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Origins of metacultural discourse in Spain: From the Enlightenment through Unamuno and Juan Ramon Jimenez

Steven L Torres, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


At the beginning of the twentieth century, an elitist metacultural variant is consolidated in Spain and it is known today by its German designation: Kulturkritik. In both its nationalist and humanist variants, Kulturkritik finds its Spanish historical roots long before the twentieth century. During the Enlightenment there was already a shared consensus among the ruling classes that the control and renewal of Spanish culture held the key to the economic and moral improvement of the country. This was the stance taken by Jovellanos, for whom culture became an antidote against the European impulse towards democratic revolution. The idea of culture as a social link, a possible secular substitute for religion and an antidote against democratic revolution will remain a constant trait of metacultural discourse from this point on. The nationalist variant of Kulturkritik finds its origins in Herder, whose ideas will be adapted by the Schlegel brothers and the German romantics, entering Spain for the first time through Nicolás Böhl de Faber. Agustín Durán will continue to defend national culture, and Larra too will call for a renewal of national literature, assuming the role of the doxosopher to promote class reconciliation and the creation of an imagined community. The Barcelona School will continue Herder's tradition but from a conservative stance, thus promoting a nostalgic, past-oriented form of nationalism with pastoral sensibilities. The Krausists too will participate in this nationalist tradition. On the other hand, the humanist variant of Kulturkritik finds its English origins in Matthew Arnold: culture as the basis for a possible social order through the regeneration of the self. Likewise, in Spain it will be the Krausists who will disseminate this ideal, one which will also function as an antidote against Marxism, whose logic it inverts. Both variants, humanist and nationalist, will be continued by the members of the so-called Generation of 98 (e.g. Unamuno, who anticipates Cultural Studies but evolves towards Kulturkritik) and the Generation of 1914 (e.g. Jiménez). ^

Subject Area

Literature, Romance

Recommended Citation

Torres, Steven L, "Origins of metacultural discourse in Spain: From the Enlightenment through Unamuno and Juan Ramon Jimenez" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3218216.