The Function of the Fantastic in Clarin's 'La Regenta.' (Leopoldo Alas "Clarin")

By Schwartz, Marcy E. | The Romanic Review, January 1993 | Go to article overview

The Function of the Fantastic in Clarin's 'La Regenta.' (Leopoldo Alas "Clarin")


Schwartz, Marcy E., The Romanic Review


Narrators of nineteenth-century realistic fiction pride themselves on effective mimesis, on representing material and emotional reality as accurately as possible. Their discourse attempts to recreate the material world and present characters who move within and react to it. This linguistic imitation builds and decorates rooms, clothes its characters, paints their faces and paves their city streets. The various social classes, marked by their titles, manners, servants and speech, slide into their carved-out niches.

Within this clearly-defined marking of material and linguistic signs, the narration must also account for "ces phenomenes... [qui] se passent dans une sphere inaccessible a l'observation humaine. . ." (Balzac, "Sarrasine" in Barthes 243). In these extremely material worlds, where even the emotional and the psychological manifest themselves as visible and tangible, hidden madness, the supernatural, religious mysticism and demons also have their part. These latter experiences fall under the category of the marvellous or the fantastic, experiences which challenge, contradict or overturn the rules governing the world of the narrative, or which cause the reader, character or narrator to hesitate in explaining the phenomena (Rabkin 8, Todorov 28-9). This reading of Leopoldo Alas "Clarin"'s La Regenta locates the fantastic as one of the "diagrammable" readings woven into the text that pulls at the achieved realism. The fantastic in the narrative serves to advance the suspense of the story, by confusing the realms of material reality with the subjectively interior. Through the fantastic, narration and reading become alternative realities within the world of the text.

"All art, all mental wholes, are, to some extent at least, fantastic" (Rabkin 215). What various critics define as the fantastic, its elements and continuum, ranges from uncanny coincidence to the fantasy of fairy tales and science fiction. All seem to agree on the reader's response as a necessary function to the fantastic, for the reader must detect the reversal or contradiction in the ordered rules of the text's world. The narrative sets out, then, its own parameters of reality, with "language that avoids calling attention to itself once the register of everyday discourse has been established" (Lucente 14), and any transgressions (technological, physiological or logical) cause a shock or hesitation in the reader, often shared by the narrator and/or the characters.

The Fantastic as Opposition

Rather than a shocking fantastic in La Regenta, Clarin juxtaposes the realism of his narrative (material reality, Spanish nineteenth-century class structure, and religious hierarchies in a historically and sociologically grounded setting) with supernatural, diabolical and myst'cal alternatives to that world. Clarin tells the story of characters who are trapped in the intellectual mediocrity and hypocritical social reality of Vetusta, and of their "anhelo de volar mas alla de las estrechas paredes de su caseron" (Clarin II, 70). In fact, from the church to individuals' homes, the material structures of Vetusta become imprisoning labyrinths for main characters Ana and Fermin. The town is not only the "dynamic axis around which all the different themes revolve" (Durand 325), but a controlling and ordering presence from which the characters attempt to escape. Clarin's "psychological realism" ties the characters to their physical environment, entretejiendo casi imperceptiblemente, y de manera muy sutil, una intima interrelacion entre ambos elementos" (Roberts 199). The fantastic springs from this foundation of physical and social realities, contrasting their oppressive control with alternatives ranging from fantasy to the macabre.

The narrator offers these alternatives, not as actual supernatural or otherworldly happenings, but as suggestive descriptions. According to Hamon, description expands what is "real" in the world of the text, either conserving or transforming it (466). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Function of the Fantastic in Clarin's 'La Regenta.' (Leopoldo Alas "Clarin")
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.