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Weird Women, Strange Times: The Representation of Power Through Female Gender Portrayals in 19th and 20th Century Iberian Literature

  • Author(s): Neff, Rachel Anna
  • Advisor(s): Herzberger, David K
  • et al.

Examining the power dynamics present in the family unit, inverted portrayals of power dynamics with respect to socially constructed gender roles serve to deconstruct the idealized institution and, in turn, also reflect the political milieu of the nation. Starting with Valle-Inclán's "Tula Varona" (1895), we see how a failed courtship serves as the allegorical relationship between Spain and its colonies. Next, Unamuno's Tres Novelas Ejemplares y un Prólogo (1920) and La tía Tula (1921) illustrate how maternal relationships in the stories reflect a nation that is also reeling from political and economic instability. Third, the chica rara in Nada (1944) by Carmen Laforet, Primera memoria (1959) by Ana María Matute, and Julia (1970) by Ana María Moix reveals dysfunctional families. Through these unhealthy family relationships, each of the authors subtly critiques the ideal family that the Franco regime strategically used to reinforce its legitimacy. Fourth, the children who attempt to poison their female caregivers in the films De eso no se habla (1993), Cría cuervos (1976), and El verano de la señora Forbes (1989) reconstruct the metaphor of the nation as family by connecting an authoritarian government to the role of parent and the passive resistance to the children's behavior. Lastly, the novel La sombra del viento (2001) and the movie Biutiful (2010) show how families in contemporary fiction and film reflect the national trauma of the Spanish Civil War. The original contribution to the importance of gender and power with respect to the family as nation allegory demonstrates how the masculine portrayal of gender breaks the taboo of biological sex rather than overtly questioning the abuses of government and power.

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