The Emergence of Arthurian Literature in Spain as a Response to Governmental and Societal Changes

Emily Ann Stein


Our research looks at two important periods in Spanish politics. During the primarily fascist era from 1923 to 1975 and the democratic era from 1975 to the present, several novels appeared that demonstrated themes borrowed from the legend of the British king, Arthur. The Arthurian myth has typically been used to portray a utopian social order, especially in British and American literature, allowing for a critique of those societies. The Spanish tales argue for the development of a Spanish national identity, which would help to overcome the obstacles of the cultural differences between the unique regions and, therefore, aid in uniting the country. These original stories prompt questions about the purpose of a British ruler in Spanish society and the role that Arthur plays in that culture. Our research investigates these questions and demonstrates how literature is shaped by its political and cultural contexts. This was done through a close reading of Spanish Arthurian texts from each period and a comparison of those texts to the respective historical contexts. We found subtle critiques of the government and governmental institutions in these texts, especially in regards to the role of women, the emphasis of religion, and the use of violence. Some aspects, such as the roles women played in these novels, reflected a significant change in the society, as women were given much more independence after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. Other aspects, such as the use of religion and violence, reflected constant forces in Spanish society, which remained important despite governmental changes. This shows the direct relationship between literature and a country’s history, allowing the literature to be used to learn more about that particular society.


King Arthur; fascism; Spain

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