Inhabiting the In-Between: Childhood and Cinema in Spain’s Long Transition
Published: May 2019© 2019
256 Pages, 6.40 x 9.25 x 1.00 in, 108 b&w illustrations
Although children have proliferated in Spain’s cinema since its inception, nowhere are they privileged and complicated in quite the same way as in the films of the 1970s and early 1980s, a period of radical political and cultural change for the nation as it emerged from almost four decades of repressive dictatorship under the rule of General Francisco Franco. In Inhabiting the In-Between: Childhood and Cinema in Spain’s Long Transition, Sarah Thomas analyses the cinematic child within this complex historical conjuncture of a nation looking back on decades of authoritarian rule and forward to an uncertain future.
Examining films from several genres by four key directors of the Transition – Carlos Saura, Antonio Mercero, Víctor Erice, and Jaime de Armiñán – Thomas explores how the child is represented as both subject and object, and self and other, and consistently cast in a position between categories or binary poles. She demonstrates how the cinematic child that materializes in this period is a fundamentally shifting, oscillating, ambivalent figure that points toward the impossibility of fully comprehending the historical past and the figure of the other, while inviting an ethical engagement with each.
Note on Translation and Dates
Introduction: Inhabiting the In-Between
1. Impossible Returns: The Child as Self and Other in Carlos Saura’s El jardín de las delicias (1970) and La prima Angélica (1974)
2. Innocent Creatures: Child as Commodity and Animal in Mercero’s La guerra de papá (1977) and Tobi, el niño con alas (1978)
3. Oscillating Encounters: Alignment and Foreclosure in Víctor Erice’s El espíritu de la colmena (1973) and El sur (1983)
4. Betwixt and Between: Liminal Adolescence in Jaime de Armiñán’s El amor del capitán Brando (1974) and El nido (1980)
"Thomas has crafted a meticulously documented study that is theoretically sound, insightful, and nimbly written. This monograph will be of great interest to a wide readership, especially those interested in Iberian Studies and film criticism. As such, Thomas’s monograph on in-betweenness and childhood in selected films from the Long Transition is a welcome contribution to the field." John Margenot, Hispania
"The innovative and convincing interpretations of Inhabiting the In-Between recommend themselves to the reader with an insistence upon the narrative and psychological complexity of these films. Beyond its substantial contribution to Spanish film studies, this book urges one to be aware that the liminality of childhood and adolescence is brief, irretrievable, and when neglected, can amount to a missed opportunity."Elizabeth Scarlett, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos
"Sarah Thomas’ Inhabiting the In-Between is a beautifully written study of a still under-examined period in Spain’s recent history, the Transition to Democracy, that trains its focus on the emergent figure of the child protagonist in the lesser-known works by art house and lesser-studied popular cinema directors. Thomas grounds the child in national moments of import as she follows film scholars Vicky LeBeau, Karen Lury, and Emma Wilson in exploring this figure in filmic and philosophical inquiry that inflects, in varying degrees, the bildungsfilm, the haptic and the gaze, biopolitics, historical memory, queer studies, and cultural geography beyond the bounds of Iberian film and history. As this list suggests, Inhabiting the In-Between exhibits a productive interdisciplinary, or fluid theoretical inbetweenness."Erin K. Hogan, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Ciberletras
"Inhabiting the In-Between is perceptive, original, clearly written, and a welcome addition to the slim collection of innovative studies of Spanish films during the transition from Dictatorship to Democracy."Soledad Fox Maura, Williams College, The Seminary Co-op
"In its development of thought-provoking concepts such as the ‘child other,’ Inhabiting the In-Between provides a lucid reappraisal of Spanish film during this period. Thorough, meticulous, and engaging, Sarah Thomas demonstrates a probing and broad-ranging understanding of scholarship on representations of childhood in film and childhood studies more generally, making a significant contribution to the field of Spanish cinema studies."Tom Whittaker, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Warwick
"Covering literature on the child in Spanish and Latin American cinema, childhood studies, Spanish cinema studies, and film studies, Sarah Thomas pushes at the boundaries of these fields with this nuanced, highly sophisticated work. In this thrilling study, the child is presented as liminal, ambiguous and elusive, in careful, meticulous scholarship underpinning readings which are exhilarating and profound. The child is seen as an amalgam of often illusory meditations on the relationship of the past to the present and the self to the other – the perfect icon for our shifting understandings of Spain’s long Transition to democracy."
Sarah Wright, School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Royal Holloway University of London