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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Staging History in Modern and Contemporary Spanish Drama

  • Author(s): Sprinceana, Andreea Iulia
  • Advisor(s): Dougherty, Dru
  • et al.

This dissertation explores the manifestations, uses and appropriations of history in key Spanish plays from the 1950s to the present. The relationship between the stage and history casts new light on Spain's most critical phases in recent history. The authors studied were and are conscious of making history under the dictatorship, during the Transition and at the dawn of the 21st century. As instruments of civic action, their plays perform that awareness and invite spectators to recognize themselves as players in the process.

The dissertation opens with a comparative analysis of plays written by Antonio Buero Vallejo and Alfonso Sastre between the 1950s and the Transition (1977). While scholars have tended to contrast these two playwrights focusing on their responses to censorship, I propose that Buero and Sastre gravitated towards a poetics of forgiveness through the model of the failed tragic hero. The following chapter explores plays written by José Sanchis Sinisterra during the Transition and the outset of the new democracy (1977-1994), that problematize the tension between the new political order and the old, imperial rhetoric of the Franco regime. Turning to Juan Mayorga in Chapter 3, I consider how his dramas transmit a bitter image of humanity's decadence and loss of moral sensitivity. Largely influenced by a European perspective, Mayorga deploys cartoonish characters in real historical circumstances in order to cast a detached comic eye on the role of the bourgeoisie in the mapping of history during the past two centuries. My final chapter analyzes the topic of religion within the new Spanish democracy in three comic plays by Fermín Cabal, Concha Romero and Carmen Resino. This chapter proposes that the powerful role of religion has not waned since Franco's death and continues to shape Spanish culture, despite the nation's reconfiguration of its Catholic views. These authors dramatize the tensions between modern secularization and traditional Catholic faith, turning to comedy and satire to explore the complex presence of religion in the lives of Spaniards.

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