- The Routledge Research Companion to Early Modern Spanish Women Writers ed. by Nieves Baranda, and Anne J. Cruz
The Routledge Research Companion to Early Modern Spanish Women Writers is a volume of 23 essays that introduces us to the universe of Early Modern Spanish women writers. The book is divided into six parts: women's worlds, conventual spaces, secular literature, women in the public sphere, private circles, and women travelers. Each chapter includes a panorama of writers within their specific cultural, social, and political context, a state of the research conducted on them or on their writings, and possibilities for advancing research in the field, as well as Notes and a bibliography. This book provides the most concise and advanced reflection on the up-and-coming field of Early Modern Spanish women's literature. The contributors produce an overview of the lives of these women, the diverse genres they practiced, their audiences, as well as the different geographical spaces to and from which they wrote. The book provides neophytes as well as seasoned scholars with sound and brief introductions to the life, history, and politics of the Early Modern period in imperial Spain in order to contextualize these women and their writings within their time period. For classroom use, this book is an ideal companion for reading Spanish original texts.
The editors and contributors depart from the original premise, often overlooked, that because of the social and political conditions of the Iberian peninsula, Spanish women writers enjoyed a privileged position primarily due to Spanish laws, as well as to imperial Spain's wealth. The book stresses that, in the peninsula, Spanish laws empowered women economically due to their possibility to inherit, own, and manage property, unlike other European regions. As section one shows, these conditions supported a lively and stimulating intellectual environment where women who were nobles, or who belonged to the urban elite classes, had access to non-traditional forms of education and massive libraries, and thus felt empowered to participate in public discussions and express their feelings and ideas in writing, albeit under the overpowering zeal of both the monarchy and the Catholic Church. [End Page 782]
Refashioning the perspective of how we should approach the "Spanish case" with regards to women's writing, this volume urges us to consider two specific conditions. As section two illustrates, we first need to acknowledge the fundamental role that conventual culture had in Spanish literature, as verified by the plethora of autobiographies, biographies, conventual correspondence, foundational narratives, translations of pious work, religious poetry, conventual theater, and theological treatises written by women. The same can be said of both the epistolary genre and judiciary correspondence, as shown in section five. Sections three and four argue, too, that we should reconsider the misleading thought that secular Spanish women writers were not as active as other early modern European writers such as Christine de Pizan in France, or Aphra Behn in England. These two sections demonstrate that, in Spain, women writers were active in the public sphere, and even though they had to deal with and circumvent many obstacles, they fought for their right to write, to be published, and to thrive in their cultural milieus by following and many times defying (masculine) social and literary conventions. Finally, sections five and six offer brief sketches of the role that Spanish territories such as Naples, Portugal, Flanders, and the New World played in the circulation of the work of Spanish women writers and of European women writers in general. These distant lands provided them with topics of conversation and inhabitants to write to. Of particular interest is the final transnational approach that establishes linguistic and geographical bridges between these writers and the wider world.
Methodologically, I found it refreshing that this book does not attempt to compare the development of women's literary history to men's, as is too often the case. As a consequence, the reader genuinely witnesses the reality of these writers and weighs in their impact on politics, theology, culture, and literature. At the same...