Adler, Robert Leon

The Converso Problematic in Larra and Galdós (Spain)

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY (0252) Degree: PHD Date: 1984; pp: 306
Source: DAI-A 46/02, p. 437, Aug 1985
Subject: LITERATURE, ROMANCE (0313)
Order No: AAC 8509032 ProQuest - Dissertation Abstracts

Abstract:
The main objective of this paper is to study representative works of Mariano José de Larra and Benito Perez Galdós and how they manifest the religious, political, economic, social and literary environment surrounding the continued isolation of the Spanish Converso community in the 19th century.

The Moors were politically displaced during the 800-year process of Christian Reconquest, but the symbiotic, caste relationship that developed between the Moors, the Christians and the Jews had disarticulated life in the Christian zones into a caste-specific soci- economic system. The Jews/Conversos assumed the material component of that system since Judaism, unlike Catholicism, gives man a mandate to function on earth. The edict of expulsion/conversion of 1492 did not provide for the assimilation of the Jews' earthly value- system when it provided for the absorption of Jewish individuals. A contradictory situation ensued wherein the Conversos were Christian, yet retained the Judaic character of their occupations and socio- economic values.

The resulting intermeshing of complex, contradictory social, economic, political and literary factors that make up the Converso problematic, not only affected the whole of Spanish culture, and survived into the 20th century, but became the focal point of that culture.

The Romanticism of Larra and the Realistic/Naturalistic novel of Galdós demonstrate the pivotal position of the Converso problematic during Spain's period of transition from traditional to modern society. Both authors document the social, economic and political bankruptcy of the aristocracy and the rise of the capitalist middle class whose power was based on education and economic activity, two factors that provoked a destructive, reactionary conservatism in Spain because they were invariably considered "cosas de Judíos."

We see, in Larra's play, No más mostrador, and in Galdós' Fortunata y Jacinta and Torquemada series, that Conversos constituted a closed society and possessed a strong, internal cohesiveness that might even be called "racism." Yet both authors came to the same conclusion: they considered the Converso the key to modernization in the Spanish context because he integrated the Jewish mandate to function on earth with Christian religious aspirations within the authentic, historical determinants of Spanish society.

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