Humor in selected works of Unamuno



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Texas Tech University


Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) remains one of the most studied, and, perhaps, nevertheless, one of the most enigmatic literary figures of Spain. He is also probably the best-known of the group of writers referred to as the Generation of 1898. Although a vast amount of criticism exists on the extensive literary production of this Basque writer (whose repertoire encompasses poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and drama), the majority of critics have focused on his contemplative side and characterized much of his work as tragic. A few, however, have discerned in his work an underlying pervasive playfulness inextricably linked to Unamuno’s process of literary creation. Thus, this dissertation proposes to develop and expand the scope of the research by this relatively small group of critics.

To achieve this goal, the present study examines three of Unamuno’s narratives from approximately the same time period (1927-1930) with an eye toward how the writer incorporates comical and non-tragic elements into his fiction. By analyzing these novels according to three categories of humor (the non-tragic, the obsessive, and the ridiculous), this dissertation demonstrates the veracity of its initial hypothesis that Unamuno maintains a ludic relationship with the reader, which he accomplishes by incorporating multiple levels of burla and engaño in his work. In addition, certain components of Henri Bergson’s theory on laughter prove relevant to the present study. Specifically, the description given by the French philosopher as to what constitutes humor and how a writer achieves it serves as a reference point for the analysis of several manifestations of humor discussed in the present investigation.

Finally, this dissertation is presented with the hope that it may contribute to the ongoing study of the under-appreciated humorous facet of Unamuno.



Paratexts, Obsessions, Word-play, Como se hace una