Luisa Carnés’s novel Tea Rooms: Mujeres obreras (1934) recounts the corporeal and sensory experience of workers in a pastelería, capturing their hunger and fatigue amid the smells of freshly baked pastries. These working women are thus inserted into economic space, defined as the production, distribution, and consumption of the material goods that sustain life and give pleasure. The novel makes palpable their desire to enjoy the consumer products that surround them—whether in the tea room, in nearby shops, or in the cinema across the street—pleasurable goods that remain beyond their means. In the musical comedy El bailarín y el trabajador (1936), a ruined señorito, formerly a ballroom dancer, finds himself relegated to working in a cookie factory. As he redirects his bodily exertion from nonproductive to productive labor, he sings of the working life as “dulce y sabrosa” (sweet and flavorful). Based on a play by Jacinto Benavente (1925), and repurposed in the era of the Popular Front, the film attempts to ease class conflict by celebrating the working life and asserting interclass harmony, thereby appealing to viewers on both the left and right. But despite its bourgeois perspective, the striking shots of the machinery, with the masa (dough) emerging from the cylinders—flattened, stamped, and cut into cookies—clearly suggest the masses in the process of organizing and coming to consciousness. And juxtaposed with these factory scenes are segments showing the glamorous, “sweet” life of the idle rich. Both the novel, with its Marxist critique, and the film, with its bourgeois message, mobilize affects by deploying the material metaphors of foodstuffs—sweets, in this case—that provide not so much sustenance as pleasure. These two works thus foreground in quite different ways the notion of “communal luxury,” the right of workers to beauty, to pleasure, and to a life of the mind.

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