Reflection in Sequence: Novels by Spanish Women, 1944-1988

Reflection in Sequence: Novels by Spanish Women, 1944-1988

Reflection in Sequence: Novels by Spanish Women, 1944-1988

Reflection in Sequence: Novels by Spanish Women, 1944-1988

Synopsis

The works examined in this study -- Nada, Primera memoria, La placa de Diamant, Julia, El cuarto de atras, El amor es un juego solitario, and Questio d'amor propi -- feature female protagonists struggling for self-realization and change in a restrictive Spanish society. These novels exhibit similar thematic and artistic concerns and provide a reflective continuum of women's progress in Spain for more than 40 years.

Excerpt

While women in the United States talk of breaking through the “glass ceiling” that still limits job advancement and pay scales for them, women in Spain during the twentieth century have experienced a much more opaque barrier. Even though Spanish women began to acquire more equal rights during the liberal Second Republic (1931–39), the Spanish civil war (1936–39) interrupted their hopeful possibilities. After Generalissimo Francisco Franco seized control of Spain in 1939, he maintained his role as dictator until his death in 1975. In the early years of his dictatorship, Franco rewrote Spain’s civil and penal laws, giving husbands all legal authority in the family and denying women all sorts of familial, societal, and conjugal rights. Franco even established a special Feminine Section, dedicated to instruct women about proper comportment. After Franco’s death, the democratic monarchy of Juan Carlos I, the general elections in Spain, and the Spanish Constitution of 1978 reinstated many rights for women, but the process of women’s social autonomy is a slow one. The haunting effects of dictatorial control, censorship, and more subtle propaganda to dominate women are difficult to eradicate, as evidenced by the novels I examine in this study.

Despite all the barriers against women’s development during Franco’s dictatorship, or—more conceivably—in retaliation to them, novels by women in Spain began to flourish soon after Franco took control. A great many of these works concern female identity. While many of these novels have been tremendously popular, especially among Spanish women, most of the novels and their authors are relatively unknown outside Spain (except for scholars of twentieth-century Spanish literature). This is true even though five of the seven novels I analyze at length in this study have been translated into English. Moreover, books of criticism about Spanish novels by women had been very sparse until the mid-1980s. With this study I hope to add to the body of work about women writers by emphasizing the thread of discourse and social evolution precipitated by Spanish women’s writing.

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