The paradox of pilgrimage: Cultural representations of the Camino de Santiago in contemporary Spain
Arribas Tome, Laura
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“The Paradox of Pilgrimage: Cultural Representations of the Camino de Santiago in Contemporary Spain” discusses some representative examples within the cultural production about the pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain during the past four decades. I pay special attention to the emergence of Spanish fictional literature about the Camino in the new millennium and analyze it in correlation with other contemporary Spanish cultural representations. The attention to representation responds to the increased production of cultural material (architecture, objects, texts, images, videos) on the Spanish pilgrimage within Spain, but also internationally. My method is inductive and interdisciplinary. I developed an interpretive model based on selected cultural representations of the Camino, which I take as an analytical tool to discuss literature. The theory that informs this dissertation is fundamentally postmodern, and combines cultural studies of space, literary analysis, tourism and pilgrimage studies. I argue that today's pilgrimage derives claims to authenticity from allusions to its medieval origins while simultaneously accommodating a contemporary sensibility. Therefore, the fictional world of Spanish contemporary novels presents a set of defined textual responses to the tensions and paradoxes between tradition and the modern experience of the Camino that can also be observed in other cultural representations. This dissertation underscores the significance of literature and stories in general in the functioning of the Camino, from the foundational myths of origin that tell how the bones of the Apostle St. James were found, to more recent stories such as the ones analyzed in this dissertation. This emphasis points at the fact that pilgrims walk towards a story or stories rather than towards the certainty that the bones in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela are those of the Apostle.