Lorca, Buñuel, Dali: Art and Theory

By Manuel Delgado Morales; Alice J. Poust | Go to book overview

Federico García Lorca's Andalusia
in Light of Oswald Spengler's
Theory of Magian Cultures

Alice J. Poust

Bucknell University

THE critical and popular success of Federico García Lorca's Gypsy Ballads in 1928 brought national attention to the young writer from Granada but also served to identify him, for part of the reading public, with certain stereotypical images about Andalusian culture which Lorca thought demeaning to his work. Always proud of his Andalusian heritage and sympathetic to Romany communities in Andalusia, Lorca ironically found himself in the position of having to clarify that he was not of Romany descent, as some readers assumed, and that those who thought the work was about Romany peoples or a celebration of the stereotypical, picturesque Andalusia had missed the point.1 What, then, did Lorca have in mind? If much of the reaction to Gypsy Ballads, even the generally positive critical and popular reaction, was based on a degree of misunderstanding of his artistic objectives, how might we better understand those objectives? To what extent might the poet's portrayal of Andalusia aim at recasting the cultural significance of the region in light of contemporary theories of culture, rather than perpetuating the image of Andalusia as out of step with modernity, as such friends as Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel seemed to think? I shall argue that Lorca's portrayal of Andalusia in Gypsy Ballads, Deep Song, and Divan of the Tamarit tends to align Andalusia with a contemporary tendency to question and even oppose the construct “Western civilization.” In doing so, I shall point to certain key similarities between the cultural ideas manifested in Lorca's writing, as poet and as critic, and the cultural theory formulated by Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West, to demonstrate that Lorca's work effectively and systematically reinterprets Andalusia, not as a backward hinterland of Western or “Faustian” culture, to use Spengler's term, but as a part of an essentially different, “Magian” culture.2

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