Rewriting Academia

The Development of the Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of Continental Europe

by Renate Haas (Volume editor)
Others 442 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • A. Introduction
  • Basic Concept and Realization
  • B. National Surveys
  • Southern Europe
  • Women’s and Gender Studies in Portugal: An Overview from an Anglicist Perspective
  • Women’s Studies and English Studies in Spain: From Democracy to Transnationalism
  • Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies in Italy: The Bologna Case as an Emblematic Example
  • Western and Central Europe
  • Beyond Invisibility and Bias: English Women’s and Gender Studies in France
  • Women’s Studies in Belgium: Through the Gate of English Literature
  • Germany: Two Steps Forward and One Back, or Slow Snowball Effect?
  • Austria: The Long and Winding Road towards the Institutionalization of Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies in the Czech Republic: An Uncertain Discipline
  • Croatia: The Social Symbolic in a Transitional Society and Women’s Studies
  • Northern Europe
  • A Semi-Outsider’s Point of View: The Institutionalization of Gender Research in Sweden
  • Moderate Finnish Feminism: From a Struggle for Equality in the Welfare State to Diverse and Established Gender Studies
  • Lithuania: Pioneering Women’s and Gender Studies in the Post-Soviet Baltic Republics
  • South-Eastern and Eastern Europe
  • The Role of Anglicist Women in the Development of Gender Studies in Serbia: From NGO to Academia
  • Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies in Romania: Between Persistence and Resistance
  • The Other Frontier: Anglicist Gender Studies in Bulgaria
  • Armenia: Ancient Traditions, Upheavals, and the Beginnings of Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies
  • C. Conclusion
  • Europe and Beyond
  • Contributors
  • Index

A.   Introduction

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Renate Haas

Basic Concept and Realization


The full academic establishment of Women’s and Gender Studies means one of the most important innovations of the past forty years. This becomes particularly clear if we remember for how many centuries women were excluded from the universities and how extreme their marginalization remained after admission. Now Women’s and Gender Studies constitute a central element in far-reaching global processes of democratization of research and education. Decisive impulses for the establishment of Women’s and Gender Studies came from the United States, and European English Studies had special chances of mediating them to their own countries, of developing them further through fusion with native traditions, and of thus playing a prominent role. English Studies therefore allow a highly relevant case study, as does Continental Europe. Both are all the more illuminating, as in the various countries, the opportunities and challenges have been met in a variety of ways and as in spite of international cooperation, the specific conditions and achievements are still hardly known beyond national borders.

Like most new lines of thought or new movements, Women’s and Gender Studies have a pronounced linguistic dimension. Fresh departures require a distancing from what has been and different definitions of basic concepts, and on account of the radical critique of Women’s and Gender Studies, the linguistic dimension even is of heightened importance for them. Not by chance has their academic institutionalization coincided with the so-called linguistic turn. Among the languages English has played a prominent role, as the rise of Women’s and Gender Studies in Europe ran parallel with the processes of globalization and thus with an enormous boost of English and its international functions. While at the beginning of the Second Women’s Movement diverse influences, notably French, Dutch and Scandinavian ones, intermingled in lively exchange, over the years Anglo-American strands have become increasingly predominant, especially with regard to ← 11 | 12 → academic institutionalization. In 2002, Rosi Braidotti, experienced in numerous European projects, provocatively asserted that ‘both the terminology and the bulk of the scholarship in Women’s [and Gender] Studies have been generated in English-speaking cultures and traditions’ (285). Whether or in how far such a claim may be true is one of the questions underlying this volume.

How closely the very concept of gender is connected with English becomes evident in the difficulties of establishing it more broadly in other languages. This holds true in particular for languages that only possess a single word for the biological and sociological aspects. Often enough the English term has simply been borrowed. But even then it stands, as do loan-translations, in different linguistic and cultural contexts that subtly colour its meanings, as Braidotti has impressively demonstrated for the main European language families. The same applies to various further central concepts; just take the first item of the established triad race, class and gender. A critical analysis of the development of Women’s and Gender Studies within or in close connection with English Studies – the very discipline focussing on the English language, on Anglophone literatures and cultures as well as international communication in English – can therefore yield fundamental insights not only for English Studies but for further disciplines as well.

