Mapping the Social Body

Urbanisation, the Gaze, and the Novels of Galdós

By Collin McKinney

Mapping the Social Body

192 pp., 6 x 9, 1 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-9298-5
    Published: January 2010

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Distributed for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Romance Studies

Influenced by trends in medicine, town planning and social etiquette, Madrid's middle class viewed urban growth with apprehension in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Mapping the Social Body, Collin McKinney examines manifestations and critiques of that reaction in the work of Benito Pérez Galdós, Spain's greatest modern novelist. Drawing on a wide range of recent cultural theory as well as contemporary non-literary texts, this book provides modern readers with a metatextual map of Galdós's Madrid and Spanish society as they experienced urbanisation.

In a century obsessed with all things visual, the map became a useful model with which the recently formed middle class hoped to reform a social body ravaged by disease, crime, prostitution, and class conflict. This study finds that Galdós's attitude toward the middle class and its mapping enterprise changes over time. Whereas his early novels depict dividing practices as reliable and perhaps necessary, his later works show Spain's social maps to be subjective and discriminatory. In La desheredada, Tormento, and La de Bringas the social body is mapped according to class, genealogy, gender and physical difference. Physically and morally ambiguous, the characters in Fortunata y Jacinta, Nazarín, and Misericordia are unmappable and thus resistant to the bourgeois categorising gaze.

About the Author

Collin McKinney is assistant professor of Spanish at Bucknell University.
For more information about Collin McKinney, visit the Author Page.