assimilation policy that the discourse of argentinidad advocated in the early twentieth century. Gertrudis, for her part, is the alma mater of a seemingly well-functioning family: she dresses and feeds her family, inculcates good school habits into her children, cleans the house and tends to the garden. She has also been able to marry Jewishness and argentinidad in her daily life. Her cuisine manifests her Ashkenazi Jewish roots, especially when she serves gefilte fish for her family and their French guest, photographer Jean Baptiste, and her self-sacrificing mother role is in accordance with the role of Argentine rural women at the beginning of the twentieth century. In general terms, as is the case with Gertrudis, women had very limited freedom in Argentina at the time. Accordingly, her world is confined to the domestic sphere which, in the diegesis of the film, she never transcends. Despite her total devotion to her family, Gertrudis does not form part of the intra-diegetic gaze of the film characters. This is conspicuous at meal times when the family enjoy their meals without Gertrudis. On these occasions Menis highlights that it is father and children who form the nuclear family by juxtaposing Gertrudis in the kitchen and the rest of the family in the dining-room, and if she steps into the dining-room, nobody looks at her. As when she was a child, Gertrudis is also excluded from the family she herself has raised.

Up to this point it can be noted that Gertrudis’s story is a far cry from Miriam’s in Los gauchos judíos. However, the arrival of Jean Baptiste, a French photographer touring Argentina, becomes the turning point of the tale. Invited by Gertrudis’s husband to portray his family and the work on the farm, Jean Baptiste enters the colony, the Cohens’ home and Gertrudis’s heart. His gaze incorporates her into his universe to such an extent that she runs away with him when he leaves the farm. The last shot of Gertrudis is depicted as a metonymy that invokes her departure. Sitting down with her back turned away from the domestic space but facing instead the garden door, Gertrudis is prompted to transcend the boundary of the colony. Both Miriam and Gertrudis break with their families but the nature of Gertrudis’s break with her family differs from that of Miriam. In the case of Gertrudis, the break is implied in the dirty crockery and the empty and half-empty bottles towards which she is turning her back, an image that can be read as an act of insubordination. Like Miriam, Gertrudis has also understood that in order to overturn the hierarchy of the patriarchal society in which she lives, she needs to break the prevailing rules. But Gertrudis’s argentinidad goes beyond the cultural nationalist discourse in that she does not elope with a criollo but with a Frenchman. Therefore she embraces the transcultural character of Argentine society which started to dominate the discourse of argentinidad in the 1960s. This new vision of national identity includes the gaucho, the Indian and the immigrant on equal terms (García Fanlo 2010b, 25-28).

To conclude, the study of cinematic Jewish women has been little explored due to the under-representation of the Jewish woman in cinema. However, putting her at the centre of a study can yield new insights into cultural phenomena such as argentinidad. Both films praise the integration of the Jewish community into its host society by means of farming the land where Jews and criollos work together, the attendance at public primary school where Jews learn about Argentine history and literature and mingle with peers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and the 25th May celebration during which Jews and criollos mix. Nevertheless, shifting the focus to the newly-arrived Jewish woman or the marginalised Jewish woman, both living in rural communities at the turn of the last century, gives a different picture. Miriam and Gertrudis are subservient to their parents and husbands respectively and live in strict compliance with the cultural norms of the colony, which means, for instance, accepting arranged marriages. The struggle between tradition and assimilation, which for Jewish males or Gertrudis’s children seems unproblematic, becomes contentious when marginalised women decide to be the architects of their own future. These women, who are on the margins of an on-the-margins group, have to break with their identity groups in order to integrate into their host society. The ideology of both films holds that the seemingly natural and idyllic homogenous life of the colony can be questioned and overturned. In doing so, both Miriam and Gertrudis resist the authority of parents and husbands and thus challenge the patriarchal community that has relegated them to the fringes of society. Their escape from the Jewish colonies supports the underlying ideology of the films: it is desirable for the national identity of Argentina that people intermingle instead of secluding themselves within the boundaries of their communities. Furthermore, this ideology is consonant with the assimilation policy preached by cultural nationalists, who envisioned the new Argentine race as a crisol de razas. What is most notable is the fact that by breaking their “fetters of descent” (Sollors 1986, 260), these cinematic Jewish women are assimilated, but the process of assimilation comes at a considerable cost because they have to leave behind their Jewish identity in order to construct a new hybrid identity. Ultimately, their agency mirrors the proactive roles which Jewish females have had in building their host nation, and thereby, argentinidad.


Abrams, Nathan. 2012. The new Jew in film: Exploring Jewishness and Judaism in contemporary cinema. London and New York: Tauris.

Aizenberg, Edna. 2002. Books and bombs in Buenos Aires: Borges, Gerchunoff, and Argentine-Jewish writing Hanover: University Press of New England.

Batlle, Diego. 2008. Historia de épocas y de miradas. La Nación. 16th October.

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1059601-historia-de-epocas-y-de-miradas (accessed 10th December 2012).

Bogdasarian, Mirta, Patrick Dell’Isola, Fernando Armani, Silvina Bosco, and Carlos Defeo. 2008. La cámara oscura. DVD. Directed by María Victoria Menis. Buenos Aires: AVH.

Burucúa, Constanza. 2009. Confronting the "Dirty War" in Argentine cinema, 1983-1993: Memory and gender in historical representations. Woodbridge: Tamesis.

DeLaney, Jean H. 2002. Imagining ‘el ser argentino’: Cultural nationalism and romantic concepts of nationhood in early twentieth-century Argentina. Journal of Latin American Studies 34: 625-658.

Feierstein, Ricardo. 2006. Historia de los judíos argentinos. Buenos Aires: Galerna.

García Fanlo, Luis. 2010a.Genealogía de la argentinidad. Buenos Aires: Gran Aldea.

———. 2010b. Tres discursos sobre la argentinidad. Ciencias Sociales: Revista de la Facultad de Ciencias Sociales/UBA 76: 25-28.

Gerchunoff, Alberto. 2009.Los gauchos judíos. Buenos Aires: Agebe.

Getino, Octavio. 2005. Cine argentino: entre lo posible y lo deseable. Buenos Aires: Ciccus.

Gorodischer, Angélica. 1983. Mala noche y parir hembra. Buenos Aires: La Campana.

Hirsch, Maurice de. 1891. My views on philanthropy. The North American Review 153: 1-4.

King, John. 2000. Magical reels: A history of cinema in Latin America. London: Verso.

Luna, Félix. 2000. A short history of the Argentinians. Buenos Aires: Planeta.

Mansilla, Lucio V. 1949. Una excursión a los indios ranqueles. Buenos Aires: Espasa-Calpe.

McGee Deutsch, Sandra. 2010. Crossing borders, claiming a nation: A history of Argentine Jewish women, 1880-1955. El Paso: Duke University Press.

Rein,Raanan. 2010. Argentine Jews or Jewish Argentines? Essays on ethnicity, identity and diaspora. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Sarmiento, Domingo F. 1874. Facundo o civilización i barbarie en las pampas argentinas. Paris: Hachette.

Schulman, Sam. 1948. Alberdi and his influence on immigration policy in the Argentine constitution of 1853. The Americas 5: 3-17.

Sollors, Werner. 1986. Beyond ethnicity: Consent and descent in American culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Soriano, Pepe, Ginamaría Hidalgo, Victor Laplace, Osvaldo Terranova, Jorge Barreiro, Luisina Brando, Golde Flami, María Rosa Gallo, María José Demare, Adrían Ghio, and China Zorrilla. 1975. Los gauchos judíos. DVD. Directed by Juan José Jusid. Buenos Aires: ECE.

Sosnowski, Saúl. 1978. Contemporary Jewish-Argentine writers. Latin American Literary Review 6: 1-14.

Unamuno, Miguel de. 1941. Contra esto y aquello. Buenos Aires: Espasa-Calpe.

Weisbrot, Robert. 1979. The Jews of Argentina: From the Inquisition to Perón. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America.

Winsberg, Morton. 1968a. Jewish agricultural colonization in Entre Ríos, Argentina, I: Some social and economic aspects of a venture in resettlement. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 27: 285-295.

———. 1968b. Jewish agricultural colonization in Entre Ríos, Argentina, II: Religious-oriented social institutions amid east European ghetto culture. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 27: 423-428.


[1] In Una excursion a los indios ranqueles (1949), Lucio V. Mansilla makes a clear distinction between the terms gaucho and paisano. The former lives a nomadic lifestyle, is a gambler and breaks the law; the latter has a fixed residence, holds a job and complies with the law. 

José Luís Penón

Ecos de Eureka, de Edgar Allan Poe, en la literatura española de principios del S. XX


En este artículo proponemos un estudio comparativo de la obra de Edgar Allan Poe Eureka, de 1848, y la obra de diversos autores hispanos de finales del SXIX y principios del SXX. Estudiaremos su contenido y la opinión que generó en la crítica y los académicos. Cómo estas ideas viajaron al otro lado del Atlántico y la influencia o ecos que produjo esta obra, y otras relacionadas, en la literatura de ciertos autores hispanos.

Se trata del único libro que Poe escribió en vida, y del cual estaba muy orgulloso. Eureka es un desconocido para la mayoría, y un olvidado para la crítica y los academicistas. Analizaremos cómo Poe, y sobre todo sus ideas llegan, influyen y se plasman posteriormente en las obras de nuestros autores.

En Eureka, podemos apreciar la relación tan próxima que existe entre su filosofía de vida y su filosofía literaria. Se trata de la expresión más contundente de su “Yo material” y de su “Yo espiritual”, que terminará por cerrar ese círculo de conexiones entre el Poe ser humano, y el Poe artista. Esta cosmovisión metafísica es tratada, asimilada y experimentada de diferente forma por distintos de nuestros literatos como Unamuno, Machado y Juan Ramón.

Eureka: A Prose Poem es el título que ilustra la portada de éste, el único libro de Edgar Allan Poe, publicado en 1848 a un año de su muerte.[1] A ojos de la crítica chocará repetitivamente el hecho de que Poe lo defina de esta manera, ya que la prosa poética es menos común en la lírica universal y ha sido denostada, como así fue el caso, por los críticos en numerosas ocasiones. Si atendemos a la definición misma de esta miscelánea que nos ofrece el diccionario de la RAE, podemos deducir que se trata de una forma de expresión mucho más habitual entre cualquiera de nosotros de lo que en un principio nos parecía, puesto que se trata de una estructura o forma que toma naturalmente el lenguaje para enunciar los conceptos, y no está sujeta, como el verso, a medida y cadencia determinadas.

Por otro lado, Eureka es a su vez un grito de alegría que damos cuando hallamos o descubrimos algo que hemos estado buscando con afán, y por medio del cual expresamos al mismo tiempo el alivio y la realización personal, y de acuerdo con sus propias palabras, eso es lo que sintió Poe al finalizar este libro. Esta alegría la expresa en la siguiente carta que escribió a Mrs Clemm, su tía y al mismo tiempo su suegra, fechada el 7 de julio de 1849, tres meses antes de su desgraciada muerte. En ella el autor estadounidense manifiesta el gran orgullo que siente sobre lo que acaba de escribir:

 “My dear, dear Mother, —

I have been so ill—have had the cholera, or spasms quiet (sic) as bad, and can now hardly hold the pen (...)

The very instant you get this, come to me. The joy of seeing you will almost compensate for our sorrows. We can but die together. It is no use to reason with me now; I must die. I have no desire to live since I have done “Eureka.” I could accomplish nothing more. For your sake it would be sweet to live, but we muse (sic) die together. You have been all in all to me, darling, ever beloved mother, and dearest, truest friend.

I was never really insane, except on occasions where my heart was touched (...)

I have been taken to prison once since I came here for spreeing drunk; but then I was not. It was about Virginia.”[2]

No cabe duda de que las expectativas de Edgardo—nombre con que se hace referencia al estadounidense en las traducciones al español de su obra a finales del S. XIX y principios del XX—son muy altas, dado que se encuentran en el punto más álgido de su carrera literaria. Poe está tan seguro de su éxito que en un principio en 1848 pide una edición inicial de 50.000 copias. Un número bastante optimista por su parte, ya que la realidad distó bastante de tantos ceros y aparentemente se publicaron únicamente 500 copias de este libro.

La dedicatoria es muy llamativa e interesante, dado que va a ponernos en la pista de lo que Poe va a tratar en este libro: “…WITH VERY PROFOUND RESPECT, This Work is Dedicated TO ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT…” (p. 3: 1848). Se refiere al naturalista y explorador alemán Alexander von Humboldt, cuyos trabajos acerca de sus expediciones y descubrimientos sobre la tierra, Kosmos, empezaron a publicarse en varios volúmenes a partir de 1845. Poe es un hombre de su tiempo al cual le gusta estar al día de los nuevos descubrimientos. Como veremos más adelante, Edgar Allan Poe compartía con Humboldt la idea plasmada en Eureka de un Universo en constante evolución.[3]

El libro comienza con un prefacio firmado por Poe. En este prólogo el artista estadounidense realiza una declaración de intenciones con este libro, explicando al posible lector en calidad de qué ha de ser tratado, o cómo ha de ser leído a la hora de ser clasificado por su género literario “…as a Poem…” (p. 5: 1848).[4] Tras el prefacio introductorio al libro encontramos el siguiente título Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe, a partir del cual se inicia el libro. Poe le ha añadido el significado definitivo, al mismo tiempo que ha resaltado la materia sobre la que va a versar este poema en prosa. Por lo tanto, con este segundo título interior y la dedicatoria a Humboldt se nos completa el sentido que tiene el libro.

A nuestro entender ha habido, y desgraciadamente todavía hay, una concepción profundamente equivocada a la hora de enfrentarse a este texto. La mayoría de la crítica basa sus argumentaciones negativas asumiendo que se trata de un ensayo científico, y concluyen que lo expuesto en Eureka son meramente suposiciones o simplemente algo que califican como una farsa o una tomadura de pelo. Una broma que no podía ser tomada en serio por la sociedad puritana estadounidense—profundamente religiosa—de la época, ni por un mundo científico aún en expansión donde los nuevos descubrimientos y teorizaciones no se movían a la misma velocidad que el interés del público por saber más. No caló entre sus contemporáneos del modo que Poe esperaba, ya que en general lo trataron como un texto satírico, e incluso como una patraña.

Pero las evidencias obtenidas por medio de la carta a Mrs Clemm, muestran la seriedad con la que Poe se aproximó al tema en este trabajo sobre Cosmología. Prueba irrefutable de ello es cuando señala en la carta a su tía la catarsis que está experimentando una vez finalizado el proceso creativo: “…I have no desire to live since I have done ‘Eureka.’ I could accomplish nothing more.”.[5] Muchos, entonces, no supieron entender el mensaje que Eureka encierra. La realidad en pleno siglo XIX, es que las teorías sobre el origen del universo que desde Eurekase lanzaban en 1848, estaban muy próximas a las vigentes del Big Bang, y han sido avaladas entre otros por Stephen Hawking y puestas de manifiesto en su libro A brief history of time: from the big bang to black holes.[6]

Juan Lartigue, entre otros científicos, en su “Edgar Allan Poe and Science: A Cosmic Poet”, hace un repaso completo de hasta doce de las teorías científicas de relevancia sobre origen del universo, entre las que se encuentra la teoría del Big Bang, pasando entre otras por la Teoría de la Relatividad o los agujeros negros, y a las que hace referencia, prácticamente sin saberlo, Poe en Eureka. Por esta razón se sorprende de que no se le haya dado el crédito que merecen a las ideas aquí presentadas y dice que “… What is difficult to understand is why Poe’s predictions, many of which have been confirmed by science, continue to be ignored…”, achacándolo a la leyenda negra que se cierne sobre la figura de Poe.[7]

Según Lartigue la comunidad científica ha ignorado durante años las presunciones de Poe por estimar sus objetivos en Eurekacomo muy ambiciosos y no considerar sus predicciones completamente científicas al carecer el autor del conocimiento académico adecuado.[8] Estamos de acuerdo con el hecho de que no se trata de un tratado científico con una teoría universal, del mismo modo que no pensamos que su intención fuera escribir uno. Consideramos que sería justo reconocer el papel de Poe como incitador, por las ideas expuestas en este ensayo y que han podido ser demostradas por los científicos con posterioridad, inductiva o deductivamente.

No debemos perder de vista que durante la época en la que vive Poe, se experimenta un creciente interés en la búsqueda de respuestas al sentido de la vida, en un sentido que podemos considerar más ilustrado o científico, entre distintos grupos y clases sociales. En suma, el uso del conocimiento se impone en la búsqueda razonada de respuestas a dudas trascendentales por canales distintos a la religión. En este sentido, entre el escaso círculo de amistades en el que se movía Poe, y otros muchos intelectuales de la época de diferentes orígenes profesionales, el interés por las ciencias se extendió de manera general, y al mismo tiempo se hicieron muy populares las llamadas “ciencias oscuras u ocultas”. Puestos a abrir canales de búsqueda de respuestas, las puertas se abrieron y el mesmerismo, el ocultismo y el espiritismo estaban a la orden del día. Había un interés por contactar, de alguna manera con el otro mundo, con “el Otro Yo”.

Hasta aquí, hemos sentado los que a nuestro parecer son los puntos más relevantes relacionados con la obra, y que desarrollaremos seguidamente, comenzando con un pequeño estudio sobre el texto de la misma. Poe no entendía una separación entre el artista y el ser humano. Eureka será la obra que terminará por completar esa relación, al añadir el componente metafísico y trascendental a lo expresado en sus obras de carácter pseudocientífico, en especial “The Philosophy of Composition” y “The Poetic Principle”, y representado en su obra más conocida “The Raven”.

De ahí pasaremos a establecer los puntos de convergencia que existen entre esta obra y la de algunos de los más influyentes autores de la literatura española de principios del siglo XX. Analizaremos cómo Poe, y sobre todo sus ideas llegan, influyen y se plasman posteriormente en la obra de Unamuno, Machado y Juan Ramón Jiménez, los tres autores más relevantes de la literatura española de la Generación del 98.

Como hemos avanzado al inicio de nuestro trabajo, el título tan complejo por un lado - y tan explicativo por el otro - de esta obra, ha confundido durante sus 164 años de existencia tanto a la crítica, como a la comunidad científica, ya que no han sabido cómo calificar exactamente Eureka. G. St. John Stott lo califica por su parte como “Neither Genius nor Fudge”, declaración que le servirá de título a su trabajo. Como reflexión y tomada como una postura intermedia, no estaría alejada de la realidad pretendida y expresada por Poe como sus más sinceras intenciones con este libro. El problema es que esa dualidad planteada por Stott en el título no se resuelve convincentemente, ya que lo que se desprende de este trabajo es una crítica en todos sus aspectos hacia la obra del escritor bostoniano.[9]

Stott en 2009, siguiendo fielmente la línea y la opinión previa de T. S. Eliot, entre muchos otros, censuró este trabajo considerando que “…it should be approached as a hoax…” (p. 53: 2009). Una farsa, dado que según Eliot y posteriormente Slott se trata de “…that cosmological fantasy which makes no deep impression upon most of us, because we are aware of Poe's lack of qualification in philosophy, theology or natural science, but which Valéry, after Baudelaire, esteemed highly as a ‘prose poem.’" ...” (p. 341: 1949).[10]

Recordemos que Juan Lartigue, Catedrático de Química Nuclear en la National University of México, en su ensayo, “Edgar Allan Poe and Science: A Cosmic Poet”, hace un repaso completo de hasta doce teorías científicas de relevancia sobre el origen del universo a las que hace referencia Edgar Allan Poe en Eureka. La teoría del Big Bang, al Big Crunch, los agujeros negros o la Teoría de la Relatividad, son algunos de los ejemplos de las teorías avanzadas por Poe.

El ensayo de Eliot es de 1949 y el de Stott es de 2009, y por ejemplo la Teoría de la Relatividad de Albert Einstein es de 1905, además conceptos similares a los expuestos por Einstein habían sido ya propuestos por Kepler en 1597, por Descartes en 1664, y fueron sugeridos por Poe en 1848 en Eureka. Por lo tanto, el nivel de erudición científica que Eliot le pide a Poe, es el que a él mismo le falta y demuestra al hablar de Eureka como: “…that cosmological fantasy…” (p. 341: 1941). Tanto Eliot primero, como Stott después, reprueban el grado de inconsistencia que existe en general en los textos de Poe. En el caso de Eureka, no se refieren únicamente a la forma retorica, sino a la falta de rigor científico del texto en sí. Recriminan “…lack of qualification in philosophy, theology or natural science, …” con respecto al tema por parte del autor bostoniano y censuran que Edgar Allan Poe se haya atrevido a escribir semejantes patrañas (p. 341: 1949).

Eureka es un conjunto de reflexiones personales a diferentes aspectos cosmológicos y metafísicos, sin intención o aspiración científica por parte de Edgar Allan Poe. Al mismo tiempo una atenta lectura, sin prejuicios, nos revela que podemos encontrar entre sus líneas, teorías conocidas y aceptadas, no sólo por la comunidad científica sino universalmente, muchísimo antes de que Eliot y Stott escribiesen sus ensayos. Cabría, por tanto, calificar a Eurekacomo la filosofía de vida de Edgar Allan Poe—su testamento metafísico, sus verdades, sus creencias…—representada en estas sus reflexiones que aparecen en este libro. Edgar Allan Poe define Eureka como “…Book of Truths, not in its character of Truth-Teller, but for the Beauty that abounds in its Truth; constituting it true.” (p. 5: 1848).

Poe pronto nos da cuenta de una de las grandes verdades sobre los teoremas y las teorías, y es que no existe como tal una demostración de los mismos, sino que más bien se trata de “the ruling idea” (p. 8: 1848). Su propuesta la resume en la siguiente frase: “… My general proposition, then, is this:—In the Original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation.” (p. 8: 1848). En otras palabras, el principio y el final del universo están relacionados y ambos son necesarios; a su vez introduce otra dualidad necesaria: para crear primero hay que destruir, y a partir de ahí la expansión del universo es constante de nuevo, por lo que también se deduce que se trata de un proceso cíclico. Estas ideas, presentadas por Poe en 1848, en la actualidad nos resultan bastante familiares y las asociamos a las de teorías del Big Bang y del Big Crunch. Además tienen ecos de la teoría de los universos paralelos, ya que científicamente tenemos la certeza de que existen otros universos similares en composición al nuestro; en consecuencia las leyes que los gobiernen serán similares a las que lo hacen en el nuestro.

Plantea Edgar Allan Poe al mismo tiempo el paralelismo que existe entre los dos caminos diferentes que podemos seguir para llegar a la misma conclusión cuando emprendemos una investigación, el deductivo o el inductivo. Poe sugiere aquí que por medio de los dos caminos, la inducción o la deducción, será difícil dar respuesta a los grandes temas planteados sobre la humanidad, tales como la existencia de Dios y los orígenes del Universo. Para Poe la respuesta está en lo que podemos intuir con los datos que tenemos, y que por lo tanto podemos establecer una relación entre las dos formas de resolver un problema, la deductiva y la inductiva, como los dos caminos para resolver y explicar estas dudas trascendentales que nos planteamos como seres humanos.

De acuerdo con Poe, por ejemplo, podemos deducir de la existencia de Dios la creación del Universo, y a éste como principio y mente generadora del plan para crearlo, así cada universo similar al nuestro, “…Each exists, apart and independently, in the bosom of its proper and particular God.” (p. 103: 1848). Científicamente, o cosmológicamente, inducimos una serie de teorías del origen del universo por medio de las observaciones que hacemos de lo que nos rodea. Lo que Poe enuncia, es que los dos principios para resolver el dilema sobre la creación del universo, no son excluyentes, sino paralelos, y que al final conducen a una misma solución la espiritual y la material, y que, por lo tanto, son semejantes.

Este universo paralelo que aquí nos sugiere Poe—donde lo espiritual y religioso por un lado, y lo material y científico, por el otro, caminan juntos infinitamente, pero no se tocan—es seguido más adelante, por ejemplo, por Unamuno en sus nivolas Niebla y San Manuel Bueno, Mártir; donde los protagonistas, o agonistas como Don Miguel los define, se cuestionan, de la misma manera que él, ese dogma de fe que la iglesia católica ha predicado durante siglos sobre la vida eterna. Cuestionan su fe como pensadores y filósofos. El pensamiento lleva al raciocinio y este lleva a la duda sobre algo que realmente es imposible de demostrar. No podemos demostrar científicamente que existe una vida después de la muerte como predica la iglesia católica, por lo tanto, surgen las dudas.

Como vemos, para Poe lo material y lo espiritual se combinan, y la respuesta es que al surgimiento de nuestro Universo y los otros tras la gran explosión, su expansión, reunión, destrucción y regeneración para él son parte del plan originado por la mente divina de Dios, porque “…The plots of God are perfect. The Universe is a plot of God…” (p.120: 1848). Poe se mueve entre el terreno material y el espiritual continuamente a lo largo de Eureka, estableciendo un equilibrio entre sus elucubraciones científicas y sus sensaciones más íntimas y creencias personales, dado que para Poe “…the material and spiritual God—now exists solely in the diffused Matter and Spirit of the Universe; and that the regathering of this diffused Matter and Spirit will be but the re-constitution of the purely Spiritual and Individual God.” (p. 141: 1848).

Si consideramos que la realidad, el destino, está dominado o influido por un ser de carácter superior, será difícil que dominemos nuestro destino, o incluso que intentemos cambiarlo. Muchos otros autores anteriores y sobre todo posteriores, se han visto en esta misma vicisitud: la división entre un mundo real, marcado por la racionalización, y otro mundo, paralelo a este, más espiritual o religioso. El primero no puede explicar al segundo, dado que no tiene respuestas racionales para todo; del mismo modo que el segundo, el espiritual, necesita del primero para su existencia. Así que dos mundos que paradójicamente se niegan, se necesitan el uno del otro para existir. De ahí la constante búsqueda del momento en el que los dos se aproximan y quizás se juntan, lo que permitiría el conocimiento absoluto.

Siguiendo la máxima de Descartes “Cogito ergo sum”, ese “pienso luego existo”, cobra vida y realidad con los personajes de los cuentos de Poe, o simplemente del análisis de Eureka. La realidad de sus relatos aparece íntimamente relacionada con los sueños, y en muchas ocasiones no podremos diferenciar una de la otra, ya que el límite entre las dos concepciones es tan extremadamente pequeño y sutil, que lo cruzamos sin darnos cuenta. Eureka se asimila a una ensoñación, que se transforma en un discurso por medio de todas las inducciones y deducciones que Poe encuentra en su camino hacia la respuesta de las grandes preguntas. Por ello se decide a la escritura de este libro, como una prolongación de sus intuiciones y reflexiones. Lo que nos sorprende ahora, causó estupor en su momento y las críticas que recibió fueron bastante malas por todo el mundo, tanto en el mundo científico, como en el literario. Poe consideró ésta como su mejor obra y la cumbre que lo llevaría a la fama eterna. El público y la crítica de su época, y de las posteriores, ha sido muy crítico con ella, y como señala John Stott, ha venido siendo considerada como una “cosmological lecture or hoax” (p. 53: 2009).

