Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Álvaro Ayo

Committee Members

Nuria Cruz-Cámara, Oscar Rivera Rodas, Nancy E. Henry


Ventura Ruiz Aguilera (1820-1881) enjoyed great popularity and influence throughout the mid- 19th century in Spain. He was most famous for his book of poems Ecos nacionales (1849), which was inspired by the people. Although he continued to attract attention amongst literary critics, shortly after his death Aguilera’s popularity declined. This investigation explores the representation of society in both Aguilera’s Ecos nacionales and his prose collection Proverbios ejemplares (1864). By reexamining these two texts, I reveal how Aguilera’s works partake in discussions of both literary and social issues with an emphasis on progress and modernity.

When Aguilera published Ecos nacionales, he found inspiration in traditional forms, particularly the romance, and infuses in it elements of the European ballad to create a contemporary and innovative venue for the representation of Spanish issues. I show that Ecos communicates and seeks change by airing social ills in the voice of the Spanish masses. The inclusion of the masses aims to democratize Spanish poetry by giving a presence to marginalized groups who did not have a role in the representation of the nation at the time of the publication of Ecos.

This investigation also explores Aguilera’s representation of the middle class in Proverbios ejemplares as well as this work’s contribution to the development of Spain’s modern novel. Aguilera is one of the first Spanish authors to integrate in prose fiction representation of middleclass life and values, which would come to be the focus point of the Realist novel. I show how this depiction of the middle class displays the problematic relation between modernity and tradition in Spanish society. I discover that Aguilera, writing against an imposition of modernity from outside, aims to give modernity in Spain a Spanish face from within.

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