Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Steven Marsh

Second Advisor

Paul Allen Miller


For centuries, Spain and the South have existed as the exceptional "other" within U.S. and European ideas of nationalism when, particularly during Francoism and Jim Crow, they violently asserted a haunting brand of national "selfhood." My project explores the nature of this paradox not to simply compare two apparently similar cultures, but to show exactly how we construct difference around this self/other dichotomy. In so doing, I chart a transatlantic link between two cultures whose performances of "otherness" as assertions of "selfhood" not only enact and problematize their claims to exceptionality, but those of Europe and the United States as well.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of the transatlantic link is the War of 1898, the moment when the South tried both to extract itself from and be implicated in U.S. imperial expansion and nation-building; simultaneously, it marked the end of Spain--and the beginning of the end for Europe--as an imperial power, leading to a crisis of defining what it means to be "Spanish" in such a "new world." Seeing the War of 1898 as a climactic moment, my project begins by exploring the philosophical writings of those that come directly after this period and who were attempting to performatively "regenerate" what each group saw as a "traditional" Spain and South located in an agrarian past. That desire, furthermore, is constantly re-enacted over the century in novels from writers as diverse as William Faulkner, Camilo José Cela, Walker Percy, Pío Baroja, Eudora Welty, Carme Riera, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Ralph Ellison. As these writers, among others, wrestle with ideas of Spain and the South, they also engage questions of how national identity is confirmed and contested via images of gender, race, and tourist production.

Ultimately, my project looks at novelists, poets, essayists, and filmmakers from both cultures across the twentieth century to show the multiple ways in which we perform national authenticity through variant modes of cultural production, opening a theoretical framework by which we can explore not just Francoism and Jim Crow, but varied attempts to define nationhood via exceptionalism, creating a model of performativity that is not just applicable to Spain and the South, but that can be applied to other "exceptional" geographies.


© 2009, Brittany Powell