Castro, Rosalía de (Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)
Rosalía de Castro 1837–1885
Spanish poet and novelist.
Castro is counted among the outstanding Spanish poets of the nineteenth century. She composed verse chiefly in the vernacular of her native Galicia (a dialect similar to Portuguese) and incorporated the folk themes, political ideology, and longings of the Galician people into her poetry. To these she added her own deep nostalgia, love of nature, and pervasive melancholy. Her poetry, while simple in form, is mystical, religious, and highly symbolic in content. As an examination of the human soul it offers universality, despite its regional concerns. As for her prose fiction, Castro wrote five novels and a few shorter works in Castilian, which have only in the latter half of the twentieth century been considered for their merit as social criticism. Overall, contemporary reassessment of Castro's works has shown her to be a major figure in Spanish letters, influential as a versifier and as a progenitor of the Galician cultural renaissance in nineteenth-century Spain.
Born on 25 February, 1837, in the Galician town of Santiago de Compostela, Castro was the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish noblewoman, Teresa Castro, and a priest, José Martínez Viojo. Raised by her aunt until Castro reached age eleven, she received her education at the Liceo de San Agustín and Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del Pais in Santiago, where she was educated in languages and the arts. Demonstrating an early talent in music, art, and writing, Castro composed her first poem at the age of twelve. Castro's early life was characterized by deepening sadness, thought by some critics to have been brought on by her illegitimacy, which forced her separation from her mother. In 1856 she moved to Madrid, where her involvement in literary circles led to the publication of her first small book of poems, La flor (1857). The following year, she married Manuel Martinez Murguía, a historian and champion of the Galician literary renaissance. Although their marriage was troubled by financial difficulties, ill health, and the deaths of two of their seven children, Marguía's encouragement prompted Castro to publish Cantares gallegos (1863; Galician Songs), the verses that brought her first acclaim as a poet. In the years that followed, Castro produced another collection of Galician poems, Follas novas (1880; New Leaves), and
a series of controversial novels. It was not until the publication of En las orillas del Sar (1884; Beside the River Sar), however, that Castro won national attention as a poet. She died of cancer on 15 July, 1885 in Padrón, Galicia.
Castro's first collection of verse, La flor, contains conventional love poetry, and is thought by critics to be of little consequence. A mi madre (1863) is, like La flor, a small book of Castilian poems. Its title piece, written in response to the death of Castro's mother, celebrates a woman's sacrifices for her daughter. In the larger Cantares gallegos Castro employed the language of the Galician peasantry for the first time to evoke the traditions and people of her homeland. Among its subjects are the cultural beliefs of Galicia, the natural beauty of its countryside, and the struggles of its poor. The unadorned Galician verses of Follas novas continue in the vein of Cantares gallegos by portraying Castro's passion for Galicia and her defense of its people and way of life. Castro's final collection of poetry, En las orillas del Sar, offers a somewhat darker tone than her previous works and a return to the Castilian dialect. It includes a variety of political verses in support of Galician culture, as well as poems suffused with a deep sense of loneliness and the desolation of love. Castro's five novels—La hija del mar (1859), Flavio (1861), Ruinas (1866), El caballero de las botas azules (1867), and El primer loco (1881)—contain elements of romantic fantasy blended with social criticism and Castro's incipient feminism. Each is generally focused on the struggles of women in paternalistic society. Having never known her parents, Esperanza, the persecuted heroine of La hija del mar, ends her desperate life by casting herself into the ocean. In El caballero de las botas azules, Castro presents a satire of the dominant literature of Spain and explores its degrading effects on women.
