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Romance and Exemplarity in Post-War Spanish Women's Narratives

Romance and Exemplarity in Post-War Spanish Women's Narratives

NINO KEBADZE
Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt9qdp1d
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  • Book Info
    Romance and Exemplarity in Post-War Spanish Women's Narratives
    Book Description:

    The effects of General Francisco Franco's authoritarian rule (1939-1975) on the production and reception of cultural texts can be gauged by the silence that now surrounds them. This is especially true of works which enjoyed considerable popularity when first published. Most of the novels in question belong to the sentimental genre known as novela rosa, whose authors-mostly women-and heroines Academe has consistently treated as literary pariahs. This volume represents the first serious effort to question the categories used to assess the value and meaning of texts previously presumed to be devoid of both. It does so by bringing to the fore the operative premise of Francoist cultural politics, wherein fictional works have the power to mould individual character and conduct. Narratives by Luisa-María Linares, Concha Linares-Becerra, Carmen de Icaza and María Mercedes Ortoll are thus examined in terms of the effects that they were expected to have on their readers, and the constraints that such expectations placed on the works' production and reception. The result is a paradox: while the study of women's bestselling novels is by definition a study of the constraints that shape them, careful reading reveals the limitations of those selfsame constraints. NINO KEBADZE is an Assistant Professor in the Hispanic Studies Department of the University of Massachusetts Boston.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-757-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-xii)

    Drawing on the Francoist use of literature as a means of social control and edification,¹ this book examines post-war romance fictions by Spanish women novelists as narratives of female exemplarity.² Under the label of exemplarity—which here denotes both a narrative modality and an interpretative strategy—are examined models of conduct that receive positive or negative sanction within the chosen texts. I contend that the practice of conferring meaning and value to given female representations is conditioned by prescribed gender and cultural norms found in a vast body of prescriptive texts (conduct manuals, treatises, and sermons)³ intended for the female...

  4. PART I Towards Female Exemplarity:: Setting the Norm

    • 1 From Nationalist Victory to New Signifying Practices
      (pp. 3-8)

      The Nationalist victory in the Civil War (1936–39) inaugurated a new order founded on the union of authoritarian politics and reactionary Catholic values. The years preceding the war were marked by significant political and socio-economic changes for Spain, which at the turn of the century was still undergoing the parallel processes of industrialization and urbanization. The rise of anarchist, socialist, and communist currents made evident the increasing fissures in the existing order, laying bare the insufficiencies surrounding the growing sectors of wage laborers and the landless population. The Church’s failure to take an active initiative in response to these...

    • 2 Engendering Exemplary Women
      (pp. 9-20)

      As we have seen, the new state warranted new subjects. Implicit in the struggle for power was “the struggle to impose certain meanings at the expense of others” (Graham and Labanyi 6). Fittingly, Sebastian Balfour stresses the significance of “value-systems” as “a battleground for the regime” (“TheDesarrollo” 283), and Mary Nash locates the ideological underpinnings of post-war cultural and gender policies in the regime’s national-Catholic orientation, “defined as a Spanish essentialism based on Catholicity” (“Moral Order” 289). Unity, sought on national and individual levels (as a milestone of the new state), presupposed exclusion, conformity, and ideological homogeneity. In spite...

    • 3 La perfecta casada: The Catholic Model of an Ideal Wife
      (pp. 21-33)

      Although post-war Spain produced an abundance of ecclesiastical writings, especially on the properties of the ideal woman and her societal role, Fray Luis de León’s sixteenth-century moral treatiseLa perfecta casada(1583) was fundamental in legitimating the official Francoist model of womanhood, and enjoyed wide circulation as a staple wedding gift. An epistolary dedicated to María Varela Osorio (kin of Fray Luis),La perfecta casadapresents a tropological exegesis of Proverbs 31: 10–31.¹ Each of the work’s twenty chapters opens with, and offers a gloss of, a particular verse (save chapter 8, which introduces verses 17–19). As such,...

    • 4 El ángel del hogar and the Bourgeois Ideal of Domesticity
      (pp. 34-44)

      Parting from the premise that “the construction of women in terms of recognizable roles, images, models, and labels occurs in discourse in response to specific social imperatives,” we must begin our analysis of the nineteenth century model of domesticity by surveying the circumstances that propitiated its production and circulation (Sunder Rajan 129). The debate on the character and ideal of women in the second half of the nineteenth century must be considered in light of the country’s changing political and socioeconomic landscape, which was responsible for reconfiguring traditional gender roles. Although the effects of industrialization in Spain in the mid-nineteenth...

