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Striking Their Modern Pose: Fashion, Gender, and Modernity in Galdós, Pardo Bazán, and Picón

Dorota Heneghan

The importance of fashion in the construction and representation of gender and the formation of modern society in nineteenth-century Spanish narrative is the focus of Dorota Heneghan’s Striking Their Modern Pose. The study moves beyond traditional interpretations that equate female passion for finery with symptoms of social ambition and the decline of the Spanish nation, and brings to light the manners in which nineteenth-century Spanish novelists drew attention to the connection between the complexities of fashionable female protagonists and the shifting limits of conventional womanhood to address the need to reformulate customary ideals of gender as a necessary condition for Spain to advance in the process of modernization. The project also sheds light on an area largely unexplored by previous studies: men’s pursuit of fashion. Through the analysis of the richness of sartorial subtleties in Benito Pérez Galdós’s and Emilia Pardo Bazán’s portraits of their male characters, this book brings forward these writers’ exposure of the much-denied bourgeois men’s love for self-adornment and the incoherencies and contradictions in the allegedly monolithic, stable concept of nineteenth-century Spanish masculinity. While highlighting the ways in which the art of dressing smartly provided nineteenth-century Spanish novelists with effective means to voice their critique of conventional gender order, the book lends also insight into these authors’ methods of manipulating sartorial signs to explore and to envision (as in the case of Pardo Bazán and Jacinto Octavio Picón) alternative models of masculinity and femininity. Threading through all chapters of the study is the idea propagated by all three of these writers that Spain’s full integration into modernity required not only the redefinition of the feminine role, but the reconfiguration of the masculine one as well.

“This book introduces critics of Peninsular literature to the important work being done in other national literatures regarding the subject of fashion, providing an excellent context for the reading of Spanish texts.”—Alda Blanco, San Diego State University

"Striking their Modern Pose supone sin duda una importante contribución al campo. La autora parte de unos conocimientos sólidos de la crítica que ha tratado cuestiones de género en la novela realista española, y les une fértilmente nuevos estudios sobre cultura material, con un resultado sólido, fresco, innovador. Su aguda lectura de datos culturales aparentemente secundarios, traídos a un primer plano de significado de forma magistral, nos recuerda la improtancia de una lectura cuidadosa y un conocimiento íntimo de los textos, Se trata sin duda de un libro cuya lectura recomendaría a mis estudiantes de posgrado como un modelo de organización, de dominio crítico y de lectura atenta. "  Carmen Pereira-Muro, Anales Galdosianos. For the complete review, see Anales Galdosianos, 2016: 93-94.

In Striking Their Modern Pose, Dorota Heneghan makes deft use of previous criticism and of theories of gender and modernity, while expressing herself gracefully and clearly. In general, each chapter is well organized and cogently argued, although non-specialist readers might wish that brief plot summaries of the novels had been provided. The concluding chapter begins to sketch out how the examination of fashion, gender, and modernity might look when applied to novels of the following twenty years or so; that is, to works by authors such as Valle-Inclán, Zamacois, or Trigo. This gesture toward a future study leaves the reader with a desire for a more robust discussion of the particularities of the decade discussed in the previous chapters, in contrast both to later and to earlier moments of Spain’s confrontation with modernity. Nevertheless, thanks to her fresh analyses of these four novels, Heneghan just may have started a new fashion in nineteenth-century Spanish studies. — Joyce Tolliver, Hispania. For the complete review, see Hispania1.2 (June 2017): 306–07.

Striking Their Modern Pose is extremely valuable for specialists in nineteenth-century Hispanic culture, not only because of its precise information and theoretical rigor, but also due to its new perspective on well-known Spanish novels. The book is also highly recommended for readers interested in delving into the fascinating interrelations between fashion, gender, and the nation’s path to modernization—topics that can be extrapolated to contemporary times. Striking Their Modern Pose reveals fashion subtleties as an effective literary device that allows us to enrich our understanding of the contradictions that arise in changing societies and that shape cultural identities. — Inés Corujo Martín, Pacific Coast PhilologyFor the complete review, see Pacific Coast Philology, 52.1 (2017): 141-43.

Dorota Heneghan is an assistant professor of Spanish at Louisiana State University.  She received her PhD in Spanish from Yale University and specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish peninsular literature and culture, gender studies, and comparative literature.  She has published articles in Anales Galdosianos, Hispanic Review, and Bulletin of Hispanic Studies.  Her current research focuses on gender relations and nation in the works of Sofía Casanova.

PSRL 65. 2015. 180 pp. 978-1-55753-725-6, paper, $45.00; E-Book available, $38.99.



Window display, Stanley Coulter Hall, December 2, 2015 - January 13, 2016.

Information last updated January 5, 2016

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