Francisco Márquez Villanueva in dialogue with Ricardo García Cárcel Intellectual Autobiography

Francisco Márquez Villanueva in dialogue with Ricardo García Cárcel

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Francisco Márquez Villanueva
In conversation with the historian Ricardo García Cárcel, the Emeritus Professor of Spanish Literature at Harvard University, Francisco Márquez Villanueva, will present his intellectual Autobiography at the Fundación. A US resident since 1959, his works embrace the entire history of Spanish literature, which he taught in cities including Vancouver, New York and, since 1978, at Harvard. “Spain, not as a State or a nation, Spain as sentiment, the Spain of the three cultures”, García Cárcel declares, “is the most constant theme in Márquez’s works.”

  1. Francisco Márquez VillanuevaFrancisco Márquez Villanueva

    Nacido en Sevilla, en 1931, se doctoró en Filología por la Universidad de Sevilla, donde ejerció la docencia. Trasladado a América del Norte en 1959, a lo largo de su vida ha sido profesor de literatura española en Estados Unidos y Canadá. En 1978 se incorporó al departamento de Lenguas Románicas de la Universidad de Harvard, donde dirigió la cátedra Arthur Kingsley Porter como profesor de investigación. Ha sido profesor visitante en universidades de España, México, Francia y Alemania. Autor de una veintena de libros y unos doscientos artículos sobre temas filológicos, históricos y culturales especialmente  de la Edad Media y Siglo de Oro, es miembro de la Hispanic Society of America, y ha formado parte de diversas academias, asociaciones profesionales y consejos de edición. Entre sus últimos libros figuran: Mudejarismo: las tres culturas en la creación de la identidad española (2003); El concepto cultural alfonsí (2004); Cervantes en letra viva: estudios sobre la vida y la obra (2005); De la España judeoconversa: doce estudios (2006) y Moros, moriscos y turcos de Cervantes: ensayos críticos (2010).


Professor Ricardo García Carcel who will dialogue with Francisco Márquez Villanueva, will sketch his biography:

Francisco Márquez Villanueva was born in Seville a month before the Second Republic was proclaimed in Spain. He followed degree in Letters in the university of his home town in 1948. These were harsh times for a youngster coming from a humble family where the mother was a teacher (her incorporation to education was relatively late), and his father was a civil servant in the US Consulate in Seville. She was traditional, originally born in Cantabria, and he was a liberal proudly born in Cadiz. The two Spains where in harmony within this family with a single child who was patient, though not passive, to that historical moment, which made him an avid researcher on the defeated of Spanish history in literature. Within the intellectual desert that the University of Seville tuned into during the long postwar -Márquez himself has left many testimonies in this sense- he still had a few good masters, like Francisco López-Estrada, the Chair of Spanish Language and Literature who directed his doctoral thesis about Juan Álvarez Gato (1958), to whom he became Assistant Professor in the University of Seville in 1956.

The same year he defended his doctoral thesis, he decided to accept a professional offer from Harvard University. Francisco Márquez was an exiled intellectual, though not a political exile in the strict sense, of the dark and mediocre Spain of the first Franco period. He left the country before the first sprouts of of economical development, and a certain wake-up of culture began to take place. The United States of America offered him the resources to work freely, extraordinary masters (Raimundo Lida, Stephen Gilman, Juan Marichal, Alan M. Gordon and many other), as well as links with other Spanish fugitives from the intellectual mediocrity. For a number of years he migrated around the American world (Vancouver from 1962 to 1965, was Assistant Professor in Harvard from 1965 to 1967, Professor in Rutgers University in New Brunswick (1967-68), Professor in the New York City University from 168 to 1978 and Chair in Harvard from 1978 until the present) developing an extraordinary scientific work in each of his university milestones, and showing an immense vitality in countless congresses, seminars and international conferences.

His works basically cover all of the Spanish literature. Although his first works were focused on the Middle Ages, his intellectual restlessness has taken him all the way to Galdós or Miró, in an intineray where Alfonso X, La Celestina, Hernando de Talavera, Antonio Guevara or Cervantes bloom. Picaresque novel, New Christian, Moriscos, the mystic of Santa Teresa and San Juan de la Cruz, the theatre of Lope de Vega... I believe I can only identify one gap in his intellectual effervescence: the 18th century.

There are three constants which I would like to highlight in his work. The first one is how natural his methodology is, which we could simply define as knowing how to read. Francisco Márquez has been allergic to the postmodern sophistication of the English and French literary criticism theory. For him, it is clear that literature is a historical document and that an interdisciplinary look is needed for a deep understanding of the texts. The next methodological step is no other than subtile comparisons. Text and context come together, and his principal contribution has been learning to find the internal keys, to identify double meanings, to explore winks of complicity, to understand the meaning of messages going beyond the written words.

The second constant in his work has been the concept that literature is an expression of the anthropological need of freedom, versus religious and social imperatives. The questioning of religious interpretations of the texts has been a passion for him, as much as he has been chased by the shadow of Inquisistion. But more than the institutional Inquisition, the inquisition of social control, the pedagogy of fear, the immanent inquisition. Naturally, the literature of Spains Golden Century read by Márquez is the literature of a Spain that lives under surveillance, controlled, censored. A literature that is built to survive the faith dogma, to breathe within the national-catholic framework of the imposed. Ranging from the works of Talavera, to the works of Cervates, ¿how many testimonies can we find of the need of air within the existing ideological intolerance framework? But I insist, it is not only due to the ecclesiastic orthodoxy, but also to social conventions, the codes of honor, the conditions imposed by appearance. These were like orthopedic shoes that man could overcome through the mirrors, platforms and vehicles with implications in the real world that literature could provide.

The third and final constant of the work of Márquez is Spain, not in the sense of state or nation, but putting Spain as a feeling. Although it was not determinant, the influence of Américo Castro in Francisco Márquez is always present in the way of the Spain of the Three Cultures, the pluricultural Spain. The historian in this complex Spain always puts himself "on the other side of the slope", posing an alternative look. But this rigor is not rigid or inflexible. His work is the rescue of "the other Spaniards" without resigning from the original gothic approach that is previous to 711. His navigation through the griefs of the converted and the muslims does not prevent him from forgetting the memories of Santiago (St. James). Francisco Márquez never gives an explanation with the aim of orientating the history of Spain. The reference with Américo Castro is always combined with Marcel Bataillon, and this, with Eugenio Asensio. The dialectics between Spanish purity and Europeism is alway present.

Beyond the three constants explained, it is the absolutely independent criteria of the works of Márquez Villanueva what really shines. The plurality of his literary passions and his urge for liberty, present in all of his extensive production, is what allows him to have interests ranging from erotic literature to a curious fascination for Gabriel Miró, an author which is apparently galaxies away from his books on the Spanish Golden Age. But there is also a drop of sadness in his work, like when he wrote: "the impossibility to apply my work, as I would have liked, with Spanish students". When he left for the USA, he was interviewed in November 1959 by Menéndez Pidal who begged him to not forget about his duty to return to Spain at some point. And as a matter of fact, he has returned many times and lectured in Seville, Madrid and Alcalá, always with a great reception by the students.

Nevertheless, the wound of the return does bleed occasionally. Through this invitation, the March Foundation attempts to recognize and pay tribute to the intellectual production of Professor Márquez Villanueva, to thank him from Spain for his transcendental contribution in disseminating our literary history, as well as to offer him, even if it is for a short time only, a Spanish public that he may teach and delight as he has been doing for so many years in the USA.