The construction of male subjectivity by four contemporary Spanish women writers

Cívico Lyons, Inmaculada Concepción
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This dissertation examines four contemporary Spanish women writers’ insight into the formation and development of male subjectivity in the context of socio-political and artistic status of women in democratic Spain. In this study I analyze the following novels: La voz dormida (2002) by Dulce Chacón, Azul (1994) by Rosa Regás, La señora Berg (1999) by Soledad Puértolas, and Fiebre para siempre (1994) by Irene Gracia. The narrative representation of men as a central theme by women can be considered a revolutionary event as women foreground themselves as subjects of a discourse, overthrowing the traditional dichotomy woman/object. By questioning men’s social and cultural positions, women writers adopt a new identity: that of the female observer writing male behavior. This younger generation of Spanish women writers questions the traditional definitions of gender roles and views masculinity as a set of impositions on male and female subjects. Gender tensions are represented in the novels as their male and female vii protagonists attempt to survive a world in crisis by either submitting to or resisting the impositions of power through external forces such as institutionalized religion, political mandates, and socially prescribed behavior. Each author focuses on different aspects of the strategic impositions of power. In these novels, accounts are given of why characters react to external forces in particular ways, and of the consequences of their behavior. Gender relation subtleties are defined as determined by cultural, social and psychological motivations. In order to illuminate the fictional construction of masculinity and gender relations in contemporary women’s narrative, I make use of the following theories: a) Michel Foucault’s explanations of power, knowledge, and discourse; b) Paul Smith’s understanding of the subject as a place of contradiction in which cultural practices are made concrete; c) Julia Kristeva’s linguistic and psychological theories in relation to the “subject-in-process”; and d) current sociological and anthropological notions of masculinity and gender relations. Contrary to the possibility of drawing a composite male character from these novels, we are faced with a sincere, not stereotyped account of males as fragmented beings in conflict with themselves and with the forces that shape their identities.