Playing at Life: Childhood and Play in 20th-Century Spanish Literature and Film

Seiple, Makenzie, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Pope, Randolph, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores the representation of children’s play in eight literary and cinematic pieces from postwar Spain, ranging from 1955 to 1978. In analyzing these works, I draw on concepts from play theory, an interdisciplinary area of study encompassing research from a variety of fields, ranging from anthropology and sociology to psychology, biology, and even philosophy. As so many of these works have autobiographical components, I chose the novels and films found here focusing on writers who lived through the Spanish Civil War and/or the subsequent decade as children to gain an understanding of the effects of this experience on the child characters in their works. In this study, I explore the interactions between culture, identity, and play, as well as the use of play as a means of dealing with trauma or as a catalyst for memory.

In chapter I, I analyze Juan Goytisolo’s novel Duelo en El Paraíso and Luis de Castresana’s novel El otro árbol de Guernica, considering the formation of play communities in each work and the effect of these groups on individual and group identity in a crisis situation. In chapter II, I look at the play space as a function of memory and as a space for opposition to Francoist ideology in Carlos Saura’s film La prima Angélica and Carmen Martín Gaite’s novel El cuarto de atrás. Chapter III deals with the concept of child phantasmagoria, the negative distortion of reality, and its relation to childhood trauma in Ana María Moix’s novel Julia, Víctor Erice’s film El espíritu de la colmena, and Miguel Delibes’ novel El príncipe destronado. In chapter IV, I examine role play in Esther Tusquets’ novel El mismo mar de todos los veranos in light of reversal theory as applied to adult play in order to determine its effects on the narrator’s relationship to social norms.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Spanish, Spain, literature, postwar, children, play, play theory
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