Poe es un escritor polifacético y no sólo escribe novelas, relatos y poesía, sino que en su tiempo es conocido principalmente por su faceta como crítico literario, y en especial por la dureza de sus críticas y reseñas literarias en diferentes publicaciones y que le sirvieron como sustento económico para él y su familia. Pero además Poe se dedicará a escribir ensayos y dar conferencias por la costa Este de los Estados Unidos. Estos ensayos no son de tipo academicista, sino que son más bien una reflexión y representación de su pensamiento sobre diferentes temas, en especial los relacionados con la literatura y la lírica, y como es el caso de Eureka, una reflexión de la posición del autor con respecto a lo que le rodea.

Tenemos que entender, cómo y por qué surgen estos ensayos y, por supuesto, cuáles son las motivaciones que tuvo Poe para sugerir estas nuevas teorías centradas en “el arte por el arte”, basadas en el efecto del estilo y de la estructura a la hora de escribir. Contrapunto a lo que los críticos y la norma esperaban de una obra literaria, enclaustrada bajo sus estrictos cánones de belleza y de escritura. La rigidez que se impone desde el academicismo en temática, métrica o función del poema, se transformará y llevará a la literatura—y en especial a la poesía—hacia unos derroteros más naturales. La escritura se soltará de esas ataduras con las que la crítica de este tiempo tiene asida a la poesía. Aunque no conseguirá librarse de los reproches por parte de sus detractores. Esta naturalidad y libertad es algo que atrajo enormemente a nuestros literatos.

Queremos resaltar en este punto el cambio que se produce en la manera de escribir y entender la literatura, en aquellos autores que se vieron influenciados por las doctrinas aquí presentadas por Poe—en especial Unamuno, Machado y Juan Ramón—y que por lo tanto influyeron a escritores españoles posteriores. De la novedad, o novedades, que sus conclusiones y reflexiones ofrecen, pasaremos al viaje que estas ideas tuvieron hasta enraizar en los poetas hispanos, y en especial aquellos que “bebieron” de primera mano las lecturas de las obras de Poe en inglés o traducidas al francés y al español.

Edgar Allan Poe llegó a España por tres vías diferentes. La principal es a través de los Pirineos gracias a los trabajos y traducciones de Charles Baudelaire. Existe una segunda vía, directa a través de lecturas, estudios y traducciones directas del inglés, que es la menos usada en España por el desconocimiento y falta de interés por la lengua inglesa. Por último tenemos la vía indirecta, que proviene de Hispanoamericana a finales del siglo XIX. Indirecta, puesto que su origen está en los textos españoles sobre Poe a partir de 1860, situación que convive en Hispanoamérica con una influencia directa del inglés, debido a la proximidad geográfica con Estados Unidos. Esta es la combinación que regresará a territorio español a finales del siglo XIX.

En 1907 apareció publicada en la revista Renacimiento una traducción anónima de “The Philosophy of Composition”.[11] Tanto Unamuno como Juan Ramón Jiménez nos consta leyeron con atención sus respectivas copias de la misma, dado el gran número de anotaciones que aparecen a los márgenes de las mismas. Por su parte en 1926 Don Miguel publicó en francés, traducido por Jean Cassou, su narrativa Comment on fait un roman, que al año siguiente en 1927 se publicó en español como Cómo se hace una novela (p. 51: 1997). Trabajo con título y temática similar al original de Poe, y que siguiendo los pasos de sus predecesores franceses, Baudelaire con el “Méthode de composition” de 1859 y la “Crise de vers” de Mallarmé, analiza el proceso de creación literaria.

En “Unamuno and the Poe/Valéry Legacy”, su autor Thomas R. Franz nos pone en la pista de esta evolución desde la poesía francesa hasta la española. Creando una relación entre la cadena Poe-Baudelaire-Mallarmé-Valéry, y su legado, en Unamuno:

 “… Unamuno had what was usually a textual—sometimes superficial, sometimes profound—and at times a very personal relationship to the Poe-Baudelaire-Mallarmé-Valéry legacy. He knew Poe's work as early as 1907, when he mentioned him in his letters...” (pp. 48-49: 1997).[12]

Tras mencionar el triángulo de grandes poetas franceses seguidores de Poe, sólo nos faltaba ver el vínculo de conexión que los une. Unamuno vivirá entre 1924 y 1926 en París y Hendaya. En este periódo su composición se verá influida no sólo por la amistad y admiración que profesa por Valéry—profundo admirador de Eureka—al que conocerá y con el que entablará amistad. Poe será quien más influirá en él en esta época, y como ya hemos mencionado, en 1927 publicará en español Cómo se hace una novela, y que refleja, por tanto, el gran influjo que en el norteamericano tendrá a partir de aquí en el de Bilbao.

Cristina Flores Moreno, en su ensayo “¡Ayer es nunca jamás!: Recepción e influencia de la poesía de Edgar Allan Poe en Antonio Machado”, analizando cómo Poe llegó a influir a Machado, destaca la amistad con Miguel de Unamuno y el hecho de que el bilbaíno era:

 “… gran conocedor de la literatura en lengua inglesa, especialmente la del período romántico, leyó con interés las obras de Poe. En su biblioteca privada se encuentra un buen número de volúmenes relacionados con el autor: un volumen de los poemas que incluye varios ensayos, tres copias de los cuentos, todos en inglés, así como las traducciones de Baudelaire y Mallarmé. Su biblioteca también alberga una traducción al francés de “The Raven”, una biografía de Poe y una obra crítica sobre la presencia del bostoniano en la poesía francesa. La colección de poemas en inglés está profusamente anotada con marcas en los márgenes, lo que indica su atenta lectura. ….” (p. 87: 2009). [13]

La influencia de Poe en Baudelaire, Mallarmé y Valéry, le llevó a la escritura de un artículo en 1923 para la publicación bonaerense La Nación titulado “La moralidad artística”, en el cuál Unamuno defiende la figura de Poe contra aquellos que lo critican ateniéndose a la biografía que se conocía del autor y no a los méritos de la obra en sí misma, algo que tanto Baudelaire en “Edgar Poe, sa vie et ses œuvres”, como Mallarmé por ejemplo en su poema “Le tombeau d'Edgar Poe” o Valéry en su ensayo “Situation de Baudelaire”, habían hecho con anterioridad.[14]

Unamuno, del mismo modo que Poe, optará por presentar su filosofía de pensamiento en forma de ensayo. A lo largo de su vida plasmó en numerosas ocasiones el influjo de la obra del bostoniano, tanto en sus extractos más formales, como en sus ensayos y reflexiones. En especial destacamos la influencia de “The Philosophy of Composition” y “The Poetic Principle”, donde Poe define su teoría estética, y de Eureka, en la que el norteamericano presenta su concepción metafísica.El interés del bilbaíno por ésta última obrafue fomentado por el hecho de que su venerado Valéry, al que le unía un mutuo interés por lo metafísico y al que Machado también conoció en París, era gran admirador de la obra. Desde la publicación del artículo de Pedro Antonio de Alarcón “Edgar Poe”, el 1 de septiembre de 1858 en el periódico madrileño La Época, la estética y la metafísica—junto a las obras que mejor representan estos valores—han estado siempre unidas a la figura del bostoniano para el público español.

Si tomamos el caso de Unamuno, por ejemplo, él es un filósofo y por tanto podemos inferir que su explicación será más científica, en términos filosóficos. Unamuno desmonta y da la vuelta a la idea de Descartes y la transforma en “Sum ergo cogito”, es decir “soy, luego pienso”. Esta es la máxima “unamuniana” presentada en su obra Del sentimiento trágico de la vida, y donde a lo largo de la misma analizará ciertos aspectos claramente existencialistas.[15] Existe para él esa necesidad de ser, de existir, al final: de identidad. Esa consciencia de la propia identidad—expresada igualmente por Poe en Eureka—y de la existencia de uno mismo como individuo, ese “Yo”, nos lleva al raciocinio, a pensar.

Unamuno es un filósofo de su tiempo y como tal se ve influenciado por las nuevas corrientes de pensamiento que le rodean y que ven al ser humano no como un ser individual, equilibrado y compuesto. La visión que se nos ofrece desde el punto de vista del pensamiento, es de un ser humano más complejo, con una serie de preocupaciones y dudas transcendentales que la iglesia no puede responder. El ser humano ahora a principios del siglo XX razona el porqué de las cosas, quiere conocerse a sí mismo, y ya no es ese ser plano, ahora tiene otra dimensión “el Yo” y “el Otro”. “Sum ergo cogito”, es decir “soy, luego pienso”, la máxima “unamuniana” que acabamos de explicar, podríamos deducir que es en la que se basa Poe a la hora de decidir escribir Eureka. El bostoniano toma conciencia de su existencia como ser humano dentro del Universo y como parte de él se ve en la necesidad de pensar en cuáles son los orígenes del mismo.

En el terreno más artístico literario, la narrativa de Don Miguel, se aproximará a las narraciones de relatos cortos detectivescos, de los que Poe es considerado el padre del género, y los tres principales "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Mystery of Marie Roget" y "The Purloined Letter" son los que le servirán para crear sus propias versiones, o admiradas imitaciones como en La novela de don Sandalio, jugador de ajedrez, de 1930. En 1910, Unamuno escribirá un ensayo titulado "Sobre el ajedrez.” En él nombra a Edgar Allan Poe, y su relato "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," en el que el estadounidense habla del ajedrez y de la fascinación de uno de sus personajes por el ingenio ajedrecístico. Todas ellas salpicadas por la vida y por la muerte de sus personajes y el intentar darle sentido a sus vidas. La búsqueda de la propia identidad por medio de la escritura es fundamental en Poe y en Unamuno. Eurekaserá la expresión de la manera en la que Poe dará salida a todas las dudas personales y espirituales, convirtiéndolo en el vehículo de su voz. Algo que Unamuno también practicó en sus libros, poemas y ensayos.

Don Miguel también, aunque quizás en menor medida, sufrió también la influencia de su poesía; en especial los poemas “The Raven” y "Ulalume" aparecerán nombrados durante su obra. Franz establece también similitudes entre el poema "En un cementerio de lugar castellano" de 1913, y publicado en 1922 por Unamuno en Andanzas y visiones españolas, con “Annabel Lee” de Edgard Allan Poe, de 1849, y el poema de 1920 “Le Cimetière marin” escrito por Paul Valéry (p. 54: 1997). Todos ellos existencialistas y con una profunda raíz metafísica.

En todo caso existe una gran afinidad por parte de Don Miguel a la figura de Poe y a su literatura y ensayos, gusto que compartió con otros de sus coetáneos como Machado y Juan Ramón, dada la gran amistad que tuvieron entre los tres, sin olvidar la figura de Darío como nexo entre el poeta sevillano y el de Moguer. Amistad que se vio fomentada no sólo por esa semejanza e interés no sólo en la literatura, sino también por la teorización acerca de la misma y, en un sentido más amplio, la filosofía de escritura avanzada por Poe. Por todo ello se deduce que el componente enunciado en Eurekapersonal vital, metafísico, que enaltece el sentido de la vida y de la muerte, es muy importante en los tres autores, del mismo modo que primero lo fue para Poe, y después para los Baudelaire, Valéry y Malarmé. Todos ellos lo expresaron por medio de su obra, en su poesía, novelas y ensayos. Todos ellos buscaron ese punto de equilibrio entre lo material y lo espiritual por medio de su obra.

Con anterioridad a Unamuno, Antonio Machado estuvo viviendo en París, donde se trasladó con su hermano Manuel en 1899, trabajando como traductor para la famosa editorial francesa Garnier. Durante este tiempo entró en contacto con el simbolismo francés representado por Jean Moréas, Paul Fort y Paul Verlaine, y otros contemporáneos suyos como Rubén Darío y Oscar Wilde. Será aquí donde los Machado entrarán más en contacto con la poesía francesa y por tanto con la influencia que Poe tuvo en la lírica de ese país desde Baudelaire, pasando por Valéry. En el caso de Antonio Machado, la influencia que Edgar Allan Poe tuvo en el poeta sevillano se ve reflejada tanto en su escritura, como en su forma de pensar.

“… En este año de su Antología (1931) pienso, como en los años del modernismo literario (los de mi juventud), que la poesía es la palabra esencial en el tiempo. La poesía moderna, que a mi entender, arranca, en parte al menos de Edgardo Poe, viene siendo hasta nuestros días la historia del gran problema que al poeta plantean estos dos imperativos, en cierto modo contradictorios: esencialidad y temporalidad. …” (p. 76: 1932).[16]

Con estas palabras, Antonio Machado desgrana su intervención en la Poesía Española. Antología 1915-1931 de Gerardo de Diego de 1932. En ella destaca su afirmación, su íntima reflexión y visión sobre cuál fue la influencia que Poe ejerció en la poesía moderna. Para Machado la lírica moderna, entiende que en parte, se inicia con el bostoniano. Al mismo tiempo destacará los que para él son los elementos más importantes, incluso fundamentales, de la poesía moderna, el de esencialidad y el de la temporalidad, ambos ligados estrechamente a la concepción de Eureka y la metafísica expuesta en sus páginas.

Estos dos elementos los podemos encontrar y visualizar a lo largo de la obra de Poe, dado que defenderá fervientemente la esencialidad de la escritura especialmente en sus dos producciones estéticas, psudocientíficas, más conocidas “The Philosophy of Composition” y “The Poetic Principle”, y qué, según nos revela en la primera de ellas, puso en práctica a la hora de la creación y composición de su más famoso poema “The Raven”. Poema, este último que tiene el tiempo, en concreto el paso del mismo, como uno de sus temas principales, poniéndolo de este modo en consonancia con la metafísica que se desprende de Eureka.

Antonio Machado manifestará en sus escritos más reflexivos y teorizantes, la afinidad que le une a Poe por la asociación entre la reflexión estética y producción poética. En otras palabras, el poeta sevillano del mismo modo que Poe hizo con su trabajo de corte más científico, expondrá su elevado grado de interés por la metodología de composición y la mecánica interior del poema. Machado se lanzará a analizar la problemática literaria del momento, algo que como hemos comprobado hizo Poe en sus ensayos y reseñas literarias.

Para Machado:

 “…El poeta profesa, más a menos conscientemente, una metafísica existencialista, en la cual el tiempo alcanza un valor absoluto. Inquietud, angustia, temores, resignaciones, esperanza, impaciencia que el poeta canta, son signos del tiempo, y al par, revelaciones del ser en la conciencia humana. …”[17]

Ideas que están en consonancia con aquellas que podemos extraer de las reflexiones de Poe, en especial, en “The Rationale of Verse”, “The Philosophy of Composition” y “The Poetic Principle” en cuanto a la poética; completadas con las expuestas en Eureka—en términos metafísicos, y con los que coincidirá Machado—cuando reflexiona sobre la poesía del universo:

 “...Existence—self-existence—existence from all Time and to all Eternity—seems, up to the epoch of Manhood, a normal and unquestionable condition:—seems, because it is. (...) Doubt, Surprise and Incomprehensibility arrive at the same moment. (...) These things we struggle to comprehend and cannot:—cannot, because these things, being untrue, are thus, of necessity, incomprehensible.” (pp. 141-142: 1848)

Machado coincidirá con el pensamiento y reflexión del bostoniano, y lo pondrá en práctica en su poesía de las Soledades. Soledades es un libro de poesía de carácter intimista dominado por el espíritu del Modernismo europeo, y en especial el hispano. El tema del tiempo será de una gran importancia a lo largo de su obra. Recordemos las palabras del poeta sevillano cuando define, en la Antología de Gerardo Diego, a la poesía como “la palabra esencial en el tiempo", enunciación que deducimos ya en 1917 en Campos de Castilla. Antonio Machado exprime aquí sus reflexiones, y del mismo modo que Poe las pone en papel, se vuelve más abierto y más valiente, ya que no teme compartir sus pensamientos y reflexiones sobre la literatura y la lírica. Machado, también, en la Antología de Gerardo Diego se refiere al siglo XIX como “… el siglo lírico que acentuó con un adverbio temporal su mejor poema… ” Esta reflexión es de 1931, por lo tanto ha pasado ya un tiempo desde sus Soledades y Campos de Castilla, y la huella de Poe sigue siendo profunda en el sevillano. Como reconoce Geoffrey Ribbans en su Introducción a su edición de 1998 de Soledades, galerías y otros poemas de Antonio Machado, “The Raven” “…No, no es ni mucho menos el mejor poema del siglo XIX, pero sí dejó su estribillo profunda huella en Machado y en otros…” (p. 34: 1998).

Pero no únicamente durante este periodo, ya que los razonamientos y preocupaciones filosóficas y metafísicas expuestos, Machado los desgrana principalmente a partir del periodo de Campos de Castilla, y que desarrollará en gran medida en Los complementarios y por supuesto por medio de sus apócrifos. Podemos intuir en sus palabras una influencia directa o indirecta de Poe, en especial y por su temática a su obra Eureka, dado el tono y la temática que rodea no sólo a su poesía, sino también a sus reflexiones más personales. La deuda que Machado tiene con Poe, no sólo se refleja en sí mismo, sino que en consecuencia se verá evidenciada en su generación y generaciones posteriores a la suya dada la influencia que ejerció Antonio Machado en la poesía española.

En el caso de Juan Ramón, su estancia en París y el primer contacto directo con la poesía simbolista francesa se produce entre 1901 y 1903, durante su internamiento tras la depresión sufrida tras la muerte de su padre. En esta época aparte de sus lecturas poéticas, se dedica al estudio de lenguas extranjeras, alemán e inglés, ya que tenía un buen nivel de francés, gracias a la influencia recibida en su casa dado que eran comerciantes de vino. Por su parte, Juan Ramón reconoce en 1943, en una carta abierta dirigida a Luis Cernuda, su afinidad por los escritores de habla inglesa:

"… desde 1916, anglicista Luis Cernuda, las liricas inglesa, irlandesa y norte-americana contemporánea me gustaron más que la francesa. En 1916, vi, insisto . . . que la lirica latina, neoclasicismo grecorromano total, no es . . . lo mío; que siempre he preferido, en una forma u otra, la lirica de los nortes, concentrada, natural y diaria. …"[18]

Dice haber leído Shelley, Shakespeare, Browning, Heine, Goethe y Holderlin hacia 1902, y que estando en 1902 en el Sanatorio del Rosario tomó lecciones conjuntas de inglés y alemán de Ángel del Pino Sarda. Será en 1916, precisamente cuando escriba su Diario de un poeta reciencasado, viaje trascendental en su vida y su obra y en el que se produce un cambio fundamental en su concepción lírica y personal. Juan Ramón se lamenta más adelante a Gullón cuando le dice que:

 “…Yo no sé por qué el Diario ha sido tan mal leído. Hay en él muchas cosas que nunca se han visto. Es un libro metafísico: en él se tratan problemas de la creación poética, los problemas del encuentro con las grandes fuerzas naturales: el mar, el cielo, el sol, el agua… Ahora, en estos años, he vuelto a plantearlos en Animal de fondo. …” (p. 91: 1958).[19]

Una metafísica que se revelará en perfecta consonancia con la expresada por Poe en Eureka, al cultivar el fundamento filosófico de vida y obra como un todo, concibiéndolo en perfecta armonía entre lo material y lo espiritual. Durante su viaje a Estados Unidos, en ese trayecto de descubrimiento personal metafísico, descubre el mar y el cielo como elementos que se convertirán en esenciales para él, con la dicotomía que implican, el paralelismo, la unión que se produce entre ellos que les llega a confundir.

Ejemplo de la metafísica de Juan Ramón será el uso de algunos elementos como los cementerios, que tanto le fascinaron durante su luna de miel en Estados Unidos. Cementerios como jardines, los jardines de su Andalucía natal y donde él se había criado, y con los que podremos establecer un paralelismo. Esos camposantos norteamericanos por los que le encanta pasear por las tardes con Zenobia, y que nada tienen que ver con los que él conocía de España. En los cementerios de su poesía anterior a su Diario, y a los que se refiere Carmen Pérez en su disertación, titulada “Raíces Norteamericanas en la obra de Juan Ramón Jiménez: E. A. P. y la poesía Juanramoniana”, sobre la poesía de Poe y Juan Ramón, el de Moguer los asemeja a los que imagina más tétricos de la literatura del bostoniano y de Bécquer (pp. 114-115: 1979).[20] Lugares oscuros y que son reflejo de la muerte, del fin de la vida. Siempre de noche, noches frías de invierno como la de “The Raven”, dónde se sitúa y desarrolla la historia del poema, reflejando los miedos del poeta por lo oscuro, lo desconocido, su angustia metafísica.

En el poema “LXXXII” del Diario, titulado “Cementerio”, encontramos tintes de la influencia de Poe en la forma de describir el cementerio. El lúgubre cementerio ya no lo es tanto, y es comparado con los rascacielos. Lo que anteriormente daba altura y señalaba la antigüedad del lugar como los árboles, elementos naturales por excelencia, hoy se hayan empequeñecidos ante las moles de hormigón de los rascacielos. Cabe señalar lo metafísico de Juan Ramón al comparar el mundo de los vivos y de los muertos, como dos universos paralelos que nunca se encontrarán. Rezuma además este poema el “Ubi sunt” de “The Raven”: aquellos que en un pasado vivieron y fueron altos, fuertes e importantes, ahora no lo son más. Juan Ramón se queda fascinado por los cementerios, y no es raro que pasee por ellos durante su estancia. La atracción que por ellos siente viene dada por su belleza y contraste con los cementerios españoles. Vida y muerte, temas tan importantes en Juan Ramón, que en este poema tienen gran relevancia, asimilándolos a la metafísica que Poe expresa en Eureka.

Podemos encontrar otros ejemplos de la influencia de Poe, y de la duda metafísica que encierra Eureka, en el poema “LXXXI”, titulado “Humo y oro/ Enrique y Amparo/ Granados”. Juan Ramón se encuentra en la ventana de su hotel como el mismísimo protagonista de “The Raven”, y como él se lamenta de lo definitivo de la muerte, avivando de este modo sus dudas trascendentales. El tiempo dejará a cada uno en su lugar, y al tratarse de un proceso cíclico se ha de renovar. No podemos vivir anclados en el pasado como los puritanos estadounidenses; el poeta necesita avanzar y moverse en consonancia con el universo y la naturaleza. Esta metafísica aquí explicada por Juan Ramón es la que enunciará en 1848 Edgar Allan Poe en Eureka.

Se trata de simples apuntes de cómo el genio de Poe acaricia, toca y por último cala en algunos de nuestros más afamados líricos. La doble vertiente teórica y poética, avanzada por el bostoniano, afectará en gran modo el espíritu de la poesía y de los poetas españoles. En especial si nos atenemos a las teorías que Poe lanza desde sus ensayos, su influencia será pionera en la forma de comprender aspectos fundamentales como el entendimiento del universo y su relación con los seres humanos. Esta posición que adopta Poe es muy significativa como ejemplo para sus seguidores, dado que se sentirán más libres a la hora de la creación y de la expresión.

Siguiendo el ejemplo de Poe, considerarán que el ensayo no quedará reducido a la pluma y las mentes más academicistas, sino que servirá para reflejar la reflexión que el artista tiene de su relación con el universo, o mejor dicho universos paralelos, que nos rodean y donde se toma conciencia de la separación y el caminar paralelamente que tienen. Esta reflexión generará la duda trascendental entre el mundo espiritual y el racional, sobre los dos caminos se mueven conjuntamente y de forma paralela, casi sin tocarse, y que para justificar la existencia del uno, es necesaria la del otro. Esta dicotomía, para Poe en Eureka no contempla ningún conflicto ya que considera a Dios como la mente pensante de todo un gran plan que se desarrolla de manera racional. Esta cosmovisión metafísica es tratada, asimilada y experimentada de diferente forma por distintos de nuestros literatos.

La mente frenética de Unamuno, por su parte, lucha por encontrar un sentido a su vida, a su existencia, en definitiva a su identidad. Busca encontrar una explicación que le conforte ante la muerte. Unamuno se debate entre dos mundos: el racional y el religioso. Estos mundos son antagónicos, pues lo que uno explica, lo contradice el otro, de ahí la paradoja en la que se mueve constantemente el autor. Como filósofo intenta racionalizarlas con las teorías filosóficas que se mueven alrededor suyo: Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche... Pero dichas teorías chocan con la fe, y la fe con las teorías. Eso explica que sus personajes, de manera característica, evolucionen y se transformen en su contrario. Unamuno piensa que es necesario algo más que el racionalismo para la vida humana, ideas estas en consonancia con Kierkegaard, existencialista y creyente en Dios como Unamuno. El problema es que la fe cristiana, la del pueblo, tampoco es la solución.

El hecho de jugar con el significado de las palabras, la contradicción, la ironía y el sarcasmo entre sus técnicas narrativas en estos escritos, le confiere, paradójicamente, una mayor libertad a su autor a la hora de atreverse a ser más crítico. Podemos concluir que la decisión de Machado de utilizar sus apócrifosle permite un mayor grado de experimentación, y la capacidad de poder arriesgar más con su escritura. Tiene, de este modo, la oportunidad de tratar temas de manera más relajada que si lo hiciera firmándolos de su puño y letra. No podemos olvidar, que es el mismo poeta quien está detrás de estos álter egos, así pues aquello que estos dicen, sus opiniones y reflexiones son, por analogía, las del propio Machado.

Los apócrifos de Machado le ayudarán en la búsqueda de respuestas a preguntas trascendentales. Por lo tanto, su propósito es que todos estos álter egos se hallen en esta búsqueda de ir más allá del tiempo y del espacio que conocemos, en situaciones reales, o ficticias, en mundos reales o soñados, pero el fin es el mismo, traspasar las barreras del tiempo, “lo temporal”, la identidad, “el Yo” y la realidad, “el universo”. Como en el caso de Unamuno primero, Antonio Machado utilizará a sus apócrifos como álter egos en búsqueda de una salvación, un destino, una respuesta a las preguntas que el autor no puede responderse. De este modo, su obra será la herramienta perfecta para emprender esta búsqueda de la propia identidad y del sentido de la vida.

