In This Year of Mass Protests, Book Reveals that 19th-Century Spanish Novelist Benito Perez Galdos's Grasp of Mass Psychology Antedates Freud, Jung and LeBon's Treatises

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The year 2011 is the year of the mob. It is also the year in which the newly-released Libido into Literature: The “Primera Epoca” of Benito Perez Galdos demonstrates that this important Spanish author had a profound understanding of mass psychology prior to the writings on the subject by Freud, Jung, LeBon and Ferri. Galdos conveys this understanding –not in essays or factual reports—but through great literature. The subject is especially important today in this era of mass protests across the globe.

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Zlotchew’s study of the early novels of the great Spanish author makes obvious, almost palpable, Galdos’ understanding of the mob mentality.

The year 2011 is the year of mass demonstrations. This year has seen mass protests, often resulting in violence, on the streets of Athens, Paris, Rome and other European cities. Huge crowds in Tunis, Cairo, and in the cities of Libya and Syria demonstrated against their governments. In Libya the demonstrations turned into a civil war in which the dictator, Muammar Ghadaffi, was murdered by a mob. These demonstrations were followed by mass protests in the U.S. that started in New York and spread to cities all across the nation, under the name, “Occupy Wall Street.” A book just released through the Authors Guild program shows how Galdos, the great 19th-Century Spanish novelist, incorporated a knowledge of mass psychology into his literary work before the work of Freud on the subject.

The year 2011 in addition to being the year of the mob is also the year in which the out-of-print book, Libido into Literature: The “Primera Epoca” of Benito Perez Galdos, by Clark M. Zlotchew, was resuscitated through the Authors Guild’s program. The connection between this book and the protest demonstrations is that the subject of Libido into Literature is the great Spanish writer, Benito Perez Galdos, who demonstrates an extaordinary psychological understanding of mob behavior, even before the treatises of Freud and Jung were written.

Zlotchew’s study of the early novels of the great Spanish author makes obvious, almost palpable, Galdos’ understanding of the mob mentality. The extent to which Galdos was practically obsessed with the actions of large groups of people acting concertedly leads Zlotchew to invent the term group-organism to explain the way in which these entities, each one with its own peculiarities, are treated almost as if they were characters in the novel.

EXCERPT: Judging by the foregoing, Galdos recognized a phenomenon the psychological implications of which are utilized today by the producers of situation comedies on television. Laughter, like fear, is highly infectious. A member of a motion picture audience laughs more readily at humorous events than the solitary television viewer of the identical film. Recognizing this, producers of many television comedy series employ pre-recorded laughter on the soundtrack of their programs in order to simulaate to some degree the impact of the group upon the individual. This “canned laughter,” mimicking spontaneous mirth emanating from a theater audience, provokes the viewer into laughing, and produces the illusion of greater comicity than might actually exist. The pre-recorded sounds of mirth cause the viewer to relinquish temporarily his or her individuality while becoming one cell of an artificial group-organism. The individual’s personality and judgment aare subordinated to those of this ephemeral organism –an “audience” represented by its voice alone—in much the same manner as that reported by LeBon and dramatized by Galdos in La Fontana de Oro, in which the narrator states that the opinion of the audience is not equal to the sum of the opinions held by its human components. P. 19.

Benito Perez Galdos is considered by most critics the greatest writer produced by Spain after Miguel de Cervantes, and is on a par with Dickens, Dostoevsky and Balzac. This Spanish writer’s work is huge, including over 100 volumes, and is unequaled in the sheer number of individualized human beings who move through his vast fictional universe.

Galdosian critic Douglass M. Rogers, referring to Libido into Literature: The “Primera Epoca” of Benito Perez Galdos, says, "Like Galdos's work itself, Clark Zlotchew's study has various facets and can be read for its revelations concerning these specific novels, future novels, Galdos-the-author and Galdos-the-man, and also for what it has to show us about the wealth of discoveries involved in reading novels in general."

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