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ArribaAbajo Galdós: His theory and Practice of the Novel239

Diane F. Urey

El mundo de Galdós poses several of the major questions that currently exercise literary theory: what is influence? what is intentionality? what is theory and what practice? Stephen Miller advances credible answers to some of these questions, although few readers will conclude that he has resolved them all. Miller's is an ambitious, interesting and often provocative attempt to relate Galdós' literary theory, as stated in his various critical writings, to his practice, as realized in works from his entire career. Such a comprehensive project, especially when executed in a study of only 192 pages, should rely on the use of well-grounded critical categories, concepts or distinctions in developing its arguments. Miller at times employs terms whose literary functions are highly problematical without defining them, relying rather on their stylistic force for effect. A sympathetic reader is inclined to overlook or dismiss these weaknesses in his argument, until faced with the book's conclusion, which, Miller writes in his prologue, is either «la [parte] más importante o, simplemente, una apostilla que, incluso se puede ignorar» (10). Most readers will be advised to ignore it because it constructs an imaginary polemic in defense of a critical perspective that forces us to recognize problems in the book's methodology that we might otherwise have chosen to ignore. I will deal with this aspect of the book later, but first I will point out what appear to be perfectly acceptable arguments.

Miller takes Galdós' critical writings as the points of departure for analyses of his works. He posits that these writings offer «el índice más fidedigno de las intenciones globales de su obra, y su anuncio de entroncarse con una tradición española literaria que orienta y da sentido a su creación» (9). He believes that this represents two major innovations in Galdós studies: a valuation of him as a literary theorist and an appreciation of his works as, the conscious culmination of five generations of Spanish writers. Despite the obviously intentionalist bias of this approach, signalled by terms like «fidedigno» and «intenciones globales», Miller offers many truly illuminating perspectives on Galdós' critical theory and practice. He sees Galdós' literary activity as grouped into four phases or «estéticas», each «programmed» by one or more of his critical essays (7). Miller writes that this method «nos da a mi parecer, una ventaja importante sobre la crítica anterior. Poseemos una especie de llave maestra literaria que hemos diseñado, basándonos en el dibujo que de ella nos legó don Benito» (35). The readings offered throughout this dense volume   —164→   are well worth study and suggest rich avenues for discussion and reconsideration. However it is clear that this «ventaja» over other types of criticism is what Miller construes as Galdós' true intentions; the «llave maestra literaria» is Miller's own sketch of Galdós' written legacy, not his unmediated presence.

The first phase of Galdós' literary production, «la socio-mimética», corresponds to the years 1871 to 1889. The essays which describe his theory during this period -whose most characteristic work is Fortunata y Jacinta- are «Observaciones sobre la novela contemporánea en España» (1870) and «Don Ramón de la Cruz y su época» (1870-71). Miller's rigorous scrutiny of these two essays is particularly thought-provoking. He finds that «En la teoría y práctica literarias de [Ventura Ruiz] Aguilera el joven Galdós reconoció un modelo para su propia obra de retratar las hermosuras (las virtudes) y las imperfecciones (los vicios) de la sociedad madrileña» (58-9). Moreover, for both Galdós and Aguilera «Las diferencias técnicas y formales entre los géneros literarios no eran absolutas» (54), hence Galdós' experimentation with genres throughout his career and Miller's choice of the category «estética socio-mimética» instead of realism (59). In a complicated and well-executed, if somewhat defensive, effort to establish a national tradition of this sociomimetic esthetic which crosses the borders of genre, Miller attacks what he deems a «muralla invisible entre nosotros y la tradición socio-mimética nacional» (60) represented by three types of theory. The first is epitomized by Gilman, who sees Galdós as more European than Spanish (60); the second is the Aristotelian division of poetry, theater and novel (60); the third is a too rigid concept of Spanish Romanticism (61). This invisible wall, though, is perhaps visible to fewer critics than Miller may think. He does, however, offer an interesting reading of the Romantics' appreciation of Cruz and Moratín, and Aguilera, Mesonero and Galdós' appreciation of them. He demonstrates that all these writers attempt to reflect contemporary society, in order to correct it (63). Thus he sees that «Cruz, Moratín, Mesonero, Hartzenbusch, el Seminario Pintoresco Español, el romanticismo histórico-nacional, Aguilera y, finalmente, Galdós... unidos bajo la bandera de la estética socio-mimética, se consideraban modernos seguidores y continuadores de una tradición netamente española de observación fiel y traslado exacto de la sociedad a la literatura», a tradition which begins in the fifteenth century (67).