 “Juan de Mairena, poeta, filósofo, retórico e inventor de una Máquina de Cantar. Nació en Sevilla (1865). Murió en Casariego de Tapia (1909). Es autor de una Vida de Abel Martín, de un Arte poética, de una colección de poesías: Coplas mecánicas, y de un tratado de metafísica: Los siete reversos.” (p. 353: 1988). [21]

El epitafio a Juan de Mairena es muy revelador. Del mismo modo que anteriormente hizo con Abel Martín, maestro de Juan de Mairena, Antonio Machado nos ofrece una síntesis de los motivos por los que Mairena debería ser recordado. La introducción de detalles da verosimilitud al autor, conferidos por medio de datos específicos, y referencias tanto biográficas como bibliográficas sobre el mencionado autor, que incluso se atrevió escribir un tratado de metafísica: Los siete reversos.

En el caso del moguereño, el resultado del análisis, comparación y reflexión sobre el Diario de un poeta reciencasado, de Juan Ramón y el Diario de reciencasada, de Zenobia, nos han ayudado a indagar en el origen de la poesía desnuda, el verso libre y la prosa poética en Juan Ramón Jiménez, a través de la influencia de Poe y su obra. Debemos destacar la relevancia que sigue teniendo el Diario en la evolución de las letras hispánicas. En el momento de su aparición las críticas se cebaron con él por su atrevimiento al mezclar prosa y verso de forma tan liberal. Los críticos, todavía anclados en la vetusta España postcolonial no supieron apreciar lo que tenían ante sus ojos. Fue necesaria la valentía de Juan Ramón en emprender un viaje poético y amoroso. La naturaleza, su fuerza y belleza simple, hicieron el resto, sólo necesitaban de unos ojos y una actitud que los quisieran ver, y en ese momento es donde entra en juego el genio de Juan Ramón y su metafísica.

Nos gustaría recalcar la importancia que tiene la influencia del entorno en la evolución literaria de Juan Ramón Jiménez. Su Diario y el de Zenobia son muestra de la perseverancia en la búsqueda incansable de abrir su creación a nuevas posibilidades a través del cambio en la propia cosmovisión y los mecanismos del lenguaje. Juan Ramón Jiménez fue capaz de adaptar su forma de escribir poesía a través de los requisitos de la lengua inglesa, dando salida a sus aspiraciones literarias.

Durante este trabajo hemos resaltado la relevancia que tienen los elementos de la naturaleza en Juan Ramón durante su viaje a Estados Unidos, y que son estos mismos los que le llevarán a sus descubrimientos en su lírica. Recordemos que será el mismo poeta quien calificará su Diario como un libro metafísico: “…en él se tratan problemas de la creación poética, los problemas del encuentro con las grandes fuerzas naturales: el mar, el cielo, el sol, el agua…” (p. 91: 1958).[22]

Para concluir, Eurekasería la tesis que avala el pensamiento de Poe, en el que el mundo material, dominado por lo racional y empírico de las ciencias, camina paralelamente con el espiritual y religioso. Aquí Poe señala la mano de Dios, como cabeza pensante superior, como artífice de los Universos y las leyes que los dominan. Esta sería su filosofía de vida, representada en las reflexiones que aparecen en este libro, entendido no como un ensayo científico,—pese a la realidad que representan las teorías que expone, y que como vemos algunas han sido ratificadas científicamente—sino como un ensayo personal, un poema en prosa donde desnuda su interior, su pensamiento e intenta esclarecer el sentido de la vida, tal como él lo entiende, y que todo su trabajo, tanto en prosa como en verso, ha sido el vehículo utilizado para llegar a este entendimiento.


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[1] Poe, Edgar Allan. 1848. Eureka: A Prose Poem. New York: Geo. P. Putnam, of Late Firm of “Wiley & Putnam”. Acceso 3 de febrero, 2011. http://www.eapoe.org/works/editions/eureka.htm

[2] Edgar Allan Poe to Mrs. Maria Clemm—July 7, 1849 (LTR-323). Acceso 31 de enero, 2011. http://www.eapoe.org/works/letters/p4907070.htm

[3] Alexander von Humboldt. Biography and Works. Acceso 3 de febrero, 2011. http://www.alexander-von-humboldt.com/, http://geography.about.com/od/historyofgeography/a/vonhumboldt.htm, http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/h#a1995 and http://www.avhumboldt.net/index.php?page=138

[4] “.... To the few who love me and whom I love — to those who feel rather than to those who think — to the dreamers and those who put faith in dreams as in the only realities — I offer this Book of Truths, not in its character of Truth-Teller, but for the Beauty that abounds in its Truth; constituting it true. To these I present the composition as an Art-Product alone: — let us say as a Romance; or, if I be not urging too lofty a claim, as a Poem.

What I here propound is true: — therefore it cannot die: — or if by any means it be now trodden down so that it die, it will ‘rise again to the Life Everlasting.’

Nevertheless it is as a Poem only that I wish this work to be judged after I am dead.

E. A. P. …” (p. 5: 1848) Poe, Edgar Allan. 1848. Eureka: A Prose Poem. New York: Geo. P. Putnam, of Late Firm of “Wiley & Putnam”. Acceso 3 de febrero, 2011. http://www.eapoe.org/works/editions/eureka.htm

[5] Edgar Allan Poe to Mrs. Maria Clemm—July 7, 1849 (LTR-323). Acceso 31 de enero, 2011. http://www.eapoe.org/works/letters/p4907070.htm

[6] Hawking, StephenW.A brief history of time: from the big bang to black holes.London: Bantam, 1988.

[7] Lartigue, Juan. “Edgar Allan Poe and Science: A Cosmic Poet.” Acceso 3 de febrero, 2011. http://www.poedecoder.com/essays/lartigue/#Poe%27s%20Primary%20Part

[8]“…First, the ambitious objective declared by Poe at the beginning: ‘I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical—of the Material and Spiritual Universe: - of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny’ (Poe 1). A second problem likely originates from presenting philosophical, metaphysical and astronomical concepts without Poe's possession of an academic degree to support them, including a methodology not always rigorous, and sometimes intuitive. These factors contributed to the refusal of the scientific community, fully opposed to the concept of an evolutive Universe, during his time and later. ...”Lartigue, Juan. “Edgar Allan Poe and Science: A Cosmic Poet.” Acceso 3 de febrero, 2011. http://www.poedecoder.com/essays/lartigue/#Poe%27s%20Primary%20Part

[9] Stott, G. St. John. “Neither Genius nor Fudge: Edgar Allan Poe and Eureka” (online article), 452ºF. Electronic journal of theory of literature and comparative literature, 2009, 1, 52-64. Acceso 2 de febrero, 2011. http://www.452f.com/issue1/neither-genius-nor-funge-edgar-allan-poe-and-eureka/

[10] Eliot, T. S. “From Poe to Valéry”. The Hudson Review, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Autumn, 1949), pp. 327-342. The Hudson Review, Inc. Acceso 18 de abril, 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3847788

[11] Anónimo. "Filosofía de la composición," Renacimiento, No. 10 (diciembre 1907), pp. 695-710.

[12] Franz, Thomas R. “Unamuno and the Poe/Valéry Legacy”.Revista Hispánica Moderna, Año 50, No. 1 (Jun., 1997), pp. 48-56. University of Pennsylvania Press. Acceso 13 de febrero 13, 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30203441

[13] Flores Moreno, Cristina. “¡Ayer es nunca jamás!: Recepción e influencia de la poesía de Edgar Allan Poe en Antonio Machado”. Odisea, nº 10, ISSN 1578-3820, 2009, pp. 83-96. Acceso 9 de abril, 2012. http://www.ual.es/odisea/Odisea10_Flores.pdf

[14] Unamuno, Miguel de. “La moralidad artística”. La Nación, 19 de agosto de 1923. Buenos Aires. Acceso 26 de abril, 2012. http://gredos.usal.es/jspui/bitstream/10366/101209/1/CMU_8-291.pdfLa copia del original que se conserva en la “Casa Museo Unamuno” carece de numeración o paginación.

[15] “… La verdad es sum, ergo cogito: soy, luego pienso, aunque no todo lo que es piense. …” Unamuno, Miguel de Del sentimiento trágico de la vida. 1912. Acceso 4 de noviembre, 2008. http://www.e-scoala.ro/espanol/miguel_de_unamuno.html (p 12: 1912)

[16] Diego, Gerardo de. 1932. Poesía española. Antología 1915-1931. Madrid: Signo. 1970 (5.a). Madrid: Taurus.

[17] Ibíd.

[18] Young, Howard T., Luisa,Jiménez, Juan Ramón. “Anglo-American Poetry in the Correspondence of Luisa and Juan Ramón Jiménez.” Hispanic Review, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Winter, 1976), pp. 1-26. University of Pennsylvania Press. Acceso 8 de febrero, 2010. http://www.jstor.org/stable/472670

[19] Gullón, Ricardo. 1958. Conversaciones con Juan Ramón Jiménez. Madrid: Taurus.

[20] Pérez Romero, Cármen. “Raíces Norteamericanas en la obra de Juan Ramón Jiménez: E. A. P. y la poesía Juanramoniana”. Anuario de estudios filológicos, Vol.2, 1979, pp. 211-229.

[21] Machado, Antonio. 1988. Poesías completas. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.

[22] Gullón, Ricardo.1958. Conversaciones con Juan Ramón Jiménez. Madrid: Taurus.



Elisa Serra Porteiro

The Gap and the Craft: Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara on the Galician Stage


Irish dramatic works have a history of becoming successful exports. A significant number of plays emanating from Ireland have been incorporated to the Galician theatrical system since the early 20th century. To a great extent, the origin of this interest can be attributed to the poeticised connection between Ireland and Galicia established in the Rexurdimento and its later utilisation by the nationalist movement. Even though this continues to affect the reception of Irish cultural products, other factors must be considered when scrutinising more recent incorporations.

The fact that Martin McDonagh’s “Leenane Trilogy” has been marketed in Galicia as unambiguously Irish responds not only to the array of characteristics that conform the international perception of Irishness but also to a distillation informed by the minorised status of Galician culture and internal debate on the issue of national identity.

This article will analyse the incorporation of Martin McDonagh’s A skull in Connemara to the Galician theatre system in 2010 through both textual and extratextual sources, with particular attention to the ways in which specific elements of the translation and adaptation processes contribute to a representation of Irishness that fits in with the expectations of Galician audiences.



Arguably, few national identities are as internationally recognisable as the Irish, due to an array of cultural references that populate the collective imaginary, both within and beyond its geographical borders. Long before the Celtic Tiger catapulted the country to the international foreground in a way that transcended the purely economic, Ireland could count cultural products as some of its most visible exports, amongst them, numerous Irish dramatic works. In Spain, we find a considerable number of plays by Irish authors entering the system from the early 20th century onwards, not only being translated into Spanish but also into Catalan, Basque and Galician.

The focal point of my research is how the representation of Irish identity on the Galician stage has been—and currently is—affected by the multiplicity of factors at play in the theatre adaptation process. In this article, I will examine the incorporation of Martin McDonagh’s ASkullinConnemara to the Galician theatre system, with particular attention to the ways in which specific elements of the translation and adaptation processes contribute to a representation of Irishness that fits in with Galician audience expectations. I will utilise both textual and extratextual sources in order to carry out an analysis of the incorporation process in line with Descriptive Translation Studies. However, while this approach is adequate when identifying and describing the operational norms which determine the final product, it does not do full justice to the multilayered nature of dramatic phenomena nor to the different dialogical levels present in theatre translation. In particular, the range of agents and mediators involved in the process of transposing a play for the stage, and who influence the decision-making process, demands close attention to their positioning in the political and sociocultural context. Although Descriptive Translation Studies scholars and approaches are not insensitive to the cultural aspects of translation, these do not constitute its main preoccupation. Accordingly, my analysis is enriched by drawing on culturalist and comparative approaches, such as those proposed by Bassnett and Venuti.

At this point in time, three plays by Martin McDonagh, namely those often referred to as the “Leenane Trilogy” have been produced in Galicia by two different professional companies. The first of them, TheBeautyQueenofLeenane, translated by Avelino González and Olga F. Nogueira, was presented with the title AraíñadabelezadeLeenane by Teatro do Atlántico under the direction of Xúlio Lago in 2006, ten years after first being staged by Druid Theatre in Galway and London. This was not the first or last time that the company would work with texts by Irish playwrights, having already staged Oencoro (TheWeir) by Conor McPherson in 2004 and Brian Friel’s OxogodeYalta (TheYaltaGame) in 2009. The Santiago-based company Producións Excéntricas then undertook adaptations of the other two plays that make up McDonagh’s LeenaneTrilogy in quick succession, under the direction of Quico Cadaval—ASkullinConnemarain 2010 and TheLonesomeWest in 2011. Here, too, they worked with Avelino González, whose role as initiator and particular modus operandi is discussed below in greater detail. By the time Martin McDonagh was incorporated into the Galician system, ten years had lapsed since TheBeautyQueenofLeenane premiered in Galway. In that time, the London-born playwright had gained recognition, not only through his dramatic works but also as a script writer, with the award-winning films SixShooter (2005) and InBruges (2008).

All three productions of Martin McDonagh’s works in Galician won several María Casares awards—Galician theatre awards—including one for “Best translation-adaptation”. The Premios María Casares are presented on a yearly basis by the members of the Asociación de Actores e Actrices de Galicia (Galician Actors Association). All productions in Galician language are automatically nominated and there is nothing preventing members from voting for shows that they have not attended nor indeed for the only show they have seen in a given category. More relevant to the matter, translations and adaptations will almost invariably be judged without knowledge of the original text. Therefore, as with most awards, their significance as a measure of quality or impact is relative, to say the least. Possibly, a more telling indicator is the nomination of Oestesolitario—Producións Excéntricas’ take on TheLonesomeWest—to the Premios Max, awards that acknowledge the work of professionals from the whole of the Spanish state, in so far as it denotes exposure beyond the geographical borders of Galician-speaking territory. As a minorised language, Galician does not enjoy the same status as Spanish in the area of cultural manifestations, despite apparently favourable legal and institutional structures.[1] An award nomination beyond the community brings recognition, and visibility; in commercial terms, it is likely to have a positive impact on the prestige attributed to the play amongst Galician audiences, above all amongst those who are not Galician speakers.

The relatively high number of Irish plays—and particularly Irish-themed plays—produced in the Galician theatre system can be linked to an ongoing interest in Irish culture initiated during the Rexurdimento, the 19th century literary movement which had the rehabilitation of Galician language and cultural identity at its core. Authors associated with the Rexurdimento, such as Eduardo Pondal, drew a poetic connection between Ireland and Galicia on the basis of the two nations’ shared Celtic past. This mythical common origin went on to be utilised by the nationalist movement during the 20th century, in an attempt to legitimise claims for recognition and increased autonomy from the central government in Madrid by drawing a parallel with the Irish political situation. It was at that point that the translation of canonical texts from Irish dramatic literature was initiated, with the 1921 publication in the RevistaNós of W.B. Yeats’ CathleenHoulihan,translated into Galician by Antón Villar Ponte from a Catalan version by Marià Manent, which had appeared in LaRevista earlier that year. The translation was accompanied by poems and pseudo-anthropological articles on Ireland, as well as several references to Terence McSwiney, the late Lord Mayor of Cork, who had recently died on hunger strike. It is a text that ultimately exemplifies the extent of this mystified identification with Irish culture in the Galician system; an identification that, I will show, continues to affect the incorporation of cultural products from Ireland.

However, current interest in Irish drama cannot be solely explained by this historical linkage, particularly since the number of productions increases from the 1970s onwards, when professional companies begin to venture beyond previously translated authors, such as Synge or Yeats, to more contemporary plays by Sean O’Casey, Brian Friel or Conor McPherson.  In the specific case of playwright Martin McDonagh, his works entered the Galician cultural context at a time when the international dissemination and perception of Irish culture began to be shaped by the concept of the “Irish brand”. In his work TheatreandGlobalizaton.IrishDramaintheCelticTigerEra,PatrickLonergan discusses in detail how the reception of Irish theatre is affected by globalisation, a concept that has in recent times become increasingly relevant when examining the creation and reception of cultural products, especially those destined to travel beyond their source context. In his view, “the transformation of theatre worldwide is just one example of a paradigmatic shift from geographical to conceptual spaces [as Jones’s play suggests] the contested territory nowadays is not land but meaning” (Lonergan 2009, 28). Lonergan’s definition of Irish drama responds to a replacement of geographical national borders with a more conceptual delimitation of national identity—Irish plays are not necessarily plays produced in either of the two Irish states but “plays that are marketed or received internationally as corresponding to the Irish ‘brand’” (28). Dramatic works are thereby presented as products and, indeed, Lonergan takes into consideration some of the commercial aspects of the productions he examines. However, the notion of “Irish brand” is not merely a economic concept. If we consider a brand as constituted by a collection of recognisable features, the term is not only applicable but particularly relevant in cases where the export of a dramatic work requires a process of adaptation. This will accentuate the contrast between what international audiences identify as ‘Irish’ and what is perceived as ‘Irish’ in the Irish context itself.

At a time when cultural manifestations cross borders more often than ever due to the increased accessibility brought about by the multiple media at our disposal, such distinctions would nevertheless indicate a source system in which the issue of national identity is a recurrent subject of discussion. Indeed, in the Irish cultural context, attempts to define the essential features of Irishness are commonplace. In an article recently published in TheIrishTimes, Patrick Freyne lists the ideologies that he believes to “have shaped Irish identity over the past century” (Freyne 2012), including a number of “isms” (Celticism, Catholicism, alcoholism, patriotism, localism), as well as several references to Celtic Tiger-related concepts. This is not a description for outsiders but an account destined to encourage reflection and internal discussion on the aspects that have affected the makeup of Irish society in recent times. Without attempting to provide empirically verifiable information, Freyne’s article exemplifies a concern with self-definition.

Certainly, this preoccupation with the definition of “Irish” becomes manifest in many a reaction to Martin McDonagh’s works, mostly emanating from the Irish media. Often referred to as “London-born Irish”, McDonagh has always avoided labelling himself as either Irish or British. Negative criticism of his dramatic works usually includes references to his controversial depiction of Irish society, often equating it to an outsider’s mocking portrayal of the rural West of Ireland. Elizabeth O’Neil describes in her review of TheLieutenantofInishmore the prevailing manicheist attitudes towards McDonagh’s theatre: 

A modern day Synge or an English chancer? [...] Audiences have been divided roughly into two camps; those who think he's captured the black humour and zeitgeist of a postmodern rural Ireland, and those who see him as making a mockery of Ireland and the Irish by lampooning that caricature of old, the 'stage-Irish' fool. (O’Neill 2003).

 In an article on McDonagh published by The Guardian, Henry McDonald quotes Malachi O’Doherty’s views:

“To me a lot of Martin McDonagh reads like paddywhackery. The Irishness of the people is part of the joke. (You can see in a writer like Beckett, who was Irish, that when he depicts the depleted human condition, he does it without reference to ethnicity.)” (McDonald 2008)

Indeed, McDonagh’s national identity would be deemed anecdotal, as is the case with many other authors, were it not for the themes he explores in his plays and the attributes he bestows upon his characters. The inhabitants of the stage Leenane that he recreates are loaded with markers of Irishness, albeit rather conventional ones. Very possibly, Martin McDonagh’s use of ethnic clichés is offensive not so much in itself but because he is ‘not Irish enough’, a thesis sustained by the journalist Adrian McKinty in his blog:

 Of course no one likes stereotypes but I think McDonagh is being picked on because of his “Englishness”—always the bogey man for a certain class of critic. The gate keepers of Irishness are on very shaky ground when they try to exclude people with planter names (Gerry Adams) or Norman names (the entire Fitzgerald clan) or anyone who's spent the majority of their life living outside the 32 counties (Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett, Swift, etc.) [...] So let's keep London born McDonagh and just to balance things out I'll gladly swap all four of those proud non tax paying Micks in U2 for him. (McKinty 2009)

According to the distinction suggested by Patrick Lonergan, Martin McDonagh’s work can be labelled as Irish drama, despite the fact that most of it has been produced outside of Ireland. Indeed, as far as the Galician context is concerned, the Irish origin of the plays has not only been decisive for their incorporation but has also been repeatedly utilised in the marketing of the productions. References to Martin McDonagh in promotional materials and press releases point repeatedly to his Irish origin, on occasion to the point of attributing him with iconic status, as we can see in the following excerpt from the Teatro do Atlántico web site:

Considérase que McDonagh é unha nova voz e tamén unha nova calidade no drama irlandés suxeríndose que está a facer por aquela dramaturxia o que Pogues fixo pola música irlandesa tradicional nos anos 80. [McDonagh is considered a new voice and also a new quality in Irish drama, suggesting that he is doing for that dramaturgy what The Pogues did for traditional Irish music in the 80s]. (Teatro do Atlántico 2013)

The use of impersonal verbs in this statement suggests that these considerations are a generally accepted fact in the author’s context of origin, whereas clearly this is not the case, as shown by the above discussed reviews. It may be that Teatro do Atlántico deemed any controversy surrounding McDonagh’s work potentially disadvantageous to the distribution of the play, in particular if it could cast a shadow over an aspect that is clearly so important for its reception in the Galician system—its Irishness. Perhaps for that very reason, debate over whether Martin McDonagh deserves a place in the Irish canon does not attract much attention; neither does his use of ethnicity in ways that for many of his detractors treads a fine line between the grotesque and the downright racist. Although the debate surrounding McDonagh’s adscription to Ireland is virtually non-existent in Galicia, this does not mean that his national or ethnic identity is obviated. On the contrary, his name is regularly followed by descriptive references, including attempts to position his work in the context of both the Irish and British cultural systems in a way that reflects the duality of the author’s background:

Unha obra moderna, comercial, divertida, escrita por un explosivo e novo autor anglo-irlandés nos 90, martin [sic] McDonagh, que tiña tanta vontade de provocar ó tradicional mundo irlandés que herdaba como horrorizar ó requintado público urbano londinense. [Written by an explosive and young Anglo-Irish author in the 90s, Martin McDonagh, who had as much desire to provoke the traditional Irish world that he was inheriting as to appal the refined urban London audiences] (Producións Excéntricas 2013)

In the Galician context, McDonagh is often referred to as “angloirlandés” (Anglo-Irish), a label that may succeed in communicating the duality of the author’s national identity to the general public, yet is loaded with socio-political meanings in the Irish context. Although the problematic delimitation of the term is well-documented (MacCarthy 2004), the majority of the audience are likely to remain unaware of its colonial overtones and accept the simplified image of Irish identity that is laid before them.

The promotional materials and press releases surrounding McDonagh’s plays in Galicia point unequivocally to an Irish origin, with Irish motifs featuring prominently in the case of Uncraniofurado, Producións Excéntricas’ take on ASkullinConnemara. The main image chosen to represent the play on promotional cards and posters is a skull made up of shamrocks in two contrasting shades of green. With their following production, Oestesolitario (LonesomeWest), Producións Excéntricas omitted the original title, albeit including a more subdued allusion to it, in the form of its initials (LW). The image selected for the poster is a playing card depicting a “King of Shamrocks”, again resorting to the most formulaic symbol of Ireland, easily recognisable internationally. In both cases, the marketing choices put unambiguous stress on clichéd Irish imagery.

The original title in English appears on posters and programmes in virtually the same size as the title in Galician, drawing attention to the fact that audiences will be confronted with a translated play. However, Uncraniofurado—literally, “a perforated skull”—erases the geographical reference to Connemara, which would be somewhat obscure for most Galician theatregoers, and replaces it with the suggestion of a violent event. This shift in the title anticipates the underlying mystery present throughout the play—did Mick Dowd kill his wife with a blow to the head? In a sense, by creating the early expectation of a crime, the title sets up the audience to expect a resolution of the mystery surrounding Mick’s possible uxoricide. The cause of Oona Dowd’s death will in actual fact remain unsolved at the end of the play, unless we choose to accept her widower’s declaration of innocence. Indeed, McDonagh shows in his works—whether for stage or screen—a predilection for plot twists and an ambiguous interpretation of characters’ intentionality. According to Patrick Lonergan, this is crucial in making the plays exportable:

[T]his openness to interpretation is the major reason why McDonagh’s work has so effortlessly crossed national and cultural boundaries, making him a truly global playwright. [...] his success only makes sense when we think of McDonagh’s work as functioning not on a page but in theatre (or on a screen)—that is, before an audience. (Lonergan 2012, xvi)

While McDonagh certainly shows an inclination towards reliance on audience interpretation for completeness, this is by no means unique to his works. Perhaps, the aspect that truly sets him apart is the way in which he manipulates our expectations, whether of the characters or of the plot itself, to the point that spectators often find themselves questioning their earlier assumptions. In any case, he eludes demanding from the audience absolute condemnation or forgiveness for the people of Leenane, however questionable their actions may be. Whereas these “people” are often caricatures and their social behaviour can be rather extreme, this “grey” morality grants them a genuinely human dimension.

The Gap and the Craft

In the broad field of translation studies, it is now generally accepted that the translation of dramatic works for performance entails specific difficulties, not least because of the layers of readings that overlap in the journey from source text to target text. The translation scholar Susan Bassnett has demonstrated over the decades a distinct preoccupation with theatre translation, an area which she considers has been by and large neglected both in prescriptive and descriptive approaches. In one of her essays on literary translation, specifically “Transplanting the Seed: Poetry and Translation”, she considers two basic conditions for a translation to achieve an effect on the target culture:

For a translation to have an impact upon the target system, there has to be a gap in the system which reflects a particular need, and the skills of the translator have to be such that the end product is more than merely acceptable. (Bassnett and Lefevere 1998, 60)

Although Bassnett is referring to poetry on this occasion, her words can be fittingly applied to the translation of dramatic works. For a production to be viable, it needs to appeal to audiences or, to put it in economic terms, there needs to be a market for it. Likewise, viability relies to a great extent on the knowledge the translator has of the specific requirements of translation for the stage and her awareness of performability. Therefore, the impact of a dramatic translation in the target system can be also measured against these two axes—the gap and the craft.

The “gap” is not necessarily a lacuna or deficiency in the target system waiting to be identified and corrected; we could argue that it is in actual fact the knowledge of the source system that opens a gap in the target system. In the specific case of Martin McDonagh’s plays being adapted into Galician, the gap would correspond to the lack of original dramatic texts in Galician with the specific dramatic opportunities that the Leenane Trilogy offers. Such a need was not uncovered until the stakeholders involved in McDonagh’s incorporation became aware of his work. According to Bassnett, the product of the translator’s work has to be “more than merely acceptable”. While this can provide a starting point,[2] we must not forget that the translator is not the only contributor to the performance text and the input of director, actors or even audiences can be equally relevant. Therefore, the awareness of a gap is ultimately produced by an encounter, or even a series of encounters, involving all the participants in the process.

In the course of an interview, the translator Avelino González referred explicitly to his perception of a gap in the Galician dramaturgical system when explaining his interest in the works of Irish playwrights, which started during a visit to a bookshop in London: “O encanto que tiñan estes paisanos é que escribían o que os dramaturgos galegos deberían escribir e non escriben” [“The appeal of those fellows was that they were writing what Galician playwrights should be writing but don’t”]. Director Quico Cadaval further explained what McDonagh’s works could bring to the Galician stage:

 Un territorio onde encontrar realismo pouco mixiricas, sen sentimentalismos, mesturado con elementos grotescos, non querendo atribuírlle a Irlanda unha serie de características poéticas e con referencias á modernidade. [A territory where one can find realism that is hardly whining, without sentimentalisms, mixed in with grotesque elements, without a wish to attribute a series of poetic characteristics to Ireland and with references to modernity.] (Cadaval and González, pers.comm.)

The controversial grotesque representations of dysfunctional social interactions in the Irish rural milieu that pervade his works may hold the key for their successful incorporation to the Galician system, where McDonagh’s sui generis realism is regarded as full of valuable virtues. With this statement, Cadaval interprets McDonagh’s code as a raw realism that makes no attempt to poeticise Ireland, at least not in the allegorical ways pursued by W.B. Yeats and his contemporaries. However, there is clearly a degree of stylisation in McDonagh’s stage geographies and this would imply that Ireland is poeticised through the use of clichés of rural life, reactualised by the “references to modernity” identified by Cadaval.

Both González and director Quico Cadaval refer to McDonagh’s ASkullinConnemara as adhering to a realist convention. This perception permeated the translation, performance and production choices and, in turn, the reception of the play. In Galicia, the prejudice against realistic theatrical modes is rooted in a reaction against the “costumbrista” genre and its stylised depiction of rural life. In costumbrista plays, the rural setting is often a backdrop—nearly another prop—for events dealing with universals of the human condition, a sort of locus amoenus that does not deeply affect nor is it affected by the characters. In contrast, McDonagh dissociates himself from the costumbrista agenda through realistic conventions with a touch of the dark humour to which TV and film-educated audiences nowadays seem to respond so well, and also by tying the people of Leenane indissolubly to their surroundings, starting with the geographical references in the titles, ranging from the most specific (TheBeautyQueenofLeenane), to the most general (TheLonesomeWest), passing through Connemara.

Indeed, location is far from immaterial in the incorporation process of ASkullinConnemara to the Galician system, as the following quote extracted from the Producións Excéntricas web site suggests:

Os feitos acontecen en Connemara, mais podían pasar en Bergantiños se tivesemos alguén que os soubese escribir. Como non tiñamos, tivo Avelino González que domear en galego aquel bravo inglés que escribiu McDonagh. [“The events occur in Connemara, but they could come to pass in Bergantiños if we had somebody that knew how to write them. Since we didn’t, Avelino González had to tame into Galician the wild English that McDonagh wrote (in)”.] (Producións Excéntricas 2013)

There is substantial emphasis placed on the fact that Galician authors were unable to provide original texts to match the performative and theatrical opportunities offered by McDonagh’s work. This implication is present not only in the quotes reflected above but also directly addressed by director Quico Cadaval in the course of the same interview, when he refers to “what Galician playwrights should be writing and don’t write” (Cadaval and González, pers.comm.). Avelino González added to Cadaval’s observation his view of how McDonagh’s cultural background gives him “a boldness that we do not dare to have”. This begs the question whether theatre companies or audiences would show the same degree of recognition, or even tolerance, towards similar portrayals of rural life that had originated in Galicia. Would these encounter similar criticisms to those triggered by Martin McDonagh’s work in the Irish context? The acceptability of realism in the Galician system is increased by the fact that the plays in question are translations from a more established source culture that is in many ways deemed more prestigious. Therefore, this example of realism can enjoy a higher level of acceptability as a form incorporated from a prestigious source culture than it would had it emanated from the Galician target system itself.

Martin McDonagh’s drama has opened new creative pathways on the Galician stage. The translations of his works have initiated a sub-genre of realism previously unexploited in the Galician system—namely, a theatrical form that could be performed in a naturalist mode, although constantly bordering on the caricature, set in the rural milieu yet distanced from the “costumbrista” tradition, and framing sinister events in a misleading comedic manner. The status occupied by these translated texts in the target system is symptomatic of the status occupied by translation in the Galician dramatic canon. When explaining his “Laws of translational behaviour”, Gideon Toury states that the more peripheral the status of translation in a given culture, “the more translation will accommodate itself to established models and repertoires” (Toury 1995, 271). The place occupied by the sui generis realism cultivated by McDonagh in the Galician context and the acceptability enjoyed by Uncraniofurado reflect the central role played by translation in this particular target system. At present, translation is considered in the Galician context as a very legitimate source of creative material for theatre practitioners. However, this was not always the case and the debate around the issue of translation was still very intense in the 1970s. Whereas many stakeholders advocated the legitimacy of supplementing the Galician corpus by means of translated plays, other sectors regarded translation as an inappropriate strategy in the process towards establishing a national theatrical canon (Pazó 2007). This controversy derived from the sociolinguistic situation, namely the minorised status of the Galician language and the divergent approaches to broadening its contexts of use. For the critics of translation, only original creations in Galician could contribute to the establishment of a Galician dramatic canon. Toury’s Law of growing standardization states that “in translation, source-text textemes tend to be converted into target-language (or target culture) repertoremes” (Toury 1995, 268). The uncontroversial and successful incorporation of McDonagh’s works seems to indicate that the target system does not require source texts to accommodate themselves to forms already present in the target culture. However, this may be down to the specific characteristics of ASkullinConnemara, ratherthan a general reflection of attitudes towards translation in the Galician system.

Taming Irishness for the Galician Stage

When questioned about the weight of the plays’ “Irishness” in the decision to produce Martin McDonagh, both Avelino González and Quico Cadaval respond initially by downplaying this specific factor. However, as they developed their various arguments, it became increasingly clear that it is not an aspect that can be overlooked. Indeed, Avelino González admits to being attracted to Martin McDonagh’s works because they were classified as Irish drama in the bookshop where he first found them and, as he declares, “the myth of Ireland and Galicia reappeared in me again” (Regromou en min o mito de Galicia e Irlanda). In his own words, when he read McDonagh his reaction was to think “it is us” [Galicians] (“Somos nós”). When Producións Excéntricas decide to stage the play, it is according to Cadaval for essentially pragmatic reasons—the company’s permanent members are two male actors and ASkullinConnemara required them to cast just two more performers. Nevertheless, they revert to that powerful Galicia-Ireland connection: “Inflúe na librería pero non á hora de escoller as obras. É algo que se aproveita despois, porque ese imaxinario que eu tiña, o ten tamén o público” [It’s influential in the bookshop but not when it comes to choosing the plays. It is something you make the most of at a later stage because that imaginery that I had, the audience also has it] (Cadaval and González, pers.comm.)

 The way in which the Leenane Trilogy has been marketed as Irish drama in the Galician context is particularly noticeable in the case of ASkullinConnemara. The visual language is unequivocally evocative of the Irish brand. In addition, the original title and the author’s name feature very prominently on the promotional materials, highlighting the fact that we are faced with a translation and encouraging audiences to assume the “Irishness” of the play.

In his work TheTranslatorsInvisibility, Lawrence Venuti defines translation in the following terms: “Translation is the forcible replacement of the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text that will be intelligible to the target-language reader” (Venuti 1995, 18-19). He identifies a predominant tendency to fluent translation in Anglo-American culture, where the public has—in his opinion—become accustomed to translations that read like works originally produced in the target language, hence the idea of the translator’s invisibility.

By producing the illusion of transparency, a fluent translation masquerades as true semantic equivalence when it in fact inscribes the foreign text with a partial interpretation, partial to English language values, reducing if not simply excluding the very difference that translation is called on to convey. (21)

Venuti sees domesticating translation strategies utilised to achieve fluency and transparency as examples of the “ethnocentric violence” exercised by the target culture on the source culture. The alternative he presents as “highly desirable today” is a foreignizing approach to translation that “signifies the difference of the foreign text, yet only by disrupting the cultural codes that prevail in the target language.” (20)

When Venuti discusses the “violent effects” (19) intrinsic to the translation process, he does so from the perspective of an established, even dominant, culture. Yet, the concepts of domesticating and foreignizing translation can only be applied to cultural manifestations in minorised languages such as Galician with some nuances. Indeed, there are many instances of domestication in the strategies followed in the incorporation of Irish (or Irish-themed) dramatic works to the Galician system, a number of which can be recognised in the adaptation of Skull in Connemara. However, the aim is not to conceal the translation process as such, since the translational aspect plays a crucial role in the acceptability of the sub-genre of this piece as explained above. On the contrary, instead of silencing the foreign quality of the plays or suppressing cultural references, the perceived “Irishness” of the incorporated cultural products is often brought to the fore and high-lighted by utilising conventions that are deeply set in the collective imaginary of the target culture, whether consciously or unconsciously. This treatment of culturally coded elements, exemplified by Producións Excéntricas’ adaptation of ASkullinConnemara, requires another angle of Venuti’s postulates on the invisibility of the translator from the perspective he associates with English-speaking cultural contexts.

As opposed to creating the illusion that a play belongs to the target culture by erasing any trace of otherness, the preservation of foreign cultural references challenges the audience to confront aspects of a different cultural reality that they are probably not familiar with. Conversely, theatre-goers are also presented with additional references to the source culture easily recognisable to them. To an extent, this domesticating strategy, similar to the process of exoticisation of vernacular networks critiqued by Berman (2000, 294),  represents a balancing act to facilitate the play’s connection with its audiences by utilising symbols that have been internalised in the collective consciousness. In the case of Uncraniofurado/ASkullinConnemara, these include the use of Irish traditional music and the display of clichéd Irish iconography on the stage. For instance, the decorative elements in Mick Dowd’s house include a calendar depicting John Wayne characterised as Sean Thornton in TheQuietMan, newspaper cut-outs of rugby games and a picture of St Patrick. These are not necessarily characteristic of an Irish country kitchen but they fulfil their purpose because, in the eyes of the target audience, they are clearly evocative of Ireland. When queried about his stance in relation to realistic representation and characterisation, director Quico Cadaval shows a very pragmatic attitude towards recreation at the service of a vision:

 Que funcione é suficiente. O problema do teatro é un problema de convención: canto antes consigas que o espectador acepte, antes empezamos. […] Canto máis naturalista sexa o escenario, máis vai mirar a xente o que lle falta. Hai que acadar ese equilibrio entre naturalista e simbólico, no teatro ten que haber certa estilización. [If it works, that’s enough. The problem in theatre is a problem of convention: the sooner you get the audience to accept, the sooner we get started. [...] The more naturalist a set is the more people are going to look at what is missing. One must find that balance between naturalist and symbolic, in theatre there must be some stylisation] (Cadaval and González, pers.comm.)

The issue of spectator’s acceptance is also present in the construction of the characters. For instance, Thomas Hanlon—a gard “in full uniform”, as stipulated in McDonagh’s stage directions—is incarnated in Uncraniofurado by Víctor Mosqueira, perfectly attired as a “policía local”. He is immediately identifiable as police, on account of his uniform and his gun. Had the choice been to characterise him as an Irish garda for the sake of accuracy and realism, the audience would have soon wondered where his gun was, unfamiliar with the fact that the Gardaí are for the most part an unarmed force. Another matter—certainly worthy of further exploration—would be whether this decision derives from a lack of knowledge of the Irish cultural context or it is a consciously incorporated “impossible equivalent”, to use John London’s words. As well as raising questions with regards to the issue of authorship and fidelity, London illustrates the long-lasting effects of the transformation of cultural references on the reception of translated dramatic works. (London 2010, 202-6).

In the translation of drama for the stage, the concept of performability replaces the idea of readability and this imposes a series of specific demands to be met by the translator. Certainly, the actors must be able to deliver the text and this requires a certain degree of “naturalness of expression”, to use Eugene Nida’s words (Munday 2001, 42). As per present day conventions, the translator of the performance text should remain invisible. In realistic theatrical modes, the invisibility of the actors is also desirable, since they must give way to the characters, while ensuring a convincing delivery of their lines. This combination of fluidity and fluency required of the performance text hinders any attempt at the foreignizing strategies advocated by Lawrence Venuti.

Avelino González’s attitude towards theatre translation exhibits a marked emphasis on perfomability, speakability and the overall dramaturgical viability of the texts he produces. In his own words, the work of the translator is “at the service of a concept of mise en scène” (ao servicio dun concepto de posta en escena) (Cadaval and González, pers.comm.). His ideas resonate with Hans J. Vermeer’s skopos theory, as the function of the translation—in this case, performance—provides the rationale behind the linguistic choices. In fact, lexical alternatives are often favoured on the basis of feedback from performers obtained during the rehearsal process. González’s working method favours this creative dialogue—when he comes across a play that he sees potential in, he prepares a draft translation which he circulates amongst prospective companies. If there is interest, he then proceeds to work on a performance text which is by no means a definitive version but rather a malleable material for the director and the performers. There is no doubt that his experience as an actor informs his approach to translating a dramatic text, as does the fact that he is not a translator by trade. In his own words: “I am not a translator, I find myself translating” (Eu non son traductor, atópome traducindo).  When he reads a play, he does so from the perspective of a performer, with its advantages and limitations. Whilst he has the benefit of an awareness of what works on stage and benefits from the opportunity to closely collaborate with the performers, his methodology relies to a great extent on an intuitive identification of phraseology and context-specific elements.

While the use of Irish symbols in the adaptation of ASkullinConnemara can be linked to the above-mentioned mythical connection with the Irish nation within the Galician context, these stereotypes are also commonplace at a global level as markers of the Irish brand. Although different in many ways from the early 20th century identification utilised by the incipient nationalist movement in Galicia, there is a common strategic aim in the utilisation of visual elements, as well as in the manner in which the play is framed. Several production choices suggest that the success of the play relies on convincing the audience of the proximity of Ireland, an idea that is expressed in the following terms on the hand programs distributed at performances: “Os feitos acontecen nun país de chan ácedo e alta pluviosidade. Pode ser Connemara como pode ser Bergantiños” [The events take place in a country with acidic soil and high pluviosity. It can be Connemara or it can be Bergantiños] (Producións Excéntricas 2013). 

This quote paraphrases the text from the company’s web site reproduced above. There, we find a revealing choice of words—Avelino González did not just translate, he “tamed” (“domou”) Martin McDonagh’s language. The implication is that the source text contained an irreverent essence that the target culture lacks and desires, a trait that can only be taken by force. The way in which this act of appropriation is presented echoes Venuti’s words on the violence of the translation process, despite the supposed affinity between the two nations and the recurring attribution of prestige to the source culture.

Overall, the approach taken by Avelino González and Producións Excéntricas has resulted in a successful production. Their realistic reading of McDonagh’s works, the codes of identification with the Irish context and the linguistic choices have connected with both audiences and critics, judging from the responses it has obtained in the media, reviews, blogs, etc. Whereas the Irish may see a caricatured representation of Ireland through a compendium of stereotypical features, non-Irish audiences will just identify Ireland and Galician audiences may also recognise themselves. I interpret the distillation of Irish identity present in Uncraniofurado not so much as an attempt to open the eyes of the Galician public to a different culture but as an introspective view into how Galicians perceive their own ethnicity, their own national identity. It works not because it’s about the other but because it is about the “us”.


Álvarez, Hugo., 2012. "‘Un cranio furado (A Skull in Connemara)’, o partirse el cráneo de risa." Butaca en anfiteatro. 12 November. http://butacaenanfiteatro.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/un-cranio-furado-a-skull-in-connemara-o-partirse-el-craneo-de-risa/ (last accessed: 6 May 2013).

Bassnett, Susan., 1998. “Transplanting the Seed: poetry and Translation.” In Constructing Cultures. Essays on Literary Translation, by Susan and André Lefevere Bassnett, 57-74. Clevedon (UK) Bristol (US): Multilingual Matters.

Benoit, Elie., 2010. "A skull in Connemara." Aprendiendo del camino. 8 December. http://aprendiendodelcamino.wordpress.com/tag/skull-in-connemara/ (last accessed: 6 May 2013).

Berman, Antoine.,  2000. "Translation and the Trials of the Foriegn", trans. Lawrence Venuti, in The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti, 284-97. London and New York: Routledge.

Cadaval, Quico., 2011. Un cranio furado, hand programme. Santiago: Producións Excéntricas.

Cadaval, Quico and Avelino González, interview by Elisa Serra Porteiro. 2011. On the incorporation of Un cranio furado (3 September).

de Toro Santos, Antonio Raúl., 2007. La literatura irlandesa en España. Oleiros: Netbiblo.

Freixeiro Mato, Xosé Ramón., 1997 Lingua galega: normalidade e conflito. Santiago de Compostela: Láiovento.

Freyne, Patrick., 2012. “Drink! Fecklessness! Partitionishm! Shame! The Irish ideologies.” The Irish Times Weekend Review, 8 September,  4.

London, John., 2010 “Text, Lies, and Linguistic Rape: Rewriting Theatre History in the Light of Dramatic Translations”.  In La Recepció del Teatre Contemporani, edited by Ramon X. Rosselló, Josep Lluís Sirera, and John London, 195-218. Valencia: Universitat de València.

Lonergan, Patrick., 2012. The Theatre and Films of martin McDonagh. London: Methuen Drama.

—., 2009. Theatre and globalisation: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

MacCarthy, Anne., 2004. Identities in Irish Literature. Oleiros: Netbiblo.

Macías, Alejandro., 2010. "Un cranio furado." El blog de Alejandro Macías. 27 October. http://satisguera.blogspot.ie/2010/10/un-cranio-furado.html (last accessed: 6 May 2013).

McDonald, Henry., 2008. “The Guardian  profile: Martin McDonagh.” The Guardian. 25 April. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/apr/25/theatre.northernireland (last accessed: 31 January 2013).

McKinty, Adrian., 2009. “Is Martin McDonagh Irish Enough?” The Psychopathology of Everyday Life - Adrian McKinty's Blog. 10 February. http://adrianmckinty.blogspot.ie/2009/02/is-martin-mcdonagh-irish-enough.html (last accessed: 31 January 2013).

Munday, Jeremy., 2001. Introducing Translation Studies. Theories and Applications. Oxon/New York: Routledge.

O'Neill, Elizabeth., 2003. “Theatre Review. The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” RTE. 1 October. http://www.rte.ie/ten/2003/1001/inishmore.html (last accessed: 31 January 2013).

Pazó, Noemí., 2007. “Teatro e tradución. Unha prospectiva xeral.” En Cento vinte e cinco anos de teatro en galego. No aniversario da estrea de A fonte do xuramento 1882-2007, de Manuel, coord. Vieites, 297-317. Vigo: Editorial Galaxia.

Producións Excéntricas. 2013. Company web site. http://www.excentricas.net/es/ (last accessed: 31 January 2013).

Teatro do Atlántico. 2013.  Company web site. http://www.teatrodoatlantico.com/index.php/gl/ (last accessed: 31 de January de 2013).

Toury, Gideon., 1995 Descriptive Translation Studies and beyond. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Venuti, Lawrence., 1995. The Translator's Invisibility. A History of Translation. London: Routledge.

"Los María Casares erigen a 'Un cranio furado' como el mejor espectáculo del año en Galicia." El Mundo. 25 March 2011. http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2011/03/24/galicia/1300964564.html (last accesed: 6 May 2013).

"'Un cranio furado' é candidata a dez galardóns nos premios María Casares." La Voz de Galicia. 3 March 2011. http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/ocioycultura/2011/03/03/0003_201103G3P47998.htm (last accessed: 6 May 2013).


[1] Despite the changes in legislation carried out during the democratic era, language-related prejudices and stereotyped associations continue to exist, raising questions not only about the efficacy of linguistic policies but also about the rationale behind them (Freixeiro Mato 1997, 137) .

[2] Avelino González’ translations of Martin McDonagh’s play are in actual fact the result of his collaboration with directors and performers, rather than a starting point for production work, , as described in the final section.


Marta Pérez-Carbonell

Intralingual Translation in Tu rostro mañana, by Javier Marías


This article explores how Tu rostro mañana by Javier Marías portrays the intricacy of communication. Although an interesting area, it will not focus on the many examples of interlingual translation that take place throughout the text, but instead the less obvious and subtler cases in which the protagonist of the novel, Jacques Deza, provides readers with cases of intralingual translation. In Marías’s novel the source text from which the intralingual translation stems is often presented as an unstable domain in the narrative. As Jakobson observed, the process of intralingual translation, much as its interlingual counterpart, should also be taken as a ‘creative transposition’ as it is directly linked to subjectivity. This suggests that, if both the source text and its translation appear obscure and subjective, the certainty of the message that results from this process is rendered questionable. As the following article seeks to show, this ambiguity is present in the communication process, whether the linguistic exchange takes place between two languages or within the confines of one. Thus, the relentless personal interpretation of messages in the novel brings into question the veracity of the story told by the narrator, turning the narrative plot into a domain where ambiguity and haziness emerge as all-pervasive.

Interpretations of lives and linguistic messages fill the many pages of Turostromañana and even though they may be nothing more than Deza’s point of view, this personal and inquisitive narrator encourages readers to mirror his own attitude and, using Tupra’s words, ask themselves ‘qué más, qué más’.


Intralingual translation and its subjectivity

The term intralingual translation was coined by Roman Jakobson in 1959, distinguishing between interlingual (between languages), intralingual (within a language) and intersemiotic translation (in which written text is translated into different artistic forms, such as music or cinema). The notion of intralingual translation refers to the process of interpreting information within the confines of a single language, exploring the nature and value of paraphrasing and rewording (Venuti 2004, 138-43).[1]

George Steiner argues that translation is a process that takes place every time a person receives a message from another human being, even when only one language is involved in the process (1998, 48). In this sense, translation is understood as an interpretation of information. The action corresponds to the fourth definition of “interpretar” of the Diccionario de la Real Academia: “Concebir, ordenar o expresar de un modo personal la realidad”, and English dictionaries include equivalent definitions. Comparing intralingual and interlingual translation, Steiner states that the former also requires an “interpretative decipherment, an encoding-decoding function or synapse”, suggesting that it is not an inferior form of translation relative to its bilingual equivalent and that in both processes there is much subjectivity (1998, 49).[2]

This article will explore the nature and effects of intralingual translation in Javier Marías’s Turostromañana (2002-2007). At times, the protagonist’s translation of reality into words, a kind of intersemiotic translation, will also be acknowledged in the analysis of the novel because, as Ilse Logie asserts, in Marías’s characters: “vivirequivale a interpretar” (2001, 74). The main focus of the article is to assess the ways in which messages are interpreted or by the narrator, as well as how this interpretation constitutes an important tool in the creation of an all-pervasive uncertainty within the plot.

As duly noted by Eduardo Mendoza, uncertainty is one of the most relevant traits of Marías’s novels:

Las novelas de Javier Marías, como sus personajes, tienen varios rostros y admiten varias lecturas, en todos los sentidos del término. ¿Qué ha sucedido exactamente? ¿Qué hay de verdad en lo que los personajes han acabado revelando? ¿Qué saben cuando dicen saber y qué ignoran cuando pretenden no saber? (2011, 4)

Rostro is a fine example of how Marías succeeds in creating a halo of ambiguity in his storylines. This uncertainty in the plot stems from the author’s stated belief in a permanently partial experience of reality in life:

Lo que uno ve y vive es por definición fragmentario y sesgado […] Asistimos a los sucesos desde nuestra subjetividad irremediable y desde un solo punto de vista, y hasta cierto punto lo vemos todo como si, ante una escultura, solo fuéramos capaces de contemplar su parte frontal, o bien la parte posterior, o uno de sus perfiles, pero estuviéramos incapacitados para dar la vuelta en torno a ella y admirarla desde todos los ángulos, como fue concebida y ejecutada (2009, 22).

The same subjectivity with which the author believes reality is experienced by human beings is transferred to the main character of Rostro, Jacques Deza, who also experiences both his own reality and conversations subjectively, making use of intersemiotic and intralingual translations respectively.

Firstly, the intersemiotic translation that Deza embodies entails a subjectivity that could be placed alongside the visual and plastic arts, which have long acknowledged that the representation of reality is utterly dependent on the eye of the artist: reality acts as a message that is filtered by the artist subjectively in a not too dissimilar way to that whereby reality is interpreted by a speaker. The movement of impressionism constitutes one of the many examples of subjective representation. As its name suggests, impressionism is defined by the OED as the “artistic style that seeks to capture a feeling or experience, rather than to achieve accurate depiction”. Elisabeth Prettejohn, for example describes Caspar Von Friedrich’s impressionist style and his use of a Rückenfigur, a person seen from behind contemplating the view, as a scene understood, perceived and idealised by a human (2005, 54-56).

The idea of a scene that appears as perceived by a human suggests a profound degree of subjectivity in the discernment of the view, whose “reality” appears secondary to the way it is perceived by the Rückenfigur, suggesting at the same time the primacy of the individual perception of the spectator. It is almost as if there were a narrator whose impression of reality is being presented as the only one. The example of the Rückenfigur is especially suggestive because it evokes two different subjectivities: that of the painter, who interprets reality subjectively as any artist does; and that of the figure depicted, whose point of view of the image we are given, with the implications that this has for the perception of the human viewer looking at the picture. This idea visually prefigures Marías’s presentation of the partial experiencing of reality, which is always transmitted to the reader through the subjectivity of one narrator, Deza in the case of Rostro.

The belief that the transformation of reality into language, inaccurate, partial and based on the viewer’s impressions, could be considered a first stage of translation is clearly stated by Marías:

Para lo que nos sirve en el fondo cada vocablo es para referirnos a las cosas sin necesidad de tener las cosas delante, lo cual equivale a admitir que el lenguaje es ya en sí mismo una traducción […] La lengua traduce la realidad o lo existente – lo está traduciendo al denominarlo– (2009, 29).

It is the individual perception of reality by human beings, but also and more specifically that of artists. Much as the Rückenfigur was introduced as a narrator with whose point of view the audience is invited to identify, in Marías’s fiction, the readership is presented with a first-person protagonist/narrator who interprets the events around him subjectively. This fiction, like the Rückenfigur, has two levels of subjective perception of reality, that of the author, which is partial by definition, and that of the narrator, whose biased version, as we shall see, emerges as one of the main traits of Marías’s fiction.

