Making a living in literature Lecture Series Making a Living in Art, Literature and Music

Making a living in literature

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José-Carlos Mainer

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  1. José-Carlos MainerJosé-Carlos Mainer

    Catedrático emérito de Literatura Española de la Universidad de Zaragoza, antes fue profesor en la Universidad de Barcelona, la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona y la Universidad de La Laguna de Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Se dedica al estudio de la historia literaria de los dos últimos siglos; ha realizado ediciones de obras de Juan Valera, Benito Pérez Galdós, Antonio Machado, Pío Baroja, Wenceslao Fernández Flórez, Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Francisco Ayala, Ramón J. Sender, Luis Martín Santos y Carmen Martín Gaite, y ha escrito libros como Falange y literatura (Antología) (1971 y 2014, edición aumentada), La Edad de Plata (1902-1939). Ensayo de interpretación de un proceso cultural (1975 y 1982, edición aumentada), La doma de la Quimera. Ensayos sobre nacionalismo y cultura en España (1987 y 2004), La corona hecha trizas (1930-1960) (1989 y 2008), Moradores de Sansueña. Lecturas cervantinas del exilio republicano español (2005), Años de vísperas. La vida de la cultura en España (1931-1939) (2006), Galería de retratos (2010) y la biografía Pío Baroja (2012). Es autor además de otros títulos, cercanos a la teoría literaria, como son Historia, literatura, sociedad (y una coda española) (1989 y 2000), La filología en el purgatorio. Los estudios literarios en torno a 1950 (2003) y La escritura desatada (El mundo de las novelas) (2000 y 2012). Es director de la obra colectiva Historia de la literatura española, siendo autor del tomo sexto titulado Modernidad y nacionalismo, 1900-1939 (2010).

The finances of writers is something more than just a biographic data or an embarrassing intrusion in the interests of the authors, because on one hand, it configures the changing image of a writer when compared with his contemporaries, and on the other, it has fixed the estimation over the literary products. Along history, the circumstances have evolved until the current one, which derives from Romanticism, and also from the active relationship between the texts and the ideas of the Enlightenment.

For centuries, the writer was another element more of a process defined by the different kinds of patronage offered by the powerful. This favored the conventionality of the aesthetic models and a trend towards sophistication. Only the authors belonging to closed, powerful and self-sufficient communities -a religious order, a superior social stratum, or a civil curia- could be innovators and have a higher self-awareness around the authorship, although always within a literary art subdued to very strict trends and expectations. Popular creations where limited to popular shows where anonymity was frequent and where, specially in the theatrical genres, the roles where very often confused: writer, actor, producer,...

But the autonomy of literature made a major leap upon the invention and dissemination of the printing press. For example, Cervantes or Lope still moved within a culture of patronage and attempted getting into groups favored by the powerful, but at the same time were involved in the stemming independent market. Within these very fruitful years for the narrative genres, we can see how Cervantes incorporates into the plot of Don Quixote the staging of book reads, and also speaks about the fame of the writers and the influence of their products. Lope participates in a genre (theatre) that is heavily industrialized, and in the New Art of making comedies where he discusses the terms of his work within a complex agreement between his interests and the interests of his viewers.

Around 1800 or 1830, Moratín and Larra are already aware of how much they depended on their public, and how stressful this new dependence could be. Along the new century, writers begin to have self-recognition and present themselves as champions of new ideas, something that the wider public also discusses and accepts. And it is this generation who within their new countries promote the recognition of their predecessors of the past as "national writers". In the 19th and 20th century, the Bohemia emphasized this public presence and alerted about society's ingratitude towards the devoted creators. Later, the concept of the critic in a first step, and later the concept of the intellectual, established a mediation system between the public and the ideas, where the writer had a privileged position. This is how we reach a new and definitive period of glory: new "national writers" appeared (like Galdós, Carducci or Hugo), and at the same time there was a progressive internationalization (Tolstoi or Ibsen are proof of this); the life and particularities of the authors were a matter of admiration, and in many occasions, the residence of important authors became an expression of their enshrinement (this was the case of Rostand or D'Annunzio). Thus, the cult for the writer is not something created today.