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Spanish Literature  
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This presentation and the fact that his homosexuality is not pertinent to the plot suggest that his function is predominantly symbolic. If Celedonio is the messenger boy, the message is that Vetusta is a depraved and miserable place.

Ambiguous sexuality is a prominent theme throughout Alas's novel, which also contains hints of latent lesbian feelings among the women. Much female attention is focused on Ana. Obdulia, the would-be femme fatale of the town, though heterosexual in orientation, appears captivated by Ana. Her desire to possess the men in her life seems motivated by her desire to vicariously possess Ana.

Tellingly, Obdulia's feelings for Ana are entirely sensual. Like Celedonio, Obdulia is a sexual aggressor. The narrator does not express the same disgust for her feelings toward Ana as he does for Celedonio's "bestial" inclinations, but he animalizes both of them.

The characterization of homosexuals as predatory and bestial in La Regenta is paradigmatic of representations of homosexuality in much Spanish literature.

Early Twentieth-Century Treatments of Homosexuality

A more positive, though also disturbing, portrayal of male homosexuality occurs in an early twentieth-century novella by Ramón del Valle-Inclán, an eccentric dandy who wrote four novellas (one representing each season) that he entitled Sonatas (1902-1905). These Sonatas are written as diaries that chronicle the sexual and romantic exploits of the Marquis of Bradomín, a dapper and decadent Don Juan.

In a scene of the Sonata dedicated to summer, a fair-haired adolescent approaches a mulatto cabin boy and inspires only partially sublimated desires in Bradomín, who is observing alongside his latest conquest, la Niña Chole. The scene is decidedly since the two young men openly embrace.

These "happy" and "abhorred" homosexual characters--"shadows," as Bradomín refers to them--momentarily beckon to the Marquis, but he is incapable of following. Although there is an indication that Bradomín might be inclined to act on these impulses, he denies that this is so, claiming that, despite having given in to all the other "satanic" pleasures, this one will remain foreign to him.

Here the quintessential heterosexual, a celebrated seducer of women, admits to homoerotic feelings and bemoans the constrictions of his faith that prevent him from acting. The heavens (that is, Catholic dogma) are against him, inclining him exclusively toward females. Bradomín is deeply saddened by his incapacity to act on his impulses, believing that Christianity has destroyed the sheer joy of ancient pagan societies.

The scene, in fact, inspires classical associations in Bradomin's imagination. For him, the homosexual act, at least between men, is a sacred mystery in which only a few chosen ones now participate, reliving the ancient Greek and Roman tradition. This is the religion he would like to recuperate to counter the restrictive Catholic faith.

There is a clear suggestion in the text that, as he gets older, these homosexual impulses become stronger, thus evoking the intergenerational coupling of a Roman emperor.

Although the protagonist's tendencies are frustrated by learned inhibitions and not acted on, still the depiction of homosexuality in the summer Sonata is positive, especially since it conveys the idea that homoeroticism is aesthetically and emotionally uplifting. This type of love is perverse from Bradomín's perspective, but it is authentically love.

It must be borne in mind, however, that the protagonist is a sexual degenerate. Valle-Inclán clearly views homosexuality as decadent. The twist, however, is that this author has a more positive opinion of decadence than is the norm. Moreover, of all the sensual pleasures that the world offers, both mundane and deviant, homosexuality is the only one that remains alien to the protagonist. This indicates the strength of the prohibition against homosexuality in Valle-Inclán's day even among dandies and libertines.

The Vanguard Movement: Cernuda, García Lorca, and Buñuel

Valle-Inclán may be regarded as forerunner of the Vanguard movement, often referred to in Spain as the Generation of 27, which embraced a novel, antibourgeois morality. Two gay authors who are grouped with the Generation of 27 are Luis Cernuda and Federico García Lorca. Although they did not enjoy the freedom of expression afforded their successor Juan Goytisolo, the two can be seen as predecessors to the Catalan author who later in the century uses homosexuality, among other weapons, to defy Spanish tradition.

Of the two, Cernuda is probably the one who most regularly incorporates homoerotic motifs. The very titles of his collections of poetry--La realidad y el deseo (Reality and Desire [1936]), Poemas para un cuerpo (Poems for a Body [1957])--indicate the sexually charged nature of his work.

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