Secondly, regarding his view of intralingual translation, Marías clearly shares Steiner’s view on the matter as he asserts that “toda conversaciones en sí una traducción” (Braudeau 2009, 27). Some of his novelistic work proves this, as he constantly inserts intertexts from different authors to then filter and interpret them subjectively; a good example is the phrase “Negra espalda del tiempo,” which not only has been translated into Spanish subjectively but has also been interpreted and given a particular significance by the author, which does not correspond to its “original” meaning.[3] The personal interpretation of quotations, which has been referred to by Antonio Iriarte as “variaciones personales sobre el sentido de la cita original” (2009, 307), is an example of intralingual translation; Marías interprets the quotations and uses them for his own purposes, highlighting the instability of a source text.

Furthermore, Marías’s narrators’ obsession with thinking, language and intralingual translation is rendered plausible by his frequent choice of jobs for them that are closely related to language: professors, translators, ghost-writers and interpreters, for example. Irene Zoe Alameda relates this to their storytelling abilities: “No en vano, los narradores de las obras de Marías tienen por profesión contar (o recontar)” (2005, 74). Even though the number and intensity of their reflections may appear implausible, as a professional arguably would not normally question language related issues as obsessively as his characters do, Marías also bestows upon his characters an extremely meditative and reflective disposition, something he terms their “pensamiento literario”, a concept he uses to refer to the very personal interpretation of messages glossed by him as the “series of considerations and meditations” (Ingendaay 2000, 84) that take place on the part of the narrator when the action stops to give way to reflection. This explains why, in the words of David K. Herzberger “in nearly all of his writing, Marías seeks to incorporate tellers and listeners into the fabric of his narrative” (2005, 206). The incorporation of these tellers and listeners provides Marías with a source from which to reflect and explore instances of intralingual translation and its subjectivity.

Amongst other types of first-person narrators, Franz K. Stanzel distinguishes between a “peripheral” and a “quasi-autobiographical narrator”. He states that the peripheral narrator: “is located at the periphery of the narrated events and his role is that of an observer, witness, biographer, chronicler, but not that of the hero who stands in the centre of the events”. Subsequently, he moves on to describe the quasi-autobiographical first-person narrative as one “in which the narrator and the hero of the story are identical” (1986, 201). In Marías’s fiction, the narrator is undoubtedly the centre of the narrative, however, his observant, witness-like attitude are traits typical of a peripheral narrator. Therefore, although he is the main character and the person who experiences most actions, he also appears as though he were stepping back from the action to watch over it. The outcome is a first-person narrator who, although a witness of events, is nevertheless the main centre of the action and therefore is often found witnessing his own life. Together with the unstable source material, the subjective digressions and interpreting of Marías’s first-person narrations, who acts as witnesses of their own lives, lead to a narrative pregnant with judgements, opinions and beliefs, giving the impression that, far from an “objective” portrait of affairs, the narration consists of a series of events filtered by each narrator’s intralingual translation.

Andrés-Suárez confirms this idea when she asserts that in Marías “la realidad es fruto de la experiencia subjetiva del que la vive. Todo es provisional y hay tantas versiones como seres humanos” (2005, 204).While this is true of all first-person narrators to some extent, Marías’s extremely reflective ones provide readers with an especially self-conscious type of subjectivity. Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas notes that Marías’s characters have in common “la obsesiva actividad del pensamiento” (1994, 62) while Andrés-Suárez goes on to state that the fact that there is a first-person narrator who thinks and reflects so deeply on reality leads to subjective narrations. The reader, she observes, feels wary of the truth behind the story since it appears to be clearly packed with one individual’s own feelings, thoughts and fears, instead of being any attempt—however flawed—at an objective version of the truth (Andrés-Suárez 2005, 209).

Navajas develops the implications of this:

Los diversos narradores de Marías ven y oyen más allá de lo habitual y convierten esta capacidad de observación en un instrumento no solo de conocimiento sino también de poder sobre las figuras y acontecimientos (2001, 41).

The specification of “ven y oyen” in this statement draws attention to the fact that in Marías’s novels both types of translation take place, an intersemiotic translation of reality into language as well as an intralingual one. Whether it is the reality around the narrators or the conversations they hear, both source texts are inherently unstable. Instead, the individual’s interpretation emerges asthe only solid ground. Alameda sumsthis up: “el narrador—la voz del relato—es tanto o más importante que aquello que se cuenta” (2005, 73).This lack of objectivity leads to the aura of uncertainty that surrounds Marías’s plots, which will now be analysed in the context of Rostro.

Intralingual and intersemiotictranslation: interpretinginformation in Tu rostro mañana

The well-known warning which opens Rostro, “No debería uno contar nunca nada” (FL, 13, 15, 25)[4] shows that “como prácticamente todos los inicios de sus novelas, el apercibimiento nos remite sin rodeos a uno de los temas principales de la obra, si no su tema fundamental: los efectos del contar” (Grohmann 2009, 161). The reflections and opinions about the nature and effects of storytelling in the text will be analysed in the light of intralingual translation. The concept is explored mainly through Deza’s job, which entails the interpretation of suspects’ speeches and their behaviour.

The interpretations about suspects advanced by Deza as well as his reflections upon them are amongst the most remarkable traits of the novel. These are based on his partial experiencing of reality and on the subjective nature of language respectively. He transforms reality or verbal discourses into his subjective version of them; whether he translates someone’s behaviour (intersemiotic interpretation) or their words (intralingual), his messages appear to be surrounded by uncertainty. As with Marías, Deza’s key approach to language stems from the idea of its inadequacy to translate reality, which poses obvious problems considering his job: “casi todas nuestras frases son metáforas en símismas, el lenguaje es aproximación, tentativa, rodeo” (BS, 294). This suggests there is inaccuracy and ambiguity in the intersemiotic translation of reality into language. And how does intralingual translation function and affect the plot?

Given Marías’s view about language, it is not surprising that the text, and Deza in particular, approach it from two different perspectives; on the one hand, as an inadequate means of translation (BS, 294), but on the other hand as a central element of one’s life. Indeed, Deza states that what he hears affects him as much as what he lives (BS, 303).[5] Through intralingual translation, the presence of language, however inaccurate in its representation of the textual reality, has a central role in the plot and the creation of uncertainty.

Deza’s job

One of the main channels through which the concept of intralingual translation, as well as its subjectivity and potential dangers is explored, is via Deza’s job. In his second stay in England, he starts to work for a mysterious organization, which he believes to be linked to the British Secret Services. Initially, his work consists of translating Spanish discourses of suspects into English. However, it is not long before these discourses stop coming from Spanish speakers and start taking place in English, shifting the focus from an interlingual to an intralingual interpretation. In fact, Deza is not merely interpreting verbal messages from suspects but also translating verbally what he perceives from their linguistic and non-linguistic behaviour: their tone of voice, inflections or nuances as well as other signals such as gesture and clothing. Therefore, he is interpreting intralingually, but he is also translating reality into language. In both cases, uncertainty and subjectivity prevail, but intralingual translation poses a second layer of complexity since the verbal messages interpreted are a translation of some previous aspect of reality, a process which could stretch ad infinitum. In his own words about his job:

consistía en escuchar y fijarme e interpretar y contar, en descifrar conductas, aptitudes, caracteres y escrúpulos, desapegos y convicciones, el egoísmo, ambiciones, incondicionalidades, flaquezas, fuerzas, veracidades y repugnancias; indecisiones. Interpretaba—en tres palabas—historias, personas, vidas. Historias por suceder, frecuentemente (FL, 262-63).

There are a number of uncertainties surrounding the process of interpreting people. Firstly, the source material from which these interpretations stem (suspects’ behaviour and/or their verbal discourse) appears as an unstable domain. In the words of Deza: “se trabaja sobre eventualidades y figuraciones e hipótesis, sobre la nada y lo inexistente y sobre lo que no sucede ni tampoco ha sucedido antes” (FL, 233). His judgements and interpretations are based on what often is an absence of information (FL, 318-19). He has toread “lo incógnito e insondable” (FL, 320). Domingo Ródenas de Moya states that through Deza’s perceptiveness, “lo incierto [de aquellos a quienes interpreta] deja de serlo en algún grado, aunque esa disminución de la inseguridad encierre el grave riesgo de infundir una seguridad engañosa respecto a la verdad” (2009, 69-70) highlighting with this “seguridad engañosa” the unsteadiness of the sourcetext.

Secondly, his own interpretations, often based upon uncertainties, are subjective by nature because they belong to his perception. This perception acquires a new degree of uncertainty as he states that “poco importa la capacidad de acierto, sobretodo porque en mi actividad éste era rara vez comprobable” (FL, 320), hinting at the idea that uncertainty is both unavoidable and without consequences. Tupra’s words of encouragement “Qué más, qué más, qué más has visto”, while Deza states “aunque no haya ningún más a veces y uno deba forzar sus visiones o quizá fraguárselas con su invención y recuerdo” (BS, 125), underline the extent to which his interpretations are shaped by his own creative powers. Tupra’s encouragement to always give his opinion outside his comfort zone (BS, 31) leads him to interpret “allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada” (FL, 344; BS, 253): a sentence that becomes crucial to the plot of Rostro, since Deza is constantly pushed to use ambiguous messages to produce stories where he often does not see them. The realisation that he is “pushed” to see increasingly more and that he is using his personal judgement for this is obvious as Deza admits: “iba perdiendo más escrúpulos cada día” (FL, 316); he becomes increasingly bold as time progresses (FL, 338), and defines his attitude as “atrevimiento interpretativo” (FL, 463) and his job as “la gran irresponsabilidad” (FL, 271). Deza provides readers with countless examples where he states the daring nature of his interpreting, describing it as: “mi punto de vista al término, casi mi pronóstico en ocasiones, cómo decir, una apuesta” (FL, 263), at times compared to writing fiction “o por lo menos semblanzas” (VSA, 236) or even complete invention, if Tupra so required (VSA, 256).

Furthermore, Deza is interpreting the suspects’ future. Of course, this future does not exist at the time of its being predicted, and his job is therefore to interpret what could happen; he is “traductor o intérprete de las personas […] y también de sus deducibles historias, no pasadas sino venideras, las que aún no había no currido” (FL, 32). Aware of the uncertainties that he is working with when attempting to interpret the future, Deza observes that in his job he gets paid to: “contar lo que aún no era ni había sido, lo futuro y probable o tan solo posible—la hipótesis—es decir, por intuir e imaginar e inventar; y por convencer de ello” (FL, 22). Interpreting the future adds a new dimension of ambiguity to his job; as Luis Martín-Estudillo observes, Deza’s judgements could be defined as “unos intercambios en los que hay mucho de mayéutica.” When this critic refers to Tupra, he states that he is pushing the protagonist to “dilatar al máximo el discurso, […] prolongar la visión del aprendiz u oráculo” (2009, 119-20). The crucial use of the word “oráculo” hints at Deza’s future predictions. The future, however, emerges as unpredictable, as Deza observes: “La verdad es lo que sucede, la verdad es cuando pasa, cómo quieren que se la diga ahora. Antes de suceder no se conoce” (FL, 243), and yet this is precisely the nature of his job. Deza is aware of the story of his father (FL, 163), who, after suffering the betrayal of one of his closest friends, asserts that people’s future actions are always unpredictable (FL, 182, 191, 199). The nature of his job constitutes, thus, an impossible task. He has to interpret the future based on a number of uncertainties, and although he seems to agree with the premise of its impossibility, he nevertheless takes the risk and experiences the bitter consequences of his interpretations, ignoring his own warning about how no one should ever tell anything to anyone, and realising that, although unknown to him in most cases, his verbal interpretations do have consequences.

Thirdly, Deza’s task of interpreting truthfully is also proven unrealistic if one takes into account Wheeler’s opinion on the lack of objective meaning that facts have unless interpreted:

nada es nunca objetivo y todo puede ser tergiversado y distorsionado […] los hechos y las actitudes dependen siempre de la intención que se les atribuya y la interpretación que quiera dárseles, y sin esa interpretación no son nada (FL, 119).

If the true meaning of facts only depends on their interpretation, such meaning will always be inevitably subjective.

The above sets out some of the most important traits of Deza’s interpretations in his job: firstly, their “origin” or source text is ambiguous and unstable; secondly, Deza’s interpretations are often untrustworthy, partly due to the fact that they are his own impressions and partly because they refer to the future. Thirdly, and not without controversy, these interpretations are essential in assigning meaning to facts that would otherwise not have any. Hence, his interpretation of the suspects mirrors the interpretation of reality as a simulacrum through language; much as the suspects, reality is only ever experienced partially and is expressed subjectively through the inadequate means of a linguistic system.

Finally, there is great ambiguity surrounding the purpose or destination of these messages. The narrator admits he does not have any information about the purpose his interpretations serve, even questioning whether they have any at all (FL, 232, 337-38; BS, 293). Through Deza’s job, Rostro addresses the uncertain afterlife of any message. After explaining how translations are independent from their originals, Walter Benjamin explores the concept of the text’s “afterlife” or “survival” as follows:

Just as expressions of life are connected in the most intimate manner with the living being without having any significance for the latter, a translation proceeds from the original. Not indeed so much from its life, as from its ‘afterlife’ or ‘survival’ (2004, 76).

This point elucidates the nature of Deza’s interpretations, which, although closely linked to him, become an entity outside his control and have an afterlife of their own precisely because, although intralingual, they are nothing but translations. Herzberger’s reading of this particular characteristic of Deza’s profession is the following:

what we say may be appropriated and folded into another story […] until our narrative stretches beyond its original context, intentions and meaning to form part of someone else’s story […] This process […] implies misappropriation and misreading of original desire (2011, 186).

This article proposes that while it is true that messages may indeed be folded into further stories, this does not necessarily imply a case of “misappropriation or misreading” of a message because that would imply a stability of the source text that seems to often be lacking. Instead, it highlights the extent to which a person’s reading of any given message is invariably individual, turning the act of communicating into one which carries an extremely high level of subjectivity and which stretches ad infinitum because stories will constantly fold into others. This process will inevitably lead to a number of undetermined consequences regarding Deza’s interpretations. Herzberger posits the importance of this issue, alluding to the lack of control that he has over his words: 

¿con qué fin se usan los relatos, quiénes los usan y qué restricciones éticas exigen las historias cuando éstas pueden ser empleadas para formar otras historias, y todavía otras, de modo que la intención y el significado se escapan del control de los narradores originales? (2009, 192)

Deza, aware that he remains ignorant of the consequences of his words, muses: “cuántas más de mis interpretaciones o traducciones habrían tenido consecuencias sin yo enterarme” (VSA, 550). Isabel Cuñado notes that: “lo que realmente preocupa al protagonista [de Rostro] son las circunstancias y los efectos de su relato” (2009, 235). Not knowing the purpose of his interpretations indeed constitute one of Deza’s main concerns.

The uncertain future of the suspects once they have been interpreted is indeed an important contributing factor to the uncertainty surrounding the purpose of Deza’s interpretations. Deza, afraid that he is disturbing the universe with his assertions about suspects, discusses with Pérez Nuix what happens with their interpretations as Deza insinuates the danger of ignoring how these are used. Who listens to them? And how do they interpret them? His colleague’s clear conscience prompts him to compare their exercise to attributing the consequences of a novel to the author. The novelist, she states, is not responsible for the ideas or temptations that his fictions provoke (BS, 54), just as they are not responsible for the actions that their interpretations trigger. However, Deza fears the consequences of losing control over his interpretations, as Wheeler observes: “nadie puede controlar la utilización que se hace de sus ideas y sus palabras, ni prever enteramente sus consecuencias últimas. En general en la vida” (VSA, 608).

Ultimately, this is one of the main topics of Marías’s novels. In the words of Herzberger:

whether rooted in observation or fantasy, whether true of false, stories are enmeshed in the fabric of society along with other stories, which in turn are woven into other stories and still others until they spin beyond our intention and thus beyond our control. In Marías’s view this process is at once inevitable and necessary (2005, 213).

Therefore, it would not be too far-fetched to argue that the source texts (the suspects being interrogated), as well as Deza’s reading of them and the consequences of these messages, are fundamental in creating the ambiguity surrounding Deza’s job, which embodies the idea of language as unavoidably intertwined with reality as well as being forever reinterpreted and outside the realm of the speaker’s control.

One of the most interesting paradoxes of the novel is that, however unreliable and dangerous language interpretations are, they happen constantly and have the ability to shape the course of events. This sheds light on the questioning of reality, a fragile domain susceptible to the subjectivity and uncertainty of language interpretation. Herzberger describes Marías’s use of language in Rostro as a way “to show how storytelling can also be used to organize our actions and perception of the world in the future” (2011, 180). Deza’s interpretations of stories ultimately have the power to transform reality drastically. He is aware of this and observes that Dearlove feels, what he calls “la repugnancia narrativa” (FL, 352); that is, Dearlove’s actions are driven by how these will be related in the future. The danger of this practice is patent in the plot; Dearlove is not the only one who controls his story. In this case, Deza has reasons to suspect that his interpretations of Dearlove provoked the crime of the young boy (VSA, 678-80), hence shaping a critical part of Dearlove’s life. This case shows how Deza’s meddling has drastic consequences. In the words of Herzberger:

cuando una de sus historias produce el acto de Dearlove, de repente Deza comprende que lo real (la vida de Dearlove) y lo narrado (el relato de Deza acerca de Dearlove) comparten el mismo plano en el mundo (2009, 194).

His job illustrates the following paradox: Deza transforms people’s lives into stories (however subjectively, perhaps inaccurately and inventively). Interestingly, that same narration affects, modifies or even terminates people’s lives. During the course of this process, Deza is also affected by his own interpretations since the decision to leave his job and return to Madridis based on the consequences of his own words about Dearlove. By then, Deza has understood “the transformative power of stories” and the way in which they transform the person who tells the story (2011, 193).

Arguably, this transformative power rests upon the idea of intralingual translation. In other words, the power of stories rests on the premise that each receiver will interpret and use the story depending on their own circumstances, desires or whims. This process, due to its never-ending nature, takes place whenever there is a verbal discourse and constitutes a fundamental trait of language.

Although Deza’s job is the most powerful and illustrative example of the nature and dangers of intralingual translation, the text presents other cases which contribute to highlight the risks of telling and the subsequent appropriation of messages on the part of the receivers, such as the Miranda warning, the campaign against careless talk and the cases of eavesdropping.

Miranda Warning

The fascination with the consequences of speaking and interpreting is patent in the Miranda warning, upon which the protagonist reflects in the novel as another example of the dangerous effects of this never-ending process.

The Miranda warning is a legal warning given by the police in the United States aimed at criminal suspects in police custody to prevent them from incriminating themselves. They are given the right to remain silent because anything that they say may be used against them. Deza reflects upon this concept at large and defines it as “derecho […] a no perjudicarse verbalmente con su relato o sus respuestas o con tradiciones o balbuceos. A no dañarse narrativamente” (FL, 18). Echoing the ability of language to have an impact on reality, Herzberger observes that language “often determines the outcome of our lives as if it were reality itself rather than a pale representation of it” (2011, 189). This use of language prompts the idea of J. L. Austin’s performatives, whose main trait is their immediate effect on reality.[6] In this case, the interpretation of the message is inevitable in the sense that the prisoner’s words instantly belong to the person imprisoning him, to the potential detriment of the former.

 “Se informa al reo de que las reglas van a ser sucias a partir de ahora” (FL, 17), observes Deza. His fascination is precisely that the warning, being a verbal formula, uses the same means whereby the suspect may incriminate him/herself, that is, language. Deza remembers a time when he was told the Miranda warning inaccurately, and therefore invalidly (FL, 18). Given that it takes place at the beginning of the first volume of the novel, through this example, the reader is warned at an early stage about the risks that verbal messages may entail, which is further explored through the protagonist’s job and the ambiguity surrounding his interpretations.

Careless talk campaign and eavesdropping

The dangers of speaking and the advisability of remaining silent are further illustrated in the campaign against careless talk. Deza finds out the extent of its historical relevance through Sir Peter Wheeler. The campaign was launched in Britain during the Second World War to urge people not to talk to anyone about anything that could compromise national security. With messages like “careless talk costs lives”, “Telling a friend may be telling the enemy” (FL, 398-99) or “Be like dad, keep mum” (FL, 405), a fear of being heard was imposed. This fear of spies resulted in the inevitable perception of language as a dangerous tool that could be used against speakers at any point. Sir Peter Wheeler describes the nature of this process:

se nos enemistó con lo que más nos define y más nos une: hablar, contar, decirse, comentar, murmurar, y pasarse información, criticar, darse noticias, cotillear, difamar, calumniar y rumorear, referirse sucesos y relatarse ocurrencias, tenerse al tanto y hacerse saber, y por supuesto también bromear y mentir (FL, 409).

The idea of careless talk, which represents the dangers of speaking and being heard, is inextricably linked to our third example, the act of eavesdropping, for the latter represents one of the dangers about which the campaign was trying to warn its target audience. Deza eavesdrops on De La Garza and Professor Rico (VSA, 283) and on Luisa in the lounge (VSA, 540-42). On both occasions, the characters he spies on would have either used a different tone (as is the case with De La Garza) or omitted information (in the case of Luisa) had they known that Deza was listening.

Therefore, the danger of language is intimately linked to the idea of intralingual translation precisely because this danger stems from the interpretation of the message by its receiver. It is the appropriation of messages which, as previous examples show, leads to fatal consequences. This appropriation is not so much a “misreading” but, arguably, the main trait of language: stories are reinterpreted and folded into other stories. In other words, one message has multiple intralingual translations, turning the act of communication into a subjective and uncertain process. These interpretations are both the only way for the message to exist and the reason why they can never be trustworthy.

Conclusion of intralingual and intersemiotic translation on Turostromañana

In conclusion, how does intralingual translation contribute towards the creation of uncertainty in the novel? Deza, in his role as interpreter of lives, illustrates, firstly, the instability of the source text through the suspects’ messages. Secondly, the subjective nature of interpretations becomes obvious through his own impressions of their stories, and finally, ignoring the text’s afterlife highlights the extent to which a text no longer belongs to the speaker once it is uttered. Stories fold into stories and are forever interpreted subjectively by individuals. In this inevitable process, the objective truth of those messages recedes ever further and readers are left only with their interpretation. Furthermore, the Miranda warning provides Deza with further examples of the dangers of language upon which to reflect, whereas the cases of eavesdropping illustrate how the danger is patent in everyday life situations.

Interestingly, Karen-Margrethe Simonsen observes that in a previous novel by Marías, Corazóntan blanco, “events, dialogues and even ‘things’ do not present themselves as independently meaningful entities, but are continuously interwoven in Juan’s general interpretation and direction of discourse” (1999, 199). This statement could be applied to Deza and is key to understanding the importance of intersemiotic translation and its subjectivity because in Rostro, as well as learning events through language, there are also important events and “things” being intertwined with Deza’s interpretations, thus hinting at his subjective verbal interpretation of reality and the lack of clarity that it leads to. Therefore, it would not be too far-fetched to argue that one of the main traits of Rostro is the obsessive presentation of events through an extremely personal intersemiotic translation.

Moreover, there is the question of memory, about which Simonsen adds: “Does Juan remember things exactly as they happened? Memory is never innocent; it also distorts and lies,” observing that uncertainty is the result of first-person narration when memory is involved (1999, 199), which is a premise that could be applied to Rostro too. Remembering one of the suspects’ manner of speech, Deza recognizes the instability of the source text: “Quizá no hablaba así, pero asíes como lo recuerdo” (FL, 240-41). However, first-person narrators who tell a story about the past are extremely common in contemporary fiction. So what makes Marías’s narrator different? Why is he less trustworthy in his telling of stories? As I have tried to demonstrate, Deza’s untrustworthiness stems from the fact that, being particularly aware of the effects of telling, he makes conscious use of intralingual translation; not only interpreting events and language subjectively (as other first-person narrators often do) but also drawing the reader’s attention to just how untrustworthy source texts and interpretations may be.

Herzberger discusses the importance of individual readers’ interpretations of Marías’snarrative work as he states:

la lectura tiene menos que ver con lo que es verdad en relación con el mundo, o con lo que es importante respecto al texto en sí, que con lo que es pertinente para el lector individual y para su mundo de experiencias (2001, 36).

Based on this statement, the idea of a “correct” narrative truth recedes ever further. The emphasis on the reader’s interpretation of the story is based on the narrator’s presentation of his own account of events. In other words, his individual version of the story encourages readers to, not only question the truth of the story but, in fact, advance their own subjective readings of the text. In the light of this study, it would not be too far-fetched to argue that the subjectivity of Deza and his use of language turn the narration into an invitation to the reader to own the story and extract his/her own reading as it is presented like a message, which s/he needs to interpret, much as the characters do within the plot. Agustín Casalía notes this characteristic:

el lector de TRM pertenece a la obra, al verse impelido expresamente a interpretar. Es que quien escucha se apodera de aquello que se le cuenta. TRM le hace así un guiño explícito al lector para que se apropie del relato mediante el diálogo que supone la relación hermenéutica […] El narrador lee ‘lo real’, lo interpreta, dando indicios claros al lector para que este se adentre en concreto en la obra, en su capacidad y su posibilidad de adueñarse plenamente de ella, es decir, de fundirla y disolverla en la interpretación (2012, 30).

Whether the narrator is interpreting intralingually or intersemiotically, the scene or image that readers are presented with emerges as uncertain, prioritising the narrator’s version over an objective truth, inviting the reader to also interpret the text and extract their own version.

Deza deals with stories constantly cast by others, which amount to permanently ambiguous messages that he is constantly interpreting. Regarding the truth at a textual level, the lack of objectivity which this process leads to mirrors the partial view with which reality is typically experienced. Rostro illustrates that there is an inherent subjectivity in the perception of any source text, be it reality, textual reality or a conversation. The ambiguity that pervades Rostro ultimately stems from the author applying the same principles to his characters as to those that he observes in real life. The result is an all-pervasive uncertainty in the narrative plot in which the very viewpoint of the narrator emerges as dubious, perhaps inviting readers to question their own perspective on life.


Alameda, Irene Zoe. 2005. “La voz narrativa como argumento constante.” In Cuadernos de narrativa, Javier Marías, edited by Irene Andrés-Suárez and Ana Casas. Neuchâtel: Université de Neuchâtel.

Andrés-Suárez, Irene. 2005. “Los cuentos de Javier Marías o las múltiples caras de la realidad.” In Cuadernos de narrativa, Javier Marías, edited by Irene Andrés-Suárez and Ana Casas. Neuchâtel: Université de Neuchâtel.