Due in large part to perceptions of her as a regionalist poet, Castro failed to achieve substantial literary esteem for most of her lifetime. An ongoing critical reassessment of her work begun in the twentieth century, however, has demonstrated the enduring significance of Castro's poetry and, to a lesser degree, opened her prose works to serious critical consideration. Scholars have since acknowledged that while her contemporaries adhered to a rigid poetic structure in their works, Castro sought a fluid metrical style. Her simple, musical prosody, emotional themes, and natural symbols and motifs have been seen as influences on the writing of such modern poets as Rubén Dario, Amado Nervo, and Federico Garcia Lorca. Additionally, the publication of Castro's Cantares gallegos in 1863 is now thought to mark the inauguration of the Galician literary revival in Spain. Most recently, scholars have begun to look beyond the ostensible regionalism of Castro's works and her marginalization as a female writer, to acclaim the universal import of her poetic achievements. Summarizing this view of Castro, Gerald Brenan has stated: "Had she written in Castilian rather than in her native Galician dialect, she would, I feel sure, be recognized as the greatest woman poet of modern times."
Laflor (poetry) 1857
La hija del mar (novel) 1859
Flavio (novel) 1861
A mi madre (poetry) 1863
' Cantares gallegos [Galician Songs] (poetry) 1863
Ruinas (novel) 1866
El caballero de las botas azules (novel) 1867
Follas novas [New Leaves] (poetry) 1880
El primer loco (novel) 1881
En las orillas del Sar [Beside the River Sar] (poetry) 1884
Obras completas (poetry, novels, and prose) 1952
Poems: Rosalía de Castro (poetry) 1964
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SOURCE: "Reality and the Poet," in Manner and Mood in Rosalia de Castro: A Study of Themes and Style, Ediciones José Porrúa Turanzas, 1968, pp. 63-132.
[In the following excerpt, Kulp considers style, technique, and theme in Castro's Follas novas, comparing this collection of Galician poetry with an earlier work, Cantares gallegos.]
Everyday reality and popular tradition
Some of the touches of realism which characterize Cantares are continued in Follas novas, but in the second book Rosalía tends to concentrate on the more tragic manifestations of life around her. A few poems are filled with realistic details and local color and employ colloquial expressions: "Vamos bebendo" (p. 460) [All page citations are taken from Rosalia de Castro, Obras completas.], "Miña casiña" (pp. 501-03), "Soberba" (pp. 503-04), "Xan" (pp. 512-13), "Tanto e tan to nos odiamos" (pp. 519-22), and others. A note of humor is sometimes discernible, but it is always diluted with irony, manifesting a keen observation of human nature which is comical in its pathos. The comic always borders very closely on the tragic. The long narrative poem "¡ A probina qu'está xorda,…!" (pp. 504-12) is one of the most extensive, animated and colorful of Rosalía's production, Nevertheless it contains a strong tone of sobriety. The courageous and clever old woman...
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SOURCE: "Rosalía de Castro's En las orillas del Sar: A Psychoanalytic Interpretation," in Symposium, Vol. XXVI, No. 4, Winter, 1972, pp. 363-75.
[In the following essay, Schwartz explores the destructive, libidinal, and neurotic themes and imagery of En las orillas del Sar.]
Poets have always been concerned with death, the world's greatest mystery. With its own special function in an ordered universe, death has been viewed as something of infinite horror yet at the same time as something desired, the final answer to incomprehensible truths, as a new experience, and as a peaceful end to pain. In En las orillas del Sar (1884), written over a period of years,1 Rosalía de Castro elevated death (for her not a conventional metaphor) to a poetic as well as external reality. It represents her most exalted concentration on and contemplation of death. Whether as the result of traumatic events or because of the infinite sadness of everyday life, death and depression are constant notes in her work.2 Azorín saw in her "sentido difuso de la muerte"(O. C., p. 156), and she approached death "resignada primera, amistosa después, y llamándola con tono desgarrador en su ayuda más tarde."3 Through her overriding obsession, the poet sees in nature and the world objects which take on a subjective connotation beyond their objective limits, as "la razón se acomoda sobre...
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SOURCE: "Aspects of Perspective in Rosalía de Castro's En las orillas del Sar," in Kentucky Romance Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, 1982, pp. 273-82.
[In the following essay, Miller studies Castro's complex stylistic and thematic use of perspective in the poems of En las orillas del Sar.]