After what has just been said, it is clear that for such an analysis, even though written in today’s lingua academica English, the problems of terminology have not simply dissolved, if distinctions and differences are not to be levelled out. None of the key terms of the title of the present volume and of the argument so far are as unproblematic as they may appear at first sight. The combination ‘Women’s and Gender Studies’ has been chosen, because it is most common across Europe. It is understood very broadly in order to leave room for the inflections of meaning current in the various countries. One reason for its widespread use is the advantage that it may comprise a great variety and include gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or queer studies without alienating the public, as might also happen with an explicit reference to feminism. In contradistinction to the earlier Women’s Studies, the common claim for Gender Studies is that their approaches are more complex in considering larger contexts and that they reach a higher theoretical level. The spread of the term has been greatly helped by international use in politics, organizations, networks and big research projects, ← 12 | 13 → of which the 1995 UN Beijing women’s conference and the EU deserve special mention (cp. Braidotti 2002: 295). On the other hand, fears persist that Gender Studies have become too ‘academicized’ and defused so that feminist concerns have been lost sight of. Accordingly, ‘Women’s’ is often added, but with a keen awareness that it is no simple and straightforward signifier and must be understood as an internally differentiated category if unintended (re-)essentialization is to be avoided.

Too much homogenization may also lurk in ‘Studies’, as may in the very broad use of ‘science’, which includes the humanities regardless of their distinctive characteristics and has been boosted by European and global cooperation. Continental scholars, whether in Women’s and Gender Studies or not, often find it hard to combine these terms with their own understanding of their work and with local or national academic traditions. In particular, they may feel a need to emphasize the research side, because it does not seem to them appropriately represented by ‘Studies’. On the other hand, for gender specialists, ‘Studies’ has the advantage that its use as a singular or plural, capitalized or not, allows to suggest different degrees of disciplinary fixity. Further terms that help Continental scholars to link up with local academic traditions and language use are the noun and adjective ‘Anglicist’ (‘specialist in English Studies’ / ‘belonging to English Studies’). They echo the various Latin and vernacular derivations from the Latin noun ‘Angl-’ and adjective ‘Anglic-’ that have been common in universities as far as Russia or Armenia and, in addition, have the stylistic bonus of compactness.

A broad understanding of English Studies recommends itself for the present volume in order to accommodate the geographical and historical varieties. In the last few decades, English Studies have undergone enormous differentiation, with Women’s and Gender Studies as one of the new branches. Among other things, the broad understanding of English Studies means that American Studies may be included, especially the linguistic, literary and cultural studies sectors. A fair number of Americanists may see this differently, but it is at least in accordance with the joint institutionalization of English and American Studies prevalent in Continental Europe, and the present volume pays special attention to institutional aspects. This is not done out of wholesale approval, but because institutional conditions decisively influence the possibilities for the individual disciplines and because ← 13 | 14 → starting from them helps to make out basic structures in the very wide and largely uncharted field.

The vastness of the field is also an important reason for the concentration on the Continent. Anglo-American Women’s and Gender Studies are well known and will regularly be referred to in the chapters as trend-setters or for the sake of comparison. It is Continental Women’s and Gender Studies, like the Women’s and Gender Studies of further parts of the world, that need and deserve greater visibility, and the Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of the Continent have, as mentioned before, a special, intermediate position and special, intermediary functions. Claims like the one by Braidotti quoted above or the following require a closer look and differentiation. In the same volume (2002: 3), Braidotti and Gabriele Griffin criticized that ‘English-language feminism has a hegemonic hold over Women’s and Gender Studies’. They focussed on the United States and Great Britain and rightly observed that too few works in other languages are translated into English and then also read there. However, not only ‘native speakers’ in the traditional Anglophone centres now write in English or read publications in English. So what does ‘English-language feminism’ or ‘generated in English-speaking cultures and traditions’ precisely mean in such wider perspectives? Does it mean that works not only need to be published in English to receive due attention, but in addition, in the traditional Anglophone centres and in accordance with their academic conventions? If so, for what reasons, and what can be done to remedy the situation?

