Nineteenth-century Hispanists in Toronto: A view from an aspiring nineteenth-century Hispanist

Fundación Archivo de Indianos in Colombres (Asturias)

Fundación Archivo de Indianos in Colombres (Asturias)

Now that I’ve pushed aside the jetlag and the post-travel nostalgia, I thought I’d do something to pay tribute to the wondrous group of people that assembled in York University in Toronto last week under the pretext of being nineteenth-century Hispanists. As the total interloper that I was among that crowd, I can only express my thankfulness to the Nineteenth-Century Hispanists International Network Committee (Gregorio, Geraldine, Andrew) for thinking my paper fit for inclusion in this year’s terrific programme and to Prof. Adrian Shubert, our host, for the generosity he and his department showed throughout our stay at York University. The Nineteenth-Century Hispanists International Network (NCHIN), it has to be said, only convenes its annual meeting at institutions that are happy to host at no economic cost for organisers and delegates – yes, that means no conference fees. This makes it one of the few academic conferences in Hispanism today (is there any other?) where one can go and have her head blown away by top-notch papers, be slightly star-struck by the company and eat some pretty decent sandwiches all for zero pennies (apart from the pennies, of course, it may take one to carry herself to the lovely city of Toronto, but that was also for me part of a long-awaited post-Easter holiday, so well spent).
The programme (which you can admire in its full overwhelming glory here) kicked off without ado with a panel on ‘Nation, Empire and their Enemies’. As someone who currently spends much of her time thinking through contemporary Spain as a country still dragging its post-imperial dream through the abscess of an imperial wound, it was great to hear about the mid-to-late nineteenth-century forms of this syndrome. Scott Eastman started with a talk on the hypocrisy inherent in the positions of liberal politicians such as Emilio Castelar when it came to Spanish overseas policies –which reminded me of Castelar’s prologue to Rosalía de Castro’s Follas Novas (1880), an equally ambivalent text with regard to Spain’s internal colonies; Shasha D. Pack’s followed with a paper on the Spanish persecution of Moroccan Jews during the Spanish-Moroccan War (1859–60) in order to gain favour with Muslim officials, reminding us of the persistently fraught space that the Spanish-Moroccan border is still today as the locus of Spanish colonial and racial policies; Javier Moreno Luzán gave a welcome panoramic overview of the political and social uses of the Spanish red-and-yellow flag and the nineteenth-century oscillations between the Marcha Real and the Himno de Riego as national anthems; and Lou Deutsch spoke about the literary appearances of the supposedly apocryphal Jesuit code of practice known as the Monita Secreta, specifically to serve the anti-clerical message of novels such as Blasco Ibáñez’s La araña negra (1892).
The second panel of the morning, on ‘Past and the City’, included papers that touched coherently on the cultures of time in late nineteenth-century Spain and how they interact with the passage from early modern to modern historiography, political revolutions and literary cultures. Geraldine Lawless’s paper looked at the contradiction in Spanish nineteenth-century historiography between the historicity of tradition and progress, and its different manifestations in literature –reminding me that the prologue to El caballero de las botas azules can also be read as a reflection on the Romantic culture of literary posterity. My paper picked up on precisely this topic, but with relation to the emerging discourses on the Galician national archive and how to administer national literary posterities, through the conflicting views of Emilia Pardo Bazán and Manuel Murguía; Jesús Cruz’s paper made a convincing case for the rewriting of the Gloriosa Revolution through the tools of cultural history.
After a very generous lunch (thanks again Adrian!) and an also generous address by the Spanish ambassador in Ottawa (which included some inadvertent comedy when he said that the Spanish economy is picking up), we moved on to the afternoon sessions. I found the first panel enthralling: María Serra’s study on how nineteenth-century public virilities are discursively constructed was awesome, as was also Juan Pro Ruiz’s investigation into the figure of Rosa Marina, the possible contributor –perhaps under a pseudonym– to the Andalusian fourierist periodical El pensil gaditano and author of what he considered the first feminist text in Spain: Rosa Marina’s La mujer y la sociedad (1837). Adrian Shubert’s paper on the many faces of Espartero was a robust demonstration that the Archivo del Congreso de los Diputados is a veritable treasure trove for nineteenth-century Hispanists.
The final panel of the day was demanding, but caffeine levels were kept topped up appropriately. Mónica Fuertes-Arboix returned to the non-historical writing of Modesto Lafuente, who under the pseudonym of Fray Gerundio wrote El teatro social del siglo XIX, described by Fuertes as the pioneering text of Spanish sociology. Gareth Wood guided us through Galdós’s annotated proofs of Tormento –which he could consult in the Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria– to make the case that the novel contains Othellian undertones. Tom Lewis and Jo Labanyi’s individual papers were two gripping returns to Espronceda’s El diablo mundo from a critical perspective of Romantic subjectivities, politics and poetics. Jo Labanyi’s paper, in true Jo Labanyi’s style, made me want to read the whole nineteenth-century Spanish canon all over again. There’s a summer job…
The second day of the conference –with its greater focus on aesthetics and visual cultures – was full of nineteenth-century treats. Eugenia Afinoguénova – also a specialist on the Camiño de Santiago – presented her work on how the Museo del Prado, its visitors and surroundings grew increasingly urbanised throughout the nineteenth century (I thank her for her tip on the late nineteenth-century fad of committing suicide in the Paseo del Prado, which will certainly help me with my own research on Teodosio Vesteiro Torres, the lapsed Romantic poet from Tui in southern Galicia who shot himself in the Paseo del Prado to speed up his literary posterity in Galician letters, to little avail). Christian Rubio followed with a re-consideration of the Spanish Avant-Garde as part of the legacy of nineteenth-century krausism in Spain. Michael Iarocci’s and Óscar Vázquez’s individual papers took us masterfully back to how Goya’s Disasters of War prints and Picasso’s 1897 painting ‘Science and Charity’ respectively engaged with contemporary discourses on visual documentarianism, aesthetics and science.

