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Writing in Franco's Spain: Censorship, gender and social criticism in the postwar novel

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posted on 2021-12-08, 11:13 authored by Van Luijk, Julia

Following the Nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), General Francisco Franco’s authoritarian regime ruled Spain in a dictatorship that lasted almost forty years. In order to preserve the dominance of the regime and its ideology in Spain, all cultural activity was strictly censored, with censorship being particularly severe in the immediate postwar years. The regime’s censorship board, often with the involvement of Catholic clergy, had to approve all types of public communication, from poetry to television, before it could be published or broadcast. The censor was to ensure that the material in question was not critical of the regime or its ideology and that it did not challenge Catholic morals and traditional Spanish family values. Despite the regime’s efforts, however, writers who wished to convey their opposition to the dictatorship turned to a realist, objective narrative style that would allow them to denounce Francoist society without causing concern for the censors. In this thesis, I examine five Spanish postwar novels, published between 1945 and 1961, that provide a critique of Francoism and its associated values: Carmen Laforet’s Nada (1945), Luis Romero’s La noria (1952), Ignacio Aldecoa’s El fulgor y la sangre (1954), Juan García Hortelano’s Nuevas amistades (1959) and Dolores Medio’s Diario de una maestra (1961). This particular combination of novels has been selected in order to examine social and political criticism in the postwar novel from a wider perspective than that which is traditionally assigned to the Spanish novela social. In each case study, I identify which aspects of the Franco regime and postwar society the author sought to denounce and discuss how the author manages to convey these critical views despite the constraints of censorship. Themes include the misery and hunger that plagued Spain in the 1940s, the harsh repression suffered by the losers of the war, class and wealth inequality, the subversion of the regime’s ‘official’ historiography and the adoption of the Catholic Church’s ultra-conservative moral values. There is a particular focus on the critique of social themes that most affected women, such as the strict moral code assigned to women by the regime and the double moral standards with regard to issues such as premarital sex, prostitution and abortion; these themes are prominent in all of the selected novels, regardless of the gender of the author. In the first chapter, I outline the historical background that led to the Civil War and the establishment of the dictatorship and describe the literary context of the early Franco era. The following five chapters consist of my case studies which are examined in chronological order: each novel is examined separately in the context of social and political history, although I will draw parallels where suitable. The analyses are framed by theories of political and social commitment in literature; I draw also on gender and memory studies, and critics who discuss the relationship between literature and censorship. I have consulted the official censor’s report for each novel and discuss how each novel was received and altered, if at all, by the censor, as well as speculating as to how each author may have tailored his or her work in order to avoid such censorial intervention.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Leggott, Sarah; Woods, Ross