Quixotic Modernists: Reading Gender in Tristana, Trigo and Martínez Sierra

Quixotic Modernists: Reading Gender in Tristana, Trigo and Martínez Sierra

Quixotic Modernists: Reading Gender in Tristana, Trigo and Martínez Sierra

Quixotic Modernists: Reading Gender in Tristana, Trigo and Martínez Sierra


Quixotic Modernists gives close readings of two novels by two little-studied writers of the early twentieth century in Spain, Felipe Trigo's Las ingenuas (1901) and Maria Martinez Sierra's Tu eres la paz (1906), in relation to the canonical Tristana by Benito Perez Galdos, Spain's greatest nineteenth-century novelist. This study shows the modern message (regarding gender), and modernist qualities of the prose of these works. Included are discussions of Quijote intertexts, proverbial language and tactics, the angel and the mujer-nina, flower, water, and animal imagery, and visual arts in relation to gender definition. Also included are contemporary responses to the novels and material about the authors' lives and Spain's social conditions in the early twentieth century. Quixotic Modernists integrates these themes into a study of the novelization of difficulties in transforming contemporary gender and class roles. In all three authors' works, this process of change in roles for both men and women becomes a quixotic enterprise, in which artists as/and characters search to reconnect with an elusive material, social body.


… el caballero andante sin dama es como el árbol sin hojas,
el edificio sin cimiento, y la sombra sin cuerpo de quien se
cause …

[… the knight errant without a lady is like a tree without
leaves, a building without a foundation, and a shadow with
out a body to cause it …]

—Don Quijote, in Don Quijote de la Mancha

AT THE END OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND THE BEGINNING OF the twentieth, Spanish writers lived within a conflicted period. They witnessed the return of the military troops after the loss of Spain’s last colonies in 1898, a rise in workers’ movements, and continuing developments in feminist thought. The Spain that had lost Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines functioned as a pseudo-liberal democracy based on a two-party system that misused the Universal Suffrage Law of 1890—“universal” for men only. In a principally agricultural society based on caciquismo [domination of local political bosses] in different degrees, workers’ parties, socialists, and anarchists were organizing in opposition to the Catholic Church and to military intervention in national political arenas. These were the visible factors of the ubiquitous “social question” (la cuestión social).

But the fin de siglo also was a vibrant, complex time of change in literary theory and practice that reflected Spain’s “halting modernization and self-consciousness of the modern,” as Noël Valis has so succinctly stated. Writers had not yet been classified as pertaining to either the Generation of ’98 or modernismo, or as producing “intellectual” versus “popular” texts. The year 1902, date of publication of landmark novels by the nowcanonical authors Miguel de Unamuno, José Martínez Ruiz, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, and Pío Baroja, has been conventionally affirmed as the moment of a definitive break with realist fiction. But, in Rita Felski’s words, “older conceptual frames do not . . .

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