After the end of the Golden Age, and until the advent of García Lorca, Spain lacked much of its former literary luster. From the late 1600s to the civil war of this century, it was almost as if the country had turned in upon itself to brood over its faded imperial splendor. Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851-1921), a well-traveled Spanish aristocrat, autodidact, and standard-bearer of liberal monarchism, believed that the cure for Spain’s cultural insulation was to import naturalism from across the Pyrenees—or at least those aspects of naturalism that a devout Catholic could accept. Pardo Bazán’s La cuestión palpitante (“The Burning Question”), a series of newspaper columns in which she defended the exacting technique, if not the “heretical pessimism,” of Emile Zola, set off a firestorm of debate among Spanish intellectuals when it was published in the early 1880s.


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