Equally sweeping are Miller's conclusions about the theme and structure of this phase. His analyses of some of Galdós' early works, particularly La familia de León Roch and Un faccioso más y algunos frailes menos, which consider Galdós' developing views on history, religion, Krausism and various types of oppositions between individuals and social institutions make for the most part excellent reading. He believes that by 1879 Galdós' optimistic view of the future of the middle class had become one of an awareness of its mediocrity and farce (100). León Roch, Un faccioso más and subsequent novels thematize «la vida nacional como una comedia de apariencias» (105). La desheredada's theatrical structure reflects the «estructura teatral de la sociedad» (105-6). Thus Miller's thesis is that the theater «llega a formar un principio temático y estructural de su novelística entre 1881 y 1889» (106). Realidad represents the end of this phase of writing; its absent narrator signifies «su   —165→   distanciación máxima de la materia social» because «Su vivir hipócritamente teatral [de la clase media] quita valor a la obra de fiel observación y retrato de la sociedad» (118).

Miller sees a second phase of Galdós' work -from 1889 to 1897- as «la estética humana galdosiana». His «Discurso de ingreso en la Real Academia» (1897) is the theoretical program for novels like Ángel Guerra, Tristana and Nazarín which search for human authenticity. Miller offers several insights into the works he groups in this phase, particularly the Torquemada series, shows how Torquemada evolves from a type (in works between 1883 and 1887) to a man in his later novels (123): «En la serie de Torquemada, pues, Galdós parte del principio de que la sociedad nacional es un teatrum mundi para dedicarse a la exploración de la humanidad que con tanta facilidad se enmascara» (112). The difference between Torquemada and earlier characters like Isidora, Rosalía or Manso is that «no se engaña nunca a sí mismo sobre su situación y ser verdadero» (124).

A third phase -«el primer simbolismo galdosiano»- includes works like La de San Quintín (1894), Electra (1901) and Celia en los infiernos (1913). Parts of «El discurso de ingreso» and the prologues to Los condenados (1895) and Alma y vida (1902) facilitate our understanding of this phase, which offers «estructuras de personajes y acciones cuyo único sentido radica en reconocer el valor representativo o simbólico de sus conflictos» (128). This rather facile ideological symbolism finds an «intencionada alternativa» (8) in a fourth phase, «el segundo simbolismo galdosiano», a «simbolismo del ensueño», that Galdós explains in the prologue to Alma y vida (133). This drama, the last volumes of the Fifth Series of Episodios nacionales (1907-12), El caballero encantado (1909) and La razón de la sinrazón (1915) are characteristic of this elitist symbolism, where the first symbolism was popular (134). Miller's observations about these works and about various aspects of the Fourth Series of Episodios (1902-07) deserve attention. He sees the ambiguous interpretations, the cultivation of «lo inverosímil» and of fantasy as representing Galdós' «intento de crear las 'formas nuevas'... que son los 'anuncio[s] a los ideales futuros' de una sociedad mejor constituida» (142), as he wrote in 1897. These structural and thematic changes mark Galdós' changing views: «esta evolución en su pensamiento se refleja en los nuevos principios de organización, o estéticas, que dan forma y sentido al uso de dichas técnicas. El discurso de 1897 transparenta, pues, la inquietud de Galdós con respecto a su habilidad de encontrar la estética adecuada a la expresión artística más apropiada a los nuevos tiempos que viven la sociedad y él. No se ha revelado todavía 'hasta dónde llegará la presente descomposición' y la transformación de 'los antiguos organismos sociales'» (142). In El caballero encantado, then, Miller sees a type of «'repaso' socio-mimético... desde la perspectiva imaginativa del simbolismo del ensueño», which suggests that «la renovación de España será el producto de un proceso vital sólo concebible en la imaginación o ensueño» (143). These references to the 1897 speech as the theory for the fourth phase as well as the second and third point up the difficulties in Miller's definition of this four phases, which he calls «successive» (149), even though they do not classify Galdós' works in chronological order; the Academia speech is made to program three supposedly discreet phases.


