Spain and the antipsychiatric aesthetic

Andrew F Giles

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This article outlines a family resemblance in the work of authors and film-makers of the 1960s and 1970s in Spain. In the light of the international zeitgeist most often termed “antipsychiatry”, the works of Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984) and R. D. Laing (1927 – 1989) make up the critical focus for the formulation of an “antipsychiatric aesthetic” in Spanish literature. In the novels Tiempo de silencio (1961) by Luís Martín-Santos (1926 – 1964) and Volverás a Región (1967) by Juan Benet (1927 – 1993), and the film El espíritu de la colmena (1973) directed by Víctor Erice (1940 - ), this antipsychiatric aesthetic explores the relationship between doctor and patient in poetry as Scottish antipsychiatrist R. D. Laing had in practice. Contemporary to Foucault and Laing’s critique of the managerial doctor figure, these three texts re-enact this critique and extend its remit to embody the reader-writer/ author-text/ text-reader dialectic. Consequently, a specifically Iberian school of critical theory becomes apparent, that responds to the existential writings of Miguel de Unamuno (1864 – 1936). Embedded within these poetics are attempts to reframe the ontological anxieties that stem from a subjective experience of silence and control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Iberian and Latin American Studies
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Antipsychiatry
  • R.D. Laing
  • Silence
  • Control
  • Foucault
  • Juan Benet
  • Luís Martin-Santos
  • Victor Erice
  • Theory
  • poetry
  • authority


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