Realism and Naturalism in Spain

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Encyclopedia Entry

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World Literature in Spanish: An Encyclopedia


The literary movement known as realism flourished in 19th-century European letters; in Spain, it became the dominant mode of fiction during the last third of that century. Its main practitioners included the literary giants Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) and Leopoldo Alas, better known as "Clarín: (1852-1901), whose texts has as their underlying principle the representation of reality. Galdós first set out this concept of mimesis---the imitation of life---as the basis of the realist novel in the 1870 essay "Observaciones sobre la novela contemporánea en España" (Observations about the Spanish Contemporary Novel). Critic Jo Labanyi has recently revised this traditional view of realism by highlighting the way in which realist novels contributed to the process of nation formation. Rather than merely depicting contemporary society, Labanyi argues that realist novels served as forums where cultural anxieties about modernization could be debated. Nowhere is this process more evident than in Galdós's literary production; his 78 novels; plays; and countless articles, short stories, and essays form a corpus that literally attempts to "map" the nation.


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