CULTURE: LITERATURE. THE INFLUENCE OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT
According to healthvv, the sec. XVIII is, therefore, in the best Spaniards a desire to “start over”, that is, to “reopen” to Europe and to the world (the world, in the meantime, had become bigger, thanks above all to science); in the worst, and among the masses, a reclining in “continuing” to live, with the ideological alibi of “respect for national traditions” and the “cult of past greatness”. A very intelligent Galician Benedictine, Benito Feijoo y Montenegro (1676-1764), paved the way for the Spanish Enlightenment. Encyclopedic and rationalist, therefore an enemy of superstitions, ignorance and all baroqueisms (founded, for him, on lies, on the “not heard” and therefore “not true”), he is however always a convinced and optimistic Christian: reason does not mean, for Feijoo, to deny God, but on the contrary to glorify him. And to criticize the old Spain, lagging behind the rest of Europe, means to create a new one, young and open to the future (the dream of the greatest Spaniards who came after him). This desire for renewal, on a critical and modern basis, spread, after Feijoo, in all fields – history (E. Flórez, Muñoz, G. Mayans y Siscar, up to Ferreras and JF Masdeu), aesthetics (I. de Luzán, 1702-1754), art criticism (A. Ponz, 1725-1792) and literary (Diario de los Literatos and other periodicals; M. Sarmiento, 1695-1771; TA Sánchez, 1723-1802; A. Montiano, 1697-1764; L. Velázquez, 1722-1772), the theater (R. de la Cruz, 1731-1794; J. Cadalso, 1741-1782; the two Moratín: Leandro, 1760-1828, and Nicolás, 1737-1780), the narrative (JF de Isla, 1703-1781; P. Montengón, 1745-1824; I. Zamácola, 1756-1826), publications, economics, legal sciences, pedagogy (obsession of all the Enlightenment) – and he expressed himself especially in the most characteristic and original genre of the century: non-fiction. Essayists are in fact, in essence, the two greatest writers of the century: the aforementioned José Cadalso and GM de Jovellanos (1744-1811), exemplary Enlightenment and so new, in thought as in writing, that only today can they be understood in their full meaning. It is therefore right and well founded to speak of an authentic eighteenth-century rebirth of the Spanish spirit, which almost exactly coincides with the reign of the good “Neapolitan” king Charles III (1759-1788), to decline and become obscured at the time of his unbelieving successor Charles IV (1788-1808), also due to the serious historical events (French Revolution, Napoleonic Empire) in which Spain found itself, in spite of itself, involved. And in the face of the importance of that great moral and cultural renewal, it does not matter that the lyric and the epic have remained behind, still tied to the Baroque ways or too tied to the Arcadian ones; so that, among the many poets of the century, only one deserves to be remembered, the languid and at times pre- romantic J. Meléndez Valdés (1754-1817).
