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Picturing "La Regenta": A spiral into decadence

Carol Anne Tinkham, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In “The Critic as Artist” Oscar Wilde postulates that art does not simply imitate life. He notes that often life imitates art, thereby indicating the superiority of artifice to nature. Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), a prominent critic, presents a critique of this decadent tenet in his belatedly hailed masterpiece La Regenta (1884–5), especially through its construction of Ana Ozores' character. In this novel, artifice successively points to more artifice—the inevitable spiraling descent into a realization of the void. Yet despite the prevalence of decadent motifs and themes, Clarín does not present a decadent vision; rather, his incorporation of Decadence—its consciousness of the mask and its fascination with the “monster”—contributes to further clarity in “picturing” reality. While critics have written extensively on the interpenetration of art and life through the subtext of literature and theater in La Regenta , the main focus of this dissertation will be on the visual image, as implied in three fundamental metaphors: Art is Life (la pintura ); Life is a Game (la poética del juego); and Art is a Game (la película). ^ In the first section, a comparison of Clarín's novel to Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray explores how painting conflates with the minor to construct and deconstruct identity of the principal character—Clarín's Ana Ozores and Wilde's Dorian Gray. Their identification with art proves to be a sterile and reductive model. Another restrictive model, as explored in the second section, is living life as if it were a game—a decadent version of chess. Though critics have not commented on the presence of chess as an organizing metaphor, the game's evocation of nostalgia is especially relevant to Vetusta, based on Oviedo, where the feudal vestiges remain strong and hostilities percolate beneath the surface. Moreover, it suggests interesting insights into the “endgame” of the novel. And in the final section, a comparison to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) provides a structure to analyze the emotional component of La Regenta—its dynamics of nostalgia and loss—and also Clarín's ability to induce the reader's complicity in that loss. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Romance|Literature, English|Cinema

Recommended Citation

Tinkham, Carol Anne, "Picturing "La Regenta": A spiral into decadence" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3092603.