In these days of Europeanization and globalization, we are becoming more and more aware of the problematic implications of such dichotomies as mother tongue / native speaker versus foreign language / non-native speaker. ‘Mother tongue’ often stands for ‘national language’, a crucial element for the constitution of a nation, and adds useful connotations of basic, intimate relations and identity. Not surprisingly, the language disciplines have had important national and nationalistic functions, and too often they still continue to transport such baggage. The institutional structures themselves are indicative. Traditionally, the big national languages get separate departments and one’s own the best funding; smaller national languages and especially those of states considered less important are grouped together in language families; dialects or minority languages are subordinated to the national languages; and comparative, general disciplines (General Linguistics, ← 14 | 15 → Comparative Literature) are established in the margins. Until very recently, the concept of native-speaker competence was basic to ‘Foreign’ Language Teaching and the various institutions concerned with it, and the maternal connotations of the term have helped to mystify power relations and neglect clear criteria. Here critical insight has been greatly deepened by Continental case studies analyzing the specificities of the new roles of English, and cosmopolitan Suman Gupta has, more broadly, even suggested that ‘some of the most interesting developments in the discipline are arguably taking place’ in European and other ordinarily non-Anglophone countries, ‘amidst the crossings and interfaces of languages, histories and cultural forms’ (2009: 18).

Another important reason for the concentration on the Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of the Continent is the fact that, despite its lingua franca functions, English on the Continent is still primarily learnt in school and that, at university, English departments have to develop the students’ language competence further, which has consequences for their teaching and then also their research.

Like other basic terms, ‘Continental Europe’ is understood here broadly and undogmatically, as Europe has no clear geographic borders in the East, as in consequence demarcation lines have shifted greatly over the centuries, and as at certain points they are still hotly contested.

The relation between English Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies is among the questions central to the present volume. Answers are easier at institutional or organizational levels, but these must be followed by deeper probing. By now, the issue whether establishment in separate, autonomous departments or within existing disciplines is better and safer for Women’s and Gender Studies has been discussed for several decades, and without definite resolution. Both for theoretical and tactical reasons either/or options do not appear to suffice. Inter- and transdisciplinary concepts, together with ideas of postdisciplinarity, have recently (once more) gained ground. Different models may perhaps be advisable for research on the one hand, and teaching, on the other. In this situation, an exemplary focus on Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies may yield insights of broader relevance and even seems to be urgently needed for English Studies. To my surprise, in my search for possible contributors I was repeatedly confronted with colleagues who could not really imagine that ‘proper’ Women’s and Gender ← 15 | 16 → Studies could be practised within English Studies. They were too focussed on autonomous Women’s and Gender Studies or automatically associated them with the social sciences, probably because they and their surroundings perpetuated an overly narrow philological understanding of English Studies. To some degree, their social science reflex may also be due to the fact that Women’s and Gender Studies have attained their best institutionalization within these subjects. At the same time, the colleagues seemed to be unaware of the important role literature and literary studies played for the Women’s Movement of the 1970s and the beginning of Women’s Studies, especially in the US.

The question needs, nevertheless, to be raised whether, within English, Women’s and Gender Studies have indeed reached the full academic establishment mentioned in the first paragraph. The chapters of the volume will provide a more solid basis for answers. These will be different for different countries and depend on the criteria used to define ‘full academic establishment’. Certainly, professorships with an exclusive or partial focus on Women’s and Gender Studies hardly exist in Continental English Studies, but they do exist, as the following chapters are going to show. The chapters will also suggest different, more or less varying answers with regard to the other common criteria: recognition of a specific area of research, of specific fundamental theories and of specific methods or ensembles of methods, as well as weighty curricular anchoring.

