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Ideology, power and human body. The contemporary political novel
The re-politicization of the Spanish narrative
1 Oct 2023

A representative sample of novels written after 2011 from a mixed perspective of Marxist and post-structuralist philosophy with literary criticism.

Maria Ayete Gil graduated in Hispanic Philology from the University of Salamanca, with a master’s degree in Literary Studies from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid and a Master of Arts degree in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of the book “Ideología, poder y cuerpo. La novela política contemporánea”, published by Bellaterra Edicions. With a PhD in Spanish Literature from the University of Salamanca, she currently teaches Literary Theory at the University of Salamanca and in the master’s degree course in creative writing at UNIR. Previously, she worked at the University of Burgos, the Universitat Jaume I and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

This book is not about the crises we are living through, even if it arises from them. This book is about books, the reader and on reality.

Ideología, poder y cuerpo traces the re-politicization of the Spanish narrative after the ‘15M’ movement, initiated in 2011. How does a novel manage to do this? The author masterfully analyzes the degree of ideology in literary texts. What does it mean? Maria Ayete Gil conducts an in-depth analysis in search of the ideological bias of narrative texts in order to point out the cracks therein and observe how, through them, the radical historicity of the present speaks. The ideology that shapes our unconscious impels us to believe that we are free, autonomous and fully empowered. We say “I am free”, and we suture the wound. There are, however, novels that do not stitch up, but rather question this supposed freedom by bringing to light the figure of an exploited subject and exploited bodies that, insofar as they are exploited and not free, directly contradict the image that the capitalist mirror returns to us. These are political novels, and Ayete’s book is a proposal for reading and opening up the configuration of our biases.

The widespread social unrest observed in Spain, sparked by the 2007/2008 financial crisis, exploded into the ‘15M’ movement of 2011, which politicized the general public through widening the limits of the imagination and submitting consensus and legitimized reality to discussion. The initial hypothesis of this book is that the 15M movement produced a certain ‘re-politicization’ within Spanish novels, emerging after May 2011, which did not simply replicate the dominant official narrative that displaced the inconsistencies of hegemonic ideology, but revealed the contradictions of the system and its displacement operations.

These texts are called political novels, and they illuminate through fiction several issues that had, for the most part, been silenced or erased in the pre-crisis reality including precarity, exploitation, mechanisms of power, and both physical and psychological violence.

The demonstration of the re-politicization of the narrative goes back to Jacques Rancière’s notion of politics and the political power that is afforded to certain forms of art. From this starting point, the essay continues with the study of this process across three themes: ideology, power, and the human body.

In order to understand ideology, the reflections of Louis Althusser and Juan Carlos Rodríguez are fundamental. 

Louis Althusser defines ideology as unconscious actions and Juan Carlos Rodríguez develops a theory around the so-called ‘ideological unconscious’. On the other hand, Michel Foucault defines decentralized and multiple power crossing and coercing the subject to remain socially immobile. 

Finally, Giorgio Agamben and Roberto Esposito approve the biopolitics of Foucault to speak about lives and bodies abandoned in the face of danger, and Judith Butler exposes the ontological but differential vulnerability of our bodies, that are also lives. This essay reviews a representative sample of novels written after the ‘15M’ movement, analyzing them from a mixed perspective of Marxist and post-structuralist philosophy with literary criticism. This approach seeks to expose the ways in which each novel demonstrates the blind spots of the system and its ideology to denaturalize the consensual version of reality and reveal the possibility of a different world.

The official presentation of this book will take place on Friday, 20 October 2023 at 7 p.m. in Libreria Albatros (Rue Charles-Humbert 6, 1205 Geneva). More information at

* Gemma Capellas is Head of Linguistic Production at WMO and UNToday Editorial Adviser. Jesus Guerrero is Chief, Management and Communications Unit at the Center for Learning and Multilingualism (CLM), at UNOG.
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