The poetry of Rosalía de Castro has frequently been characterized as simple, clear, and unadorned.1 Like Bécquer's, her verse possesses a certain simplicity to which it owes part of its charm. Yet many of her poems, though outwardly uncomplicated in theme and technique, have a strangely complicated effect on their reader, and often this effect is due to her subtle manipulation of perspectives.
Rosalía's use of perspective play is related to what critic Kathleen Kulp terms the "dramatic mode" in her works and defines as the use of dialogue and dramatic presentation. For Kulp, who rightly points out the importance of these techniques in maintaining "esthetic distance" and in creating the illusion of objectivity,2 the use of the dramatic mode declines in Rosalía's final book, En las orillas del Sar, due to that book's more intimate nature and because the poet, having risen above her human vulnerability as she nears death, no longer needs to distance herself from subject and audience in precisely this way.3 Yet even in the intimate poetry of En las orillas...
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SOURCE: "Rosalía de Castro: Two Mourning Dreams," in Hispanofila, Vol. 82, September, 1984, pp. 21-27.
[In the following essay, Palley analyzes Castro's somber, dream-like poems "A mi madre" and "En sueños te di un beso, vida mía."]
The encounter with a departed beloved person in dream, in the subconscious or pre-conscious mind, in an under - or other-world which resembles both, is a major motif of literature that goes back to Ulysses' meeting with his mother in Book XI of the Odyssey: "As my mother spoke, there came to me … the one desire, to embrace her spirit, dead though she was. Thrice, in my eagerness to clasp her to me, I started forward with my hands outstretched. Thrice, like a shadow or a dream, she slipped through my arms and left me harrowed by an even sharper pain."1 Achilles' dream of Patroclus (in book XXIII of the Iliad) describes a poignant meeting with the hero's dead friend and companion: "He spake, and reached forth with his hands, but clasped him not; for like a vapour the spirit was gone beneath the earth with a faint shriek."2 George Devereux defines these dreams as "mourning dreams in which one tries vainly to clasp the dream image of the departed."3 Devereux devotes a long and complex study to Menelaus' dream of an erotic encounter with the flown (but still alive) Helen.4 The dream is narrated by the Chorus...
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SOURCE: "Society, Legend and the Poet," in Rosalía de Castro and the Galician Revival, Tamesis Books Limited, 1986, pp. 17-35.
[In the following excerpt, Stevens surveys Castro's life and criticism of her work, and discusses Castro's association with the nineteenth-century Galician Revival in Spanish literature.]
Rosalía de Castro was born in Santiago de Compostela on February 24, 1837. She was the illegitimate daughter of María Teresa da Cruz de Castro e Abadía, the descendant of a noble family that had seen better days.1 Almost nothing is known of Castro's father, José Martínez Viojo, except that he was a priest and native of Ortoño and was born in 1798. According to birth records she was not sent to the orphanage connected with the Hospital Real where she was born. But the confusion about who cared for the child during the first years of her life has been cleared up only recently. Early critics thought that María Francisca Martínez, who was present at the infant's baptismal ceremony, was a sister of Rosaliía's father. Francisca Martínez was, however, a servant of Rosaliía de Castro's mother.2 This confusion arose because Teresa Martínez Viojo—no relation to María Francisca Martínez—, José Martínez Viojo's sister, also cared for her, first in Ortoño and later in Padrón.3
It appears then, that...
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SOURCE: Introduction to Poems by Rosalía de Castro, State University of New York Press, 1991, pp. 1-24.
[In the following excerpt, Aldaz and Gantt discuss Castro's life, place in Spanish literature, and poetic themes.]
At the time of her death in 1885, Rosalía de Castro was little known outside of her native Galicia, a region in northwestern Spain. Yet this woman poet who wrote more than half of her poems in a regional language and did not follow the poetic conventions of her time is now considered one of the outstanding figures of Spanish literature.
