The Last Serious Thing: Modernist Responses to the Bullfight.
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This thesis investigates the ways in which literary and artistic modernism interpreted the Spanish institution of the corrida, or the bullfight. The sheer volume of modernist intellectuals who engaged with the corrida is startling. From Joyce to Picasso, Stein to Hemingway, Leiris to Lawrence, the bullfight provided inspiration to so many of the writers and artists of canonical modernism. Indeed, the relevance of the corrida to modernist intellectuals is perhaps captured best by Michel Leiris’s lucid metaphor of the bullfight as a mirror revealing ‘certain dark parts of ourselves’. In other words, in addition to providing the content of literature of the early twentieth century, many of the writers we identify as modernist used the corrida in a metaphorical capacity too. In light of this, it seems significant that the peak of modern interest in the corrida occurred in the context of a cultural crisis in western civilization in the first half of the twentieth century. Thus the key questions that this thesis seeks to address are as follows: why did the modernist gaze rest so intently upon the corrida? Why did so many European intellectuals cling to bullfighting and insist upon its enduring relevance given the apparent paradox between its own lack of adaptation to modern conditions and the very ‘newness’ that modernism championed? To what extent did the corrida act as a mirror to many of the cultural tensions problems addressed by modernism? How did modernism’s engagement with bullfighting, and the easy manner in which Hemingway’s body of work came to stand alone for that rich engagement, affect subsequent works that focussed on the bullring? These phenomena are examined in the context of the anomic cultural landscape of the era, taking into consideration the artistic, sexual and archaeological revolutions that informed and affected writers of the time.
- Theses