    • 5 Female Formation and la nueva mujer of the Falange
      (pp. 45-68)

      The sacred mission of forming future wives and mothers was entrusted to the women’s cadre of the Spanish Falange, otherwise known asSección Femenina(1934–77). Its modest origins (not to be confused with its far less modest social and political underpinnings) can be traced to a group of seven women, mainly kin of male activists, who, a year after the launching of the party by José Antonio Primo de Rivera and two years before the breakout of the Civil War, coalesced under the leadership of José Antonio’s sister, Pilar.¹ With the absorption of the Falange into Franco’s National Movement,²...

  5. PART II Reading Romance:: Questioning the Norm

    • 6 Post-War Conventions of Representing Women: Gender and Genre Constraints
      (pp. 71-92)

      As our previous discussion has shown, the two doctrines that, during the years immediately following the Spanish Civil War, offered legitimate ways of structuring, understanding, and evaluating “always already” gendered national practices and individual experiences, belonged to the Church and the Falange. Accordingly, the normative models of womanhood were based on a constellation of the sixteenth-century Catholic model ofla perfecta casada, the nineteenth-century bourgeois ideal ofel ángel del hogar, and the regime’s contemporaryla nueva mujerof the Falange, promoted seamlessly through a range of educational, political, juridical, and familial policies. Constant among them was the insistence on...

    • 7 “La imperfecta casada” or the Making of an Ideal Wife in Luisa-María Linares’ Un marido a precio fijo
      (pp. 93-107)

      According to post-war novelist and playwright Julia Maura, one of the shortcomings of thenovela rosa’s rendering of feminine experience is that it ends where “real” life for a woman begins: in marriage.¹ What the arbiters of feminine mores, authors ofnovelas rosa, and novelists like Maura agree on is that female representation is inconceivable without reference to men. Most prescriptive texts divide women’s life experience into three phases:el noviazgo(courtship or engagement),el matrimonio(marriage), andla maternidad(motherhood). In keeping with Maura’s assertion, the popular romance novels see the first phase as their legitimate domain and, in...

    • 8 Interpreting ‘Surrender’ in Concha Linares-Becerra’s Como los hombres nos quieren
      (pp. 108-123)

      Vying for their audiences’ attention, women’s conduct manuals, especially those authored by clergymen, were quick to denounce the pitfalls to whichnovela rosaexposed its readers. Not only did marriage mean sacrifice and renunciation—notperpetual bliss, as these novels would have them believe—but the irresistible good looks and fortune of the male protagonists were likely to foster unrealistic expectations and an unseemly view of marriage as a consequence of “un flechazo” (love at first sight) or, still worse, of convenience. Nevertheless, it was agreed that the most effective way to steer women toward their officially sanctioned end with...

    • 9 Carmen de Icaza’s Soñar la vida or the Imperative to Dream
      (pp. 124-145)

      The title of Carmen de Icaza’s 1941 novel,Soñar la vida, evokes one of the persistent charges leveled atnovelas rosa: that of escapism. According to Icaza’s contemporary, writer and critic Eugenia Serrano, the authors ofnovelas rosawere ersatz apothecaries dealing in bogus dreams to lighten the yoke of quotidian grievances. That is, the reading ofnovelas rosa, as Serrano’s disingenuous “Elogio a la novela rosa” (“Praise of thenovela rosa”) suggests,¹ had the insalubrious effect, not unlike sedatives, of drawing young women, especially the women of the lower middle classes, into a counterfeit world of happy endings, far...

    • 10 Taking Matters into Your Own Hands in María Mercedes Ortoll’s En pos de la ilusión
      (pp. 146-169)

      En pos de la ilusión(1940), a first-person narrative by another prolific and popular author ofnovelas rosa, María Mercedes Ortoll, is addressed to “muchachas”—female readers of marriageable age (generously extended to early forties) who, according to the Dominican García Figar, dreamed of nothing but “estrenar un vestido” (“wearing a new dress”), “cazar¹ un novio” (“finding [but literally, “hunting”] someone to marry”), and “criar un hijo” (“raising a child”) (69). Viewed in this light,En posconstitutes a guide in its own right on how to obtain a husband. Circulated at a time when the ranks of single women...

  6. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 170-172)

    In writing about women’s popular romance novels from the early years of Franco’s rule, I have sought to vindicate the reading of works until now disregarded on account of their ideological complicity with the prevailing sociopolitical order and their alleged narrative transparency. While these assumptions are not all together unfounded, their application as ready-made interpretations has rendered the study of the selected texts futile, or at the very best, redundant. In an effort to debunk thisa priorijudgmentalism, I take the novels’ normative function (the endorsement and diffusion of desired feminine models of comportment), and their socio-political conditions of...

  7. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 173-182)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 183-187)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 188-188)