It is always fascinating to find out why your colleagues chose your shared field of specialization:
Of course, our initial interest in the country, for many of us, derives from its distinctiveness, the way it is not a typical European country. The basic ideology of Hispanism is that Spain is interesting because of the ways it does not conform to European patterns.
This sounds like a very intelligent, sophisticated reason. Mine is very embarrassing in comparison. I wanted to work with the Spanish-language literature because I wanted to start from absolute scratch and prove to myself that I could do it. I first considered Latin American Studies, but soon the pathetic, brow-beaten women and piggish men that populate every single work of Latin American literature made that field lose all attraction for me. So I turned to what was left, namely, Spain.
If I wanted to choose on the basis of exceptionality within the European context, I would have gone for Russia instead. Now, that is a really weird country. Spain is very humdrum and typically European in comparison.
Spain likes to see itself as very exceptional in the European context but, to my Eastern European eyes, this is just a pose. Germany and Italy had to collect themselves out of small pieces well into the XIXth century. In the case of Germany, its painful entrance into modernity caused not simply a civil war, like it did in Spain, but two world wars.