The Power of the Smile – Humour in Spanish Culture
Soft cover, 258 pages with 13 illustrations in black and white
ISBN 978 1 903427 69 9
The smile, gently powerful, is a universal feature of human behaviour, and it deserves more careful study than it has often been accorded. It is usually bundled together with the laugh into the general category of ‘humour’, yet smiles and laughs are quite different.
This book explores the complex relationship between the smile and the laugh and traces its historical development in Spanish life and culture. The first chapter examines smiles and laughs as they occur in everyday life, taking Galician irony or retranca, and the sarcasm or guasa of Madrid and Seville, as characteristic forms of the smile and the laugh respectively.
The main focus is on the medieval and early modern periods, because these were times of transition when the smile began to challenge the traditional dominance of the laugh. The principal source for the historical study of smiles and laughs is literature, but the book contains the first detailed study of the earliest expressive smile in medieval sculpture, worn by the prophet Daniel in the twelfth-century Pórtico da Gloria in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. This is followed by a close analysis of smiles and laughs in four canonical medieval and early modern literary works, the Poema de Mio Cid, the Libro de buen amor, Celestina and Don Quixote.
About the author
John Rutherford is Emeritus Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford. He is the translator of Don Quixote, La Regenta and other works in Spanish and Galician, and has written extensively on topics from the medieval Galician cantigas to the novel of the Mexican Revolution.