The Re-Generation of '98
Latin American Studies Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
If the so-called Generation of 1898 reacts to an industrializing, dehumanizing occidental world, it will reportedly turn inward into Spain to regenerate a nation suffering from “abulia” after the loss of the country’s last colonies and in the wake of domestic turmoil. Many of the Generation of ‘98’s traditionally accepted members employ innovative literary forms to position themselves as artists and intellectuals who shall guide Spain on its spiritual journey. While each author approaches regeneration differently, they converge in their belief of salvation by way of an individualistic, spiritual journey meant to question the current political and social state. It is a progressive journey. Among this generation’s traditionally accepted members, Miguel de Unamuno and Pío Baroja offer male protagonists on such an individual, spiritual journey; Ramón del Valle-Inclán depicts the impossible success of such a journey in his experimental esperpentos. In each instance, the authors’ work exposes a traditional stance vis-à-vis females and marriage. Additionally, they either explicitly denounce sexual otherness as counterproductive--as is the case with Baroja’s Camino de perfección--or they denounce it implicitly by perpetuating heterosexual normativity as also with Baroja’s novel, Unamuno’s Niebla and Valle-Inclán’s Luces de bohemia Carmen de Burgos offers a somewhat different perspective in her short novel, El veneno del arte. The group of authors, sharing a fin de siècle concern for Spain, experiments with form, often with nationalistic, propagandizing ends. The Generation of ’98 systematically reinforces heterosexual normativity and marriage for nationalistic purposes, thereby banishing, punishing, or disallowing promiscuity, homosexuality and incest, among others. By addressing instances of such otherness, though, the works in question already point to their own instability and reliance on difference for their own constitution. Therefore, though history is portrayed as progress, it is better understood as a process of difference.
Generation of 1898, Miguel de Unamuno, Ramón de Valle-Inclán, Carmen de Burgos, Pío Baroja, Queer Theory, Hetero-normativity