Austin, J.L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Benjamin, Walter. 2004. “The Task of the Translator: An Introduction to the translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens.” In The Translation Studies Reader, edited by Lawrence Venuti. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

Braudeau, Michel. 2009. A propósito de un tal Javier Marías. Barcelona: Debolsillo.

Casalía, Agustín. 2012. “La literatura como revolución pensante.” Ínsula 785-786: 27-31.

Cuñado, Isabel. 2009. “Tu rostro mañana y la ética de la memoria.” In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada, edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Grohmann, Alexis. 2002. Coming into one’s Own. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

---. 2009. “La literatura como paradoja.” In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada, edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Herzberger, David K. 2011. A Companion to Javier Marías.Woodbridge: Tamesis.

---.  2001. “Ficción, referencialidad y estilo en la teoría de la novela de Javier Marías.” In El pensamiento literario de Javier Marías,edited by Maarten Steenmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

---. 2009. “La autoridad transformadora de la narración en Tu rostro mañana.” In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada, edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

---. 2005. “Turostromañana: The search for a usable future.” Anales de la literatura española 30 1/2: 205-19.

Ingendaay, Paul. 2000. “Interview.” Bomb 73: 80-85.

Iriarte, Antonio. 2009. ‘“Cito a menudo para mis adentros’: citas y alusiones en Tu rostro mañana de Javier Marías.” In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada, edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Logie, Ilse. 2001. “La traducción, emblema de la obra de Javier Marías.” In El pensamiento de Javier Marías, edited by Maarten Steenmeijer, 67-76. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Martín-Estudillo, Luis. 2009. “Del pensamiento visual al pensamiento literario.” In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada, edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Masoliver Ródenas, Juan A. 1994. “El pensamiento incesante.” Vuelta 216: 60-63.

Mendoza, Eduardo. 2010. “La ruta del doble éxito.” El País, December 23.

Navajas, Gonzalo. 2001. “Javier Marías: el saber absoluto de la narración.” In El pensamiento literario de Javier Marías,edited by Maarten Steenmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Prettejohn, Elisabeth. 2005. Beauty and Art 1750-2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ródenas de Moya, Domingo. 2009. “Rostro completo: el tríptico de Javier Marías.” In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada,edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

Simonsen, Karen-Margrethe. 1993. “Corazón tan blanco- a post-postmodern novel by Javier Marías”, Revista Hipánica Moderna 52 1: 193-212.

Stanzel, Franz K. 1986. A Theory of Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.

Steiner, George. 1998. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Venuti, Lawrence. 2004. The Translation Studies Reader. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

Works by Javier Marías

---. 2001. Literatura y fantasma. Madrid: Alfaguara.

---. 2002. Tu rostro mañana. 1 Fiebre y lanza. Madrid: Alfaguara.

---. 2004. Tu rostro mañana. 2 Baile y sueño. Madrid: Alfaguara.

---. 2007. Tu rostro mañana. 3 Veneno y sombra y adiós. Madrid: Alfaguara.

---. 2009. “Sobre la dificultad de contar”. In Allí donde uno diría que ya no puede haber nada, edited by Alexis Grohmann and Maarten Steeinmeijer. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi.

[1] Unfortunately, due to space limitations, this article will only look at the nature and effects of intralingual translation in the analysed text, however, interlingual translation also plays an extremely important part in the novel.

[2] Since, according to Jakobson’s and Steiner’s definitions, the idea of interpreting emerges as the base of intralingual translation, I shall henceforth use the terms “interpreting” and “intralingual translation” interchangably.

[3] The line is a common intertext in his novels and comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Originally the line was “dark backward and abysm of time”.

[4] The following abbreviations will be employed to quote the primary source in the text: Fiebre y lanza (FL), Baile y sueño (BS) and Veneno y sombra y adiós (VSA). 

[5] This same assertion seems to be shared by Deza’s father (BS, 331).

[6] In the words of Austin, to utter a performative sentence under the appropriate circumstances “is not to describe my doing of what I should be said in so uttering to be doing or to state that I am doing it: it is to do it.” In other words, performative sentences transform reality in a more immediate and objective manner than others; “When I say, before the registrar or altar, […] “I do”, I am not reporting on a marriage: I am indulging in it” (1962, 6).


Aisling Walsh

The Legacy of Dictatorship and Persistent Socio-Economic Inequalities in Chile’s Educational Policy


“We must recover from the terrible consequences of Pinochet if we want a true democracy (…) In our country, there is no justice, even if we don’t have a dictator anymore.”

 - Camilla Vallejo, 2012



Since 2011 the Chilean education system has faced a crisis of unprecedented proportions. The 2011 school year was virtually paralysed as students of secondary and higher education, as well as teachers, took part in strikes that lasted weeks and flooded the streets of Santiago de Chile in the largest demonstrations the country has seen since the restoration of democracy. The marches have continued throughout 2012 and 2013, with over 150,000 students marching through the capital as recently as April this year (Fang 2013). It is the largest and most persistent social movement to have arisen in the democratic era, dating back to the mass ‘pinguino’ protests of 2006 where 600,000 students marched for educational reforms (Delano 2011). The movement has sparked national and international scrutiny of the profoundly unequal conditions that exist within the Chilean education system, as well as broader questions of social and economic justice in Chilean society. Students have been campaigning persistently against the excessive cost of education, the widespread privatisation and for-profit nature of educational institutions and the increasing disparities between rich and poor in access to quality education at all levels. Successive attempts to appease the students through greater budgetary allocations as well as reforms to the student loan system have been rejected by the movement (Muñoz 2012, 25). Their demands go far beyond the provision of additional resources for education. They argue that the structure of Chilean education is fundamentally flawed, creating one of the most expensive and unequal education systems in the world. At the core of their frustrations is the belief that the Chilean model of education is a relic of the Pinochet regime. Key features of the current education system were implemented between 1973 and 1990, a period of institutionalized human rights violations. Furthermore, successive democratic administrations have failed to significantly reform these structural aspects of the education system. Therefore they argue that the time has come for a fundamental reorganization of education in Chile towards a system that provides genuinely free, high quality education that is accessible to all (Muñoz 2012, 6; Delano 2011; Tomasevski 2006,198).

This paper takes the argument of the student movement as its starting point. It will explore the claim that this current state Chilean education has its roots in the social and economic policies implemented during the  Pinochet regime that have remained largely unchanged during the democratic era. This raises key questions about Chile’s transition from dictatorship to democracy and the failure to address violations of economic, social and cultural rights that occurred during the regime. Therefore, this paper will analyse the development of educational policy in Chile since the Pinochet era, taking a human rights based approach. By drawing on international standards on the right to education, it will examine whether Chile is meeting its obligations under international human rights law, to respect, protect and fulfill the right to education. It will question whether economic and social policy implemented under an authoritarian regime can be considered compatible with social justice. This will require a brief sketch of the right to education under international law and a broader examination of the economic and social policy implemented under the Pinochet regime and following the restoration of democracy. Finally it will examine the nature of Chile’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy and whether transitional justice processes have any role to play in addressing current social tensions and the demands of the student movement.  

The Chilean student movement has drawn attention to issues that go beyond their immediate demands for educational reform. They have highlighted deeper frustrations lying at the heart of Chilean society: questions of equality and social justice following the restoration of democracy have been sacrificed in the name of economic growth and political stability. The movement has finally brought the intimate relationship between the violence of the military takeover, the violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that occurred during the regime and persistent social and economic injustices, into the mainstream public discourse.

The Right to Education in International Law

In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights first established education as a human right stating that: “education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages (UN General Assembly 1948, Art. 26).” Further protection for this right has been elaborated in key international and regional human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Optional Protocol to the American convention on Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples rights. These instruments place legally binding obligations on all countries that have signed and ratified them to respect, protect and fulfill the right to education. Article 13, of the ICESCR, sets out the international standard for the right to education stating that:

(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;

(b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education. (UN General Assembly, 1966)

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has provided further clarification on the nature of state responsibility to provide free education at all levels:  

 “While States must prioritize the provision of free primary education, they also have an obligation to take concrete steps towards achieving free secondary and higher education (...) Sharp disparities in spending policies that result in differing qualities of education for persons residing in different geographic locations may constitute discrimination under the Covenant. (Committee On Economic, Social And Cultural Rights 1999, par. 14)

Chile has ratified the ICESCR and at the regional level it is a signatory to the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area Of Economic, Social And Cultural Rights. This treaty protects the right to education as a universal right that is necessary for the full development of the human personality and its provisions mirror the rights set out in the ICESCR (Organisation of American States 1999, Art. 13). Thus, the Chilean state has both international and regional obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the right to education.

Drawing from this diverse body of international law, the right to education can be understood as a legal obligation on states to provide universal access to free primary education. Furthermore, states must ensure universal availability and accessibility of secondary education and equal access to higher education on the basis of capacity, in particular by the progressive introduction of free education at second and third level. The former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Katarina Tomasevski, developed a simple framework, known as the 4As’ approach, that has become the international standard for assessing whether a country’s education system complies with human rights standards. Education must be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. In other words, education must be free and government-funded and there must be adequate infrastructure and trained teachers able to support it. It must be non- discriminatory and accessible to all, and states are obliged to take positive steps to include the most marginalized. The content of education must be relevant, non-discriminatory, culturally appropriate and of quality. Education must be capable of evolving with the changing needs of society and must contribute to challenging social inequalities (Muñoz 2012, 10-11).  Moreover, the right to education is an enabling right: it enables the enjoyment of other rights such as freedom of expression and the right to work (Ibid, 32).

However, there is a growing trend within economic, social and development policies, at both the national and international level, to regard education as a service for which users should pay, rather than a universal human right (Tomasevski 2006, xxiii). The result has been a dramatic shift in educational provision from the state to private, for-profit, interests. Muñoz points to a global crisis in education that is marked by indifference, lack of dynamic educational policies, the disinterest of the international community and a global financial deficit in the provision of funds for education (2012, 6). The Chilean student movement has been the most sustained and dramatic manifestation of public frustration in the face of this crisis. In an ironic twist of history, the country that was held up as a model for free market reforms in the provision of education has become the champion of the right to education and an inspiration for similar movements across the globe.

Economic Shock Therapy: The Imposition of Neoliberalism in Chile

The period immediately preceding the coup d’etat of September 11th 1973 was one of dramatic social and economic reform under the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, which sought to bring socialism to Chile by democratic means. Allende’s government was responsible for the nationalisation of key Chilean industries, increased labour protection, an expansion of the welfare state and it made educational equality one of its principle goals (Muñoz 2012, 21). However, such policies stoked fears among national and international business elites that the socialist government proved a threat to their personal and business interests (Klein 2007, 76-77). Furthermore, the USA feared the growth of Communism in Latin America and the potential of Allende’s government to inspire other countries to follow suit.  Allende was perceived as a threat to US political and economic hegemony in the region (Klein 2007, 64). This situation led to an extreme ideological polarisation between supporters of the Unidad Popular government and its opponents. When Pinochet took power by force in 1973 it was considered a decisive move to counter the threat of socialism and protect the country from “political and economic annihilation (Harvey 2005, 15).”

In the following year the military junta consolidated its rule through the “institutionalization” of a state of emergency that gave the communist threat a “permanent character within national life” and justified the war against the ‘internal enemy’ (Silva 1999, 176-177). All social movements, political parties and collective forms of organisation were dismantled (Harvey 2005, 8). It is estimated that 3,900 people were murdered or disappeared by the regime, that at least 80,000 people were imprisoned or sent to concentration camps and 200,000 people were exiled (Klein 2007, 77). The overthrow of the Allende administration represented both a military and economic takeover that installed one of the most repressive dictatorships in Latin American history (Silva 1999, 176-177).

In the absence of any political opposition, the Chicago Boys—a group of Chilean economists that had trained under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago—were incorporated into the regime as economic experts that would manage the transition from ‘state socialism’ to free market neoliberalism (Harvey 2005, 8). They employed what Harvey refers to as economic ‘shock treatment’ in order to stabilise Chile’s economy (Ibid). This included the negotiation of huge loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the condition of a major restructuring of the Chilean economy. IMF restructuring policies prioritised the reduction of public spending and the balance of payments deficit. State industries were sold off at bargain prices; only the national copper industry remained in the hands of the state as an essential element in the state’s budgetary capacity (Ibid). They also embarked on a process of dramatic reform in social policy which resulted in cuts to wages, state employment and expenditure. By 1975 the rate of unemployment was between 20 and 25%. Reductions in public sector spending converted “the most advanced social security and public health system of Latin America (outside of Cuba) into a private pay-as-you-go business (Frank 1976, 882).” The reversal of land distribution policies resulted in the dispossession of thousands of peasant farmers. Agricultural production was redirected towards export crops thereby reducing the food supply to the Chilean population. Inflation continued to grow, the real value of wages fell dramatically and price controls were lifted from all foods. By 1975, the cost of bread had reached 75% of the living wage and malnutrition was widespread among the poorest sectors of society, particularly vulnerable children (Ibid, 884). This period was characterised by cycles of economic growth and collapse (Harvey 2005, 154). The spurts of growth were enough justification to maintain the demobilisation of all political opposition. The regime relied on the economic promise of neoliberalism, as a source of legitimacy for their continued rule (Silva 1999, 179).

An economic crisis in 1981 precipitated the first major rupture in the regime’s control; unemployment had reached a record high of 30%, there was hyperinflation and the external debt had risen to the unprecedented level of US$14 billion (Klein 2007, 85). The crisis sparked the first large-scale protests since 1973 as people took to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction with the economic policies of the regime and to call for the restoration of democracy. This outpouring of public discontent did not bring the immediate restoration of democracy, yet it was significant enough to prompt the regime to re-examine its economic policies and to take a much more pragmatic approach to the implementation of neoliberalism (Silva 1999, 182-183). The Chilean economy finally stabilised by 1988 and was experiencing moderate but steady economic growth. Nevertheless, 45% of the Chilean population now lived below the poverty line, while the richest 10% of the population experienced a growth in income of 85% (Klein 2007, 86). The ‘Chilean miracle’, as this period was known, can be characterised not as a period of wealth creation, but rather a massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich and the consolidation of power and social status of the social and business elites. Indeed Harvey signals that “increasing social inequality [has] in fact been such a persistent feature of neoliberalisation as to be regarded as structural to the whole project (Harvey 2005, 16).”

Chile is the paradigmatic example of the abandonment of social democracy and the imposition of neoliberalism by force. Indeed, it has the distinction of being the first country to actually apply neoliberal theory in practice and has served as a model, and justification, for the similar imposition of neoliberal policies across the region (Ibid). The Chilean experience, whereby neoliberal economics were imposed and maintained through the use of military force, illustrates the incompatibility of pure neoliberalism with a functional democracy (Branco 2008, 97-98). Moreover it demonstrates the difficulty in reconciling neoliberalism with the full spectrum of fundamental human rights. Neoliberalism embraces individual freedom as the fundamental human right. Freedom of choice and freedom of the market are seen as paramount in order for individuals to exercise this right. Political rights such as freedom of speech and freedom to vote are necessary to ensure that individuals can participate freely in the market. Whereas access to education, health, housing, water and food are considered to be individual preferences or needs, rather than fundamental human rights or legal entitlements. Freedom of the market and consumer choice enable the individual to satisfy preferences through the consumption of goods and services. It relieves the state of its responsibility to provide for economic or social rights as this would constitute an interference with individual choice. Nevertheless, the experience of Chile demonstrates that even the most fundamental civil and political freedoms can be sacrificed in the name of economic freedom (Harvey 2005, 37-38).

A Negotiated Transition: From Dictatorship to a ‘Protected Democracy’

The crisis in 1981 also led to a dramatic reactivation of civil society after almost 10 years of complete political demobilization. For the following nine years the pro-democracy movements persisted with their claims for political freedom and began to engage in a lengthy process of negotiation with the regime, that ultimately secured a return to democracy by 1990. A coalition of left and centre-left parties—the Concertación—emerged with the hope of offering a “moderate and credible alternative to military rule” in the run up to the 1988 plebiscite that would decide Chile’s political fate (Silva 1999, 182-183). The need for political stability and credibility inevitably resulted in ideological compromises. Memories of the economic and political chaos that preceded the coup and the violent repression which followed, as well as the monopolistic presence of the Chilean military in all aspects of political life, meant that a conservative approach was taken with regard to social and economic questions. “Socialist demands which could jeopardise the alliance had to be avoided (Ibid).”

A central point of contention was the existence of the Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile that was promulgated in 1980. It formally established the authoritarian nature of the state and ensured that Pinochet would remain a permanent presence in political life even following the 1988 plebiscite that called for the restoration of democracy (Fuentes 2010, 1741). Other authoritarian features of the Constitution included presidentially appointed senators, veto power for the armed forces within the political system, high levels of military autonomy and an overrepresentation of right-wing sectors within the political system. It included strict barriers to reform that were designed to avoid future transformations of the Constitution, guaranteeing the long-term and disproportionate influence of both Pinochet and the military in Chilean politics (Ibid, 1752). A further obstacle to the introduction of progressive legislation following the restoration of democracy, was the creation of the leyes orgánicas (organic laws). These governed legislative change in areas of political, social and economic policy and required a majority vote of three-fifths of the congress to secure approval (Ibid, 1752-53). Nevertheless, the Concertación eventually had to “accept the validity of the controversial 1980 Constitution and use the narrow political space left to it” to allow for the democratic handover (Silva 1999, 182).

Chile’s transition was thus negotiated between the military and political interests of the former regime, other right wing parties and the Concertación coalition; an elite pact that did not leave room for any significant popular participation or debate (Fuentes 2010, 1749). As such there was little public ownership over neither the transitional process nor the democratic framework that was established. This set the pattern for decision making over the coming years. Indeed the Pinochet regime had been very successful at political demobilization that continued through the transitional period (Silva 1999, 181). The Chilean student movement is the most significant expression to date of the dynamic culture of political participation that existed in Chile prior to 1973.  For many, the Chilean transitional process established a wholly inadequate democratic framework: “a protected democracy which falls short of even formal democracy (Olavarría 2003, 31).”

The Chilean Constitution, while providing for political continuity and stability, become a key constraint in achieving progressive social reform. Article 1 of the Chilean Constitution states that: “the State recognises and protects the intermediate groups through which society organizes and structures itself and guarantees them the adequate autonomy to fulfill their own specific purposes (Ministerio Secretaría General de la Presidencia, 2011).” In the realm of education, Articles 10 and 11 of the Constitution emphasize parents’ freedom to choose the education of their children and freedom of education, including the right to open educational institutions. The child’s right to education and the state’s responsibility to provide free and compulsory education, are subsidiary to these rights (Muñoz 2012, 20). Thus, the Constitution belies the tendency, established during the Pinochet regime, of favoring private consumption and free market policies over state responsibilities in the provision of essential public goods and services. The “authoritarian enclaves” and the constraints on decision making imposed by the 1980 Constitution guaranteed, during the transitional period and beyond, “the continuity of the policies of the Pinochet dictatorship, foremost of which is its free-market economic model (Olavarría 2003, 11).”

The continuity in economic and social policy from the Pinochet regime has been reflected at a political level by the broad acceptance among the Concertación coalition that, rather than reverse the economic policies of the Pinochet era and return to social democracy, a more pragmatic approach to neoliberal economics was the preferred option to ensure further economic growth and stability (Silva 1999, 185). When it has come to tackling the social debt incurred during the regime, the ideal of social justice was replaced with the concept of ‘growth with equity’ (Olavarría 2003, 12). In other words, the now maligned neoliberal adages of ‘the rising tide lifts all boats’ and the ‘trickle-down effect’, whereby steady economic growth will eventually benefit even the most impoverished, provided the ideological foundation for addressing poverty and inequality in Chile (Klees 2008b, 411). Poverty and social inequality were seen as morally repugnant rather than socially unjust. As such, lifting people out of poverty did not depend on addressing the structural inequalities that had been created during the regime, nor the articulation of economic or social rights, rather, the emphasis shifted to the voluntary provision of charity, philanthropy and poverty alleviation programmes for the worst off in society (Silva 1999, 185). The Concertación thus maintained a “continuing commitment to the maintenance of political stability at the expense of the mobilization of social demands (Olavarría 1999, 11).” The Bachelet administration that governed from 2006 until 2010 coincided with the first wave of student protests and her government was the first Chilean administration to significantly break this pattern, particularly in the realm of education. Nevertheless, social reforms have been labored and have not addressed the demands of the students for fundamental reform of the education system, nor tackled the root causes of social and economic inequality. Indeed, Chile’s transition to democracy is characterized by the maintenance of many aspects of the legal, constitutional and economic order established during the regime, rather than a complete break from the past (Olavarría 2003, 31).

Privatisation and structural inequalities in Chile’s education system

The shift in educational policy that occurred during the Pinochet regime reflects the global trend towards the commercialization and privatization of educational provision. Indeed Chile, served as a model for other countries to follow. Moreover, Chile is distinguished within the region and among the OECD countries as the country in which the commercialization of education is most advanced (Torres & Schugurensky 2002, 445).

Globally, this shift has been marked by a change in attitude to education, whereby education has increasingly been considered a service for which the user should pay rather than a fundamental human right. The inability of individuals or certain sectors of society to enjoy their right to education was once considered a failure of the state to guarantee that right. However, it is now considered to be a problem of access that can be solved through market, rather than state, provision (Tomasevski 2006, 185). Education, therefore, has been transformed into a profit making industry that is subservient to the state’s “international economic imperative to remain competitive in the global market” in this “new era of flexible accumulation (Torres & Schugurensky 2002, 434).” This shift in responsibility from the state to the individual is one of the primary features of neoliberal economic policy: it promotes the expansion of markets into areas of life where they had previously played a marginal role, particularly in the provision of public goods such as health, education and water. Neoliberalism promotes the opening of markets to privatisation and a reduction of barriers to free competition (Harvey 2005, 2). This often results in the removal of price protections on essential goods and services, while the state is strongly discouraged from intervening in other ways with market forces (Frank 1976, 882). Public goods and services that were once regarded as essential to the general interest of the population are now seen as another source of economic growth and the accumulation of wealth. The impact of this trend on human rights has been characterised by Katarina Tomasevski (2005, 709) as the “progressive liberalisation of trade in education and health [that] is replacing progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.”

The liberalisation of education has taken place across all levels of educational provision. It is characterised by the reduction in overall public spending on education, increased competition among schools for students and public funding, the introduction of fees into public institutions, public-private partnerships in educational provision, the creation of for-profit private schools and universities, and state-subsidised private education. Such policies have resulted in an ever “increasing blurring of the public-private distinction (Torres & Schugurensky 2002, 443-444).” While these trends are now almost universal, Tomasesvki notes that the public provision of education, particularly in developing countries, has come under serious pressure as a result of the Washington Consensus. The demands for liberalisation, structural adjustments and debt repayments have made it financially impossible for many developing nations to meet their international obligations on the right to education (Tomasevski 2006, 185). Indeed many countries have cited the Washington Consensus as “the driver of their shift from free to for-fee education (Ibid).”  

Having introduced free public education in 1928, Chile was acclaimed “as a model for the radical democratization of knowledge and access to higher education (Tomasevski 2006, 185).” Spending on education in Chile up until the early 70’s absorbed between 12 and 20% of the annual budget and Allende made educational equality one of the highest priorities for his government (Muñoz 2012, 20). The coup d’état of 1973 resulted in an unprecedented direct military intervention in the running of schools and the structure of the education system, on the pretext of the necessity to depoliticize and reorganize the schools following Allende’s socialist interventions. The military appointed a special representative to each university that would oversee the running of these institutions. Thus Pinochet extended his authoritarian rule over the education system (Muñoz 2012, 20). 

There followed swift maneuvers to dismantle much of the public educational infrastructure by reducing the functions of the Ministry of Education and by handing over the running of educational institutes to private corporations (Ibid). Torche describes this situation as close to “an external shock” in the imposition of educational policy as one could imagine (2005, 320). The egalitarian model was turned on its head. The reduction of public spending on education, the creation of a market for private investment and profit making within education, and the promotion of free parental choice as the primary determinant in accessing educational institutions became the priorities for the regime (Muñoz 2012, 20). The Chicago Boys had by then established themselves as expert economic advisors to the regime and played a highly influential, if not central, role in setting the pace and the direction of educational reform. These changes were imposed by technocrats who were completely removed from the social reality, acting on behalf of an “authoritarian regime that was unbound by democratic rule and was backed up by repression and violence” and with no participation from either civil society or the key stakeholders in education (Ibid). Indeed, Tomasevski (2006, 199) notes that these reforms have generated so much controversy and such sustained opposition from students, precisely because they were implement during  “a time which epitomised institutionalised human rights violations.”  

Decentralisation, Voucher Schools and For-Profit Education

The regime quickly succeeded in its primary goal of dramatically reducing public expenditure on education. By 1988 public spending on higher education alone had reduced from $171 million in 1981 to $115 million (Torres & Schugurensky 2002, 434). The percentage of GDP that was spent on education had dropped from 4.9% in 1982 to 2.5% by 1989 (Torche 2005, 322). This was largely achieved through a shift in emphasis from state to private provision of education, where parents and families were expected to assume responsibility for providing for their children’s education.

Responsibility for the funding and management of education was decentralised from the Department of Education to municipal governments. Municipalities now had control over resource allocation, the employment of teaching staff and curriculum development. Educational inequality in Chile grew at an unprecedented rate as a result of the drop in state subsides per pupil and the fact that levels of funding varied greatly between municipalities. This municipal divide has been a major contributor to social stratification in Chile, as schools in wealthier municipalities have larger tax bases and enjoy access to far greater funding and resources. Moreover, those wealthier families from poorer districts who could afford to enroll their children in private schools, began to remove their children from public education institutions. As a result, municipal schools experienced a steady decline in standards and an increasing social stigmatisation (Torche 2005, 322).

Finally, the introduction of system of subsidies—whereby public and semi-private, voucher schools were given state subsidies for each student enrolled—resulted in the transformation of a one-tier system of educational institutions into a three-tier system of public, semi-private and private schools. The voucher schools tended to be established in wealthier areas and were more selective in their admittance policies, whereas public schools were legally obliged to accept all students who wished to enroll. This resulted in the unprecedented expansion of the private sector, with many of the schools functioning on a for-profit basis (Ibid, 322-324).  Moreover, voucher schools allowed for the weakening of teacher contracts, the flexibilization of working conditions for teachers and the abolition of union membership for teachers working in those schools (Klees 2008, 323).