'Science and Charity', Pablo Picasso (1895-6)

‘Science and Charity’, Pablo Picasso (1895-6)

Following this and a cherished coffee break with pasteis de nata (it was, after all, the day after the 25 of April), the next panel included Natalia Santamaría’s paper on the late nineteenth-century discourse of the returned indiano as a key figure in the regeneracionista programme – her research made me want to visit the Fundación Archivo de Indianos in Colombres (Asturias) at the next possible opportunity. Mey-Yen Moriuchi’s paper on the interactions between artistic and literary costumbrista representations of the Mexican figures of the china poblana and the aguador was followed by a great discussion –prompted by Scott Eastman– on how questions of race cannot really be extricated from a consideration of these highly mythicised figures of the Mexican cultural tradition.
The afternoon sessions included what, with a week’s hindsight, have stuck in my head as my favourite papers. The first panel on travel and cultural transfers began with Esther Alarcón’s study of how the Spanish nineteenth-century exile José María Blanco White reflected on the Spanish language as the language of oppression (I am currently working on the history of anti-Spanish sentiment, where Blanco White is kind of the head nineteenth-century voice, so loved it!); Gregorio Alonso traced the routes of influence of British philosopher and social reformist Jeremy Bentham on Spanish liberalism and Henriette Partzsch gave us a participant’s overview of an EU-funded project on the nineteenth-century transnational dialogue among European women writers.
The final panel of the conference on gender, women and sex was a corker. Luis Álvarez Castro’s paper opened my eyes to the genre of narrativa lupanaria (did anyone else know about this?): his study of a series of late nineteenth-century novels (mainly by Eugenio A. Flores and Eduardo López Bago) about Spanish women conned into prostitution in the Americas gave conclusive evidence of how nineteenth-century discourses on female sexuality, Spanish colonialism and national identities cannot be disentangled. Rocío Rødjter’s paper on Julia de Asensi’s El encubierto (1883) shed light on nineteenth-century Spanish women writers’ appropriation of the genre of historical fiction. Last but not least (I suspect intendedly by the programme organisers), was Andrew Ginger’s proposal for us to imagine the nineteenth-century Spanish sexual world as something other than what was depicted (or negated) by the period’s censorial texts (when you see him, ask him to show you the illustration with the rather accomplished nineteenth-century dildo).
Beyond this stunner of a programme, the IV Annual Meeting of the NCHN was a gleeful event, where I got finally to meet the great (and hugely supportive) Jo Labanyi, catch up with my esteemed PhD supervisor Andrew Ginger and learn beyond limits about a period I am not particularly confident with, all in a really amicable and encouraging environment. I now have El diablo mundo as bedside reading, next to Consolation by Michael Redhill (apparently THE novel about Toronto) and look forward to a time after marking, when I’ll be able to read, re-read and follow up on the countless research tips I got from the ridiculously well-read NCHIN crowd. In the meantime, here’s a non-exhaustive bibliography of our encounter at York University (if you see any glaring absences, do send me any additions), which I hope you find useful for your own post-conference pondering and until we see each other at next year’s meeting. In case this was not clear from this blog post, I’m in.

