Negotiating Golden Age tradition since the Spanish Second Republic: performing national, political and social identities

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García-Martín, Elena

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Traditionally, the study of Golden Age drama has been restricted to regarding the plays either thematically or historically, disregarding their impact upon the present. However, once on stage, these documents from the past become active constituents of a national heritage upon which the present of a contemporary society is projected. I propose Golden Age drama as an ideal vantage point from which we may discern the tensions, struggles and desires of modern Spain. Considering the Spanish Civil War as the most decisive point in the history of contemporary Spain, I focus, first, on the frequency with which selected historical plays of Lope de Vega, Cervantes and Calderón were reenacted as ideological banners by both factions in the conflict. The pervasive presence of Golden Age drama in the education, theaters and press of Republican and early Francoist Spain prompts the questioning of the role of cultural tradition as a political tool around the time of the Civil War. This approach will allow for the treatment of dramatic heritage in all its fluidity and complexity by dealing with history, not as a fixed residue, but as an artifact that may be controlled through means of cultural production, as a process that needs to be continually renewed, and as a performance where claims about tradition, culture and national identity are invariably contested. I have selected plays that focus on, and are performed by actual Spanish communities—Fuenteovejuna, Numancia, and El Alcalde de Zalamea—so as to reveal some of the dynamics between time/place, nation/community and elite/masses at work in particular interpretive moments of the Spanish tradition. This dissertation examines these plays as they have been variously represented by, the Republicans as revolutionary icons, by the Francoists as emblems of conservative nationalism, and by contemporary rural communities as episodes of local, actualized history. The contrast between these various versions of heritage yields valuable insights into the role of cultural tradition as a political, sociological and ideological tool.