In view of the dimensions of Europe, it is advisable to rely on representative examples. They may either be parts, e.g. fields, of Women’s and Gender Studies or parts of Europe, in particular states. Since no surveys of the first kind exist yet that are detailed enough, this alternative is in danger of putting the cart before the horse, in other words, of remaining too general and of putting up with too many gaps. Another important argument in favour of taking states as frames of reference is the fact that it is still the individual states which regulate the education systems. Moreover, the language disciplines have not only fulfilled national(istic) functions but have also developed distinct national traditions, which must be taken into account and critically analyzed.

In order to encourage the contributors to transcend national limitations, I suggested the following ideal structure for the chapters: ← 16 | 17 →

  1. 1.  Introduction
  2. 2.  National contexts
    1. 2.1        General situation and glimpses from history (e.g., degree of women-friendliness, First Women’s Movement)
    2. 2.2        The Women’s and Gender Studies of country X in general
      Stages and forms of institutionalization
      Main directions / important national schools
  3. 3.  Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of X
    1. 3.1        Institutionalization (in comparison with 2.2)
    2. 3.2        Main lines of development, important achievements
  4. 4.  Conclusion / perspectives

The awareness that there will be parallel chapters about other European countries fosters consideration of European aspects. More specifically, the contextualizations entail treatment of European connections: for instance, the inclusion of the First Women’s Movement, whose influence was felt from Portugal to Turkey or Armenia and from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and which already attained such high intellectual levels as very few are aware of today;1 or the attention to institutionalization, which leads to European politics and EU policies. In conclusion I suggested the aim of a deeper understanding of Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies as a European discipline, that is, a discipline which is to some degree conditioned by its European contexts and has specific features, tasks and functions; a discipline which is not only practised in Europe but also for Europe.


In view of Europe’s size and variety, a representative selection means a real challenge. Across the Continent, countries should be chosen, North and South, East and West. Countries with the image of having made an important contribution to Women’s and Gender Studies in general should not be ignored. But a great difficulty arises already from the circumstance that, in contrast to other disciplines, English Studies do not show much interest ← 17 | 18 → in their own history. Occasionally there may be institutional histories for certain departments or similar ventures of limited scope and accessibility. Therefore, Balz Engler and I attempted a first European survey with the two volumes European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline, which cover twenty-seven countries and offer overviews and European case studies. The most important reason for the Anglicists’ lack of interest in their history may be that, all in all, Continental English Studies have experienced an unprecedented boom and branching out since about 1970 – after 1990 in Eastern Europe – so that in large sectors they are indeed a very young discipline. The philological sections may have longer traditions, but many of the flourishing fields are recent additions. At any rate, the development of Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies has not been researched more thoroughly than the subject in general; on the contrary, even less so is the case.

Further central difficulties have arisen from the recent economic crisis, which in some places has led to the closing down of English departments and frequently hit Women’s and Gender Studies worse than other sectors. Normally, Women’s and Gender Studies have not proved career-enhancing, but rather a disadvantage. Often they still lack the recognition of the highest levels of the academic administration; they certainly lack broader prestige. They continue to be practised mainly by women, who, in general, are confronted with more obstacles in their career than men. Although English Studies are a female domain at the levels of students and junior staff, in most European countries women still find it quite difficult to attain a chair or other leading positions. For the lower ranks working conditions have greatly deterioriated over the past few decades, while Higher Education has become progressively dominated by the economy. Suffice it to mention the drastic increase in short-term contracts. Not so rarely, the situation of junior staff must be called exploitation. The Bologna and other reforms have sapped energy. The pressure to distinguish oneself by funded projects has grown exponentially and no longer allows extras away from the mainstream. Then, for women there is still also the special double burden of work and family care.