Prior to 1981, 80% of Chilean students attended public schools. However, this number had dropped to 54% by 1999. The value of the state subsidy per child enrolled in school fell by 20% between 1982 and 1987, with a disproportionate impact on public schools that could not supplement their income by charging fees (Klees 2008, 323-324). Finally, charging fees at third level public institutions resulted in the de-facto privatisation of the public universities (Torres & Schugurensky 2002, 434). This all took place within the context of the general retrenchment of the social welfare system, a weakening of the social safety net and the economic crisis of the mid-eighties. It resulted in increasing levels of poverty and inequality throughout the 1980’s, it disproportionately affected poorer families’ ability to access quality education at primary level and led to reduced enrolments at secondary and tertiary levels.  These factors contributed to ever increasing stratification throughout the education system (Torche 2005, 322-324).

Reforms Following the Return to Democracy and Growing Inequalities

It is testament to the importance Pinochet placed on education that one of the final acts of his regime was to introduce the Organic Consitutional Law on Teaching (LOCE), on his final day of office in 1999 and which remained in force until 2006 (Muñoz 2012, 23). The LOCE guaranteed the right to education and affirmed the role of the state in protecting that right. Nevertheless, it was controversial from its inception for the restrictions it placed on the government and the Ministry for Education in managing the system and implementing educational reform. Moreover, it granted substantial freedoms to private individuals to establish educational institutions without due state regulation (Ibid). Indeed it was the opposition to this law that sparked the initial student protests of 2006. Their demands for greater government control over the financing and quality of education, and that the state, as opposed to ‘intermediate groups’ be the sole guarantor of the right to education, spurred the Concertación Government, led by Michelle Bachelet,  to commit to a more comprehensive educational reform (Ibid). The result was the General Education Law (LGE) which came into force in 2009. It guarantees education as a right at kindergarten, primary and secondary level, reaffirms Chile’s commitments to its international obligations and lays out a number of other rights constituent to the right to education. These include, equality in access to quality education, respect for cultural, social and ethnic diversity, participation in the educational process and transparency and flexibility (Ministry of Education Chile 2009, Art. 2). It also provides guarantees against discrimination on socio-economic grounds; educational institutions may not expel or sanction a student in any way during the school year for failure to pay relevant fees. For schools that receive state subsidies they may not examine either previous academic achievement or parental financial status when considering the admission of a student (Art. 11).

Following a series of major reforms in 2005 the right to education also enjoys Constitutional protection in Chile  (Muñoz 2012, 20). Article 10 states that:

The objective of education is the complete development of the individual in the various stages of his life. Parents have the preferential right and duty to educate their children. The State shall provide special protection for the exercise of this right. The estate is obliged to provide preschool education and to guarantee free access to and financing of secondary education (…) Basic education and middle education are mandatory, to that effect, the State must finance a gratuitous system designed to ensure access thereto by the entire population (Ministerio Secretaría General de la Presidencia, 2011).

These legal protections and guarantees have not, however, satisfied the demands of Chilean students who have continued to mobilise throughout the course of these reforms. The LGE represents a significant attempt to redress the violations of human rights embodied in the educational policies imposed during the dictatorship and “reverse the most critical aspects of the effects of the military market-led and privatization-centred reform (Tomasevski 2006, 199).” Nevertheless, it falls short of the reforms demanded by the Chilean student movement. It fails to address the four principal causes of the systematic inequality in education: the voucher system, the municipalisation of the funding structure, the imbalance in funding between private and public schools and the for-profit character of many educational institutions (Delano 2011). Sebastien Piñera’s conservative administration, elected in 2010, has made repeated attempts, since this latest cycle of protests began in 2011, to appease the student movement. These measures have included greater budgetary allocation of funds for education, reform of the student loan and scholarship system and further Constitutional guarantees on the right to education, which have been largely rejected by the student movement, as the two sides have become increasingly polarized (Muñoz 2012, 25). Piñera’s government has responded with increasing force to the student’s public demonstrations and the movement in turn has forced the resignation of two successive Ministers for Education. The students have demonstrated an unwillingness to compromise, in pursuit of their demands for a transformed education system that provides free, quality education at all levels (Ibid).  

International studies into the state of education in Chile affirm many of the assertions made by the Chilean student movement regarding the deep disparities in accessing quality education and the  impact of privatization on the right to education. These studies demonstrate a trend of persisting inequalities and even greater reliance on private educational institutions since the restoration of democracy.

In 2004 the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR) expressed concern over “the disparity in the quality of education offered in municipal and private schools (UN Committee On Economic, Social And Cultural Rights 2004, para. 29).” The UNCESCR raised questions over the discrepancies in budgetary allocations between state and private education and measures the state had taken to guarantee, in practice, the right to education especially for poorer families (Ibid). The Committee recommended that the state party address the quality of education in public schools (Ibid, 31-33),

In her global report ‘Free or Fee’ Tomasevski commends Chile on the progress it has made in educational provision since the end of the dictatorship. She notes that there has been a gradual shift in budgetary prioritisation from military spending towards financing social services, nevertheless spending on education in Chile still remains at 3% of GDP, below the OECD average of 4.5% and well below the UNESCO recommended 6% (Muñoz 2012, 42; Tomasevski 2006, 198).

The 2009 OECD report into Tertiary Education in Chile highlights many inequalities that are endemic to the structure of education. The primary cause identified by the report is the segmentation which exists in Chilean society and which is reflected throughout the school system. Children of wealthier families who can afford to attend private schools consistently outperform children from lower income families in university entrance tests (OECD & World Bank 2009 11). All higher level education in Chile, including public institutions, is fee paying and the financial aid available for students is decided on the basis of academic achievement, as well as need, thus favouring students who have been able to attend high performing private primary and secondary institutions. Students from lower income groups, who tend not to perform as well, are less able to access more prestigious institutions and are more likely to end up paying full fees (Ibid, 15). These trends reflect the discrepancies in educational quality between private, semi-private and public schools which results in a disproportionate level of students from wealthier families gaining access to higher level education. Third level fees in Chile account for some of the highest in the region and even where students succeed in attaining funding, it rarely covers the full cost of fees. Thus university completion rates are much lower among poorer students (Ibid, 17). From this report it is clear that the social stratification in the primary and secondary sectors of education has a direct impact on the ability of students from lower income backgrounds to access education at third level.

In 2011 the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Kishore Singh, called attention to the protests taking place in Chile and claimed it was an “opportunity to re-evaluate the country’s education policies with an emphasis on human rights.” He added that

 “...Access to quality education, whether primary, secondary or at higher level cannot be subjected to students’ or their families’ abilities to pay or take on debt... in recent decades Chile has made great progress in re-establishing a state of law and democracy, ensuring education that is accessible to all is a fundamental part in consolidating these advances.” (UN News Centre 2011)

Moreover, the 2011 report by Mr. Singh addresses inequality and the need for states to address the

 “... multiple forms of inequality and discrimination through comprehensive policies. Prevailing disparities in access to education—between boys and girls, and between rich and poor regions—must be given special consideration, recognizing that good policies backed by a commitment to equality can make a difference (Singh 2011, para. 72).”

A recent UNESCO study that was commissioned in response to the ongoing turmoil in Chile has found that in 1990, public funding of private schools and colleges stood at 32%, by 2011 this had risen to 52%, whereas state support for public schools fell from 58% to 39% over the same period (Muñoz 2012, 39). Private education institutions now account for 48% of all educational institutions (Ibid). According to international standards on the right to education, private education is considered complementary to, not a central component of, educational provision. Thus Chile stands out as an exception in this regard.    Neighbouring countries such as Argentina and Uruguay do not dedicate significant funds to subsidise private educational institutions, whereas in Chile there are many complex legislative provisions regulating the financing of private education (Ibid, 30). The LGE authorizes the granting of subsidies to private institutions and at the same time allows these institutions to impose charges during the selection and enrollment processes as well as monthly fees (Ibid, 49). This has created a situation in which private education continues to be subsidized by the state, at the expense of public education, which remains underfunded and of low quality.

The right to education stresses the state’s obligation to progressively introduce free education at second and third level. Moreover, states have a duty under the ICESCR to avoid retrogressive measures that would affect the realisation of the right to education. According to Muñoz the Constitutional and legislative framework in Chile has created a complex system of subsidies for private education that reduces the guarantee of the right to education and distorts the idea of education as a public good (2012, 42 & 49). Despite the existence of systems of supervision and control over the allocation of subsidies, the Chilean education system is founded on processes of privatization rather than state provision (Ibid, 49). Chile remains one of the most expensive countries in the world to receive an education. Tomasevski and the Chilean student movement attribute this situation to the legacy of the educational policies imposed by Pinochet that made “education un-free in many different meanings of this word (Tomasevski 2006, 198).”

Addressing the Legacy of Educational Injustice Through the Lens of Transitional Justice

It has become evident that over the last two years the student movement’s demands have evolved from the cry for free education, to the demand for a complete re-examination of the neoliberal foundation of Chile’s economy, society and education system. In the words of Camila Vallejo, leader of the student movement until 2012: “we realised the problem was bigger, the problem was structural (… ). The debate became about the link between education and the bigger economic model in Chile (Kingsley 2012)."

The 17 year Pinochet regime in Chile is infamous for the gross and systematic human rights violations which were carried out by the military Junta. Since the restoration of democracy in 1990, Chile has taken important steps towards addressing this history of violence and repression by engaging with transitional justice processes. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established immediately following the restoration of democracy, to examine the gravest abuses of human rights committed by state forces during the regime (Ensalaco 1994, 659). This was an important step towards justice for the victims of the regime yet its mandate was restricted due to the political realities of the "pacted” transition. Therefore the investigations focused principally on discovering the fate of those murdered and disappeared by the regime and did not address issues of social and economic justice (Ibid, 657).

The transitional process in Chile has been commended for its peaceful nature and for it’s ability to maintain economic progress and stability. Nevertheless, the country continues to struggle with the legacy of political, social, economic and cultural repression (Ibid, 670). Much of this struggle is borne out of the unwillingness of successive governments to address the economic injustice and violations of ESC rights that that have occurred since 1973. The TRC acknowledged in its conclusions that the Chilean crisis had “deep roots of a socioeconomic character” but it refrained from addressing these issues as facets of the transitional justice process, on the basis that they did not come under its mandate (Laplante 2008, 335). Political forces in the country have remained equally as reluctant to acknowledge the intimate connection between direct state violence and repression, the liberalisation of Chile’s economy and violations of ESC rights. Indeed, the majority of those who supported the deposed Unidad Popular government led by Salvador Allende came from lower income backgrounds and the popular classes and it was they who suffered the most brutal repression by the armed forces in the aftermath of the coup. Moreover, these groups were disproportionately affected by retrenchment of the social-democratic state in Chile during the dictatorship (Letelier 1976).

Chile is no exception in this regard; a similar pattern has emerged in many contexts, in post-authoritarian or post-conflict processes. Many truth commissions have avoided engaging in questions of social and economic injustice out of the real or perceived need to maintain social and political stability in the fragile period of transition. According to Miller, the insistence on memorializing violations of civil and political rights, while ignoring violations of ESC rights, may in fact represent an attempt to negate the “narration of past economic oppression (Miller 2008, 268).” Thus, truth commissions generally focus their investigations on the role played by the military, judicial and political institutions in perpetrating violence. Their recommendations generally focus on institutional reforms, legal justice, reparations for victims and the incorporation of international human rights standards and safeguards into all aspects of law, order, security and judicial proceedings. They have rarely gone so far as to prescribe remedies for economic or social injustice. The TRC in Chile took the unusual step of recommending reparations in terms of health care, social security and educational benefits for victims of state violence. These, however, were recommended for individual cases and functioned “in-lieu” of a broader project of social transformation (Ensalaco 1994, 661).

There is growing recognition that societies in transition can no longer afford to ignore the historical legacy of socioeconomic inequalities. Laplante has underlined the fact that the increased social tension in post-authoritarian and post-conflict societies—manifested in massive demonstrations, blockades and strikes—often arises out of the “frustrated attempts to seek redress from the state” for socioeconomic grievances, such as lack of access to health, education or basic infrastructure. Such grievances are historic in nature and are often linked to the socioeconomic circumstances that played an instrumental role in fomenting the original conflict. The massive student movement in Chile is symptomatic of this reality (Laplante 2008, 332).

Thus, in order for Chile to meaningfully address the legacy of the dictatorship, the transitional justice process must address all human rights violations, be they of an economic, social, cultural, civil or political nature: “post conflict recovery entails a holistic approach that should include economic, political and social structural reform (Lapalante 2008, 332).” The Chilean government can no longer avoid addressing the deep inequalities in Chilean society out of fear of a return to the ideological polarisation and violence that immediately preceded the coup. 

Challenging the legitimacy of the economic and social model of organisation imposed by the Pinochet regime and maintained by successive democratic governments, has become the driving force behind the student movement. This sets them apart from other social movements that have occurred in Chile, as they have made a direct connection between policies implemented during the regime and the current inequalities in the Chilean education system that deny many students the full enjoyment of their right to education. Their demands have evolved from educational reform to encompass a broader social transformation and a vision of a more just and equitable society (Delano 2011, Kingsley 2012). As such, they have called attention to the failure of the transitional process in Chile to address Pinochet’s legacy of socioeconomic injustice. As the importance of addressing ESCR in transitional justice process gains greater recognition and legitimacy, embracing this discourse may give further weight to the students’ demands. By formulating their arguments within this legal framework, their demands for social justice would be perceived as “legitimate, sensible and humane calls on a state to fulfill its international obligations and carry forward a reform agenda (Laplante 2008, 341).”

It is the particularly undemocratic nature of the development of educational policy in Chile that may prove to be the student movement’s greatest bargaining tool. By drawing attention to the roots of economic repression and violations of socio-economic rights, the mechanisms of transitional justice can also contribute to the repair of the rupture in the social contract that occurred over the 17 years of Pinochet’s rule. As Laplante puts it: “the path to reconciliation would include mending (or creating) the social-economic-political conditions that bolster the foundational social contract needed for stable peace (Ibid, 349).”


The Chilean student movement is the largest and most persistent social movement Chile has witnessed since the restoration of democracy. It has highlighted not only the profound educational inequalities that exist in Chile but also the deep social and economic injustices that have resulted from 30 years of free market policies. As the movement continues to struggle towards a free and equitable education system, they have succeeded in transforming the political landscape in Chile. As all political parties begin preparations for the 2013 presidential elections, the question of education can no longer be ignored. At the launch of her presidential campaign Michelle Bachelet acknowledged that “this is a moment for structural change (…) The first project that I will send to Congress will put an end to profit and will advance free education at all levels (Montes 2013).” Each candidate has in turn put forward his or her plans to respond to the current crisis in education, some determined to maintain the status quo, fearing a ‘state monopoly’ in  the field of education, while many others are open to the possibility of substantial reform (Long ; Siekierska 2013). Even more significant is the acknowledgement by Michelle Bachelet that

 “we know there is an almost universal discontent among citizens. We have seen this from the students in their mobilization for free, quality education (…) For a long time we dedicated ourselves to adjusting and changing the model. Some of these changes have been good. But others have been insufficient. We have to carry out much deeper reforms if we truly wish to end inequality in our country (Montes 2013b).”

The student movement has thus succeeded in throwing a spotlight on a country that continues to struggle with the legacy of competing socioeconomic ideologies that span over 40 years of political, social and economic upheaval. That education has become the epicentre of this struggle is no coincidence. Education was one of the areas of social policy that experienced the most dramatic changes across the Allende administration, the Pinochet regime and the Concertación governments. Education is at once the great social equalizer and the great social divider; it has the potential to create and perpetuate either a more equitable society or even deeper social and economic inequalities. Moreover, education is a direct reflection of societal values: whether a particular society is concerned with addressing inequality, injustice and disadvantage by providing equitable access to quality education or whether it is driven by a profit motive and the concern for capital accumulation.  Thus, the Chilean student movement embodies the desire in Chile for a broader process of social transformation, towards a more equitable society where all human rights will be respected, protected and fulfilled.

The transitional justice framework offers the Chilean student movement the possibility of articulating its demands through the language of rights violations and redress for social injustice. This has increasingly become a tactic of social justice advocates from societies in transition. With regards to the provision of education in South Africa, the state was obliged to “consider all reasonable alternatives for effective access... taking into account equity, practicability and redressing the imbalance created by apartheid policy (Jaichand 2010, 332 emphasis added).” There is no reason why an approach aimed at redressing the imbalances created by Pinochet’s education policies could not be applied at this juncture in Chile.  By recognising economic repression, inequality and social injustice as violations of rights, there is an imperative on the state to address its human rights obligations and find remedies for the victims of violations (Laplante 2008, 351). Due to the structural nature of violations of ESC rights, which often affect whole populations, it is necessary to employ a more expansive approach to justice that would focus on wider social redress and transformation (Miller 2008, 287). Considerations of structural inequality, discrimination and social injustice would have to feature as part of this process and redress would include redistributive social and economic policies and defined frameworks and timespans for the progressive realisation of ESC rights (Ibid).

The passion, creativity and dedication of the hundreds and thousands of students and their supporters who have marched through the streets of Chile, gone on strike and occupied schools and universities, have repeatedly made national and international headlines. They have forced Chilean society and the international community to scrutinize the reality of growing poverty and inequality in the region’s most prosperous and stable economy (Delano 2011, Kingsley 2012). The crisis in the Chilean education system presents an opportunity to finally address the rupture in the social fabric that was caused during the Pinochet regime and the failure of successive democratic governments to address the resulting inequalities in Chilean society. Addressing the structural problems within education, as the primary social equalizer, can be a first step in this direction.

 “The strong commitment to the right to education in Latin America originated in the struggle against military dictatorships. Chile ruled by General Pinochet had a model of education imposed while human rights were denied. Hence, vindication of the right to education remains part of the battle for human rights (Tomasevski 2006, xxx).”


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Clare Moley

Powerful Women and Historical Representation in Spanish Cinema


This paper explores the representation of history in contemporary texts and the idea that historical narratives are constructed and reconstructed to suit intended social and political messages of their time. It focuses on two recent Spanish historical dramas which explore the lives of prominent Spanish women: Juana la Loca (Aranda, 2001) and Teresa, el cuerpo de cristo (Loriga, 2007). Both women have demonstrated an enduring popularity; their fascinating personal histories, and particularly the myth of madness that has haunted them throughout the centuries, being repeatedly reinvented across numerous art forms and for different purposes. The paper examines how these films sit within the political and cultural consciousness of the time in which they were produced, and also how fictional conceptualisations of powerful historical women are constructed to reflect alternative purpose and agenda.

History is not something absolutely contained in the past, entire unto itself, but is made, tested and remade in the present.

—Monk & Sargeant 2002, 200

Unlike historical representations in which a collective memory is explored through an entirely fictional character, historical dramas which focalise actual historical figures highlight the process of rewriting history. Additionally, the intertwining of the fictional and the historical underscore alternative purpose and agenda, usually linked to contemporary commentary. After the death of Franco, Spain experienced a more accelerated rate of change than other European countries. Its culture and identity is therefore arguably more mobile than most, even experiencing flux and fragmentation. This paper will ask whether this cultural fragmentation results in what Barry Jordan and Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas term a “misremembering of the past” in which the filmmaker is able to “disorientate the spectator in spatial and temporal terms by playing with the chronology of events or subjective points of view” (2001, 42). It will examine how this “disorientation” occurs when the subjective point of view is that of a historical woman of power whose narrative has been rewritten for different purposes through the centuries, how these women are represented on screen in order to fit the genre iconography and audience expectation attached to heritage cinema, and what these representations mean for the women who have been reproduced and reinterpreted for film.

This paper will explore these ideas by focusing on contemporary representations on film of two powerful historical women: Juana of Castile and Teresa of Ávila. They both have fascinating personal narratives of rebellion and deviation from norms, which resulted in proclamations of madness by their contemporaries and subsequent commentators. They have both experienced enduring popularity and repeated reinvention across numerous art forms. Despite this popularity, there is a distinct lack of studies attempting to analyse the political positioning of films or cultural products made about them, which actually have a lot to say about contemporary society.

Juana and Teresa were mistreated in life, and have continued to be mistreated through re-invention in the arts. They are troubled and dichotomous figures and, as such, a rich site for contestation and explorations of political Zeitgeists for fiction makers. The creation of a madness narrative by their contemporaries has allowed for the development of myths, which have been perpetuated and reformulated to suit certain political ideologies and perspectives through the centuries.

Working Towards Definitions of Heritage Cinema

Heritage films are usually either:

The reproduction of literary texts, artefacts and landscapes which already have a privileged status within the accepted definition of the national heritage

and / or

the reconstruction of a historical moment which is assumed to be of national significance (Higson 1997, 27).

Heritage films are seen as a spectacular cinema, where the emphasis lies in the artistic sentiment and construction. Upon popular review, they are often privileged for their cultural significance and contribution to national identity over audience popularity and profit. However, film studies critics tend to think of them as “aesthetically conservative and uncinematic”, (Monk & Sargeant 2002, 200). They are often defined by these critics as what they are not, that is, in binary opposition to realist working-class narratives, leading to criticisms of a construction of a national identity based around one class, one ideal and one self-contained space. Higson sees it as “transform[ing] the heritage of the upper classes into the national heritage” (Higson 1993, 114). There is an underlying suggestion here that heritage film, therefore, is inherently unrepresentative of historical reality and likely severely lacking truth at its core. However, this binary view of heritage film is quite reductionist, and more recent definitions have expanded to include broader historical narratives.

The visual image tends to be passively accepted and thought of as factual and accurate, rather than an interpretative depiction.  Throughout Higson’s work, he develops this idea, which he terms a “nostalgic gaze”. He sees heritage films as supposedly creating an authentic discourse through their cultural engagement and in the construction of a national identity, which encourages an uncritical consumption of an ideologically conservative past. They are largely representative of a constructional narrative and mise-en-scène, which bears little resemblance to the truth. However, this view of the way in which history is produced and consumed becomes more complex as debates around historical accuracy and accepted versions of history continue. Increasingly there seems to be more of a concern with being visually accurate rather than narratively so. As production values increase, the image is privileged over archival knowledge, but also as a response to societal privileging of the image over the written word (Monk & Sargeant 2002, 222). An accurate reproduction of the look of the period is key to convincing the audience of historical accuracy, even though the narrative may be mainly conjectured or recreated to instil a particular political message. Kara McKechnie claims that the popularity of a historical film is often dependent on audience perception of historical accuracy based upon their experience of what has gone before (in Monk & Sargeant 2002, 218). Often, audience experience of what has gone before is formed mainly from the previous consumption of films and other cultural products, making the concept of historical accuracy on film somewhat self contained and meaningless. However, it appears that this pattern of historical consumption may be changing as other concerns take precedence over historical accuracy. To take an obvious example, the portrayal of Henry VIII in the immensely popular British television series The Tudors as a historically inaccurate lithe and attractive Jonathan Rhys Myers, did not reduce the popularity of the series. It was perhaps its reflection of contemporary issues in the foregrounding of political scandal, ideological conflicts and explorations of sexuality which held its popularity.

Historical narratives, particularly monarchical narratives, are often popular under a right-wing government. The average cinema goer invariably experiences a tightening of the purse strings during right-wing rule. Because of historical narratives’ links to national identity, they can be popular as a reaction to globalisation anxiety, which is usually hyped in times of austerity. They often present an idealised past in contrast with the contemporary reality, thereby containing strong elements of escapism. Additionally, because right-wing governments are often coupled with economic change and hardship, a nostalgia for better times is induced. Regimes can use this nostalgia to their advantage:

Seeing history repeating itself and discovering the existence of similarities between past and present may provide the viewer with a sense of reassurance and placate the urge for change. The production of history films in times of crisis and uncertainty has the potential to put present problems in perspective and the resulting ‘appeasement’ can play into the hands of the ruling regime (McKechnie in Monk & Sargeant 2002, 220).

This pattern of historical consumption imbues the concept of nostalgia with negative connotations; that is, it is linked to conservatism and the act of looking back and longing for a fictional past which is mainly populated by the upper classes, and epitomised by the image of the country house.

The Representation of History on Screen

Historical narratives are ostensibly created by selecting key facts to support the intended argument, and filling in the gaps using a combination of secondary sources and imagination. No recounting of history will therefore be objective or pure truth. In order to transform a set of facts into a narrative, the producer of the text must make many choices: whose viewpoint to portray, which questions to address, who to include and who to leave out, where to begin the narrative and where to end it, to name a few. In addition to this selection process, filmmakers have formal considerations which can compete with their vision, for example genre conventions, budget constraints, aesthetic qualities, requirements set out by the studio and investors, and the political direction they wish to take. Given that film is such an accessible route into history for audiences, these aspects are important to consider. The visual provides a more rich and meaningful account of history than a more academic traditional textbook approach, and film texts tend to create an accepted “easy” version of history, in which academic historians would question popular conceptions they produce and perpetuate (Chopra-Gant 2008, 86; Williams 2003). Audiences rely on filmmakers to take decontextualised historical facts and piece them together into a coherent narrative.

In addition to the fact that narratives channelled into the film medium are ostensibly shaped by filmic conventions in favour of historical accuracy, filmmakers more than likely perceive themselves as storytellers before they think of themselves as historians. It requires imagination to update a historical text in order to make it appeal to contemporary audiences. Filmmakers often juxtapose the authentically historical mise-en-scène with narrative reconstructions of the past idealised to suit the desires of consumers. Many historical dramas are, in fact, fictional stories set within a historical backdrop. They may be based in an important historical time or event, but the main narrative focuses on lives of purely fictional characters (for example Titantic, Cameron 1997, Gangs of New York, Scorsese 2002, and El laberinto del fauno, del Toro 2006).  Alternatively, there are films which relate historical events reasonably accurately as a collective memory. When discussing the events of 9/11, Mike Chopra-Gant observes that real life events were often reconceptualised into a sequence from a film by the people at the scene. However, he goes on to point out the dangers of films made about such events, which appear to represent accurate facts detailing a collective memory, as these films will be the main and only access point into this historical event for many people (pp. 88 - 93). These are two extreme examples, but they represent the polarised viewpoints clearly; on the one hand, historical films can be very obviously fictional, whilst on the other they can appear to represent reality. However, both forms are subjected to a series of choices on the part of the filmmaker, and both are forced into a filmic construct. Ultimately, both contribute towards a collective image of what history should look like, therefore occupying a unique space somewhere just outside of the history textbook, between the image and the imaginary.

