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Galicia, a Sentimental Nation: Gender, Culture, and Politics.

Galicia, a Sentimental Nation: Gender, Culture, and Politics, by Helena Miguelez-Carballeira. Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2013. x, 253 pp. $140.00 US (cloth).

Taking as her methodological starting point an adaptation of recent advances in post-colonial theory, Helena Miguelez-Caballeira examines the strained relationships between Galicia, an integral yet marginalized region of Spain, and the central Spanish political authority by examining cultural imagery and interactions. At the heart of the study is the importance of the concept of "sentimentality" which is the most salient element of a national discourse whose effects have been to relegate Galicia to a subordinate status in relation to allegedly more positive images associated with the central political authority. This is especially relevant during the authoritarian regime of Francisco Franco in which conformity to a national and cultural program is necessary to keep the government more fully ensconced in a position of power and authority.

In the individual chapters, Miguelez-Carballeira examines the nuances of this discourse in the writings of seminal figures in the cultural life of Galicia who have shaped regional stereotypes which in turn have denied this region its fair share of influence within the larger Spanish nation. Central to the argument is the shaping of Galician femininity in Augusto Gonzalez Besada's cultural writing, the focus of the first chapter. Another level of the argument examines the ways in which cultural stereotypes have contributed to the development of a purer form of "Spanishness" as manifested in the themes of morality and sentimentality in the writing of Eugenio Carre Aldao.

Miguelez-Carballeira follows this with an examination of Antonio Couceiro Freijomil's work, which uses competing models of manhood regarding political nationalism versus sentimental regionalism. Ricardo Carvalho Caler uses themes of promiscuity and decorum. Combined, these writers contribute to what the author terms the "sexing of the national father." The final chapter brings the cultural discourse up to date in an examination of the ways in which contemporary Galician culture has attempted to move beyond the old stereotypes in the post-Franco era by emphasizing regional autonomy and "normalization."

Since the limitations of space do not allow for a fuller examination of the many provocative topics brought into view in this study, I should like to examine what the author has to say about a central figure, and with whom more readers may be familiar than those examined in the individual chapters, Rosalia de Castro. All the strategies of marginalization and "sentimentality" are made clear in the ways cultural commentators have approached de Castro's poetry. The sentimental pigeonholing that occurs when Rosalia's literary contributions are evaluated is exemplary of the same stereotyping that takes place in commentary on Galicia. Male/nationalist critics tended to view de Castro's poetry as spontaneous and sentimental, that she did not undertake a rigorous preparation as a poet/writer but rather tended toward unconscious simplicity. This, indeed, is a view that largely remains intact to this day and is testimony to the persistence of the authority of the central idea of sentimentality as a defining feature of Galicia. There is a striking confluence of national and sexual politics in de Castro's body of work that has offered different national discourses in and on Galicia, as Miguelez-Carballeira states, "with a symbolic canvas on which to reinscribe or destabilize Galicia's colonial history" (p. 209).

Galicia, a Sentimental Nation is an important and eloquently expressed position regarding the cultural and sexual politics of Spain that will demand the attention of all scholars interested in revising contemporary portrayals of Galician history and its dependence on the debilitating idea of sentimentality.

doi: 10.3138/CJH.ACH.50.1.008

C. Christopher Soufas, Jr., Temple University
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Author:Soufas, C. Christopher, Jr.
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2015
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