- Queer Transitions in Contemporary Spanish Culture: From Franco to "La Movida"
David Vilaseca, Gema Pérez-Sánchez, Queer Transitions in Contemporary Spanish Culture: From Franco to “La Movida,” Queer Theory, Gender, Lesbian Writers, Ana María Moix, Cristina Peri Rossi, Sequential Art, Popular Culture, Feminism, Homosexuality
Queer Transitions in Contemporary Spanish Culture constitutes an important and timely addition to the growing field of queer studies in modern Peninsular Spanish culture. As the author rightly points out, the most recent developments in this discipline (the studies by, among other critics, Robert Richmond Ellis, Josep-Anton [End Page 465] Fernàndez, and Ricardo Krauel) have tended to focus on male authors and on highbrow literature, while women writers and popular and underground cultural products have been granted far less attention. Queer Transitions seeks to correct this state of affairs by placing a distinctive (albeit nonexclusive) focus on lesbian writers (Ana María Moix and Cristina Peri Rossi), and by adding an in-depth analysis of popular culture, particularly of the distinctively urban phenomenon of sequential art (comic books). Pérez-Sánchez's analysis is driven by an impressive command of a very wide range of contemporary critical sources, combining Marxist-influenced cultural studies approaches with psychoanalytically inclined queer and feminist approaches through close readings of "texts" understood in the broadest poststructuralist sense.
Pérez-Sánchez argues that the process of political and cultural transition from dictatorship to democracy in the Spanish state can be read allegorically as a shift from a self-loathing "homosexual" model to a pluralized "queer" body. Chapter 1 examines the infamous Ley de Peligrosidad Social and fascist juridical commentaries to study the emphasis placed by the dictatorship on the legal containments and codification of homosexuality. Pérez-Sánchez argues that Francoism employed a conceptual model of "internalised homophobia and . . . self-loathing" to imagine its regime, maintaining that the dictatorship occupied, in relation to the rest of the Western world, the very position in which it placed women and sodomites (13). Chapter 2 analyzes the textual strategies deployed by Ana María Moix in order to counter the silencing of lesbianism while still managing to evade the Francoist censor. Pérez-Sánchez unravels the complex web of silences in and around Moix's novel Julia, some of which, she argues, represent real lapses into voicelessness, while others speak out eloquently but only to attuned, queer readers ("lectora entendida" ). Chapter 3 bridges the last years of the Franco regime and the first years of the Spanish democracy by linking the Francoist codification of the homosexual and three canonical novelists' reworkings of masculinity. Pérez Sánchez argues that Camilo J. Cela's La familia de Pascual Duarte, Luis Martín Santos's Tiempo de silencio, and Juan Goytisolo's Reivindicación del conde don Julián dramatize "an acute crisis of masculinity" (65), while Eduardo Mendicutti's Una mala noche la tiene cualquiera provides the final, constestatory link to this genealogy by challenging heteronormativity and proposing an alternative identificatory model for the reader in the figure of a male to female transsexual. Chapter 4 analyzes how Peri Rossi's La nave de los locos weaves together high and low culture, modern and postmodern cultural references, in order to make a parody of hegemonic notions of sexual difference, proposing instead a more fluid, indeterminate sexuality that defies definition through strict gender binaries (137). Finally, chapter 5 establishes a comparison between the contributions to the governmentally subsidized comic book Madriz by Ana Juan, Ana Miralles, and Asun Balzola, [End Page 466] and those by the gay sequential artist Nazario to the Barcelona underground independent magazine El Víbora. Pérez-Sánchez argues, counterintuitively and somewhat controversially, that the officially subsidized nature of Madriz opened up a space that enabled women and queers to tell their stories in ways that could be much more transgressive and influential than the "supposedly underground representations of gay male life" in Nazario's work (193).