Satire in the neopicaresque novel: the committed poetic in European and American picaresque fiction 1942-1962
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date04/10/2023
The picaresque genre was a formative influence on the development of the novel in Western literature from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Previous research has suggested that there were significant new currents of picaresque writing in British, German, Spanish, and American fiction during the mid-twentieth century. This study aims to substantiate and analyse the existence of a transnational neopicaresque phenomenon at this time, and to examine the use of picaresque elements in the context of the midcentury. Drawing on existing research within the different national literatures, this study asks: Can we speak of a transnational neopicaresque novel? And if so, why did this neopicaresque novel emerge in these nations and at this time? This study considers the committed poetic (poética comprometida) or satiric orientation described by Antonio Rey Hazas to be the factor that most clearly explains the authors’ interest in reviving the picaresque genre. A comparative analysis of satire was carried out on eight examples of neopicaresque fiction (two from each nation, in their original languages). This analysis investigates the recurrence of classic picaresque themes, considering their significance in the modern context in order to determine the satiric orientation of the works. The analysis indicates that the satire of the neopicaresque novel, like that of its antecedents, is concerned with unmasking the unreality of the social world, exploring themes of marginalisation and identity, and dramatising a perceived conflict between man and his society. The neopicaresque novels continue in the tradition of the picaresque genre, satirising analogous social issues of modernity, but do so with a strong connection to the specific postwar contexts of each of the nations in question. This analysis leads us to the conclusion that the formal features of picaresque writing are revived in the neopicaresque novels in response to particular postwar concerns about man, modern society, and the future of human civilisation.