Fictions of the Feminine in the Nineteenth-Century Spanish Press

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How was the female body perceived in the popular culture of late nineteenth-century Spain? Using a wide array of images from popular magazines of the day, Lou Charnon-Deutsch finds that women were typically presented in ways that were reassuring to the emerging bourgeois culture.

Charnon-Deutsch organizes the 190 images reproduced in this book into six broad categories, or "fictions of the feminine": she reads women's bodies as a romantic symbol of beauty or evil, as a privileged link with the natural order, as a font of male inspiration, as a mouthpiece of bourgeois mores, as a focalized point of male fear and desire, and as an eroticized expression of Spanish exoticism and political ambitions. These imaginary visions of femininity, Charnon-Deutsch argues, were a response to, and also helped to create, gendered stereotypes by suggesting ideal feminine behavior and poses. Further, they comprised a reassuring "between-male" cultural medium that provided graphic validation of women's docile body for a culture enthralled with femininity.

Integrating the fields of literature and cultural studies, Charnon-Deutsch's approach to this subject is unique. Many of the images collected here are available for the first time, and they represent only a fraction of the two thousand images Charnon-Deutsch collected during her research. This book will appeal to students of Spanish cultural studies and gender studies, as well as to art historians.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Time will come when students of Spanish literature and culture will ask the librarians of their institutions to ensure that they have ‘the Charnon-Deutsch trilogy.’ Although not overtly billed as being a companion volume to Lou Charnon-Deutsch’s two landmark books of the 1990s which deal with late nineteenth-century fiction (Gender and Representation: Women in Nineteenth-Century Spanish Realist Fiction and Narratives of Desire: Nineteenth-Century Spanish Fiction by Women , Penn State), this handsomely illustrated volume forms a complementary third corner to them.”
—Alison Sinclair, Modern Language Review

Fictions of the Feminine is a well-conceived and eloquently argued book that breaks new ground in nineteenth-century Spanish feminist and cultural studies. Each chapter forms a cohesive unit, with the illustrations, numerous and well chosen, facilitating the understanding of the overall project of the book. The thoroughness of the research involved in its preparation (over two thousand images were consulted by the author), together with her original commentaries on these images, is indeed impressive. Charnon-Deutsch should be commended for a superb job in combining her knowledge of nineteenth-century history, politics, and culture (including a variety of representational media, from ‘high’ literature to popular magazines) with the critical insights of contemporary feminist, psychoanalytic, and cultural theories. Fictions of the Feminine represents the best in nineteenth-century Spanish feminist and cultural criticism and will be indispensable reading for all those interested in nineteenth-century literary, cultural, and gender studies.”
—Akiko Tsuchiya, Washington University, St. Louis

Through the lens of cultural studies, Charnon-Deutsch (Hispanic languages, State U. of New York-Stony Brook) frames her commentary on (our engravings), the section in illustrated 19th century Spanish weekly magazines in which art critics instructed readers on how to view artists' images of idealized femininity. These 192 b&w illustrations from the period of Queen Isabel II's 1868 overthrow to the end of the century embody male Romantic ideologies of women as symbols of beauty, desire, evil, bourgeois family values, exoticism, and political ideas. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271019130
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Series: Studies in Romance Literatures
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 8.82 (w) x 11.41 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Lou Charnon-Deutsch is Professor of Hispanic Languages at the State University of New York–Stony Brook. Her previous books include The Nineteenth-Century Spanish Short Story: Textual Strategies of a Genre in Evolution (1985), Gender and Representation: Women in Nineteenth-Century Spanish Realist Fiction (1990), and Narratives of Desire: Nineteenth-Century Spanish Fiction by Women (1994).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
1 The Naturalization of Feminine Nature 13
2 Family Values 53
3 The Queen's Body 85
4 The Economy of the Image, The Imaging of the Economy 127
5 Exoticism and the Sexual Politics of Difference 175
6 Death Becomes Her 223
Conclusion: Nuestros grabados 267
Notes 275
Bibliography 291
Index 303
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