Academic journal article Hispanic Review

"La Enfermedad Extraña": Inapetencia, Class and Eating Disorders in la Esfinge Maragata

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

"La Enfermedad Extraña": Inapetencia, Class and Eating Disorders in la Esfinge Maragata

Article excerpt

Sickly women populate the pages of Concha Espina's 1914 novel La esfinge maragata (translated to English with the title Mariflor in 1924), for which she won the coveted Fasenrath Prize from the Real Academia Española. While on the one hand, the inhabitants seem to be strong and enduring, on the other hand, their bodies are represented as broken down, aged, and wasted. What I propose to add to the scholarship on Espina, and specifically to the study of La esfinge, is to align her with other women writers in her exploration of the metaphor of illness. Moreover, I hope to contribute to scholarship like that of ludith Kirkpatrick that treats this novel as a text deserving of serious critical analysis. After contextualizing the novel in terms of the earlytwentieth-century preoccupation with what women do and do not consume, I will explore how contemporary feminist theories on eating disorders can help us understand the dynamics of illness in this novel. A study of the body and what the body consumes will lead me to explore the ways Espina's novel illuminates the relationship between social class and women's illness as well.

Concepción "Concha" Espina (1869-1955), like her contemporaries Emilia Pardo Bazán and Carmen de Burgos, made her living by writing. Espina distinguishes herself by being the first Spanish woman writer to live exclusively from her writing. In her day, Espina was highly praised and considered one of Spain's most important writers. She was awarded several prizes for her literature in the 1920s and again in the 1950s. In 1929 she lost the Nobel Prize by one vote (Rojas Auda 24). She was Spain's cultural ambassador on two occasions, in 1929 and 1935. As is evident by the great number of translations to foreign languages that were made of her works, she was extremely popular in her day and her works were widely read: "[Espina's] visibility and popularity unquestionably contributed to strengthening the image and position of the woman writer" (Perez 25-26). Espina published more than thirty novels, eleven of which were published after she had gone blind.

Despite such accomplishments, she has largely been ignored by contemporary Hispanists. Her name appears on a dismal 2% of graduate reading lists (lohnson and Brown 478). The most likely reason for her unmerited shelving is her ideological shift in the mid-thirties (Bretz, Preface; Rojas Auda 14). Her literary work during and after the Spanish Republic took on marked political overtones promoting the Falangista-backed Nationalist Party. Recent scholarly work is quick to disclaim her later work. Elizabeth Rojas Auda's Visión y ceguera adds "su obra comprometida" to the subtitle, alluding to work published prior to the recognized shift in Espina's leftist ideology. Rojas Auda dedicates a chapter of her book to an explanation of Espina's support of the Nationalists, including her longtime commitment to the Church and the fact that two of her sons were soldiers for the Nationalists. Moreover, Mary Lee Bretz is right to note that the formation of the Spanish canon in universities outside of Spain was mostly directed by Republican exiles who would have strong political reasons to exclude Espina (Preface). However, I would remind Hispanists that losé Martínez Ruiz, "Azorin," a strong supporter of the Republic in the 1930s, also became a supporter of Franco in the 1940s (Fox 75). Yet Azorin never lost his place in the canon or on graduate reading lists.1 Obviously, gender bias, even more so than political bias, has its place in canon formation. Azorin's work favoring Franco is viewed as an anomaly, while Espina's political conservatism has worked to erase her from Hispanic studies, and even to a large degree from feminist studies in Hispanism. Even if we ascribe to a canon politics that excludes texts based on their ideological content, we can all agree that such a parameter must be applied equally.

Another possible cause for her exclusion is that Espina's work fits into several literary movements, making it hard to categorize her. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.