Urban space and female identity in postwar Catalan novels by women
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Shortly after the Spanish Civil War, there is an explosion of writing by Catalan women. After reading several novels of the postwar, I recognized a pattern in which physical space, particularly the urban space of Barcelona, produces a profound effect on the female protagonists and their personal and professional advancement as independent beings. As they narrate the physical locations of Barcelona, they also document their mental and emotional conditions in the search for a feminine identity. As the female protagonists move away from familiar places and into unknown environs, their emotional and mental development subsequently progresses or digresses according to the nature of the new surroundings. The purpose of my dissertation is to explore the effect of physical space on mental space and its relationship to the formation of feminine identity in post-Civil War Catalan novels written by women. I will utilize current socio-spatial and feminist theories to support my topic. Recent studies in architecture, geography, philosophy, urban planning, and environmental studies have established that our physical environments influence and determine the way we define ourselves. An overwhelming number of these studies espouses that spaces have gender, and that most physical space is masculine due to the dominant cultural patriarchal beliefs. Foucault, Lefebvre, and Doreen Massey, a leading environmental theorist, all agree that this relationship exists and is significant. I will apply their theories that support the correlation of space as a social construct, and society as a spatial construct, both continuously reflecting and reacting to each other, in the novels Nada (1942) by Carmen Laforet, La plaça del Diamant (1962) and El carrer de les Camèlies (1966) by Mercè Rodoreda, and Ramona, adéu (1972) by Montserrat Roig. I hope that this study will draw attention to a neglected dimension of these works and others by Catalan/Spanish women and their experiences in post-Civil War Spain. The patriarch of the Franco dictatorship left an indelible mark physically on the urban landscape of Catalunya, and emotionally on its inhabitants. My study will examine the relationship between physical space and gender identity in novels that focus upon female experience in urban Catalunya.