A List of Works Cited during the Conference:
Blanco White, José (1972) Cartas de España, Madrid: Alianza.
Blasco Ibáñez, Vicente (1892) La araña negra, Madrid: Cosmópolis.
Bretón de los Herreros, Manuel (1839) Ella es él (Comedia en un acto), Madrid: Imprenta de José María Repullés.
Casanova, Pascale (2004) The World Republic of Letters, Harvard University Press.
Castelar, Emilio (1859) La fórmula del progreso, Madrid: imprenat de Manuel Rojas.
De Asensi, Julia (1883) Leyenda y tradiciones en prosa y verso, Madrid: Biblioteca Universal.
Espronceda, José (1868) El diablo mundo, poema de don José de Espronceda, continuación y últimos versos de aquel auto por Miguel de los Santos Álvarez, Madrid: Librería de Leocadio López.
Flores, Eugenio Antonio (1889) Trata de blancas, Barcelona: Librería española de López.
Kirkpatrick, Susan (2003) Mujer, modernismo y vanguardia en España, 1898-1931, Madrid: Cátedra.
Krause, Karl (1860) El ideal de la humanidad para toda la vida, Madrid: Imp. de Manuel Galiano.
Lafuente, Modesto (1877-1882) Historia general de España: desde los tiempos primitivos hasta la muerte de Fernando VII; continuada desde dicha época hasta nuestros días por Juan Valera, Barcelona: Montaner y Simón.
____ (1846) Teatro social del siglo XIX, por Fray Gerundio [pseud.], Madrid: DF P. Mellado.
López Bago, Eduardo (1891) Carne importada: Costumbres de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires: U Rivero.
Marina, Rosa (1857) La mujer y la sociedad, precedido de un prólogo por Doña Margarita Perez de Celis, Cádiz: Imp. de la Paz.
Mata y Fontanet, Pedro (1846) Tratado de medicina legal y toxicología, Madrid: Imprenta de Bailly-Bailliere.
Menéndez Pelayo, Marcelino (1880–2) Historia de los heterodoxos españoles, Madrid: Imp. F. Maroto e Hijos.
Merry y Colom, Francisco (1864) Relación del viaje a la ciudad de Marruecos que por disposición del Marques de Miraflores verificó en el mes de mayo de 1863 Francisco Merry y Colom, Madrid: Imprenta nacional.
Murguía, Manuel (1871) Memoria sobre la necesidad de formar un Archivo Histórico de Galicia. Available on the Real Academia Galega website here.
Pardo Bazán, Emilia (1883) La cuestión palpitante, Madrid: Imp. Central a cargo de V. Saiz.
____ (1885) El cisne de Vilamorta, Madrid: Librería de Fernando Fé.
Pérez Galdós, Benito (1884/1970) Tormento, Madrid: Aguilar.
Soufas, Christopher (2007) The Subject in Question: Early Contemporary Spanish Literature and Modernism, The Catholic University of America Press.

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