The present dissertation will examine the complexities of Spain’s early twentieth-century feminist movement through a precise focus on depictions of the maternal experience in women’s literature.Specifically, this project will investigate representations of maternity and motherhood in both the fictional narratives and non-fiction essays of three Spanish women: Carmen de Burgos (1867-1932), Margarita Nelken (1896-1968), and Federica Montseny (1905-1994).Chapter One formulates the dissertation's theoretical framework, drawing on selected writings of postcolonial third world feminist critics, among others, that are relevant to my discussion.
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In reality, the prevalence of maternal issues within women’s writing at this time – especially in the literary production of women exhibiting liberal, feminist inclinations – necessitates a cautiously critical analysis within the context of a uniquely Spanish cultural milieu.
Rather than stifling, or proving detrimental to the women’s movement, I suggest that feminist appropriations of maternal values and motherhood were, on the contrary, the precise points at which we can perceive a radical feminist ideology that threatened the very foundations of Spain’s patriarchal society.
During the years prior to the First World War, for example, the first steps were taken toward redefining motherhood as a voluntary role, rather than as an obligatory, and lifelong, female identity.
Far from uniformly rejecting maternity, however, many European feminists sought to appropriate motherhood within new, modern definitions of womanhood.
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Chapter Six, the Conclusion, offers a few questions for further exploration.
Central to my analysis is the postnationalism I read into these texts which, I suggest, derives from the writers' more immediate concerns with female empowerment that problematize the female gendered identity and critique the role of nationalism, particularly in its complicity with the patriarchal.