In his conclusion, «¿Por qué leer a Galdós?», Miller constructs a straw man argument between critics like Ortega, Benet and Torrente Ballester and those who appreciate the «true Galdós». He signals the work of «un importante sector de la crítica galdosiana que pone énfasis en los valores estéticos» (146), represented most notably, he writes, by Germán Gullón. And he mentions in a footnote that «el tema del lenguaje, o del estilo» needs «definitive study» since the discussion «Durante largos años... con respecto al tema» has never considered «los factores históricos y genéricos que forman su contexto verdadero» (183n8, emphasis mine). But after a summary of Gullón's work on imaginary structures (146-7), he turns to Umbral for another repudiation of Galdós' value, and, as if resolving the problem, writes: «En otras palabras, y a pesar de los esfuerzos de críticos como Germán Gullón de plantear la cuestión de Galdós a un nivel estético 'moderno', Galdós es 'insuficiente' para Ortega, Benet, Torrente, Umbral, Cortázar, etc., etc. ¿Vale la pena leer a Galdós hoy?» (148). Here we deduce that the question is in the definition of one's terms: esthetic means one thing to Gullón, another to Ortega or Torrente, but only Miller's definition is sufficient. Undoubtedly these «estéticas» offer much of what Miller claims: «cuatro versiones de cómo identificar y seleccionar los factores significativos en un intento de organizar e interpretar este mundo que busca mejorarse» (150). These are indeed valid versions of Galdós' world, which Miller sees as the world «del vivir del hombre» (150), and thus valuable for us still. But are these the only valid versions of Galdós? Does Miller select the only significant factors?

In his remarks it is easy to see a defense of Miller's radically historicist and deliberately not «modern» (another category that remains undefined) method, rather than of Galdós' works, which as he says, do not need to be justified to those who already appreciate him: «El mundo de Galdós parte de la necesidad de intentar comprender a Galdós desde una perspectiva lo más fiel a la suya posible para evaluar lo que a nosotros nos brinda. En vista de nuestra reconstrucción de la actividad galdosiana, concluimos que todo intento de 'modernizar' a don Benito está destinado a convencer sólo a los que ya aceptan su obra... ¿por qué empeñarnos tanto en un proyecto que tiene tan poco futuro como el de procurar cambiar las ideas de Ortega, Benet, Torrente, Umbral, Cortázar, etc.?» (148). All this seems destined to change the minds of those readers who might question the possibility of this project of reconstruction. Why must Miller «empeñarse tanto» in dissuading us from asking such a question?

Illinois State University


ArribaAbajo Remaking Galdós240

H. L. Boudreau

Only for want of a better term can this be called a book, since it is a sort of paperback binder with 8 1/2 X 11-inch pages typed on one side only. It suffers from faulty editing in that typographical errors and misspellings (worstens, indiscrete, quandry, incontestible, plaintif, sacriligious, unconsumated, etc.) are numerous. These are then compounded by a whole series of misused phrases (licentious human misery; sarcasm and pathedy; Galdós' novelty; books which... literally choke their minds; crescendo of lurches toward reality; Galdós' placing of the psyche on the same epistomological [sic] pedistal [sic] with the rational and the observable; preciously little; her incipient lover) and other peculiar expressions. If the reader is able to rise above these matters, Franz' style seems otherwise adequate to his needs.

The four-page introduction appears to be empty verbiage laboriously ground out in a vain attempt at imposing coherence on the four articles which follow spatially but which doubtless preceded temporally. The initial references to semiotics or to an «eclectically 'structuralist' perspective», are not confirmed by anything in the body of the work. The long quotation from Umberto Eco leads to no related treatment of anything and it is the only indication of theoretical reading. The book's claim of unity is betrayed by its title, which relates well only to Chapter 1. The subtitle is accurate enough.

The first chapter has to do with the reality/imagination dichotomy in Misericordia and is a meaningful extension of the many existing studies that focus on Don Romualdo. Franz' discussion ranges intelligently and widely but not deeply in the 19th-century underpinnings of this opposition and then, perhaps unwisely, is extended into consideration of many 20th-century novelist, all the way to Martín-Santos.

