Inner and outer exile in fascist Germany and Spain: a comparative study

This three-year project funded by The Leverhulme Trust is investigating literary exile under dictatorship in twentieth-century Germany and Spain.

It seeks to redefine the problematic notion of “inner exile”, to chart its relationship with “outer” or territorial exile, and to explore synergies and commonalities between the two phenomena in the German and Spanish settings. 

Alongside a focus on terminology, self-identity, literary tropes and images, and the uses of history, the pioneering study will exploit archival sources to make little-known works available in English translation and will open up the field for wider interdisciplinary research.

Detailed project description

Political and literary exile from tyranny has a long history, from the Jews’ Babylonian exile to the contemporary Syrian refugee crisis. The cases of German writers under National Socialism and Spanish writers under the Franco regime offer a significant contrastive case study of the phenomenon of inner and territorial or outer exile.

In both contexts, inner exiles were initially accorded greater status and for several years continued to dominate the respective literary canon, while exiled writers tended to be denigrated and undervalued. There followed, again in both cases, a growing recognition of the real hardship and achievements of exile and concomitant criticism of the inner exile position. In both Germany and Spain post-hoc critical debates have perpetuated the original fissure between inner and territorial exile communities and have led to a failure to explore the shared cultural rootedness of the respective exilic discourse.

The project addresses this failure by:

  • pursuing an integrationist model of exile to help understand the significance of the German and Spanish fissures and their implications
  • exploring the prevalent historical, mythical, and Christian motifs that characterize literary production across the inner/ outer exile divide in both countries
  • extending enquiry into the role of subversive discourses in literature and the visual arts in Catalan-speaking territories under Franco
  • exploiting German and Spanish archival sources to make little-known works available in English translation
  • broadening the scope and reach of the project through two comparative PhDs
  • opening up the field for wider, interdisciplinary exploration of discourses of displacement and the role of culture under authoritarian regimes.

Project team

Research Fellows

PhD Students

  • Ms Pilar González
  • Ms Zoe McCullach


  • A monograph on the use of tropes and historical themes in literary responses to dictatorship
  • An annotated anthology of translated texts from Germany under National Socialism and Spain under Franco
  • An edited volume on conceptualization and reception of exilic writing and art
  • Two PhD dissertations
  • Articles in academic journals

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