Research

My current book project, Modernizing Motherhood: Narrating the Maternal Experience in Spanish Women’s Literature (1917-1936), builds on the research that I began for my doctoral dissertation. This book examines literary representations of the mother-role in the early twentieth-century writings of Carmen de Burgos, Margarita Nelken, and Federica Montseny. In addition to fictional narratives, I also analyze the essays written by these women during the 1920s as a way of more comprehensively articulating their ideological approach to woman- and motherhood.  In the process, I aim to reassess the so-called conservative nature of first-wave Spanish feminism by focusing precisely on these women’s engagement with maternal issues.

Among other themes, my chapters explore the body politics of Madrid’s urban maternity ward (La casa de maternidad), feminist manipulations of Gregorio Marañón’s theory of intersexuality, and anarcho-feminist efforts to position motherhood within a more subjectivist framework. Though this cultural context is unique to Spain, I argue that a focus on women’s literary (re)presentations of motherhood within a conservative society struggling to initiate a strong feminist movement provides a new line of inquiry through which we might examine women’s literature throughout the Hispanic World. My project encourages interdisciplinary and transatlantic investigations in literature, contemporary feminist theory and criticism, gender studies, and cultural history. Moreover, many of the most prevalent themes of first-wave Spanish feminism are indeed echoed or visible in today’s post-modern narratives; thus my book provides a new lens through which we might approach late 20th and 21st century Spanish literature.

To add a visual,  below is the poster I designed at Penn State in order to showcase my dissertation research to professors outside my discipline, to alumni and professionals working outside Academia, and to undergraduate students of all ages. As my current book project is the continuation of this research, the images and themes are quite relevant here:Poster_RBender

My most recent journal  article is a literary analysis of the feminist ideology presented by Margarita Nelken in her 1927 novel En torno a nosotras; it was published in the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies in 2016. In addition to my work on women’s literature and first-wave feminism in the Spanish peninsula, I also examine the manner in which the Spanish Avant-garde approaches corporeality in general, and the female body specifically.  I have written on Ramón Gómez de la Serna’s La hiperestésica (1931), and I recently wrote a book chapter examining José Díaz Fernández’s treatment of the female body’s reproductive potential in La Venus mecanica (1929).  This edited volume was published in April 2016 by Routledge, and it focuses on the body within the Spanish and Italian Avant-Garde: Modernism and the Avant-garde Body in Spain and Italy (Eds. Nicolás Fernández-Medina and Maria Truglio). I also published a Transatlantic study of race in the Avant-garde poetry of Federico García Lorca (Spain) and Nicolás Guillén (Cuba) with the Latin America Literary Review (2014). This was my second article dealing with Latin American literature; my first was a short analysis of language in Ernesto Sabato’s El tunel, published in Romance Notes.

Many of the above projects – especially those related to gender and corporeality – have led me to begin researching medical history and the evolution of obstetric practices in Spain and Western Europe during the 17th – 21st centuries.  My studies of scientific and medical advances in the twentieth-century inspired me to examine their presence as “postmodern artistic mediums” in Pedro Almodovar’s La piel que habitoI especially appreciate finding ways to connect my current research on early 20th century Spain and First-Wave Feminism to both my teaching and to contemporary discussions on motherhood, femininity, and heteronormative gender roles. In Salamanca last summer (June 2015), for example, I examined the way in which contemporary Spanish films glorify motherhood, if only “un/sub-consciously”, in my analysis of the 2007 film, Las 13 RosasIn the future, I plan to pursue projects that explore representations of children, childhood, and adolescence, as well as masculinity, femininity, and heteronormativity in 20th-21st century Peninsular literature.

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8 Responses to Research

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  7. Pingback: Posters and Propaganda from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) | Rebecca M. Bender, PhD

  8. Pingback: Women of the Second Republic (Spain 1931-39) | Rebecca M. Bender, PhD

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