Chapter 2, «Rousseau's Conversation with Tolstoi in Nazarín», the longest in the book, is quite fascinating and represents Franz' finest contribution to the Galdós bibliography. He establishes, with much evidence from biographies and texts, the detailed parallelism of the lives, psychological make-up, and ideology of Nazarín and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and of Tolstoi and the novel's Pedro de Belmonte -with many interrelationships among the four along the way. The essay enlarges understanding of the generative forces behind Nazarín in ways that markedly increase out sense of wonder at Galdós' art. How unfortunate that the newer theories of intertextual processes were not applied to this material. They would have produced the unity that the book otherwise lacks and the results might have been most illuminating. In this chapter   —168→   and in the remaining ones almost all effort is put into proving (usually at too great length) that the intertexts exist rather than into demonstrating how they function and signify.

Chapter 3, fancifully entitled «Doña Perfecta, Niebla, and the Semi-Fictive Origins of Literary Empiricism», attempts to demonstrate that Menéndez y Pelayo is the model for both Galdós' Don Cayetano Polentinos and Unamuno's Antolín S. Paparrigópulos, whatever the relationship of Unamuno's character portrait might be to that of Galdós.

The final chapter, «Galdós' 'Other' Look at Pepita Jiménez», establishes dialogue with Vernon Chamberlin's piece on Doña Perfecta as a «reply» to Valera's novel and sets out to make the case that La incógnita is also modelled on Pepita Jiménez, but in a different mode. The evidence marshalled is at times strained, making this the least effective essay of the four -which is not to say Franz does not make the general case he sets out to make.

The author of this book has researched his material very well, a fact attested to by the 32 pages of notes that accompany only 81 pages of text. The easy familiarity with the requisite bibliography, however, is somewhat compromised by the lack of quality distinction. Published studies tend to be treated as if they were all of equal value and validity and critical commonplaces go unexamined. There is also an abuse of quotation from the texts and intertexts, as well as of the tiresome device of «added emphasis», but despite these problems and those previously singled out, the studies collected here decidedly merit publication. It is only to be deplored that they should have appeared prematurely and in this form. Any scholar capable of producing the Nazarín study found in this volume deserves better representation. Galdosistas are sure to be hearing more from him.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst


ArribaAbajo Galdós and «La Mujer Virtuosa»241

Robert M. Jackson

As Cervantes was undeniably an authoritative reader of the Books of Chivalry, so Galdós appears thoroughly grounded in the popular reading material of his century. One of the several virtues of Alicia Andreu's book is to place before us the gamut of mass-circulation literature aimed at the female reader from approximately 1836 to the beginning of Galdós' «segunda manera». This «literatura de consumo» as she details it is a vast «trasfondo intrahistórico» in magazines, newspapers, «folletines» and books which served Galdós continually as counterpoint for his own novelistic creations. Its structure and purpose form the bulk of this study. Following the thorough analysis of popular literature, Andreu concludes with brief essays on its relationship to La desheredada and Tormento.

Readers of Nineteenth Century novels observe the tendency for female characters to be utilized as «vehicles of consciousness», through whom we are led to comprehend the novelist's views on society in flux. Andreu's study of literature written primarily for women enables us to know what the protagonists of those novels were reading, and how reading and acting were related. An unusually precise instance of this is her discovery of the novella «La Cruz del Olivar» (Anejo of Anales Galdosianos, 1980) which specifically informs Isidora Rufete's exclamation, «¡He leído mi propia historia tantas veces!»

The didacticism of this outpouring of homilies, advice, poems and fiction is neither subtle nor latent. It forms a construct which Andreu labels the «Mujer Virtuosa». The ideological message supporting the construct is clear: «Materialism» («Lujo») was corrupting the home by its corrosive influence on the Weaker Sex; abnegation and resignation were required to save Home and Society in general. The burden laid on women by courtless moralists was tremendous: «era responsable no sólo de los cambios en ella misma, sino también de los cambios que estaban tomando lugar en la sociedad en pleno» (pp. 26-27). If «Lujo» was the great modern evil, there was a simple remedy -honest poverty. «La pobreza no deshonra a nadie», as Ayguals de Izco explained to his female readers.

