women's writing


women's writing
   Changing social roles and the expanding publishing industry have transformed women's writing and its critical reception in the democratic period. Under Franco, virtually the only woman to feature in post-war literary overviews was Carmen Laforet, whose 1945 novel Andrea (Nada) was taken to mark the birth of neo-realism. Underlying this neglect was the fact that, with notable exceptions like Dolores Medio, Mercedes Fórmica Corsi and the early novels of Concha Alós, few women produced the socialist realist narrative that influential commentators of the 1950s and 1960s deemed the only effective literary means of opposing the regime. Although the more subjective or psychological focus of Ana María Matute, Elena Soriano and Mercedes Salisachs, for example, or the ambiguities and stylistic complexities of Elena Quiroga's work, did not preclude a critical dimension—and may in some cases have been cultivated to elude censorship—they were generally either ignored or criticized as unengaged. Unsurprisingly, however, given women's restricted horizons, the best-selling women's writing of the post-war period was the novela rosa (sentimental romance), a genre not marked by dissidence. By the mid-1950s, however, writers like Carmen Martín Gaite, Laforet and Carmen Kurtz were among those using its conventions to question the regime's constraints on women.
   Within a decade, the effects of Spain's limited modernization and the increased availability of Latin American and European criticism and nonrealist narrative was encouraging more experimental writing. Ana María Moix was one of the number of young poets who functioned as cultural mediators between these new and more traditional influences. By the 1970s this experimentalism was visible in the narrative of Lourdes Ortiz, for example, and the more established Martín Gaite. The newer generation was also influenced by the highly acclaimed work produced in exile by Mercè Rodoreda and Rosa Chacel. Despite its increasingly liberal climate, however, innovation was less evident in the theatre, where Ana Diosdado was writing the bourgeois comedies that have made her Spain's most commercially successful woman play-wright. The widespread disenchantment that followed the euphoria of the transition to democracy and the fragmentation of organized feminism led a number of writers—including Rosa Montero, Lidia Falcón and Montserrat Roig—to rework their experiences as feminist and anti-Franco activists in their writing. Like the dynastic narratives of Roig and Rodoreda in the early 1970s, this reflected an attempt to interpret an uncertain present with reference to the past. Also associated with the prevailing sense of lost bearings was the adoption by some writers of a more introspective, existentially inflected tone usually associated with a search for stable identity, as in the novels of Tusquets, Marina Mayoral, Soledad Puértolas and Mercedes Soriano. The 1980s saw the publication of a number of texts-by Paloma Díaz-Mas, for example, Ortiz, María Xosé Queizán, Carmen Gómez Ojea and Pilar Pedraza— which sought alternative identities, or new discursive conditions in which these might emerge, by reconfiguring history or myth. Montero has used science fiction to similar effect. In the theatre, androcentric gender stereotypes (to which certain established women playwrights like Diosdado and María Manuela Reina also had recourse) began to be challenged by younger writers, among them Pilar Pombo, Maribel Lázaro and Paloma Pedrero.
   The late 1970s had seen revived interest among some writers—including Puértolas and Ortiz—in plot-driven thriller or detective fiction as a focus for interpreting and thus stabilizing the effects of rapid social change. Throughout the 1980s, however, post-structuralist and postmodern critiques contributed to a widespread loss of faith in notions of truth, stability and identity. In her 1983 novel Te trataré como a una reina (I'll Treat You Like a Queen) for example, Montero deliberately undermines the distinction between crime reporting and fiction. Five years earlier Martín Gaite's The Back Room (El cuarto de atrás) had affirmed the constructed nature of autobiography, identity and subject alike. The element of mystery which structures her central character's quest for identity while underlining its illusoriness can also be traced in the work of Carme Riera and, more recently, in writing by Cristina Fernández Cubas, Mayoral and Adelaida García Morales. The ongoing tension between the seach for authentic identity and the view that truth and identity are effects produced in discourse is evident in recent historical narratives by Angeles Caso and Moix: the first marked by the search for an accurate alternative to androcentric history; the second by an implicit critique of historiography as a project. Among younger novelists like Belén Gopegui, however, there are signs of a desire to move beyond this tension towards a renewed collective project. The link between the high profile of Spanish women's writing since the 1980s and the expansion of the publishing industry is evident in the vogue for women's literatura erótica (erotic literature). Whereas the erotic had been an integral part of more complex narratives by Tusquets, for example, and of poetry by Ana Rossetti and Juana Castro since the late 1970s, the 1989 début novels of Almudena Grandes and Mercedes Abad were marketed primarily for their erotic content, although both have been criticized for reproducing male-authored models. More generally, the expansion of locally based publishing has raised the profile of regional writers like the Galician poet and novelist Xohana Torres and the Basque-language writer Arantza Urretabizkaia.
   Further reading
   - Brown, J.L. (ed.) (1991) Women Writers of Contemporary Spain: Exiles in the Homeland, London: Associated University Presses (wideranging collection, covering some lesserknown writers).
   - Levine, L.G. (1993) Spanish Women Writers: a BioBibliographical Source Book, London: Greenwood (invaluable reference text).
   - López, F. (1995) Mito y discurso en la novela femenina de posguerra en España, Madrid: Pliegos (particularly strong on the pre-1975 novel, usefully contextualized).
   - Ordoñez, E. (1991) Voices of Their Own: Contemporary Spanish Narrative by Women, London: Associated University Presses (impressive range of theoretical feminist readings).
   - Pérez, J. (1988) Contemporary Women Writers of Spain, Boston, MA: Twayne (accessible survey from the beginning of the century).
   ANNY BROOKSBANK JONES

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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