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Interiors and Narrative

The Spatial Poetics of Machado de Assis, Eça de Queirós, and Leopoldo Alas

Estela Vieira

Interiors and Narrative shows how crucial interiors are for our understanding of the nature of narrative. A growing cultural fascination with interior dwelling so prevalent in the late nineteenth century parallels an intensification of the rhetorical function interior architecture plays in the development of fiction. The existential dimension of dwelling becomes so intimately tied to the novelistic project that fiction surfaces as a way of inhabiting the world. This study illustrates this through a comparative reading of three realist masterpieces of the Luso-Hispanic nineteenth century: Machado de Assis’s Quincas Borba (1891), Eça de Queirós’s The Maias (1888), and Leopoldo Alas’s La Regenta (1884–1885). The first full-length study to juxtapose the renowned writers, Interiors and Narrative analyzes the authors’ spatial poetics while offering new readings of their work. The book explores the important links between interiors and narrative by explaining how rooms, furnishings, and homes function as metaphors for the writing of the narrative, reflecting on the complex relation between private dwellings and human interiority, and arguing that the interior design of rooms becomes a language that gives furnishings and decorative objects a narrative life of their own. The story of homes and furnishings in these narratives creates a semiotic language that both readers and characters rely on in order to make sense of fiction and reality.

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University Press Copublishing Division / Bucknell University Press
Pages: 261Size: 6 x 9
978-1-61148-432-8 • Hardback • December 2012 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-61148-622-3 • Paperback • October 2014 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-1-61148-433-5 • eBook • December 2012 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
Estela Vieira is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University Bloomington.
Introduction: Interiors and Narrative
The Novel’s Sense of the Interior
The Novelist’s Sense of the Interior
Part One: Furnishing the Novel
The Threshold: The Ins and Outs of
Quincas Borba
Movables and Immovables: The Legend of
The Maias
The Corners of the World: Inside
La Regenta
Part Two: Interiors and Interiority
Inside the Minds and Hearts of Machado’s Characters
Eça’s Interior Decorators
Memory and Movement: Ana’s and Fermín’s Interiors
Part Three: The Discourse of Interiors
Machado’s Minimalism and the Meaning of Things
The Narrative Life of Eça’s Furnishings
The Dramatic Effect of Clarín’s Interior Architecture
Epilogue: From Voltaire’s Garden to Galdós’s Rooms
Works Cited
About the Author

This study by Estela Vieira is therefore particularly welcome in its attempt to bring together three of the major exponents of the novel in Portugal, Spain and Brazil. . . .[I]t is hard to dispute the convincing attention to detail dedicated by the author to the understanding of internal space and its significance within the three texts studied here. . . .[T]he authors demonstration of the exploration of inner space (both domestic and personal) by these three major writers who (in different respects) look forward to literary Modernism as much as they look back to the Realist tradition is a well-researched and original contribution to the understanding of their work.
Bulletin of Spanish Studies

Interiors and Narrative, as a whole, shows that 'the subjective search for an inner life associated with modernist writing originates in the private interior as a space of retreat for both female and male characters. In this interior world, attention and weight is given to the seemingly insignificant details that communicate an existential need and historical density.' For its overall conceptual rigor and for the acuteness of its reading of the three important novels in question, Estela Vieira’s book deserves serious attention, not just from students of the authors and their works, but also from all those interested in the question of space in literature.
Journal of Lusophone Studies