Inevitably, «Lujo» as abstract evil became specifically women's fashions in the plethora of writings addressed to moral regeneration. What is condemned is «excess», and here another interesting finding by Andreu: the vice is to exceed the limits of dress appropriate to one's social class. In other words, the target of so much ostensible concern regarding materialism is in fact the   —170→   unease of the reigning bourgeoisie at the sight of shifting or crumbly social barriers. Andreu demonstrates that this moral concern is directed downward; there was nothing wrong in relations between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. The corollary to this hypocrisy is found in the contradictory aspect of so many women's magazines of the day: antimaterialist sermon or short story shares the page with the advertisement for fashion!

After studying the construct of the «Mujer Virtuosa» in its variations, Andreu turns to Galdós' response to that literature. Although he vehemently stated his dislike -«¡Por Dios, que me es antipática y repulsiva la tal literatura!»- Andreu concludes that Galdós does not in fact entirely reject the stereotype of the «Mujer Virtuosa». Her carefully reasoned presentation should prove stimulating to readers who have given Galdós «enlightened» modern attitudes anachronistically. And Andreu has made only a scant if suggestive beginning; other novels by Galdós and his contemporaries beg for a rereading in light of her description of the «literatura de consumo».

For readers who haven't had the pleasure of time spent in an Hemeroteca or two, Andreu's presentation will prove fascinating. Her analysis of the ideological message of that literature and the impossible role model of the «Mujer Virtuosa» is very useful. Other scholars will undoubtedly want to explore the relationship of class and projected images further. Unfortunately, the eight illustrations reproduced from contemporary magazines seem aimlessly chosen and are not as successful in conveying a sense of the original. Overall, Andreu provides great stimulus for reconsidering Galdós' novels in the light of the «other» literature with which his society was saturated.

University of Oregon


Arriba Shoemaker and the Novelistic Art of Galdós

Martha G. Krow-Lucal

Galdosistas have reason to be grateful to Professor Shoemaker. His two collections of Galdós' articles in La Prensa and La Nación are invaluable cross-referencing tools that broaden our understanding of Galdós by illuminating a facet of his work well known to his contemporaries but largely lost to a twentieth-century reader of the Episodios or the Novelas contemporáneas. It is all the more surprising, therefore, that in Professor Shoemaker's The Novelistic Art of Galdós (Madrid: Albatros Ediciones/Hispanófila, 1980) he has chosen very narrow interpretations of art and the novel.

The three volumes of this work are divided into three parts: A (What Was Galdós Like?), B (General Characteristics and the Critics) and C (The Novels), with an index at the end of Part C. The novels discussed are the Novelas contemporáneas. The first restriction that meets the eye is the exclusion of the Episodios from this study. Certainly Professor Shoemaker is free to choose his material as he wishes, but his explanation for not discussing the Episodios is a curious one: he states that «Galdós himself some times [sic] called [them] novelas» (I, pp. 9-10) and that Montesinos says that they contain «many great-novel pages» (I, p. 10), but that he will not examine them because «they are not exclusively a product of the author's imagination but an amalgam of history and fiction, in which the latter is adapted to or indeed fitted into the recounting of historical events...» (I, p. 10). He adds later that the Episodios «may be considered novels in a very special, limited or exaggerated, sense» (I, p. 60)242. It is true that the Episodios follow one another in chronological sequence (as many of the novelas contemporáneas do not) and that they take place at a further temporal remove from the date of composition than is true of the novelas contemporáneas. But to declare that because the Episodios are «an amalgam of history and fiction» they are therefore not novels requires too great a leap of faith on the part of the habitual reader of Galdós. Surely the novelas contemporáneas could be described in the same way (e. g., the agents provocateurs in La Fontana de Oro; the Carlist uprising in the Orbajosa of Doña Perfecta; the proclamation of the Republic in La desheredada; the events preceding the revolution of 1868 in La de Bringas; the Restoration in Fortunata y Jacinta, etc.). Perhaps Professor Shoemaker's reluctance to consider the historical novel a «real» novel stems from his apparent dislike of Lukács; he dismisses as «Patently irrelevant» the «fashion of applying the communist criticism of György Lukács to Galdós' novelística» (1, p. 12, n. l). Or perhaps it is history itself that should not be considered a par of the novelist's art. Until the end of Volume 3, Professor Shoemaker steadfastly refuses to discuss the historical ramifications   —172→   of the novels, or he denies that obvious political and historical references have any importance to the characters' lives.243

