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Fictional matters: death, emotion and representation in nineteenth-century Spain

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Title: Fictional matters: death, emotion and representation in nineteenth-century Spain
Author(s): Kelly, Megan
Director of Research: Tolliver, Joyce L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Tolliver, Joyce L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Delgado, Luisa-Elena; Irigoyen-García, Javier; Wilcox, John C.
Department / Program: Spanish, Italian & Portuguese
Discipline: Spanish
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Representation death emotion 19th century Spanish literature Fernán Caballero Eduardo López Bago Benito Pérez Galdós Callar en vida, perdonar en muerte La flor de las ruinas La prostituta Fortunata y Jacinta Radical Naturalism
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes the representation of death in works of Spanish fiction from 1850-1887. Looking beyond metaphorical representation, I examine the ways in which representations of death are influenced and enhanced by the representation of emotion. Death poses an interesting challenge to the mimesis that forms the aesthetic basis of Realism insofar as mimesis is concerned with the meticulous replication of everyday materiality. Critic Harriet Turner has noted that Spanish Realism places particular emphasis on the things of the world and our engagement with those things. While death is connected to the disintegration of materiality, it exists only as an unknowable and intangible idea. As such, death can only be expressed through metaphorical representation, as scholars such as Kenneth Burke, Elisabeth Bronfen and Garrett Stewart have noted. I argue that represented emotions enhance representations of death in that they “interpret” between material and ideal contexts in a way that, unlike metaphor, necessarily begins and ends with the body. Drawing on theories of affect and on cognitive theories, I tease out the complex relationship between represented emotion and representations of death through an examination of selected works of Spanish authors who represent a broad diachronic spectrum of Spanish Realism. In the short fiction of Cecilia Böhl de Faber (penname “Fernán Caballero”), I demonstrate that Caballero conceives of the emotions as intimately ingrained with the materiality of the body, and as such she cautions her readers against compassion, an emotion that threatens the integrity of the body. By subverting the tenets of sentimental literature, Caballero presents scenes of suffering and death precisely to reveal her readers’ willingness to engage emotionally with a text. My examination of Eduardo López Bago’s novel La prostituta illuminates the pivotal role of the representation of disgust, an emotion that reflects both the ideal and material dimensions of death. As critics agree, disgust is a defensive operation in that it deflects attention away from the disturbing idea of death and onto a material event. Through an examination of the novel’s interlaced discourses of contamination and prophylaxis, I demonstrate that represented disgust in La prostituta reflects a liminality that negotiates between the ideal context of death and the material circumstances that point to it. Finally, in my reading of the death scenes of Fortunata y Jacinta, I demonstrate that the climactic, yet unnarratable, moment of death is de-emphasized, while notions of anticipation and foreboding become the narrative vehicle by which death is expressed. I argue that the physically-rooted feelings of ascension, forward movement and rhythm which inform the depictions of anticipation are essential bearers of meaning. Furthermore, I argue that the emphasis on unresolved upward and forward movement speaks to the unnarratability of death as well as the equally irreconcilable notion of eternity. Ultimately, my dissertation demonstrates that the liminal status of emotion, mediating between the body and the mind, makes it an appropriate vehicle for representing death, that liminal space between being alive and “being” dead, between the material and the ideal. As emotions inherently speak to the body, represented emotion facilitates a more comprehensive representation of the otherwise unknowable state of death.
Issue Date: 2012-05-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/31184
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Megan Kelly
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-05-22
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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