Facing monstrosity in Goya's Los Caprichos (1799)
The aim of this thesis is to offer a re-evaluation of our cultural assumptions concerning the monstrous in the work of Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (1746- 1828), specifically his collection of etchings Los Caprichos (1799). In my study there are three closely related areas of investigation: the image of the monstrous body in Goya's work; the cultural aspects of monsters and monstrous forms in Western discourses and in the Spanish Enlightenment; and the theoretical encounter between the history of the sciences and deconstructive criticism. The interaction between these three areas provides a background against which to understand the Goyaesque body within the context of Spanish cultural practices. Through an examination of eighteenth-century Spanish reformist absolutism, this thesis explores the contradictions, limits, or insufficiencies of the Spanish Ilustraciön in order to establish the ideological, cultural and artistic context out of which Los Caprichos emerged. One of the central issues that runs through my study is to establish how far, and in what ways, Los Caprichos can be seen as an Enlightenment work. Traditional readings of Los Caprichos have paid very little critical attention to the monstrous human bodies depicted in the collection in the context of eighteenth century discourses on monstrosity and corporeality. Los Caprichos invite a more complex, multifaceted consideration both of the body and the monster, of corporeality and monstrosity. By focusing on the Goyaesque body, the aim of this thesis is to open up a series of questions on the ways in which the monstrous body can be thought of in the critique of culture. This study therefore seeks to provide a cultural history of the monstrous body in the art of Goya, showing how his pictorial representations in the collection of etchings Los Caprichos offer a critique of reason and problematize the perception and treatment of (European and Spanish) Enlightenment configurations of the body. It is my contention that Los Caprichos can be read in Enlightenment ways yet there are elements of an ideological, cultural and artistic nature that problematize such credentials, pointing to the limits and contradictions of the Spanish Enlightenment itself.