I will address in my conference the irruption of the concept of simple and compound imitation, already since Petrarch, in his effort to recover the classical "humanitas" within the ideal of the poet as rhetor et philologus that he constantly preached about. When he became himself an object of emulation, along the 15th century, a number of De imitatione controversies appear within the framework of the increasingly explicit confrontation between the Aristotelian (analytic) and Platonic (synthetic) poetics. A number of relevant figures participated in the controversies: Angelo Poliziano, Pietro Benbo, Pico della Mirandola, Paolo Cortese or Erasmus of Rotterdam, whose Ciceronianus (1528) would become a new intention model of the new concept of humanism, beyond the mere rhetoric speculation.
In the 16th century the controversy would reach Spain, the writers and the universities; in the context of the feuds between the ancient and the modern, the use fanaticism or Italian poetic language and the figure of Garcilaso as the unique object of imitation, especially following the comments of Brocense and Herrera to his poetry.
In order to learn about distant periods of time like the Golden Age, there are only two possible ways: the first one, difficult and limited to specialists, is checking the texts and para-texts, impressions and manuscripts, to bring out conclusions, which are always subject to error due to any deficient information. The second one, which os more common, consists in trusting what the the manuals say, the readers digests that do the work for us. Anyhow, in the same way that Spanish language dictionaries always go back to the origin, the Diccionario de Autoridades, also the manuals copy from each other and go all the way back to Menéndez Pelayo, who in this case faced an easy antinomy proposed during the 18th century by the Marquis de Valdeflores: culterans on one side, and conceptists on the other. Later on, there were those who assigned commanders to each side, and this way it was possible to play wars, something we have been doing for more than a century already. It is now about time to explain that things did not occur as it has been traditionally told. If a writer from those times was to raise from the grave and listen to the fact that conceptists fought against those who were not conceptists, would not understand anything and laugh. In the Spanish literature of the first decades of the 17th century there were trends, one of them as a result from the influence of Gongora, which reached all parts and literary genres. But all were aware that this trend was particularily prominent for being conceptist. It is worth noting that in those times, the word concept has a different meaning from the one it later acquired in Philosophy: a rhetoric meaning, and in no way restricted neither to Spain nor to literature. In the outside of this influence by Gongora, there were those who preferred a much closer and understandable style in which the presence of the classics would be less conspicuous, this is, less aimed at a minority. We should remember that in these times there were two types of men of letters: On one side, we have the cults, with a strong Latin basis, and on the other, the Romanticists, among which paradoxically the illiterate were not missing. In the same way, among the public there were also those that remained loyal to a simple language and attached to the vernacular traditions, and those who preferred the complexity arriving from Italy and cultivated by humanists. Among the later, Gongora and his followers introduced sometimes dazzling novelties, but other proposals were not that well received or considered improper due to going against the most rancid treaties derived from Aristoteles, Cicero, Hermogenes, and their Italian commentators. This was the origin of the most significant confrontation of the 17th century, in which Quevedo curiously did not participate extensively, in comparison to Jáuregui or Lope de Vega.
In the prologue that Clarín wrote before La cuestión palpitante (Madrid, 1883) of Emilia Pardo Bazán, the great Asturian critic and narrator restricted through a negative path the poetic of Naturalism that had been forged by Émile Zola since 1864, and which consolidate in 1877. Leopoldo Alas did so through approvals and discrepancies in the context of a literary feud -ideological and aesthetic-, that very often has not been properly explained, and that lasted in Spain from the publication of Solos (1881) -the first book of critic by Clarín- until the excellent articles by Rafael Altamira about "the modern conquests" (1889) and the Clarinian turning point that is transparent in Mezclilla (1889). This was a feud in which Menéndez Pelayo, Juan Valera, Palacio Valdés, Juan Sardá or José Yxart, among other writers, participated,.
And it is about this feud that the conference "The poetics of Naturalism in Spain (1881-1889)" will deal about. It includes how through the debate about the ideas, the poetic, and novels of Zola, a first chapter will develop in Spain focused on the nature, character and fundamental aspects of the modern novel, daughter of the Cervantian tradition, and the dialogue -mainly by Benito Pérez Galdós, Leopoldo Alas and Emilia Pardo- with the great French realism of the 19th century: Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert y Zola. Zola and the Naturalism caused in the Spain of the 1880s a controversy that gave to Spanish literature, from La desheredada (1881) and on, an urge for knowledge, probably the strongest and richest current of the 19th century modernity.
The confrontation featured by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus following the publication of L'Homme révolté was not mainly a confrontation of literary character, not even if we provide this term with the widest possible meaning; although it contains without doubts elements referring to him (Camus' implicit answer to certain observations about the nature and role of literature in Sartre's work What Is Literature?), its proposal goes way beyond this specific realm. It was, without doubt, due to being something that happened through written texts, and in the sense that it affected countless publications, magazines, newspapers, etc., as well as radio and television programs that echoed or participated in the confrontation by actively taking sides in favor of one position or other; to this we need to add the countless number of pages that on this respect have been written, and continue to be written in the present, a clear proof that the terms in which the confrontation developed still continue to be appealing in a very real way within the current sensibility.
Neither the traditional passion of the French people for these type of confrontations (its impact widely trespassed the French frontiers), nor the relevance at the time of the names involved, were enough to explain the importance and radiation it had, to the point that it divided into two sides the world intellectual Left, as well as a good part of the cult Right, who also felt addressed. Just by slightly stirring the proposals of this discussion that dominated a good part of the second half of the 20th century, we will find ourselves again in the middle of a controversy that can cast doubt over a good part of our own public life.
Based on its own approach, this confrontation had three dimensions that we need to address to fully understand it: one personal, another one ideological-cultural, and the last one political. The three dimensions are interrelated and their analysis will be the main component of this conference. If we put aside the work of Sartre -who continued making frequent references along the following years, and for whom Camus was "the last friend he had"-, the work of Camus -for whom this would be a terrible blow from which he never fully recovered-, and also the work of Simonne de Beauvoir -Camus is easily recognizable in a character of her novel The Mandarins-, as well as some writings of Merleau-Ponty, A. Breton, R. Aron, R. Char. A. Memmy, or Cohen-Solal -just to cite a few French authors also directly implicated in the confrontation-, the people who may be interested, can also find bibliography in the monographic works of E. Werner, L. Pollman, G. Brée, P. Royle, R. Aronson, and R.C. Salomón. There is also information on the two big biographies devoted to Camus published until now: the one of Lotmand and the one of Olivier Todd. Finally, the great Diccionario Camus is currently very advanced in preparation with over 1.500 written pages.