Capital Values in Play: Representations of Economic Figures in Nineteenth-Century Spanish Theater

Buivan Kotanchik, Davina, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Gies, David, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

Decades before nineteenth-century Spanish novelists such as Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) published works reflecting tensions between classes and challenges to old values due to processes of modernization and urbanization, economic development and crises already preoccupied Spanish playwrights, whose works signaled anxiety regarding the condition of the economy and of the nation. By analyzing theatrical representations of economic figures such as the banker or stockbroker, the nouveau riche, the moneylender or creditor, and the have-nots during the period 1805-1894, I argue that the playwrights in question not only observed economic problems, but also proposed solutions to them. In this study, I employ economic history, sociology and political economy as a background to interpret depictions of economic activity in 26 nineteenth-century Spanish plays. I attempt to demonstrate that, amid the establishment of new institutions such as stock exchanges and casinos, and phenomena such as consumer debt, agricultural stagnation and worker uprisings, the playwrights presented specific models of conduct, with the aim of shaping gender and social roles, and fostering regional or national renewal. Furthermore, I aim to illustrate that these models of conduct, particularly during tumultuous periods in Spain’s domestic and international affairs, reflected competing ideologies or scenarios for the future course of the region or nation.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
nineteenth-century Spanish drama, economy
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