The Poetized Peopling of Nineteenth-Century Spain/s

Authored by: Ronald Puppo

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


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The social and spiritual dislocation concomitant to the political and industrial jolts of nineteenth-century Spain ushered in a multilingual polyphony of poets’ voices rising often from Spain’s distinct peripheral cultures and language communities. Particularly striking in the poetic statement of peripheral stamp are the groundbreaking works of Galicia’s Rosalía de Castro (1837–1885) and Catalonia’s Jacint Verdaguer (1845–1902). Rosalía de Castro’s landmark poetry volumes in Galician, Cantares gallegos (1863) and Follas novas (1880), stand as watershed achievements in Galician literature whose impact touches also on the historical, given their decisive role in the recovery of the Galician language, for centuries dormant as a vehicle of written culture. Furthermore, the fact that the foundational voice of Galicia’s Rexurdimento was a woman’s amounts to a quantum leap in gaining ground against a male-dominated discursive network, despite efforts for decades to package the woman and her poetry under a parochial label. In Catalonia, it was the rural-bred Jacint Verdaguer’s prolific works of poetry in Catalan – above all, his L’Atlàntida (1878) and Canigó (1886), foundational epics of Spain and Catalonia, respectively – that would prove decisive in projecting the Catalan language both at home and abroad, laying the literary and, pari passu, linguistic groundwork for the recovery of Catalan far beyond the vernacular. Later, amid literary triumph and acclaim, the poet-priest’s long, bitter and widely publicized clash with his own Church higher-ups in Barcelona would polarize public opinion, forcing onto discursive platforms of the day sharp debate not only about the man’s character, but also about the meaning of Christian faith and practice as well. Verdaguer, for whom the transcendence sought by humankind was unquestionably divine (he was, after all, a Catholic priest), nevertheless turned his poetic attention, as did Castro, also to worldly injustice, producing a number of poems classifiable as social poetry.

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