From Page to Stage: Print Journalism, Commercial Theater and the Birth of Modern Spectatorship in Madrid
Parker, Jason Thomas
This dissertation contextualizes the formal innovations and social critique of twentieth-century Spanish avant-garde theater by reconstructing two important elements of the nineteenth-century cultural landscape from which they emerged: the rise of modern print culture and the appearance of a vibrant commercial theater industry. The first chapter examines theoretical concepts from cultural studies and media studies to consider how evolving reading and viewing practices in Spain engendered new forms of social and cultural engagement with modernity. Chapter two explores how newspapers and commercial theater works adopted a fragmentary aesthetic that embodied the emerging realities of the modern, industrialized city and performed new modes of social interaction and emerging narratives of Spanish nationalism. The third chapter takes the illustrious career of Carlos Arniches as a case study of the interconnections between the commercial and artistic theater, arguing that his later work utilizes the stereotypes and facile comicity of the commercial theater as the basis for a more thoughtful critique of the dehumanizing tendencies of modern society. The fourth chapter considers Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s aggressive, parodic reworking of popular dramatic forms in his idiosyncratic esperpento and contends that his distorted, grotesque representation of contemporary Spain emerges from a broader denunciation of the manipulative powers of contemporary mass media. This study concludes with a reflection on directions that future studies of the relationships between mass media, textual practices, performing arts, and popular entertainment might take through a brief consideration of the lasting legacy of the nineteenth-century commercial stage in cinema and socially-engaged theater in Spain through the 1970s. In the final analysis, media are a conduit of human interaction and arise to meet the social needs of a population in a given historical moment. By bringing our examinations of drama into contact with the broader contours of modern media culture, we see how the performing arts fit within a much larger cultural process.