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The Culture of Cursileria Bad Taste, Kitsch, and Class in Modern Spain by Noel Valis

The Culture of Cursileria Bad Taste, Kitsch, and Class in Modern Spain


The Culture of Cursileria Bad Taste, Kitsch, and Class in Modern Spain by Noel Valis

Not easily translated, the Spanish terms cursi and cursileria refer to a cultural phenomenon widely prevalent in Spanish society since the nineteenth century. Like kitsch, cursi evokes the idea of bad taste, but it also suggests one who has pretensions of refinement and elegance without possessing them. In The Culture of Cursileria, Noel Valis examines the social meanings of cursi, viewing it as a window into modern Spanish history and particularly into the development of middle-class culture.Valis finds evidence in literature, cultural objects, and popular customs to argue that cursileria has its roots in a sense of cultural inadequacy felt by the lower middle classes in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Spain. The Spain of this era, popularly viewed as the European power most resistant to economic and social modernization, is characterized by Valis as suffering from nostalgia for a bygone, romanticized society that structured itself on strict class delineations. With the development of an economic middle class during the latter half of the nineteenth century, these designations began to break down, and individuals across all levels of the middle class exaggerated their own social status in an attempt to protect their cultural capital. While the resulting manifestations of cursileria were often provincial, indeed backward, the concept was-and still is-closely associated with a sense of home. Ultimately, Valis shows how cursileria embodied the disparity between old ways and new, and how in its awkward manners, airs of pretension, and graceless anxieties it represents Spain's uneasy surrender to the forces of modernity. The Culture of Cursileria will interest students and scholars of Latin America, cultural studies, Spanish literature, and modernity.


Noel Valis's writing is powerful and insightful. Her arguments are brilliant, subtle, and carefully textured; they cleverly elucidate the duality of cursi. This is an important, imaginative, fully accomplished book that will be essential reading for anyone interested in understanding more fully the cultural and literary realities of Spain a century ago. -David T. Gies, University of Virginia Noel Valis offers brilliant, innovative insights into a cultural phenomenon that illuminates many aspects of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spain. As perhaps one of the most distinguished cultural critics of Hispanic studies today, Valis takes an interdisciplinary approach to expose the links between text, economics, politics, and historical events. -Harriet S. Turner, University of Nebraska

About the Author

Noel Valis is Professor of Spanish at Yale University. Her previous books include The Decadent Vision in Leopoldo Alas and The Novels of Jacinto Octavio Picon.

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Book Info

Publication date

16th January 2003


Noel Valis

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Duke University Press


424 pages


Cultural studies



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