Henri Lefebvre and the Spanish Urban Experience: Reading from the Mobile City

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9781611485233: Henri Lefebvre and the Spanish Urban Experience: Reading from the Mobile City

An important contribution to the still evolving field of 'urban cultural studies,' Henri Lefebvre and the Spanish Urban Experience is the first book to thoroughly apply the French urban philosopher's thoughts on cities to the culture and literature of Spain. Fraser shows how Lefebvre's complex view of the city as a mobile phenomenon is relevant to understanding a variety of Spanish cultural products—from urban plans and short writings on the urban experience during the nineteenth century by Mariano José de Larra, Ramón de Mesonero Ramanos, and Ildefons Cerdà to urban theories, cultural practices and literary fiction of the twentieth by Luis Martín-Santos, Juan José Millás, Juan Goytisolo, and Manuel Delgado Ruiz. He pushes on to interrogate even the appearance of Mediterranean space and Barcelona in recent video games.

Working through the direct and indirect resonance of the French philosopher's legacy in Spain, a comprehensive first chapter grounds the reader in the key concepts of Lefebvre's urban theory that are explored throughout the book—his critiques of static space, modern urban planning, knowledge, alienation in everyday life and his emphasis on a method that underscores the importance of movement and rhythm. Fraser compellingly shows how each of these aspects of Lefebvre's work relates to the others, just as he ties together canonical and non-traditional cultural products from Madrid and Barcelona.

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About the Author:

Benjamin Fraser is assistant professor of Spanish at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and managing editor of the Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies.

Review:

A book whose clarity of exposition, theoretical savvy, and innovative interdisciplinary approach takes readers on an urban joy ride through a diverse landscape of Spanish literary and cultural products. Driven by the work of Henri Lefebvre, Benjamin Fraser expertly guides readers through theoretical and cultural conceptions of city spaces. Fraser critically transverses the urban experience in manners as evocative and thrilling in Mariano José de Larra's articles of the early 1800s as in video game images of the twenty-first century. This book, will no doubt, move any contemporary critic and reader. (Christine Henseler, associate professor, Union College, associate professor, Union College)

Henri Lefebvre and the Spanish Urban Experience is a startlingly original approach to the written, visual and digital urban culture of Spain since the nineteenth century. In this book we have a prime example of how working at the crossroads of the disciplines of Philosophy, Cultural Geography and Literary Studies can help us to rethink some of the outdated and unworkable assumptions about modern Spanish culture that still structure the discipline today. (Susan Larson)

Henri Lefebvre's ideas, which have shaped in many ways current research on urban environment and everyday life, have circulated in Spain since the late 1960s and generated an important following in Spanish literary and cultural studies. But no one before Fraser has demonstrated so systematically the power of a Lefebvrian approach for understanding how Spain's largest cities are imagined, represented, and lived. Fraser's incisive analysis finds in Lefebvre a solid vantage point which reveals telling commonalities in cities as dissimilar as Mariano José de Larra's and Juan José Millás's Madrid or the Barcelona imagined by Ildefons Cerdà and the creators of recent Wii games. (Eugenia Afinoguénova, associate professor of Spanish, Marquette University)

This is a groundbreaking work. Few scholars have the command of Lefebvre and the sweep of critical geography, the development of Spanish urban planning and Spanish cultural production that Professor Fraser displays in this volume. His work will be required reading for all who want to explore how the social sciences interact with the humanities in fruitful ways and to see how the spatial turn in humanistic disciplines widely writ can offer exciting and innovative readings of Spain's major cities and the cultures they engender. (Malcom Alan Compitello, professor at the University of Arizona and chair and head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, professor at the University of Arizona and chair and head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese)

In applying his sharp analysis of Lefebvre's ideas on urban development and everyday life to Spanish modernity, Fraser (College of Charleston) performs a theoretical tour de force. He starts out with a chapter on modern Spain's first critic of urban alienation, Mariano José de Larra. He then sets up Catalan urban planner Ildefons Cerdà's work against Luis Martín-Santos's assessment of Francoist decline in Tiempo de silencio to illustrate the organic metaphor of the city as lived. Fraser looks at the problems faced by contemporary alienated urbanites in Juan José Millás's short stories and finally considers questions of representation (in tourism, photography, and video games) alongside Juan Goytisolo's Señas de identidad. The mind-boggling range of written, visual, and digital cultural material here underscores Fraser's Lefebvrian prioritization of the mobile over the static in everyday life and large-scale social practices in city space....The book's originality, flair, and intelligence cannot be ignored. Fraser has pushed Spanish literary and cultural studies further into the twenty-first century in this inventive rethinking of Spain's major cities and the cultures they engendered. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers.
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