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From Dictatorship to Democracy: Comparative Perspectives on Contemporary Spain and Portugal

Module Code: HP309
Module Name: From Dictatorship to Democracy: Comparative Perspectives on Contemporary Spain and Portugal

Module Coordinator: Professor Alison Ribeiro de Menezes

Module Tutor: Dr. João Pedro Vicente Faustino

Term 1
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

How does a country move from a long dictatorship to a democracy? What legacies does this leave behind for later generations? In this module we will explore briefly the historical and political context of Spain and Portugal under dictatorship, and then concentrate on how writers and film directors responded to the repressive Franco and Salazar Regimes. Finally, we will discuss how each country envisaged democracy.

Spain and Portugal endured the two longest lasting dictatorships in Western Europe in the 20th century. Since the mid-1970’s, they likewise engaged in parallel processes of transition to and consolidation of democracies. This module takes a comparative approach to literary and film texts, reading them in their socio-political context. It examines literary resistance and subversion under the later years of the Franco and Salazar dictatorships, followed by contemporary literary responses to the establishment and consolidation of democracy. Our focus will be on narrative modes of representing history and of subverting socio-political realities. Moreover, we shall focus on subjects such as manifestations of violence, gender, memory, justice and reckoning, processes of inclusion and exclusion. Students should gain a solid understanding of modern Spain and Portugal, and of key developments in these nation’s narrative traditions, drawing on complementary cinematic sources to broaden the range of cultural reference. Students are encouraged to engage in close textual readings in order to understand how fictional and historical narratives may intersect in different media, and how cultural and intertextual echoes may function contextually as strategies for subverting prevailing socio-political norms.

Please note: The primary texts are available, or will be made available where indicated, in English translation. Ideally, students of Spanish are expected read in Spanish, and students of Portuguese are expected to read in Portuguese; students of both languages will have an opportunity to engage in comparative study through both of them! However, students may also study the texts in English translation.

Primary Texts:


José Cardoso Pires, Balada da Praia dos Cães/Ballad of Dogs' Beach [translation provided]

Carmen Martín Gaite, El cuarto de atrás/The Back Room

Javier Marías, Corazón tan blanco/A Heart So White

Lídia Jorge, A Costa dos Murmúrios/The Murmuring Coast

José Saramago, Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira/Blindness

Javier Cercas, Terra Alta/Even the darkest night

Film (provided in Moodle):

Carlos Saura, La caza/The Hunt

Assessment Method:

1250-1500-word commentary (30%)

2250-2500-word essay (70%)