With the changes of gender relationships in the workplace, the problems of the patriarchal authority in the Spanish household become underlying themes in gothic literature. Questions of feminism and reconciliation within the Spanish household are brought forth and posed to the public.
Gothic theorist and English author Ann Radcliffe has pinpointed the metaphorical importance of gothic themes to the woman's home predicaments. Like the Western gothic literature, Spanish "[gothic] literature [portrays the] dark side of the domestic haven, showing that while man's home might be his castle, it could also be woman's prison." (Perez) During the Franco era, gothic literature showed a woman distressed, saved by the masculine hero of that castle or manor. The Spanish authors began their own gothic movement much later than their English counterparts (a slow start because of the nation's political problems). Early writers such as Ana Maria Matute and Concha Alos alighted the beginning phases of gothic literature, "writing under duress" during the Franco regime (Davies). In Matute and Alos' fictionally created world, the women are subjected to horrors closely mirroring the lives of the women in their time period; in short, the women are vulnerable and have no legal protection (Perez).
The post-Franco neo-gothic literature in Spain develops the feminist undertones in the authors' works to a greater extreme. Now the women's problems are more complex, they are less angelic and innocent, and the heroines call for their own liberation from the home. The metaphors here compare the woman's prison to the constraints of the Spanish household. Women authors discuss this inner struggle within the household with their gothic novels, creating strong, independent characters; characters who either have been liberated from their prisons or disillusioned by their societal place (Perez). Some succeed, but most authors return the woman to a moral justification. This justification leads the woman back to the same place in her household; with a place beside her husband.
Marina Mayoral's Dar la vida y el alma (1996) tries to recreate an ideal woman in the 20th century Spanish society. The author's character Amelia has an affair with a womanizer, only to be left behind; she ultimately marries someone else as a result. As a sort of redemption in the eyes of the reader -- and in her own society's eyes -- Amelia stays true to this husband, as the form of an ideal woman in the Spanish household: chaste and faithful (Perez). The struggle here is clear; how does a woman author combine the strong, female voice and the societal expectations of females in the household? Her solution was to write a character in both worlds, much like another Spanish author who takes this idea to the next level.
Apart from gothic literature, women have also been prominent in feminist fiction, with a strong focus on female modernity. Writer Carmen de Burgos highlights this modern woman in her novel La mujer moderna y sus derechos, which speaks of Spanish women in their attempt "[to] legitimate their claims for women's rights on the grounds of gender difference rather than in the paradigm of equality." (Ferran) Here, professor and essayist Maryellen Bieder states that Burgos' modern woman is the attempt at a novelist trying to self-consciously [address] the problems facing their sex…[in] new novels about New Women, a term coined in 1894 which rapidly acquired popular currency as a label for the energetic and independent woman struggling against the constraints of Victorian norms of feminity. (Ferran)
As another novelist, Maria Concepcion Gimeno de Flaquer writes of the financial and political afflictions surrounding the modern woman. Her novel, Una Eva moderna (1909), speaks of women's education and women's rights. Her character Luisa calls for the right to the female vote and the terms of gender equality. Yet her story ends with an attempt at a moral and "religious legitimation"; and Luisa, while touting the need for equality, returns to her loveless marriage in order to care for a daughter and protect her inheritance (Ferran). The novella tries to break boundaries with its feminist ideas, yet the family: namely a daughter's well-being.
Countess de Pardo Emilia Bazan challenges Spanish gender norms and constructions; she hits the same undertones that Burgos was a firm proponent of. Bazan, however, championed the modern woman much further than her contemporaries; her Lina character was probably one of the few characters that "write her own body," that put forth and solve the gender problems without turning to societal conventions (Ferran).
3. Gender and Social Norms
Soledad Puertolas discussed the female self, the feminist voice, and the female power in her essay La vida oculta. In her informal essay, Puertolas detailed concerns with gender issues, and the question of how women can display or exercise their self-assertion (Glenn). Puertolas, like many of the women in Spain during the Franco regime, struggled much to be able to take up the studies of their choosing. Puertolas was unable to study political sciences in Madrid, and did not finish her course in economic sciences. Instead, she married at 21 and moved along with her husband to Norway, and then to the United Stated (Glenn). She finally did get a Master's degree in Spanish and Portuguese and became a writer thereafter. La vida oculta was her commentary on her experiences as a female in a Spanish household.
Meanwhile, poet and novelist Pino Ojeda showed her stories in the tragic female perspective, putting in personal experience to add to the verisimilitude of her work. Ojeda's written work was mostly inspired by love being the center of a couple's concerns. After the death of her husband, Ojeda pushed herself and remained committed to her work, a commitment that produced works such as her book El alba a la espalda (1987) and her collection of poetry in Niebla de sueno (1947). Ojeda showed that her husband was foremost in her thoughts, and her place was that of beside his, even after his passing.
The aforementioned women are leaders and experts in their field. Each director, author, and activist has influence over the Spanish culture of her time period; some even hold influence today. The Western world portrays feminist power and gender equality, yet the Spanish household remains slightly unconquered by una mujer moderna ("the modern woman"). Some of the women have stated the problems, and others have embraced the social roles. Still others look for a solution within the household rather than outside; there are more proponents for a fix at the abusive relationship than those who are for abandoning it entirely. Fixing the relationship acknowledges the social roles within the household; abandoning said relationship endangers the role of the husband within the Spanish family.
Patriarchy and the place of women in the household are still societal norms in Spain, even with the continuing social struggle within this structure. This is in a way still similar to the viewpoint held by many men and women in the Western culture. A socioeconomic analysis has suggested that the patriarchal belief in households has been a long-term social conditioning that is not easily overcome (Miller-McLemore). Furthermore, Bieder states that "Spanish women [legitimates] their claims for women's rights on the grounds of gender difference rather than in the paradigm of equality." (Ferran)
"Gender difference" and "gender equality" are unlike terms, and while Western culture assimilates both phrases, Spanish society tends to differentiate between them; women prefer to favor the push of the former and acknowledging the latter. For the influential Spanish woman, there is the drive to be able to vote, but there is still recognition in her role as wife and mother of a household.
The language is different for men and women, often indicating that the men have a better grip with influential roles (McKenna). Flaquer's Luisa realizes this, as even her influence does not reach so far into the household, choosing to return to a marriage that she could have broken out of. There is a limit to how far the Spanish woman pushes herself in order to call for equality. Family is still important, as are relationships and masculine heroes. Women are prone to characterize their influence and leadership to a sort of "collaborative, caring, courageous, and reflective" trait (Kruse). Thus the family becomes a more important aspect of woman's life, and Spanish feminists acknowledge that. To Luisa, "motherhood [is] the supreme virtue"; hence her return to the loveless marriage (Ferran).
Throughout the political turmoil and societal upheavals of 19th century Spain, the spheres of influence that women encompass have grown, reaching to the likes of the film and creative industries. From the filming in the director's seat to the writing of neo-gothic literature and feminist essays, it becomes clear that Spanish women are reaching significant fields. It is…
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