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Elizabeth Smith Rousselle. Gender and Modernity in Spanish Literature, 1789-1920.

Elizabeth Smith Rousselle. Gender and Modernity in Spanish Literature, 1789-1920. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014.

Few monographs examining the modern subject in Spanish literature trace modernity in Spain, especially as it relates to issues of gender, to the eighteenth century. Those that do might make brief reference to Feijoo, or perhaps Josefa Amar y Borbon, but rarely do they go much beyond these now well-known examples. In Gender and Modernity in Spanish Literature 1789-1920, Elizabeth Smith Rousselle not only gives more than brief reference to the eighteenth century in her study of modernity and gender in Spain, she provides deep analysis of four important eighteenth-century literary texts as early examples of the reactions by male and female writers to "the sociohistoric phenomena of modernity " (3). Smith Rousselle reads these texts, which range from Jose Cadalso's Cartas marruecas (1789) to Miguel de Unamuno's Dos madres (1920), through their expressions of disillusion with the enormous social, political, and cultural changes occurring in Spain at the time of their composition. They are texts by both women and men, and Smith Rousselle proposes that an examination of their "gendered disillusion" reveals a better understanding of modernity in the Spanish context.

In the book's "Introduction: The Female and Male Modern Subject," Smith Rousselle looks to studies by Rita Felski and Jurgen Habermas to explore issues of modernity and gendered subjects. She also gives an overview of Hispanist studies by Kirkpatrick, Labanyi, Bretz, Johnson, and Iarocci, among others, of the modern Spanish subject. Smith Rouselle compares and contrasts the Spanish context with trends from other European countries, and sets out to make "a novel set of psycho-sociohistorically related connections and interpretations about the phenomenon of gendered disillusion in particular texts" (14).

The body of the book is divided into four parts. Part I: "Disillusion and Optimism in the Age of Enlightenment," consists of two chapters on works from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries--Chapter 1 looks at Jose Cadalso's Cartas marruecas and Josefa Amar y Borbon's Discurso sobre la educacion fisica y moral de las mujeres; Chapter 2 juxtaposes Jose Mor de Fuentes's sentimental novel La Serafina against Maria Lorenza de los Rios's comic play La sabia indiscreta. Part II: "(Dis)Enchanted Passion and Critique in Contexts of Romanticism and Realism" has two chapters on mid nineteenth-century Romantic and realist texts. Chapter 3 contrasts the flaneur character in Larra's articles to the male hysteric in Rosalia de Castro's short novels "El caballero de las botas azules" and "El primer loco." Chapter 4 focuses on the treatment of religion, a critique of positivism, and analysis of female characters in Fernan Caballero's Simon Verde and Benito Perez Galdos's Marianela." Part III looks at other realist works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries--Leopoldo Alas's Su unico hijo and Emilia Pardo Bazan's La quimerd' in Chapter 5, and Benito Perez Galdos' Nagarin set against Emilia Pardo Bazan's Dulce Dueno"in chapter 6. Part IV: "Symbols of (Dis)Illusion in the Early Twentieth Century," includes texts and authors from Spain's modernist Generation of 1898 in the early part of the twentieth century--Pio Baroja's El arbol de la ciencia and Carmen de Burgos's El Perseguido/' in Chapter 7, and Chapter 8 with Blanca de los Rios's Las hijas de Don Juan and alongside Unamuno's Dos madres." Smith Rousselle has purposefully chosen works by "canonical" writers for analysis, which in the case of the women writers she explains as "those who are cited as exceptions and who represent the accepted voice of women among the intellectual elite of modernizing Spain" (181). Her purpose is "to locate intersections and divergences of privileged female and male subjectivity to generate further interpretations and examples of Spanish modernity from the center" (11). In the book's conclusion "Modern Spanish Subjects: Disillusioned Men and Hopeful Women," Smith Rouselle finds that although both male and female subjects in Spain dealt with issues important throughout European modernity--the "perils of positivism, the empty promises of science, and the gendered implications for modern individualism" (175)--, in Spain modernity held issues uniquely Spanish including its difficult relationship with Catholicism and the Church. Ultimately, Smith Rousselle finds that female subjects express less "unbridled disillusion" than their male counterparts, and she sees a continuity between eighteenth-century writers Amar y Borbon and Lorenza de los Rios to the twentieth-century women writers like Blanca de los Rios in their focus on marriage and on women's roles as mothers.

This book is an ambitious undertaking, tackling complex and contentious issues across more than a century of Spanish literature spanning a historical period that itself is marked by complexities and contradictions. Dieciochistas might question Smith Rousselle's selection and classification of representative texts from the eighteenth-century--for example passing over some of the period's published women authors such as Maria Rosa Galvez in favor of Maria Lorenza de los Rios's La sabia indiscreta, which is deemed canonical when it was only recently published in 2000 and never performed publicly in its day. There are also some important omissions in Smith Rousselle's bibliography for the eighteenth century. For example any discussion of gender and Cadalso should reference Rebecca Haidt's chapter on the Cartas maruecas in her 2002 book Embodying Enlightenment. However, there is still much to praise in Smith Rosselle's book. That she begins her study of disillusion and modernity with the eighteenth-century reminds us of the debates over "pre-Romanticism" and Russell Sebold's concept of "primer romanticism," which in turn influenced more recent studies of modernity by Iarocci and others. The way Smith Roselle juxtaposes, compares, and contrasts texts by women and men; the selections she makes of both well-known and not-so-well known authors and texts; and her focus on the role of "gendered disillusion" make this contribution to studies on gender, modernity, and its eighteenth-century roots in Spain worth reading.

Elizabeth Franklin Lewis

University of Mary Washington
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Title Annotation:texto en ingles
Author:Franklin Lewis, Elizabeth
Publication:Dieciocho: Hispanic Enlightenment
Article Type:Resena de libro
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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