Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 166

Although Leopoldo Alas published a number of short stories and one short novel, he produced only one major work of fiction, La Regenta. His principal contribution to the literary scene of the late nineteenth century, other than La Regenta, was as a critic. For many years, “Clarin” (the pseudonym used by Alas in his literary criticism) was the most respected, and the most feared, commentator on the literary and social scene in Spain. His reputation was such that he was able to destroy the prestige of a writer through a single unfavorable review, and he spent his career satirizing the mediocrity and pretensions of those who considered themselves members of the elite class.

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Alas’ attitude in his critical writing is reflected in his treatment of the society of Vetusta in La Regenta. Ignorance, mediocrity, stupidity, and dishonesty are rampant in Spanish society, and they should be exposed and destroyed. The function of criticism is to refine society, separating the truly excellent from the pretentious and inferior.

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