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Open Access Publications from the University of California

El estadio y la palabra: deporte y literatura en la Edad de Plata

  • Author(s): Cuesta, Luis Francisco
  • Advisor(s): Zubiaurre, Maria T
  • Johnson, Roberta L
  • et al.

"El estadio y la palabra: Deporte y literatura en la Edad de Plata" (The Stadium and the Word: Sports and Literature in Spain's Silver Age) analyzes how in early twentieth-century Spain the concurrent modernization of the nation and the professionalization of sports are mirrored in the country's literature (particularly, in essays, fiction and poetry). I conclude that authors understood sports as a social institution that went beyond leisure activity. In their perception, sports fit into larger concepts of social relationships, engaging with history, nationhood and citizens of different classes and genders. My introduction outlines the early history of sports in Spain and summarizes the major subthemes of the thesis--Spain and modernity, the rise of new social classes, nationalistic reactions to foreign influences, the establishment of sports journalism, and the changing position of women in a modernizing society. The first chapter discusses the reaction to the new sports phenomenon on the part of intellectuals such as Miguel de Unamuno, Gregorio Marañón, José Ortega y Gasset, Antonio Machado, Ernesto Giménez Caballero, among others. For example, by the 1920s, soccer grew exponentially and began to rival bullfighting as Spain's most influential form of mass entertainment; thus one of the issues these thinkers debated was the new role of mass spectatorship. As spectator sports moved to the forefront of Spanish consciousness in the early twentieth century, major and minor literary figures turned to sport as a way of comprehending some of the radical changes occurring in Spanish life. These reactions formed part of the dialogue about Spain's prospects as a nation in the modern world that had begun in the latter half of the nineteenth century, spawning works of narrative fiction by Wenceslao Fernández Flórez, Juan Antonio de Zunzunegui, and Antonio de Hoyos y Vinent analyzed in chapter two.

Sports journalism, which garnered an increasing role in the periodical press, forms the heart of the third chapter that considers the interaction between the sports chronicle and key novels and stories by José Luis Bugallal, Francisco Ayala, José Díaz Fernández, and Rafael Lopez de Haro. The styles of these fictional works, which ranges from more traditional realism to avant-garde metaphoric prose, reflects the tension between modernity and tradition that Spain as a nation was experiencing. Chapter four recognizes the new public profile that modern Spanish women were assuming and addresses the figure of the sportswoman and the female sports spectator as characters in novels and objects of poetic contemplation, often rendered in vanguard in style, by both men and women. The essay Plenitud by former tennis star Lilí Álvarez introduces the chapter and some of its central themes--sports as means of achieving female emancipation and sports as a leisure activity for people of all ages and genders. The dissertation's epilogue summarizes the historical background and some of the literary and filmic manifestations of sports during the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975) and the democratic era (1975-present). The debates over the nature and importance of sports to the Spanish nation reflect the social, political and cultural evolution of the country from 1898 to 1936 and beyond.

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