“In a New Whirlwind: Miguel de Unamuno in Contemporary Spain’s Memory Battles,” by Leslie Harkema, Associate Professor, Baylor University.
Abstract: Occupying one of the most unquestioned positions in the canon of modern Spanish literature, Miguel de Unamuno has long been associated with the cultural response to the loss of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Yet increasingly over the last decade, discourse about Unamuno in contemporary Spain has centered on a different year: specifically, on the last half of 1936, when the first months of the Spanish Civil War coincided with the final months of the writer’s life. A series of recent films, publications, and debates in Spain have returned to Unamuno’s storied clash with Nationalist General José Millán Astray in the assembly hall of the University of Salamanca on October 12, 1936, to interrogate the official record of this event. In some cases, this investigation has also extended to a reexamination of the circumstances surrounding the author’s death two and a half months later. Understanding this recent flurry of interest in Unamuno’s experiences during a period that he himself described in his diary as a “torbellino” (whirlwind) requires a consideration of the intersection of this thinker’s legacy with the Historical Memory movement that has emerged in Spain in the 21st century. This presentation will show how the work of contemporary filmmakers and cultural critics attempting to re-present Unamuno for contemporary audiences variously contributes to and exposes the longstanding manipulation of this famous intellectual’s image.