My six-chapter dissertation, entitled, La voluntad novelística en las Cartas marruecas de Cadalso, identifies and analyzes the modern novelistic techniques of this surprisingly innovative epistolary novel by José de Cadalso (1741-1782). My project is grounded in an analytical interpretation of the collection of ninety fictitious letters, which attempt to create an objective vision of eighteenth-century Spain. I illustrate that Cadalso, a very contemporary novelist for his time, grapples with the problem of presenting an impartial perspective of Spanish culture of the mid 1700's. My theoretical approach is concerned primarily with the style, content and intention of the ninety missives, as well as with the consciences and desires of the three characters who write the letters to each other: Gazel, Nuño and Ben-Beley. I pay much attention to the methodology of Cadalso's novelistic and epistolary craft, its lexical implications, as well as to the artistic intentions of the writer and soldier from Cádiz.
A large part of the argument of my dissertation is that there still remain several areas to explore in the study of the Cartas marruecas (1774). Cadalso's work, in spite of the admirable critical efforts of "Azorín" and Mariano Baquero Goyanes, has yet to receive extensive critical acclaim for its novelistic innovations and its importance to the trajectory of the modern Peninsular novel. My critical approach illustrates the narrative modernity of the epistolary work --especially its convincing novelistic intricacies-- as well as its literary significance to the historiography of eighteenth-century Hispanic Letters.
The dissertation, completed on 28 February 1997, is divided into six chapters: I. Experiencias inmediatas; II. Epistolaridad; III. La tríada de narradores; IV. Costumbrismo crítico y fotográfico; V. Ficciones y relatos históricos interpolados; and VI. Lo ensayístico. The relationship between the six sections is based on my theory that each one of the six aforementioned narrative strategies and novelistic techniques is an innovative characteristic not normally found until the nineteenth-century European novel. In short, my analysis demonstrates that Cadalso's novelistic art in his Cartas marruecas was decades ahead of its time and, in reality, played a significant role in the development of the modern epistolary novel, as well as in the birth of Spanish Realism.
Eleven original drawings of selected scenes of the Cartas marruecas are included in the dissertation. The drawings, completed in 1996 by Gemma Hernández Herrera, are presumably the first original illustrations for the novel itself and complement much of the argument of the dissertation.
My research was supervised by Dr. Russell P. Sebold, the former Williams Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. The two committee members were Dr. Ignacio Javier López and Dr. Marina S. Brownlee. Dr. Sebold was General Editor of Hispanic Review before retiring in 1998; he contributes to European and American scholarly journals; and he is a regular columnist for the Madrid newspaper ABC. In Spain he has published over twenty-five volumes of criticism and critical editions in the area of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spanish literature. He is a corresponding member of the Real Academia Española and of the Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona.