Restorative symbols of modern Spain: The child onstage and onscreen in Valle-Inclan, Lorca, Buero Vallejo and del Toro
Kersch, Paola M.
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This study explores the child figure in connection with socio-political turmoil in the theater of Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Federico García Lorca, Antonio Buero Vallejo and the films of Guillermo del Toro. Ultimately, this project reveals the symbolic value of the child as a source of psychological and historical repair for a nation's struggle with death, Civil War, national trauma, and individual oppression. In each work, I consider the child's unique corporal design, which, in turn, combines elements of the nonliving with the viable, absence with presence or the supernatural with the mortal. The intricacies of these child figures distinguish them from more archetypal characters such as the angelic child celebrated by the Romantic poets or the orphan child regarded by the Realist authors as a victim of societal corruption. In my introduction, I trace the varying child characterizations in the literature and film of Spain establishing a cultural history within Spanish art and literature. In the first chapter, I secure a theoretical basis with a study of how Lorca inscribes a more positive presence at the site of death, decay, and the passage of time through his enigmatic depiction of El Niño in Así que pasen cinco años (1931). In Chapter Two, I argue that the unborn child in Lorca's Yerma (1934), a play written during a time of national crisis, separating ideologies, and an approaching Civil War, stands for the uncertainty of subject desire and formation. Chapter Three links the scene(s) surrounding an actual child death in Luces de Bohemia (1920) by Valle-Inclán and El tragaluz (1967) by Buero Vallejo: While each playwright undoubtedly draws on his own aesthetic and socio-political tradition, both utilize the image of the child to stir critical awareness of societal disinterest and political oppression. The final chapter of my study, Chapter Four, introduces the child protagonists of del Toro's historical fantasy films El espinazo del diablo (2001) and El laberinto del fauno (2006). Instilled with agency, these child figures reveal the atrocities of a violent and hidden past and emerge as models for a future Spain. This research demonstrates a new angle of literary study, which centralizes the symbolic and critical weight the child figure carries in art, especially relating to moments of national crisis and war.