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Henriette Partzsch

Looking from Spain: Emilia Pardo Bazán and the Dissemination of Russian Literature (19th century)


In 1887 the Spanish writer Emilia Pardo Bazán gave a series of three lectures on Russia and its literature at the Athenaeum in Madrid. The lectures, titled La revolución y la novela en Rusia (Revolution and the Novel in Russia), were immediately available in print. This masterly orchestrated and highly unusual event raised a lively interest in the press as well as among contemporary Spanish authors; during the 20th century several scholars and critics have described Pardo Bazán's lectures and essay as a decisive step in acquainting the Spanish public with the great Russian authors (all of them male) of the 19th century.

Although this publication is hardly unknown in a Spanish context, I will use it to reflect on mechanisms of cultural exchange in 19th-century Europe, particularly the complex relations between centres and more peripheral cultures as inflected by class and gender. Pardo Bazán very much embodied a cosmopolitan openness toward new intellectual developments mediated through the cultural hubs of the continent, especially Paris. This position was read by some of her Spanish contemporaries as a superficial fascination with foreign fashions, a judgement that could easily mobilise gender stereotypes.

Furthermore, Pardo Bazán's privileged background in the Spanish aristocracy not only shaped her own perspective on the world but also the reception of her intellectual efforts. By putting Pardo Bazán's attempt at disseminating Russian literature in a broader context my aim is to contribute to the development of more general parameters, thus feeding into the discussions about the visualisation of complex cultural relations.

AsK, September 2012

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