Mapping the Quixotic Imagination: Madrid in Galdos’ Misericordia

Mapping the Quixotic Imagination: Madrid in Galdos' Misericordia poster

Audio Presentation:

Audio Transcript

PROJECT OF MERIT

Research Authorship:

Sara Kunz-Rutigliano, Diego Salinas, Angeles Fernandez

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Ángeles Fernández | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Abstract:

The project examines Pérez Galdós’s views on social regeneration of 19th-century Spain in one of his most acclaimed novels, “Misericordia”, by documenting the wanderings through 19th-century Madrid of the main characters of the novel through geolocation tools. The novel’s main character is a quixotic and self-sacrificing beggar who does not only challenge the cartographic power and the conceptualization of space imposed by a middle class seeking to control urban growth but also reappropriates civic values that had been robbed of all meaning by Spanish society at the time. From that perspective, “Misericordia” constitutes the writer’s ultimate vindication of the narrative genre as a space of dialogue to contribute to the ideological foundations of social progress in 19th-century Spain. The project employs tools such as Google Maps and ArcGIS to trace the character’s whereabouts, interactions, and ranges of emotions throughout the novel on the maps of 19th-century and contemporary Madrid, respectively, and documents how the characters’ material enrichment and social ascension are geographically traced as directly proportional to their spiritual (and physical) demise. Conversely, the protagonist undergoes a spiritual purification and finds the true meaning of charity in the suburban slums of Madrid. The multimedia nature of the project makes it a suitable medium to visualize two contending representations of the urban space: that of the 19th-century Spanish middle-class, and that of the marginalized, constantly struggling to expand the material and symbolic urban borders.

This digital project examines Pérez Galdós’s views on social regeneration of 19th-century Spain in one of his most acclaimed novels, Misericordia,  by mapping the wanderings through Madrid of the quixotic protagonist of the novel. The novel’s main character is a struggling but self-sacrificing beggar who does not only challenge the cartographic power and the conceptualization of space imposed by a middle class seeking to control urban growth, but at the same time reappropriates civic values that had been robbed of all meaning by Spanish society at the time.

Originally published in 1897, Misericordia became one of the most influential novels of the Spanish writer Pérez Galdós, considered to be “the Cervantes of the 19th century” and an unequaled chronicler of Spanish society and history. The novel takes place in Madrid in the late 1800s. The capital of the country was then a pre-industrial city whose underdeveloped economy was unable to cater for the increasing demand for work. After the failed revolution in 1868, the old elite regained its economic and social power, preventing a real entrepreneurial bourgeoisie from developing. The control of mendicity through public and private charity, which was seen at the time as a social stabilizer, failed to deal with the explosion of mendicity as a result of the high unemployment rates.

The project does not only focus on how Galdós’s novel engages in a political and social dialogue through the quixotic imagination of some of its characters but also considers the different ways in which that discussion could be framed and communicated in the classroom. In other words, how can research be disseminated through the development of pedagogical materials suited to the 21st-century learner and contribute to the way literature is taught in the classroom?

Considering this two-fold approach as the premise of our project , we chose geolocation tools such as Google Maps and ArcGIS as an aid to help visualize the two contending spaces that, according to our reading of the novel,  exposed the challenges of social regeneration in Spain: that of the 19th-century Spanish middle-class, and that of the marginalized, constantly struggling to expand the material and symbolic urban borders. For that matter, we documented the wanderings through 19th-century Madrid of the most important characters of “Misericordia” using the aforementioned tools.

We used Plutchik’s wheel of emotions and dyads to characterize the main characters’ trajectory throughout the novel. The primary emotions, according to Plutchik, are anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, and trust.

Plutchik also theorized twenty-four dyads (feelings composed of two emotions), which we also used for our study. Each emotion of the characters throughout the novel, along with its corresponding colour, was given a number and included in a table with additional data (specific location in Madrid, chapter number, and quotes). After collecting the dataset, we then proceeded to visualize the table on Facundo Cañada López´s orthorectified map of Madrid through ArcGIS: http://digital.csic.es/handle/10261/28971

The data visualization on the map evidenced how material enrichment and social ascension were directly proportional to the characters’ spiritual (and physical) demise. Conversely, the two protagonists undergo a spiritual purification and find the true meaning of charity first in a prison-like homeless center and then in the suburban slums of Madrid (both marginal and stigmatized spaces on the map).

Misericordia is Galdós’s ultimate vindication of the narrative genre —and literature in general—  as a space of dialogue to contribute to the ideological foundations of social progress. The conversations brought about by the novel regarding social values and the conditions of progress are especially relevant now at a time when recent global crises impact modern societies in increasingly severe ways.

2 thoughts on “Mapping the Quixotic Imagination: Madrid in Galdos’ Misericordia”

  1. Jeff Chamberlain

    Wonderful, creative, integrative, and fascinating work! Thanks for the audio narration–it is very helpful.

  2. Karen Cousins

    Sara and Diego, this is a truly remarkable project, beautifully prepared and presented.

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