La alegoría del incesto en La madre naturaleza de Emilia Pardo Bazán y Os Maias de José Eça de Queirós



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This dissertation examines the allegorical use of incest in two canonical nineteenth century Iberian novels, La madre naturaleza by Emilia Pardo Bazán and Os Maias by José Eça de Queirós. My approach to the study of the resort to incest as a dramatic ending of the families in each novel has been through the fertile theorization of the figure of allegory. The allegorical use of incest in the novels by these authors has a similar historical and cultural background: the uneasy arrival of modernity to nineteenth-century Spain and Portugal. For these writers, the family was the building block and metonymy for the construction of a modern concept of nation and it occupied a fundamental role in the project of social regeneration. Incest, as it occurs in the families portrayed in the novels, results in the end of their lineage. They end in sterility on the literal level, but also in a figurative (allegorical) sense, the sterility of the nation, social class or established gender relationships. I contend that Pardo Bazán and Eça de Queirós portray fraternal incest in order to represent their anxieties about their respective nations’ decadence. It is not simply a naturalist motif to shock the readers, as much critical tradition has maintained, through the degeneration of two aristocratic families, the Maias (Portugal), and the Moscosos (Galicia/Spain). Both authors discuss national decadence and graphically represent social realities as a means to criticize their societies. By exploring the multiple anxieties that crystallize in a narrative of incest, I disentangle the contradictory discourses of gender, class, and nation that are present in both novels. Combining close-reading techniques, theories of allegory (informed by Walter Benjamin, Paul De Man, Roland Barthes, Northrop Frye, Doris Sommer, and Umberto Eco, among others), and social and political history. I present a cross-cultural interpretation of incest in realist and naturalist Spanish and Portuguese literature, and I engage in a wider cultural dialogue on nation-building and identity. By studying two texts whose similarities have been largely ignored, I aim to throw new light on nineteenth-century Peninsular studies. I place in a productive dialogue, through the tool of allegorical analyses, two key novels from Spain and Portugal which have been kept separated for geopolitical motives.



Alegoría, Incesto, España, Portugal, Siglo XIX, Género, Nación, Clase