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His rebellious nature: the rural world in Miguel Hernández's poetry

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Miguel Hernández’s poetry continues to be a controversial subject almost eighty years after his death. This is because of his social and economic background, his role supporting the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, and later his refusal to collaborate with Franco’s dictatorial regime. Due to these sensitive circumstances surrounding the poet’s life, scholarship has reduced his work to biased interpretations and generalisations. It even goes so far as to diminish the complexities of the poet’s representation of the countryside on the grounds of its direct resemblance to his concrete surroundings.

Against such a background, this thesis offers an assessment of Hernández’s poetry in the context of his social and cultural surroundings and considers how these impact on the representation of the countryside in his poems. Through the study of the Spanish rural community, its social history, the changing political landscape, and the literary movements of the 1930s, this thesis examines the social tensions and broad features of the period in which Hernández became a poet. This line of interpretation also sees his compositions as part of an interplay between the poet’s agency and social boundaries. That is to say, this thesis aims to answer the question of what relationship existed between the representation of the countryside in Hernández’s poetry and his concrete and social surroundings, seeing the latter as spaces of political, economic and cultural dynamism.

Supported by Pierre Bourdieu’s notions of habitus, disposition and field (alongside complementary insights from Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy), this exploration into Hernández’s poems suggests that the different spheres of his life gave form to diverse, sometimes contradictory, representations of rural communities. His compositions respond to and interact with inherited class views, customs, and political values in addition to emerging artistic trends. Therefore, the principal objective of this thesis is to evidence that the meanings inscribed in the poet’s representation of the countryside change significantly throughout his career. Moreover, this study also claims that Hernández’s poetry ought to be read as an expression of the social and literary environments as spaces of struggles and contradictions. In this light, Hernández resurfaces as a more nuanced and thought-provoking figure, worthy of deeper examination.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Jul 2020

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