Literary Hispanophobia and Hispanophilia in Britain and the Low Countries (1550-1850)

Edited by Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez (2020)

“Spain has been a fruitful locus for the European imagination for centuries, and it has been most often perceived in black-and-white oppositions — either as a tyrannical and fanatical force in the early modern period or as an imaginary geography of a ‘Romantic’ Spain in later centuries. However, the image of Spain, its culture and its inhabitants did not evolve inexorably from negative to positive. From the early modern period onwards, it responded to an ambiguous matrix of conflicting Hispanophobic and Hispanophilic representations. Just as in the nineteenth century latent negative stereotypes continued to resurface, even in the Romantic heyday, in the early modern period appreciation for Spain was equally undeniable. When Spain was a political and military superpower, it also enjoyed cultural hegemony with a literary Golden Age producing internationally hailed masterpieces. Literary Hispanophobia and Hispanophilia in Britain and the Low Countries (1550-1850) explores the protracted interest in Spain and its culture, and it exposes the co-existent ambiguity between scorn and fascination that characterizes Western historical perceptions, in particular in Britain and the Low Countries, two geographical spaces with a shared sense of historical connectedness and an overlapping, sometimes complicated, history with Spain.”

The case studies presented in this edited volume presents a broader historical and theoretical context. It exposes the triangular literary, cultural and political relationship between Britain, the Low Countries and Spain in two very different – though strongly interconnected – historical periods, the early modern period and the nineteenth century. It contends that to fully understand how cultural representations of Spain and its cultural legacy have been forged, it is essential to expose the intricate historical dynamics of Hispanophobia and Hispanophilia. Furthermore, it exposes and problematizes certain historiographical biases regarding the cultural role of Spain and the historical asymmetry in the representation of Spain.

Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez and Antonio Sánchez Jiménez have earlier explored the paths of the Black Legend within the NWO project (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, 2013-2015) ‘The Black Legend and the Spanish Identity in Golden Age Spanish Theatre (1580-1665)’

The Black Legend is the perception/theory that Spaniards are especially tyrannical, cruel, intolerant, lustful, and greedy people. These powerful stereotypes prevent an accurate understanding of Early-Modern, and even contemporary Spain. This NWO project studied the Black Legend as an Early-Modern cultural dialogue, one in which Spanish intellectuals saw foreign prejudices as challenges that they needed to answer. It approach the Black Legend from an interdisciplinary angle by combining literary studies with theory on nation building, propaganda, and identity forming. In particular, it examines how the Black Legend influenced the Spanish self-conception during the Golden Age: how Golden Age Spanish writers received those ideas and how they used theater to respond to them, how commercial and court plays contributed to a nation-building process, and how even a nation already previously constructed, such as Spain, adopted foreign perceptions to reshape its own self-image.

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