Dissertation Defense: Estefania Tocado Orviz

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese cordially invites you to attend the dissertation defense of Estefania Tocado Orviz, M.S. titled Metaficción historiográfica: Memoria e identidad en la narrativa textual y fílmica española y británica posmoderna.

Abstract: This dissertation explores how historical memory and cultural memory are mediatized in contemporary Spanish and British novels and their film adaptations. It demonstrates how representations of historical and cultural memory in narrative respond to the need to understand and overcome the open wounds of the twentieth century’s turbulent past, specifically the Spanish Civil War and the decline of the British Empire following the Second World War.  Identity, as a cultural representation, is put into question in its individual and national spectrums so constructions derived from Spanishness and Englishness are challenged to generate an open debate with the intended audiences. My aim is to elucidate the contemporary debate between history, fiction, and historiographical metafiction in historical narrative. I study the presence of historical and cultural memory in relationship to identity in the following novels and their film adaptations:  La mitad del alma by Carme Riera, La voz dormida by Dulce Chacón, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Riera, Chacón, McEwan and Ishiguro share a common mode of representing historical and cultural memory: each writer introduces memory modes (cultural, historical, communicative) through a fictional frame structure within the diegetic reality of their narratives, and the past is negotiated though the lenses of metafictional and autobiographical memory in the narrative. 

Each novel and film dramatizes how the underlying traumas, of the Spanish Civil War or World War II respectively, rises to the surface in the present with the intention of rewriting the past. This rewriting is achieved by giving voice to the silenced memories and stories of marginalized individuals that were not part of official Spanish and British historiographical discourses. The use of the narrative genre of historiographical metafiction posits how fictionality and historiography are only differentiated by their frames and how, as porous genres, they influence each other.  As a result, the insertion of historical memory demonstrates the importance of communicative memory, based on oral testimony, as an agent that actively participates in the individual and collective revaluation of cultural and national memory as a social concern derived from the outcome of the two conflicts.