This foreshortening of «novelistic art» is aggravated by numerous quotes from critics who might be important for a history of Galdós criticism (Bobadilla, González Olmedilla, Navarro Ledesma, Rodríguez Mourelo, etc.) but who have little to say that will illuminate Don Benito's works for present-day readers. A large number of the quotes are either biographical detail (sometimes proven apocryphal by later and more thorough investigators) or nineteenth-century bombast. Professor Shoemaker says that he does not necessarily agree with these critics' ideas, but that he cites them only to evaluate them later (I, p. 41); however, no such evaluation is ever made. It is doubly unfortunate that the more recent critics of Galdós are given very short shrift in comparison to the attention accorded to the older ones, and that the insights of non-Hispanist critics of the nineteenth-century European novel (J. Hillis Hiller on Dickens, of Michel Butor on Balzac, for example) have not been brought to bear on the novelistic art of Galdós. There is an airlessness about the exclusive presence of Hispanism and Spanish literature in this study that is foreign to Don Benito, himself a voracious reader of other European literatures.

More of Professor Shoemaker's own opinions would have been helpful, especially in the sections dedicated to the novels themselves. While plot summaries of the earlier novels are short and to the point, by the time he gets to Tormento he writes ten pages of plot summary to three and one-half of analysis. The footnote system, on the other hand, seems unduly complicated. Volume 1 is divided into Parts A and B, while Part C occupies all of Volumes 2 and 3. Many notes in Part B refer back to earlier notes in which in turn refer to notes in Part A, thus making necessary a tedious search through all references to a given article until its title is finally found.

Someone like Professor Shoemaker who has studied Galdós' literary criticism could discuss profitably the curious public pronouncement/private statement dichotomy that seems to run unchanged through his critical utterances. It is strange, for example, that twenty-two years after the publication of Professor Denah Lida's definitive article on Almudena and his language244, Professor Shoemaker continues to take at face value Galdós' assurance that the Moor was «arrancado del natural» with almost no touch-up work by his author. There are many other examples of facile pronouncements by Don Benito, meant for public consumption, being contradicted openly by textual evidence. All of the tools necessary for examining this dichotomy are present, and yet it is never mentioned. Professor Shoemaker quotes the fascinating private statement made by Galdós to Baroja (and reproduced in the latter's memoirs) about wanting to leave people «en su cándida inocencia» (I, p. 171) concerning novelistic process, and yet he never applies it to Don Benito's many public statements (often elicited by inquisitive reporters) on the art of novel-writing. From the information gathered by Professor Shoemaker it is possible to hypothesize that Galdós was being as honest as possible about the art of the novel on certain occasions: 1) in 1870, when he was as yet unknown as a novelist and had just published his Observaciones sobre la novela contemporánea en España; 2) when he was addressing those whom he   —173→   saw as his fellow artists and craftsmen, in his speech to the Royal Academy in 1897; and 3) when he conversed or corresponded privately with friends or colleagues (like Pereda or Baroja) who would not, presumably, publish what he had said. The many newspaper interviews, as well as the tantalizingly unsatisfying memoirs (the title itself is a caveat) are singularly useless to the scholar who would investigate the novelistic process as Don Benito practiced it.

Perhaps because Professor Shoemaker is so familiar with Galdós, he is able to suggest some extremely interesting, though often foreshortened, theories concerning a variety of topics that are of perennial interest to Galdós scholars: his creative process, recurring characters, etc. These ideas should occupy much more of the work, instead of the tedious listing and (literal) translation of every expression taken from Don Quijote. At least some differentiation should be made between deliberately used, thematically important Cervantine quotes, and the automatic use of expression that have become part of the Spanish language as so many Shakespearean quotes have become part of English.

This work is a formidable collection of information, and obviously a labor of love as well. It would have been even more valuable to galdosistas that it already is if Professor Shoemaker had been able to synthesize and organize for us the many and important insights scattered seemingly at random throughout the three volumes. As it stands now, each individual reader must search for his own gold in the immense mine of this work.

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