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The Spanish Spectators

The journalistic genre of the Moral Weeklies or “Spectators”, whose origins can be found in the early 18th century in England, was one of the most important vehicles of narration at that time. As the name of the genre shows, Moral Weeklies offered mainly journalistic and essayistic articles with a strong focus on the concept of virtue. But the papers also contained special narrative formations with a strong component of fictionalization. The authors or editors generally did not reveal their real identities as they preferred to present themselves behind a mask, in order to construct other persons in the role of the author or the editor. These instances invited their readers to send them letters and commentaries in order to discuss the current topics and to create a network of public space. This kind of fictionalization was one of the dominant features of the genre and had an important impact on the European literature systems.

During the last year of our FWF-Project (Sept. 2008 to August 2009, cf. final report of the project) we worked on the establishment of a database including a large number of Spanish Moral Weeklies, which can be found in an electronic version (different formats) on www.gams.uni-graz.at/mws. The titles integrated in our database do not only offer a text version of the titles, but also a great number of analytical functions. Links to other primary texts as well as a considerable bibliographical list can be consulted in the database.

With this application for funding, we would like to finish the important editorial and analytical work of the Spanish part, which can be consulted in our database. There are only four titles left to be analyzed and integrated in the database: On the one hand we are still working on the two major titles in Spain, El Pensador (1761–1767) and El Censor (1781–1787), on which we have published two basic studies on thematic aspects. Besides these two prominent Moral Weeklies, we will integrate two more texts, which have raised the curiosity of the specialists only in the last years: El Argonauta español (1765) and El Curioso entretenido (1779).

During the process of edition, we will describe the thematic aspects of the texts. The reader can see in which way and to what extent the texts treat themes like gender, fashion, marriage, education or rules of behavior in the contemporary society. At the same time we will analyze the narrative principles of the Spectators and illustrate these structures in the electronic texts. The different forms of narration, like fables, dreams, autopoietics, metapoietical elements, quotations and many others will be carved out.

Moreover, the preparation of the periodical papers in the database will illustrate the narrative levels appearing in the texts and shows the relevance of the mise en scène of the genre: The journalistic text is scattered by micro-narrations and framing narrations or metapoietical frames that intermingle and create a fictional public society.

By integrating the four papers left, we would finish the analysis of the complete corpus of the Moral Weeklies in Spain and would lay the foundations for comparative studies (on a national and an international level).

With this collection of ‘Espectadores’ from various countries, we will present narratologic strategies and provide specific technical tools with the final aim of preparing a platform for intra- and intertextual research.


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