- Visions and Revisions: Women's Narrative in Twentieth-Century Spain
The suggestive title of this volume by Kathleen M. Glenn and Kathleen McNerney heralds a timely contribution to critical study of female-authored literature and its particular engagement with key issues in twentieth-century Spanish history, especially given the current burgeoning interest in Spain in 'Memoria Histórica'. It sets out to cast a fresh look on texts by a diverse group of authors: established names and younger writers, as well as those overlooked by scholars. In this sense, the collection represents an important addition to the growing body of works on Iberian women's narrative, of which a recent example is the edited volume Mirrors and Echoes: Women's Writing in Twentieth-Century Spain by Bergmann and Herr (2007).
The ten essays that Visions and Revisions comprises are preceded by a general introduction in which the editors provide a succinct overview of the issues the authors analysed are understood to connect with: 'the construction of the self, concepts of gender and nation, centre and margin, and efforts to recover and/or reconstruct the past, both individual and collective' (8). The specific focus of the individual essays sees them organized into two thematic sections: 'Self and Other(s)' and 'History and Memory'. These are ordered chronologically, from older to younger authors, a felicitous decision in that it facilitates a sense of the development of the salient issues from generation to generation.
Part I opens with Shirley Mangini's reading of Carmen de Burgos' Quiero vivir mi vida (1931), as a critique of patriarchal discourse and, in particular, the ideas on intersexuality of the endocrinologist Gregorio Marañón, who wrote the novel's prologue and is its dedicatee. Mangini skilfully teases out the ways in which Burgos makes use of this association and of Marañón's 'scientific' language simultaneously to confer authority on her text and undermine his theories. From literary subversion of misogynistic notions of gender we move to the attempt to overcome binary constructions in the struggle for identity and [End Page 1026] meaning in inauspicious personal, political and social circumstances. P. Louise Johnson's intriguing exploration of the ethical imperative understood to impulse two novels by Maria Aurèlia Capmany focuses principally on Un lloc entre els morts (1967), and draws on work by Freud, Lynn Chancer and David Le Breton to examine the ambivalences present in the protagonist's quest for self-identity and his ideological affiliations. The commitment to the recovery of Catalonia revealed at the end of the novel is seen to mirror the author's own and is also central to the work of Montserrat Roig, the subject of the next essay by M. Àngels Francés. Her contribution deals with Roig's representations of gender and cultural repression in Catalonia under Franco and cogently underlines the importance of history and language in the construction of the female and androgynous selves portrayed in her last novels.
The recurring theme of the relationship of the individual to the collective comes to the fore in Esther Raventós-Pons' article on Ana María Moix's 24 horas con la Gauche Divine, written in 1971, though not published until 2002. Referencing contemporary theoretical perspectives on self-identity, she scrutinizes the construction of the collective identity of the participants of this 1960s' cultural movement through attention to the revealing insights provided by the narrative structure and techniques which compose Moix's book. In the final contribution in this section, the individual maternal and writing body is the focus in Silvia Bermúdez's piece on Un milagro en equilibrio (2004), Lucía Extebarría's partly autobiographical novel about pregnancy, birth and the puerperium. Drawing on the reflections of Kristeva and Irigaray on the maternal, Bermúdez explores Extebarría's contribution to filling the 'representational vacuum' regarding female bodily experiences (97), while highlighting her desire...