Journal of Romance Studies

Cinematic city: the Spanish avant-garde, modernity and mass culture

Journal of Romance Studies (2008), 8, (2), 21–36.

Abstract

It has been suggested that the modern city, which bombards its inhabitants with a rapid succession of fragmentary visual images, trained its city-dwellers in the viewing habits required by the cinema. This article explores the dual fascination with urban life and the cinema in the Spanish avant-garde of the late 1920s, in the light of Huyssen’s suggestion that the avant-garde was a reaction against modernism’s attempt to distance itself from the rise of mass culture which accompanied urbanization. While drawing on Bourdieu’s distinction between high and popular culture in terms of their different modes of consumption, the article notes that Bourdieu’s equation of popular culture with realism forgets the importance of spectacle in popular culture. It is argued that the fascination with urban spectacle in the Spanish avant-garde allows a (sometimes ambivalent) collapsing of high and popular culture. This is effected through an exploration of the materiality of modern urban life, which coexists with – rather than opposing – the abstraction of the modern market economy. Works discussed include literary texts by Lorca, Ayala, Gómez de la Serna, and Arconada; films by Buñuel and Dalí, Giménez Caballero, Perojo, and a film script by Lorca; and (briefly) paintings by Mallo.

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Comisión Nacional Organizadora de los Actos Conmemorativos del Centenario del Nacimiento de Federico García Lorca (1998) Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) (exhibition catalogue) (Madrid: Ministerio de Educación y Cultura). Google Scholar

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Eisenstein, Sergei (1968) The Film Sense (London: Faber & Faber). The Film Sense Google Scholar

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García Lorca, Federico (1989) [1928] Poema del cante jondo; Romancero gitano, ed. Allen Josephs and Juan Caballero (Madrid: Cátedra). Poema del cante jondo; Romancero gitano Google Scholar

García Lorca, Federico (1990) Poet in New York, ed. Christopher Maurer, bilingual edn (London: Penguin). Poet in New York Google Scholar

García Lorca, Federico (1994) Viaje a la luna, ed. Antonio Monegal (Valencia: Pre-Textos). Viaje a la luna Google Scholar

Giménez Caballero, Ernesto (1935) Arte y Estado (Madrid: Gráfica Universal). Arte y Estado Google Scholar

Giménez Caballero, Ernesto (1975) [1928] Yo, inspector de alcantarillas (Madrid: Turner). Yo, inspector de alcantarillas Google Scholar

Gómez de la Serna, Ramón (1995) [1923] Cinelandia (Madrid: Valdemar). Cinelandia Google Scholar

Goux, Jean-Joseph (1988) ‘Banking on signs’, Diacritics 18.2, 15–25. Banking on signs Diacritics 18.2 15 25 Google Scholar

Gubern, Ramón (1999) Proyector de luna: La generación del 27 y el cine (Barcelona: Anagrama). Proyector de luna: La generación del 27 y el cine Google Scholar

Gunning, Tom (1990) ‘The cinema of attractions: early film, its spectator, and the avantgarde’, in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (London: British Film Institute), 56–62. The cinema of attractions: early film, its spectator, and the avantgarde Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative 56 62 Google Scholar

Harrison, Charles and Paul Wood (eds) (1995) Art in Theory 1900–1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas (Oxford: Blackwell). Art in Theory 1900–1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas Google Scholar

Hughes, Robert (1991) The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (London: Thames & Hudson). The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change Google Scholar

Huyssen, Andreas (1988) After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Basingstoke: Macmillan). After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism Google Scholar

Labanyi, Jo (2000) Gender and Modernization in the Spanish Realist Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Gender and Modernization in the Spanish Realist Novel Google Scholar

Levin, David Michael (ed.) (1993) Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press). Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision Google Scholar

Mitchell, Timothy (1994) Flamenco Deep Song (New Haven: Yale University Press). Flamenco Deep Song Google Scholar

Morris, C. B. (1980) This Loving Darkness: The Cinema and Spanish Writers 1920–1936 (Oxford: Oxford University Press). This Loving Darkness: The Cinema and Spanish Writers 1920–1936 Google Scholar

Ortega y Gasset, José (1970) [1925] La deshumanización del arte, 10th edn(Madrid: Revista de Occidente). La deshumanización del arte Google Scholar

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Labanyi, Jo