With these concepts of the construction of the heritage genre and the ways in which history is recreated in mind, this paper will go on to examine two women of power from Spanish history; Juana of Castile and Saint Teresa, and their most recent representations in Vincente Aranda and Ray Loriga’s films respectively. Heritage films, in particular, are a key marker of the political and cultural Zeitgeist at the time of production. They tell us more about the time in which they were made than the time in which they are set, particularly when they use actual historical figures, as the process of rewriting is foregrounded. What is chosen to be represented on screen of a country’s cultural heritage, and how this narrative is manipulated can often point towards a relevant contemporary discourse formation or political occurrence. Both of these films were made in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a time of fragmentation and flux for Spain politically. After eight years of right-wing rule, Spain elected a socialist, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2004, who brought about many changes. The focus was taken away from international issues and placed on social issues, many of them gender based; he reformed laws regarding same-sex marriage, divorce, abortion, domestic violence, child-care support, equality in the workplace and access to employment. This social progression for Spanish women in particular over the two governments, therefore, was polemical, and is represented in the two films through the powerful female protagonists.

Juana of Castile

Juana I of Castile, born in 1479 to two of the most successful Catholic Spanish monarchs, Isabel and Ferdinand, came to be her mother’s successor following a series of unfortunate deaths. Her parents’ intentions for her were simple: to marry the Archduke of Flanders in order to create an alliance across Europe for Spain. Little did they realise that this same alliance would come to threaten their newly established kingdom in the form of Juana’s greedy husband and his power-hungry advisors. Juana was extraordinarily successful at bearing children, and this ability, and the children themselves, were used against her in abusive mind games. She was deemed mad with jealously and not capable of ruling over her kingdom, and as such was imprisoned by three separate generations of men – first her father, then her husband, then her son – until her death in 1555. 

Juana’s story has experienced many revisions through the ages, but has been a mainstay of Spanish historical narrative. It has taken many forms; she has been portrayed during the romantic period in paintings, in operas of the nineteenth century, in plays and poetry of the twentieth century, and more recently in novels and films. These portrayals vary greatly; some choosing to portray her as simply mad, others preferring a more sympathetic approach in which she is a victim and a humanist. She represents a turning point in Spanish history, “a hinge at a key historical junction” as Maria-Elena Soliño (in Gómez et al. 2008, 177) astutely puts it; the transition from the nationalist ideals and Catholicism of her parents, to her son’s imperialism and alternative ideas resulting from his Habsburg upbringing. Her political narrative has been swallowed up by the weight of the achievements which sandwich hers. She left little evidence of her life behind written in her own hand, leaving historians to postulate based on evidence left by men who were trying to create a myth of madness (Gortner 2008, 434). Gómez, Juan-Navarro and Zatlin further this idea in claiming that the historical narrative we have access to today is based only on paintings (2008, 15). She therefore provides an ideal caricature around which filmmakers can create their own narrative. History is interpreted in many ways, and the question of whether Juana was actually mad or not is open to the interpretation of the consumer of the text, which makes her narrative an interesting coupling with film and fiction. When Juana’s historical narrative, fictional accounts and film conventions are intertwined, the result could be very far delineated from the truth. Juana is a product of both history and fiction; a victim of a patriarchal desire to create a coherent history for Spain, and an audience desire to portray her as mad.

Paul Julian Smith claims that Aranda’s Juana la Loca (2001) parallels the incoherence of the Spanish heritage genre itself. He argues that the film’s mise-en-scène lacks historical authenticity and aesthetic, and that the magnificence of a historical narrative cannot be juxtaposed with a domestic tragedy. However, he sees this ambiguity as the film’s distinctive quality, whereby Juana’s neurosis highlights what he sees as a neurosis inherent in Spanish heritage films (Smith 2006, 112). This adaptation of Juana’s life appeals to the Spanish preference for privileging the domestic narrative of the individual over the collective and epic in historical fiction. It enters into a mythologizing discourse which de-marginalises a sidelined character (sidelined in terms of her historical narrative and political status) and gives her a subjective voice. It incorporates the notion of the private, individualised historical narrative into the mise-en-scène with its use of muted colours and lighting. An impression is created reminiscent of a private war narrative or similar internalised discourse, helping to foreground Juana’s personal, domestic storyline, whilst also being set in grand surroundings, reminding the viewer of the historical heritage backdrop. Additionally, it portrays the constant dialogue and clash between politics and matters of the heart and, in so doing, shows that the concept of madness has actually been displaced; it is the court and the political system which induces a lust for power that has gone insane.

It is helpful to bring in Higson’s definitions of the genre here in order to analyse what the prioritising of the spectacular image in this film is attempting to project in ideological terms. Rather than conforming to ideas of either conservative heritage films or more liberal working class narratives, Juana la Loca situates itself, quite intentionally, somewhere between the two. With its foregrounding of the spectacular heritage image juxtaposed with the domestic internal narrative from a female viewpoint, audience expectation is subverted and the film is able to present social commentary with greater clarity. Narratives of monarchs in crisis are particularly good indicators of political disquiet at the time of production. The narrative is certainly portraying an articulation of a conservative anxiety at potentially left-wing ideals in its re-representation of Juana as a great monarch. Its re-writing of accepted versions of bad moments in history as good are apparent when compared with Locura de amour (Orduña, 1948), a film about Juana produced under the rule of Franco as a political vehicle to extol his agenda. The foregrounding of luxurious mise-en-scène runs the risk of sidelining this potential left-wing ideology. However, the more progressive themes counterbalance the conservative; resistance to authority, sexual freedom and the representation of a strong female character all work towards an expression of the contemporary female condition.

Narratives about the fall of a powerful figure are ever popular and constantly re-mythologised, particularly those which were reported as mad, our fascination with them reflecting feelings of political instability. Aranda attempts a more modern and sympathetic reading of Juana by presenting her madness as passion and natural eroticism towards her husband, an instinctual mothering ability, and her challenging of the ideas of the time as forward thinking, all of which seem normal for the contemporary audience, but were progressive and went against dominant ideas of female behaviour at the time. It is not just the lust for power in others which results in her imprisonment, but also her humanist and socialist ideals which threaten the imperialistic ambition. As Bethany Aram (2005, 167) argues, “Juana’s contemporaries [...] depicted her ‘madness’ based on shifting political interests”. Current historical opinion actually points towards the idea that Juana reclaimed the madness narrative and made it her own for political reasons. Mainly that in disinheriting herself, she disinherited her power-hungry husband, but secured the future for her children. She was also a close follower of Erasmus’ writings, which “denied the ‘madness’ of madness itself – depicting folly as a necessary, pious, and even reasonable escape from social conventions and political responsibilities” (Aram 2005, 168). In the film, then, her gender and more so her body, are used to represent the disorder of the state. Or as Soliño puts it “Juana provide[s] a docile body on which to remap the history of a hegemonic Spain” (in Gómez et al. 2008, 193). This alignment between Juana’s body and the state is not only displayed in the portrayal of her madness, but also in the representation of the crossover between Juana’s sexuality and motherhood. She sees her pregnancies as little more than the consequence of her passion which she expels from her body with little effort, and she gains sexual satisfaction from breastfeeding her children. Some see this representation as Aranda sidelining the political in order to bring the erotic to the forefront (see 'Woman, Nation and Desire' in Gómez et al. 2008 pp 228 - 242). However, it can also be read as an intertwining of the erotic and the political. That is, Juana gains pleasure from acts that were frowned upon, particularly for a queen. This portrayal represents contemporary anxiety over political determinants that control women’s bodies.

However, the film falls short of expressing a progressive feminist discourse, the reasons for which go beyond the limits of representing a historical narrative. For example, the portrayal of Juana as motivated by sex and her sexuality, whilst progressive for her time, is based around a misogynistic notion of phallocentric desire, as emphasised by certain camera shots which appear to imbue the male form with mystification (Gómez et al. 2008, 235). The use of a woman as a temptress for Juana’s husband, Philip, who uses magic to ensnare him, takes the blame away from him and places it firmly on the side of femininity. The pitting of women against women, and the deceptive means of seduction reinforce negative, outdated gender stereotypes. Furthermore, if we contrast the seductress’ use of her sexuality with Juana’s, we are presented with a difficult dichotomy in which the unnatural succeeds.

Teresa of Ávila

Teresa was born in 1515; a time when Spanish state and church were experiencing tumult and change, conducting tension and power battles with each other, and Juana of Castile was being forcibly abdicated to be replaced by her Flanders born son. Both Teresa and Juana battled with a power-hungry patriarchy which used corrupt political means and the creation of madness myths to attempt to remove them from positions of power. They were both independent thinkers, ahead of their time, which threatened patriarchal stability. They were both victims of the formation of an absolutist and misogynist discourse in the form of the new Catholic order, which sought to oppress and wield power.  

Notable episodes of Teresa’s life are often those of acts of resistance and defiance against her surrounding patriarchal structures; running away from home at age seven in search of martyrdom in the land of the Moors, joining a convent without her father’s knowledge or consent; establishing new convents with rules that went against existing structures. Teresa was a free-thinking theologian who struggled to find her place in the Spain of the inquisition as a Christian of Jewish descent. Because of her background, she was already regarded with suspicion, but more so when she started experiencing visions and made a full recovery from a coma state. Behaviour that was regarded as religious eccentricity was severely punished at this time, particularly in women, who were more prone to being accused of devil possession. On top of all this suspicion, self doubt and illness, the use of spiritual literature by the “unqualified” (among others, all women) was restricted. However, strength of character prevailed, and Teresa succeeded in establishing fourteen new Carmelite houses stretching from Burgos to Sevilla, an extraordinary effort of tireless work.

Loriga’s Teresa, el Cuerpo de Cristo (2007) resonates with Aranda’s Juana la Loca in many ways. Loriga chooses to express Teresa’s passion through sexuality, which has been highly controversial. The film opens with an illicit encounter between her and a nameless unknown, this deviance from the norm being cited as the reason for her joining the convent. This plotline is perhaps loosely based in truth, although Archbishop Rowan Williams in his biography of Teresa cites the incident as a mere flirtation rather than a sexual encounter (Williams 2003, 2). However, the decision not to provide the viewer with any background into this part of Teresa’s narrative or introduce her lover as a character at all is purposefully provocative. The film goes on to portray Teresa in many compromising controversial positions: dressed in red in a sacrificial submissive pose and covered in long spears piercing her body, the DVD cover shows her naked arms and shoulders being embraced by a man’s hands bearing Christ’s stigmata. Scenes during which she is praying are represented equally as controversially, linking her visions and her sexuality by portraying her as experiencing orgasmic joy from them. Despite the controversy these types of images have created however, some of them are actually borrowed from Teresa’s writing:

She records that she was ‘sometimes’ given a vision of an angel standing by her, with an arrow in his hand, with which he pierced her inmost parts; with its withdrawal she felt an exquisite mixture of pain and joy and an intense desire for God (Williams 2003, 5).

 On a textual level, Teresa’s sexuality is used as a way of expressing her passion for her faith, and can also be seen in a more overt way as a criticism of portrayals of Christ as sexually appealing, but we can also read these portrayals of sexuality as expressions of the liberation which was occurring for Spanish women in terms of political policy making in the early 2000’s. Filmmakers identify a need in the audience to be able to relate to the protagonists in terms of current social developments and debates. This need is often achieved by sexualising historical characters in a way that is actually highly unlikely to be an accurate representation. Additionally, Teresa’s self induced pain, linked to her passion for her faith, reflects the “self induced” pain of many in society who conform to rigid constructs, cannot express themselves freely and do not follow their passions. Also, as in Juana la Loca, patriarchal constructs, including religion, are under threat, thereby placing the female protagonists, in particular, in a dangerous position. The viewer is informed of this threat from the outset by the voiceover which states “Castile, the mid-sixteenth century. Valdés, the head of the Holy Office, is filling the dungeons in search of the Devil. The glory of the Conquest fills the tables of those in power with gold, while the people live in poverty and ignorance. Heretics offer their naked bodies to the Lord in orgiastic liturgies. Illuminati, heretics, Lutherans, Huguenots... Our church is attacked from without and grows dark within. Bodies are burned in the squares to save souls. All hearts are governed by fear”. We can link this portrayal to contemporary anxiety with a conservative government which is responsible for ever increasing invasions of privacy and creation of fear narratives by for example, exaggerating the terrorist threat.

Through Teresa’s visions, Loriga also explores concepts of the real and the imaginary. He allows the audience access to the potentially inaccessible sphere of the mystic visions, thus blurring the lines of heritage cinema definitions. Any story retold, particularly revised for a new format, is subjected to a process of symbolisation and displacement, but additionally in cinema, there is a change from the textual to the visual. It is easy to forget that cinema began as a moving image without sound, but Loriga transports the viewer back to these roots in the emphasis of the visual through the mystic visions and imagination. This emphasis on the visual, and additionally by Loriga on the imaginary, allows for a different form of accessibility into history. As Paul Julian Smith puts it: “In the translation process which takes place from the word to the image, you gain as much as you lose once you get rid of the literal text” (my translation) (Smith, 2011, 321). Instead of taking away from historical accuracy as one might presume, the mystic visions rather add to the sense of historiography. They are portrayed almost as live versions of paintings, but with physical bodies instead of pictorial representation. This visual representation is combined with a disorientating cinematography of fast paced editing which reproduces the psychological and physical experience of the visions, and thus allows the audience access to a personal, internal world. As with Aranda’s film, Loriga presents a mixture of heritage style mise-en-scène with access to a feminine internal narrative, providing space for nostalgia whilst also commenting on the contemporary Zeitgeist and the current female condition.

The concept of individual identity and independent thought is very important to Loriga. He believes philosophy and other such analytical subjects should be privileged in schools over more formal ones (see Pearson 2004, 222 - 241 in which Loriga is interviewed). So we can see why the character of Teresa in particular appealed to him, and he portrays her free-spirited intelligence well. He sees identity as a fluid concept, which takes on different roles on a daily basis. We can see this idea of identity in his portrayal of Teresa as a woman as well as a nun. In fact, he portrays her as woman first, nun second. For example, constantly showing her naked body reinforces concepts of femininity and desire to the viewer. Here, he is criticising patriarchal constructions of religion which, among other things, androgenize the ordained.  

As Teresa el cuerpo de Cristo was produced and released under a right-wing government, we can read the film as an expression of dissatisfaction with current conditions. Perhaps Loriga is articulating concerns with a return to tradition and a state-aligned religion which devalues women. Loriga’s film resists many dominant definitions of the heritage genre; its presentation for example of the negative aspects of religion and Spanish heritage through the images of the torture chambers of the inquisition, and its lack of typical heritage shots of landscapes or historical buildings. We can clearly see this defiance by examining the mise-en-scène, which defies Higson’s definition of mise-en-scène in heritage cinema:

The heritage film often seems to [...] weave its (often upper class) romances around authentic period details. The mise-en-scène of power, the spectacle of privilege: so many of these films construct a fantasy of extravagance, decadence, promiscuity, and passion. Class, gender, and race relations, and the values of the ruling elites, are in effect re-presented as just so much mise en scène, elegantly displayed in splendid costumes, language, gestures, and all the props (the properties) of the everyday life of one or another class. The history of exploitation is effaced by spectacular presentation. The past becomes once more unproblematic, a haven from the difficulties of the present (Higson 2003, 84).

Whilst the film does portray authentic period details, a mise-en-scène of power, a spectacle of privilege and extravagance, it ultimately uses these devices to criticise class and gender relations within the narrative, thereby commenting on contemporary class and gender relations. Additionally, Loriga explores contemporary issues through the presentation of historical narrative. For example, Teresa’s self induced physical punishment parallels that of many women today in the form of eating disorders or painful beauty techniques conducted in order to conform to an ideal. The past is not presented as unproblematic here, because the present is not, and we are perpetually acting out a narrative of oppression.


History is a discipline of enquiry into the past; heritage is an attitude towards the legacy of the past (Dyer quoted in Higson 2003, 53).

Both Juana la Loca and Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo privilege visual authenticity and the invocation of historical artwork. Underneath the visual lies a political narrative; a reproduction and reinterpretation of history as well as a contemporary commentary. This ambiguity between the historical and contemporary results in decisions on the part of the filmmakers, often based upon speculation and a desire to represent history in a contemporary sense, which are not always sustainable historically, and which appear at first glance to be a “misremembering of the past”. This fluctuating representation of history, however, reflects a contemporary Spain which is still experiencing the aftershocks of a dictatorship and civil war. Filmmakers are not broadcasters of historical occurrence; their main directive is to entertain. There is a need in the recreation of history, in any form, to be selective in order to meet the demands of the context, in the case of film often in order to meet the demands of the drama. There is no apology made for inaccuracies and creative exploitation of the source material, and indeed there is no need for one as their popularity indicates, and besides, historical “accuracy” should not be mistaken for factuality.

Both films, but particularly Teresa el cuerpo de Cristo, challenge dominant commentaries on heritage cinema which suggest that in order to present a liberal forward-thinking view, one must be dismissive of the past.Nostalgia does not have to be conservative, it may just require some rewriting or a different approach. The representation of the female protagonists’ sexuality and desire would seem like an obvious counterpoint to traditional heritage cinema definitions here, but it is more complex than that. Rather than simply a commentary on current female sexuality, these representations offer Spanish history a chance to liberate the women who have been oppressed by patriarchal narratives for centuries.

Equally as intriguing is the idea that films such as these are perhaps actually more historically accurate, as their misrepresentation of the historical source material results in a potentially more accurate representation of psychological and emotional issues (Smith, 2011). This ambiguity results in audience disorientation, which enables the filmmakers to manipulate the narrative to reflect contemporary issues.

The portrayals of Teresa and Juana’s madness as a culturally constructed consequence of their refusal to adhere to the feminine passivity expected of the time, provides the viewer with a contemporary reading of them as female historical figures. The promotion of their sexual desire, naturalisation of the body and its maternal functions, and outward displays of difference are in keeping with contemporary thought on human sexuality and natural uses of the body. The court’s belief that breastfeeding is not a suitable activity for a queen taps into contemporary debates surrounding breastfeeding, and rhetorics which control women’s bodies. By linking Juana’s madness with natural uses of her body as opposed to her heart and emotions as in previous representations of her in film, Aranda comments on contemporary debates about the female body as maternal and sexual. Castration anxieties are played out through the removal of a servant’s hair and the placing of a knife to Felipe’s throat (the knife itself a phallic symbol). However, these castration anxieties are mostly threats never followed through, and coupled with the pleasure Felipe experiences from watching the suffering of Juana as a result of her passion, the potential feminist narrative is arguably undermined.

The privileging of the individualistic narrative over the historical and political also adheres to this trend of contemporary thought. Historical narratives are becoming less often based in notions of national achievement and reinforcement of political narrative through explorations of the past, but rather in examinations of personal experience through which the audience can relate on a personal level as opposed to a collective one. This approach contributes to a collective understanding of history which is based in personal experience, allowing for more open and varied interpretations, which contributes to a complex web of different cultural perspectives and influences.

The madness narratives and the numerous reinterpretations over time contribute to the “disorientation” of historical texts as pointed out by Jordan and Morgan-Tamosunas. When the subjective point of view is through the eyes of a female with power, but more than that, a powerful female who is mad, the viewer becomes pliable and subject to an underlying didactic narrative, because of the fluctuating positions of identification. The practice of consumption becomes an uncomfortable experience as notions of desire and representation are challenged.

So is there a future for Juana and Teresa with a rewritten narrative that precludes them from madness? The image of a queen driven mad with jealousy and a nun expressing her love of God through sexual desire resonates more clearly if we understand that these ideas were an elaborate fiction created for art which gradually turned into “historical fact”. Juana’s narrative appealed to the artists of the romantic period, who were interested in creating myths and sentimentality, and in representing tragedy and entrapment. Similarly, Teresa’s narrative takes on a supernatural, mythologised and theatrical element in Bernini’s sculpture of the seventeenth century. These artworks were based on a myth originally created for political ends by men wishing to undermine Juana and Teresa. If we are to understand that all narratives since then have been based upon these artworks, then surely Juana and Teresa are due a revision in the popular consciousness. Perhaps on the surface their popularity appears to be down to their madness. However, there is another aspect which stands out throughout the different adaptations and remains true no matter in which age the text is produced and consumed; the personal tragedy, disempowerment and entrapment Juana and Teresa suffer is representative of the collective Spanish experience, more specifically, the collective experience of Spanish women. They stand out as figures defined by their gender: they were disempowered on the basis that women were not fit to possess any form of influence; their bodies were used against them as political tools; and their passionate femininity was redirected into the creation of a gendered madness narrative. Perhaps this reading provides a reason for their popularity: even in today’s post-feminist environment, Juana and Teresa are feminist icons.


Aram, B. 2005. Juana the Mad: Sovereignty and Dynasty in Renaissance Europe. London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Chopra-Gant, M. 2008. Cinema and history: The Telling of Stories. London : Wallflower.

Gortner, C. W. 2008. The Last Queen. London: Hodder.

Gómez, M., Juan-Navarro, S. and Zatlin, P. 2008. Juana of Castile : History and Myth of the Mad Queen. Lewisburg, PA.: Bucknell University Press.

Higson, A. Re-presenting the National Past : Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film  in Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, 2nd edition. 2006. Edited by Friedman, Lester. London: Wallflower, 91—109.

Higson, A. 1997. Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain. Oxford: Clarendon.

Higson, A. 2003. English Heritage, English Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jordan, B. and Morgan-Tamosunas, R. 2001. Contemporary Spanish Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Monk, C. and Sargeant, A. 2002. British Historical Cinema: The History, Heritage and Costume Film. London: Routledge.

Pearson, S. 2004. The 'Generation X' Paradigm in Spanish Culture of the 1990's. PhD. Manchester Metropolitan University.

Smith, P. J. 2006. Spanish Visual Culture : Cinema, Television, Internet. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Smith, P. J. 2011 'Dos vidas audiovisuales: Teresa de Jesús de Josefina Molina (1984) y Teresa: el cuerpo de Cristo de Ray Loriga (2007)' in Ehrlicher, H. and Schreckenberg, S. (eds.) El Siglo de Oro en la España contemporánea. Madrid: Iberoamericana, pp. 315 - 324.

Williams, R. 2003. Teresa of Avila. London: Continuum.


Juana la Loca / Juana the Mad, Aranda (2001)

Locura de Amor / Madness of Love, Orduña (1950)

Teresa, el Cuerpo de Cristo, Loriga (2007)


Review - Saskia Fischer

Review – Welttheater: übersetzten, adaptieren, inszenieren [World Theatre: translation, adaptation, production.] by Boyd, Stephen and Manfred Schewe (eds). Berlin: Schibri-Verlag, 2012.

 “All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players”

Who does not know these famous lines from Shakespeare’s As You Like It? With these few words the melancholic Jacques expresses an image of life that had a striking impact on art and culture, especially during the European Baroque era: the theatrum mundi. It is the idea that human life is but a short, temporary play and everyone has an appointed role to play. This concept addresses fundamental questions of human existence by subordinating life to a numinous plan. Today, however, in our so-called post-modern times, which are widely considered ‘secularised’ and primarily ‘rational’, the tradition of the theatrum mundi seems to be inappropriate to stage (wo)man’s present-day concerns. Yet, is the desire for a transcendental explanation of existence simply a longing for the past? Or rather, is the West’s self-perception of living through a time of religious scepticism merely a cliché? Indeed, the endurance of religious tradition and the transformation of its rituals and sacral aesthetics have gained increasing importance within contemporary scholarly discourse, particularly in the Humanities and Cultural Studies. With their bilingual survey Welttheater: übersetzen, adaptieren, inszenieren – World Theatre: translation, adaptation, production, Stephen Boyd and Manfred Schewe contribute to these discussions by focussing on today’s drama and theatre practice. The authors investigate to what extent the ‘world theatre’ tradition still provides a useful dramatic form that not only raises the essential and timeless questions of human life but also deals with the specific challenges of the present.

The book is divided into two parts. The first starts with a theoretical definition of the term ‘world theatre’ (chapter 1), followed by a brief overview of the genre’s development throughout literary history, focusing especially on Spanish Baroque playwright Calderón de la Barca’s El gran teatro del mundo (1636), and the wide reception of this auto sacramental in Germany during the Romantic period and the early 20th century (chapter 2). The core of the book emerges in the next two chapters with an analysis of Thomas Hürlimann’s Einsiedler Welttheater (2007), a contemporary Swiss adaptation of Calderón’s El gran teatro del mundo (chapter 3), and a description of the production of Hürlimann’s play at the University of Cork in 2010, which was translated by Boyd and Schewe themselves as Cork’s World Theatre. These two modern theatrum mundi interpretations have both been adapted to “other site-specific and country-specific circumstances” (p. 99). The authors intend to encourage other theatre makers to follow their example, as they see their own work in the field of theatre performance, teaching and research, as fostering cultural exchange and understanding. To illustrate what this means in practice, the second part of the survey provides a side-by-side reprint of these two modern pieces of ‘world theatre’, which offers the reader a close comparison of both versions.

Building on Goethe’s dynamic and intertextual concept of ‘world literature’, Boyd and Schewe understand ‘world theatre’ as a theatrical form creating a “mutual influence” and “dynamic interaction” between dramatic texts as well as between “different culturally-specific theatre forms along with their respective performance traditions” (p. 25). Hence, ‘world theatre’ is marked as an intercultural phenomenon which “offers its audience an intense experience of the interplay of the local and the universal” (p. 97). By expanding the idea of theatrum mundi through the inclusion of aspects of cultural transfer and cultural dynamics, the authors loosen the tight bond between this dramatic tradition and a religious context. Yet world theatre even today has not become fully secularised, as Hürlimann’s Einsiedler Welttheater demonstrates. His play is a tense combination of both the traditions of religious drama and modern theatre. Although Hürlimann’s interpretation keeps formal elements of the theatrum mundi, such as an allegorical aesthetic, his play is simultaneously a satire on the current commercialisation and politicisation of religion. Boyd and Schewe’s modern pattern of ‘world theatre’ enfolds a complex network and multidimensional space of cultural interaction which not only takes place synchronically between two different cultures or languages, but also diachronically by referring to the dynamics of this dramatic pattern throughout literary history.

This book expounds a broad view of the concept of theatrum mundi, its contemporary theatrical adaptation, tradition and theory. However, condensing this into no more than one hundred ninety bilingual pages is quite a burden and leads inevitably to many issues not receiving the space and attention they deserve. Nevertheless, the book offers various suggestions for further research, as well as theatre practice and teaching. For example, Christoph Schlingensief’s opera Mea culpa (2009), which referred to the theatre’s religious roots, and his commitment to an ‘opera-village’ in Burkina Faso/Africa, seem to correspond to Boyd and Schewe’s idea of ‘world theatre’. This comparison highlights the peculiar relevance of their survey. By concentrating on a modern sacral aesthetic, this book locates a vital trend in modern drama and theatre. It should be read by anyone looking for a concise introduction into a modern understanding of ‘world theatre’ as not only analysed in terms of its religious legacy but also from an intercultural and interdisciplinary perspective. 


Graduate School of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork