Contemporary Spanish American Novels by Women

Contemporary Spanish American Novels by Women: Mapping the Narrative

SUSAN E. CARVALHO
Series: Monografías A
Volume: 237
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81mpg
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  • Book Info
    Contemporary Spanish American Novels by Women
    Book Description:

    Space is critical to imaginative writing. As English novelist Elizabeth Bowen has observed: 'nothing can happen nowhere'. This book offers an interdisciplinary framework for reading novels, and in particular women's fiction in Spanish America, with a focus on geoplot, on space rather than time as the narrative engine. Following the work of Lefebvre and Friedman, the author examines recent works by Spanish America's most visible women novelists - Angeles Mastretta [Mexico], Isabel Allende [Chile], Rosario Ferré [Puerto Rico], Sara Sefchovich [Mexico] and Laura Restrepo [Colombia] -and the ways in which their female protagonists challenge the spatial barriers erected by capitalist hegemony. Margins, borders, liminal spaces, the chora-space, and the body are emphasized as potential sites of transgression. The analysis identifies spatial negotiation as a mechanism both for cementing and for undermining authority, thus exposing the strategies through which literature constructs and represents power. SUSAN CARVALHO is Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Kentucky, and Director of the Middlebury College Spanish School.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-527-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: TAKING HER PLACE
    (pp. 1-16)

    Space has always played an important role in imaginative writing. As English novelist Elizabeth Bowen observed in 1973, ‘nothing can happen nowhere.’¹ Yet studies of the novel have traditionally foregrounded time over space, discussing plot as a sequence of actions. This book intends to offer a different framework for reading novels, and in particular women’s popular fiction in Spanish America, with a focus on space rather than time as the narrative engine. We will examine five novels in which the female protagonists stake out a place for themselves within societies that are intentionally structured to work against this occupation of...

  5. 1 Textual Situations: At the Crossroads of Literature and Geography
    (pp. 17-41)

    Discussions of locatedness often begin by establishing useful definitions and distinctions between the concepts of ‘space’ and ‘place.’ There being so much groundwork on the topic, we shall not attempt here to revise the terms, but merely to establish our use of them for the current study. The terms are difficult to define except in relation to each other. Gaston Bachelard claimed correctly that ‘Inhabited space transcends geometrical space’ (p. 47). This inhabited or lived-in space embodies that concept now denoted by the word ‘place.’ Or, as W. J. T. Mitchell notes, ‘space has connotations of abstraction and geometry, while...

  6. 2 In the Commercial Pipelines: Restrepo’s La novia oscura
    (pp. 42-74)

    Laura Restrepo’s La novia oscura, when read as plot – as sequence of events – narrates a chapter in the life of Sayonara, a legendary prostitute who worked in Colombia’s oil-rich interior sometime during the late 1940s. First-person reflections by the narrator/reporter frequently interrupt the narrative, as she quotes her sources and inserts her own comments on both Sayonara’s mystique and the process of the novel’s construction. However, a spatial reading allows for a clearer vision of the motors that drive both the surrounding society and the narrative itself. A geoliterary study exposes not the lives of two individual women, but a...

  7. 3 Captured on Film: Allende’s Retrato en sepia
    (pp. 75-105)

    Isabel Allende achieved instant star status with her first novel, La casa de los espíritus (1982), and her two most recent novels – Hija de la fortuna (1999) and Retrato en sepia – are designed as prequels to that story.¹ They trace the lineage of the del Valle family (the family at the center of La casa de los espíritus) as well as a parallel family line, that of Eliza Sommers (protagonist of Hija de la fortuna) and her granddaughter Aurora (Retrato’s main character). At the same time, these later novels continue Allende’s autobiographical bent by exploring the history of cultural and...

  8. 4 Grounded: Ferré’s Flight of the Swan
    (pp. 106-130)

    Rosario Ferré’s third novel in English, Flight of the Swan, is a fictional embellishment of a real episode, Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova’s brief stay in Puerto Rico during her 1917 Latin American tour. Borrowing the title – and much of the heroine’s characterization – from a biography of Pavlova, published by dancer André Olivéroff in 1932,¹ Ferré uses Pavlova’s fictionalized presence in Puerto Rico to consider questions of cultural identity, politics, and gender. The heterotopia she creates – juxtaposing Russian dancers and US political and economic forces against traditional Puerto Rican types – allows for a reading of the novel as a series...

  9. 5 In the Garden: Sefchovich’s Demasiado amor
    (pp. 131-156)

    Already well known for her sociological essays on Mexican history and feminism as well as literary studies, Sara Sefchovich gained the immediate attention of the literary community when her first novel, Demasiado amor (1990), was awarded the Premio Agustín Yáñez. The novel topped bestseller lists, going through several reprintings during the years immediately following its publication, was reissued by Alfaguara in 2001, and renewed its popularity when its cinematic adaptation was released in 2002 (directed by Ernesto Rimoch). Sefchovich’s subsequent novels, La señora de los sueños (1993) and Vivir la vida (2000), have fared less well in the popular arena...

  10. 6 Revolutionary Paths: Mastretta’s Mal de amores
    (pp. 157-184)

    The archetypal novel of the Mexican Revolution, Los de abajo (Mariano Azuela, 1915), represents the fighters and their womenfolk as storm-tossed leaves, victims of the national winds of chaos and change. In what has become one of the most classic scenes in Latin American literature, protagonist Demetrio Macías faces his wife’s question, ‘¿Por qué pelean ya, Demetrio?’ (p. 207).¹ In lieu of an explanation, the inarticulate revolutionary tosses a small stone down the walls of a canyon, and observes, ‘Mira esa piedra cómo ya no se para …’ (p. 207). The characters do not make choices as to where they...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-186)

    Novels may be spatial practices, but narrated spaces are, in the end, verbal constructs. The study of space and place in literature must include not only what spaces are presented and how space functions upon and from the actions of the characters, but also the aesthetic structuring of space. Contemporary novels do not generally contain long, digressive passages detailing a landscape or a layout. A few words and sentences serve to convey the image of places, the tension involved in struggles for control of those places, and the change in those places over time. This study has attempted to identify...

  12. WORKS CITED
    (pp. 187-194)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 195-200)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)