CULTURE: LITERATURE. ROMANTICISM AND POST-ROMANTICISM
Now reinserted in Europe, Spain in the sec. XIX and XX had to follow, albeit in its own way, the political, social and cultural events. Certainly, the traditionalist reactions were stronger, perhaps, than in other countries, less conditioned by past glories; which explains the many civil wars fought in the peninsula, from 1808 (Napoleonic invasion) to 1936-39, and phenomena almost unheard of, due to their obstinate persistence, such as Carlist fundamentalism. And when the liberal minority succeeded in establishing itself (revolution of 1868, first ephemeral republic of 1873, second republic of 1931-36), it was soon overwhelmed not only by an ever-fierce extreme right, but also by an anarchist extreme left, no less utopian and integralistic. However, this does not mean that Spain is different from the rest of Europe. Cultural and artistic history demonstrates precisely the opposite, that is, the synchrony of motions, ideas and tastes. Apart from the single results, in fact, there is no doubt that the Spanish literature of the century. XIX went through, in its main lines, the same three European phases: the initial neoclassicism, a legacy of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, not devoid of romantic forebodings; romanticism, especially triumphant from the 1920s to the 1960s; and positivist realism, dominant in practice until the turn of the century. The corresponding favorite genres were: essay, civil and didactic poetry, fiction and costume theater (in the first phase), lyric “of personal, effusive sentiment”, historical drama and novel (second phase); the realistic and social novel and the theater of ethical-social ideas and problems (third phase). Each of them must refer to Spanish names on time. With inevitable summary and always without prejudice, we repeat, the individual outcomes, here are the most significant. In the first phase the essayists and poets JM Blanco White (1775-1841), MJ Quintana (1772-1857), A. Lista y Aragón (1775-1848), JJ de Mora (1783-1864); the essayist A. Alcalá Galiano (1789-1865); the playwrights F. Martínez de la Rosa (1787-1862), ME de Gorostiza (1789-1851) and M. Bretón de los Herreros (1796-1873); prose writers such as JT de Trueba y Cossío (1799-1835), S. Estébanez Calderón (1799-1867), R. de Mesonero Romanos (1803-1882) and others, interested in costumes from points of view oscillating between moral and picturesque, as in another field, the Andalusian inter mediator JI González del Castillo (1763-1800). Second and certainly more brilliant phase: operas such as J. de Espronceda (1808-1842) – certainly the most important, together with MJ de Larra (1809-1837), of his generation -, M. de Cabanyes (1808-1833), G. Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-1873), C. Coronado (1823-1911), N. Pastor Díaz (1811-1863) and many others, with a “second generation” dominated by two poets with strong personalities: the Sevillian GA Bécquer (1836-1870) and the Galician R. de Castro(1837-1885); playwrights and authors of historical romances, such as A. de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas (1791-1865) – whose Don Álvaro or La Fuerza del sino (1835; Don Álvaro or The strength of destiny) remains as an exemplary text of the romantic theater -, A. García Gutiérrez (1813-1884), JE Hártzenbusch (1806-1880), J. Zorrilla (1817 -1893), author above all of Don Juan Tenorio (1844), E. Gil y Carrasco (1815-1846), R. López Soler (1806-1836), and many more; and finally essayists and publicists such as J. Donoso Cortés (1809-1853), J. Balmes (1810-1848) and above all the aforementioned Larra, who better than any other penetrated deeply into the living problems of his time, analyzing it with relentless lucidity and with the melancholy and civil humor that, before him, only Cervantes had brought, in the representation of the eternal cases of the world. Finally, the third phase presents a novelist and playwright of European stature, author of over a hundred novels and dramas: the Canarian B. Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) and, alongside him, narrators such as J. Valera (1824-1905), JM de Pereda (1833-1906), PA de Alarcón (1833-1891), JO Picón (1852-1923), J. Ortega y Munilla (1856-1922), Clarín (1852-1901), A. Palacio Valdés (1853-1938) and V. Blasco Ibáñez (1867-1928), with whom the narrative realism penetrates widely into the century. XX. At the same time, modern playwrights such as E. Gaspar (1842-1902), M. Tamayo y Baus (1829-1898), the Catalan A. Guimerá (1847-1924) and J. de Echegaray (1832-1916), and especially thinkers, critics and masters such as the Krausists J. Sanz del Río (1814-1869), F. Giner de los Ríos (1839-1915) and MB Cossío (1858-1935), the Catholic M. Menéndez Pelayo (1856-1912), the liberals J. Costa (1844-1911), Clarín, A. Ganivet (1865-1898), S. Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934), the socialist F. Pi y Margall (1824-1901) and many others, compared, from various points of view, the Spanish problems with those of the modern world, in a courageous effort of updating and constructive criticism. Equally alive and vital appear, on the whole, the regional literatures, and in particular the Catalan one, characterized above all by an admirable poetic revival with J. Verdaguer (1845-1902), M. Costa i Llobera (1854-1922), Mestres ( 1854-1936), the aforementioned Guimerá, J. Alcover i Maspons (1854-1926), J. Maragall i Gorina (1860-1911).