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Title: The distinction of holiness : negotiating sainthood in Spanish novels, 1870-1915
Author: Bacon, K. D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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In this thesis I argue that the texts examined allow us to understand sainthood not in theological terms, but as a socially constructed configuration of identity. Reading through Bourdieu and Valis, I explore how the texts represent the characters’ identification with saints as a strategy for distinction, showing how such identification may be used for self-definition, for self-justification, and for the acquisition of prestige. The texts reveal an ambivalent and complex attitude towards sainthood in Spain in this period, with no fixed and agreed definitions. In this context, sainthood becomes a locus for complex negotiations between tradition and modernity. Discourses on sainthood are also used both to express and to question received ideas about femininity and masculinity. I begin by examining the traditional structure and features of sainthood, proposing an innovative framework for understanding the attribution of sainthood in a person’s lifetime, which draws on Bourdieu’s notions of symbolic capital and the search for distinction, to develop the notion of “saintly capital.’ I then describe and analyse discourses of saintlessness from non-fictional religious texts of the period 1870-1915, bringing into play Valis’s work on the centrality of cursileria in modern Spain. I argue that these texts are unselfconsciously cursi, while the novels I look at in the rest of the thesis scrutinise and ironies such discourses of saintly distinction. Turning to the literary texts, I begin by showing how La familia de León Roch dramatises the struggle between different definitions and interpretations of sainthood, in a narrative which apparently privileges more “modern” definitions and yet ultimately ironises all such bids for distinction. La Regenta allows me to explore the way in which one saint (Teresa of Ávila) may become the focus of this struggle for the power to impose a particular interpretation of saintlessness. In the chapter on Nazarin I scrutinise the power of dynamics at work within the discourse of sainthood itself, while also bringing out the text’s emphasis on the constructed nature of this discourse, which is portrayed as a fantasy of distinguished identity. In the final chapter I trace how this fantasy of distinction is played out in Dulce deuño, as the re-telling of the saint’s story becomes an instrument of power and of self-definition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available