Behind the read curtain: Theatrical heterotopics of selfhood and society in the Spanish novel and film of transition

Date of Completion

January 2000


Literature, Modern|Literature, Romance|Cinema




This study investigates the spatial practices of theater embedded in novelistic and cinematic narrative. Equally important, it examines issues of space in a particular society in transition: Spain from 1969 to 1982. Curiously, many works of the Spanish democratic transition contain a theater within a narrative. The characters of these works, in turn, act in and react to the narrated stage of the texts to which they belong. Such actions and reactions represent a metaphorical gesture of social change in Spanish society as it experienced a political and cultural vertigo during its transition away from Francoism. ^ This examination of Spanish narrative claims that theatrical occurrences in the novel and in film results in the spatial formation of a heterotopic zone, capable of reordering characters, societies and reshaping characters' identities. Spanish writers and directors of the democratic transition therefore utilized theatrical conventions to construct spaces in their texts that introduced makeshift social practices not possible under Franco's regime. The stage, therefore, becomes an elsewhere, simultaneously located in a world very much like the present while still able to touch the vague impossibilities of the future. The phenomenon of elsewhereness scrutinized in this study draws on the recent field of Human Geography, especially the thoughts of Michel Foucault, Kevin Hetherington and Henri Lefebvre to form the neologism “theatrical heterotopics,” or the use of theatrical space to reorganize social-cultural constructs. ^ In short, the thesis analyzes four novels and five films of the period in which theater clearly outlines the trajectories of three key social issues in Spain during the transition: violence, national reconciliation and sexual freedom. The novels selected are: Álvaro Cunqueiro's Un hombre que se parecía a Orestes (1969), Juan Marsé's Si te dicen que caí (1973), Carmen Martín Gaite's El cuarto de atrás (1978) and Esther Tusquets' El mismo mar de todos los veranos (1978). Likewise, the films chosen for the inquiry are: Carlos Saura's El jardín de las delicias (1970) and Los ojos vendados (1978), Vicente Aranda's Cambio de sexo (1977), Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón's Sonámbulos (1978) and Pedro Almodóvar's Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (1980). ^