Rosalía was born on February 24, 1837, in the historic city of Santiago de Compostela, now the capital of Galicia.1 Though her birth certificate calls Rosalía "hija de padres incógnitos [daughter of unknown parentage]," she was actually the illegitimate child of a once-wealthy noblewoman, María Teresa de la Cruz de Castro y Abadía and José Martínez Viojo, a priest.2
The maternal grandfather, José de Castro Salgado, did not want his daughter to raise a child born out of wedlock; therefore, Rosalía spent her early years in the country, though it is not certain whether she lived with her godmother or a paternal aunt.3 From the age of nine to fifteen, Rosalía lived at the Castro family manor of Arretén in Padrón, as well as with her maternal uncle...
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SOURCE: "Fantasy, Seduction, and the Woman Reader: Rosalía de Castro's Novels," in Culture and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Spain, edited by Lou Charnon-Deutsch and Jo Labanyi, Clarendon Press, 1995, pp. 74-95.
[In the following essay, Kirkpatrick investigates the relationship of Castro's novels El caballero de las botas azules and La hija del mar to the tradition of seduction fantasy.]
Do you think a thriving virgin imagination can gorge itself with impunity on Martin, the Orphan Boy, A Doctor's Memoirs, and The Man of the Three Pantaloons? … Devouring The Three Musketeers, [the young girl learns of] Milady's evil deeds, the adulterous love of Madame Bonacieux, and the scandalous passion of Mlle. Lavalliere for the king, a passion that infiltrates young and naïve hearts the more easily when dressed in a sweetly poetic and sentimental form….[T]ender female readers, when they reach thirteen, follow as best they can in the footsteps of the heroines of their novels.
(Sinués de Marco, 1859)
Nineteenth-century Spaniards defined women's relation to reading and writing as a matter of morality. Debates about women's education—that is, their access to the printed word as either consumers or producers—centred on the question of whether reading/writing would lead women astray,...
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SOURCE: "Rosalía de Castro," in Women Poets of Spain, 1860-1990: Toward a Gynocentric Vision, University of Illinois Press, 1997, pp. 43-83.
[In the following excerpt, Wilcox examines Castro as a marginalized woman poet whose collection Cantares gallegos—ostensibly a poetic celebration of her native Galicia—offers an ambivalent feminist vision.]
Unlike her sisters, Rosalía de Castro has established a secure reputation in Peninsular literature, but such was not the case during her lifetime (1837-85), when she fluctuated between being a "Nobody" (Emily Dickinson's word) and a "santiña" (dear little saint).1 Few have noted her "monstrous" qualities, to use Gilbert and Gubar's metaphor for a committed woman artist whose subconscious mind is intent on self-determination; but it is the "monstrous" as opposed to "angelic" persona that interests today's students of poetry. Rosalía's "monster" persona can be glimpsed if her poems are read as texts that were generated by a writing subject who was also female. By foregrounding the monster within Rosalía, I believe that more of her poetic originality and influence on poets of this century can be appreciated.
With one or two notable exceptions, the major criticism of Rosalía's work focuses not on female or feminist impulses but on those characteristics her poems share with all poetry: themes, style, symbols, regionalism,...
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March, Kathleen N. "Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885)." In Spanish Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book, edited by Linda Gould Levine, Ellen Engelson Marson, and Gloria Feiman Waldman, pp. 104-15. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.
Bibliography of translations, primary and secondary sources preceded by a biographical and critical introduction.
Balbontin, José Antonio. "Rosalía de Castro." In Three Spanish Poets: Rosalía de Castro, Federico García Lorca, Antonio Machado, pp. 15-55. London: Alvin Redman, 1961.
Comprehensive formal and thematic study of Castro's writings.
Courteau, Joanna. The Poetics of Rosalía de Castro's Negra Sombra. Lewiston, N. Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1995, 119 p.
Considers Castro's contribution to Galician language and culture by analyzing her poetic imagery of sombra (shadow).
Davies, Catherine. "Rosalía de Castro, Criticism 1950-1980: The Need for a New Approach." Bulletin of Hispanic Studies LX, No. 3 (July 1983): 211-20.
Surveys limitations in modern criticism of Castro's poetry, asserting the need for further socio-historical and ideological...
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