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The Aesthetic of the Grotesque in Post-Franco Spain


This dissertation examines the aesthetic of the grotesque in contemporary Spanish cultural production (1975-present). I maintain that in the aftermath of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-1975), film directors and writers resort to the grotesque to unveil the contradictions of the political narratives of the Transition to Democracy in order to destabilize them. For these authors, the grotesque is the key instrument used to challenge the perception of Spain as a paradigm of democratic transformation: they contest the celebratory democratizing discourse of the Transition, undermine the reconstruction of national and political identity in Catalonia, and question and denounce the negative social and political effects of the Pact of Forgetting in twenty-first century Spain.

In the first chapter, I study how Luis García Berlanga's film Patrimonio nacional (1981) and Pedro Almodvóar's film ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto? (1984) criticize the presumed modernization and democratization of the period. Against the grain, their authors present the survival and continuity of traditional Spain and Francoism as grotesque. In the second chapter, I explicate how Juan Marsé's novel El amante bilingüe (1990), Bigas Luna's film La teta y la luna (1994), and Albert Boadella's theater play Ubú president o Los últimos días de Pompeya (2001) subverted the vision of Catalan national identity propagated after Franco's death by Catalan President Jordi Pujol via grotesque satires of cultural normalization initiatives, Europeanist ambitions, and the political persona of Pujol himself. In the third chapter, I examine how Laila Ripoll's theater play Santa Perpetua (2010), Álex de la Iglesia's film Balada triste de trompeta (2010), and Hernán Migoya's novel Una, grande y zombi (2011) address the deliberate suppression of historical memory that defined the Transition. In these three works, the grotesque is the fundamental element employed to challenge the silencing of the traumatic legacies of the Civil War and the Franco regime.

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