Avant la Lettre: Contradictory Affinities in Antonio Flores, Juan Bautista Amorós (Silverio Lanza), and Ángel Ganivet

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Juan Bautista Amorós (Silverio Lanza) and Ángel Ganivet have both been labelled as precursors to the Generation of 1898 and to Spanish authors active in the early decades of the twentieth century. This article, by contrast, reads Amorós’s and Ganivet’s work beside that of Antonio Flores, a costumbrista author who died in 1865. The affinities of these mid- and late nineteenth-century writers suggest that there are alternatives to teleological literary histories that are constructed around a narrative of turn-of-the-century rupture; if Amorós and Ganivet are said to have much in common with early twentieth-century authors, and can be shown to share as much with Flores, then the narrative of radical rupture becomes less appealing. More importantly perhaps, probing the nature of these affinities opens up new vistas on the nineteenth-century literary landscape.

Ayer, hoy y mañana (1863–4) by Flores, Historia de un pueblo (1889–93) by Amorós, and La conquista del reino de Maya (1897) by Ganivet are radically different in subject matter, style and form, yet the three texts nevertheless share a set of key characteristics. First, they are all self-conscious or metafictional texts. Second, they deploy a range of apparently incompatible generic conventions. Third, they articulate problems associated with temporality, and more specifically with futurity. The insistent use of metafictional devices shatters the epistemological assumptions of progress and of traditionalist nostalgia alike. Linear understandings of time are similarly interrogated with consequences for concepts such as the spirit of the age, progress, civilization or empire. The futures these texts envision are best avoided, while their pasts are better left behind, leaving their destinations uncertain.

Reading Flores, Amorós and Ganivet with an eye to the self-conscious text, generic miscellany and future time, reveals a body of nineteenth-century Spanish literature that feasts on contradiction and paradox, and that understands knowledge to be contingent, temporality to be directionless, and both to be radically unstable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13
Number of pages29
JournalModern Languages Open
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018


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