Negotiating Sainthood
Distinction, Cursilería and Saintliness in Spanish Novels

Kathy Bacon

Legenda (General Series)


5 July 2007  •  212pp

ISBN: 978-1-904350-92-7 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-351195-79-9 (Taylor & Francis ebook)


The idea of saintliness did not disappear from Spanish culture in the increasingly secular world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: it remained a potent, if often unrecognised, ingredient of portrayals of gender and national identity. In an initially shocking but ultimately persuasive move, Bacon pairs saintliness with cursilería, a derogatory Spanish term with some similarity to kitsch, associated with exaggerated femininity, pretension, outdatedness and inauthenticity.

Kathy Bacon's innovative approach to sainthood leads to fresh readings of texts by Spain's three principal realist novelists: La familia de León Roch and Nazarín (Benito Pérez Galdós, 1878 and 1895), La Regenta (Leopoldo Alas, 1884-85), and Dulce dueño (Emilia Pardo Bazán, 1911). The author challenges the conventional distinction between anti-clerical and 'spiritual' novels by these writers, and questions previous feminist assumptions about the negative role of religion for female identity. Sainthood emerges as a key theme through which texts grapple with Spain's difficult transition to modernity.

Kathy Bacon completed her PhD at Jesus College, Cambridge, and has researched and taught at the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, and the University of Stirling.


  • ‘Altamente recomendable para los estudiosos interesados en el análisis del complejo engarce socio-estético del género sexual, las prácticas religiosas y la modernidad. [Highly recommended for scholars interested in analysis of the complex socio-aesthetic interweaving of gender, religious practices, and modernity.]’ — Iñigo Sánchez-Llama, Iberoamericana 8.29, March 2008, 228-31
  • ‘Comprehensive studies of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century religious discourse have been rare in contemporary Spanish literary studies. Kathy Bacon’s Negotiating Sainthood seeks to alter this imbalance by contributing original, at times surprising, and ultimately convincing interpretations in this area. The text’s insightful connections between Bourdieu’s social theories, cursilería, and aspirations for saintly distinction provide invaluable theoretical tools and concepts for untangling the complexities of an historically polemical era.’ — Ruth J. Hoff, Bulletin of Spanish Studies 86, 2009, 551-52
  • ‘El manejo de una nutrida bibliografía que abarca diferentes disciplinas, así como el brillante análisis individual de cada novela, redundan asimismo en la coherencia de los argumentos esgrimidos por la profesora Bacon. Estamos, en suma, ante un libro que destaca por el rigor metodológico y que arroja nueva luz sobre las variadas manifestaciones del culto a la santidad en la novela española moderna.’ — Toni Dorca, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 86.3 (2009), 446-47
  • ‘In short, Bacon casts a refreshingly new light on the novels in question, highlighting the complexities therein and inviting readers to revisit them. The study, as a whole, is a fascinating piece of work of clear relevance not merely for those interested in fin de siglo culture, but for a wide range of readers from disciplines both within and outside Hispanic Studies.’ — Rhian Davies, Modern Language Review 106.1, 2011, 269-70 (full text online)

Bibliography entry:

Bacon, Kathy, Negotiating Sainthood: Distinction, Cursilería and Saintliness in Spanish Novels (Legenda, 2007)

First footnote reference: 35 Kathy Bacon, Negotiating Sainthood: Distinction, Cursilería and Saintliness in Spanish Novels (Legenda, 2007), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Bacon, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Bacon, Kathy. 2007. Negotiating Sainthood: Distinction, Cursilería and Saintliness in Spanish Novels (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Bacon 2007: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Bacon 2007: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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