Without the increasing European cooperation and the founding of the European Society for the Study of English, ESSE, the present volume would hardly have been possible. ESSE conferences offered an opportunity for ← 18 | 19 → presenting and elaborating the basic idea, and the contributors to European English Studies I-II and to a few later national analyses (Gupta / Katsarska 2009; Gupta / Schneider 2010) could be asked to participate. Next, colleagues who had made a name for themselves in Women’s and Gender Studies were invited and the ESSE national secretaries consulted. In most cases, I asked women, but also a few men (primarily from Men’s Studies), of whom only one could be won. In general, I tried to have a good mix: several generations, from members of the Second Women’s Movement to junior staff; activists, university lecturers or people combining both (perhaps at different points in time). In the basic characterization of the project I also pointed out that it would not always be possible to realize the structure I had suggested (cp. above). If the field was largely uncharted, the contribution would necessarily mirror this situation. Then authors might start very modestly or try a cooperative effort.

On account of the various difficulties, not all countries first envisaged are represented. On the other hand, I was able to add illuminating other ones. Because of the economic crisis and the enormous challenges of the pioneer work necessary, a few authors dropped out midway. For the sake of balance, I sought replacements and thus the completion of the volume took much longer than anticipated.2

The difficulties of finding contributors and, in several cases, the lack of success despite great efforts, in my view, reveal much about the situation of Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies and I will, therefore, highlight a few examples.

An important country I would have liked to see represented is Russia. I wrote to a variety of individual scholars, heads of departments and departments in general (including e.g. the Gender Laboratory at the Centre for Socio-Cognitive Discourse Studies of the Moscow State Linguistic University) and used both electronic and traditional mail, without getting the least reaction. At long last, I found an enthusiastic contributor, who energetically pointed out to me that women have played a crucial role in the development of Russian anglistika. Shortly before the deadline she asked for an extension, which I granted, never to hear from her again. I can only speculate ← 19 | 20 → about the reasons, for instance, the increasing ideological pressures. Perhaps I should have relied more on NGOs in order to reach the right people in the universities or academies.

For some, particularly Western or Central European, countries, the reasons have become perfectly clear. There may, for instance, be a small state with only a handful of Anglicists concerned with Women’s and Gender Studies, part of them only marginally, and then the project race forces them to follow the latest and most prestigious trends. Or a junior scholar, who works on a PhD thesis for a distant foreign university and teaches twenty-eight hours a week for a living, capitulates halfway through. In some cases, real tragedies have become evident: women who as pioneers of the Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of their countries have not reached an adequate position but have to work under precarious conditions, because they have never been seriously considered for a professorship, or because they could not accept the only offer for family reasons, or because they and another pioneer tore each other apart in their fights for the only post available.

The most tragic case was the death of Ljiljana Ina Gjurgjan. She submitted a short paper for the seminar at ESSE 11 in Istanbul and continued to plan her presentation even while struggling for her life in hospital. Although we only have the first general part and the specification for English Studies, which was to be given orally, is missing, her sketch is printed here. Despite its brevity, it offers highly relevant insights into Yugoslavia’s role of intermediator during the Cold War. It spotlights, for instance, the Korčula Summer Schools, together with the Praxis Group so important for the elaboration of Marxist theory, and the famous feminist conferences at the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik, where Ina Gjurgjan was among the organizers. The circumstance that she would mainly have had to deal with her personal achievements may have been a decisive reason why she preferred to present the second part only orally. Now obituaries have completed this task.

In spite of the uncommon difficulties, a very broad, varied and representative panorama has been accomplished.3 Very often the authors have ← 20 | 21 → done trailblazing work in various respects, and thanks are due to them for their great commitment and originality. On the cover, a picture of the internationally renowned artist Ekaterina Ezhkova rounds off the European assemblage. Cordial thanks also go to Elizabeth Shipley, PhD, for expert advice on questions of tricky terminology and to Dr. Jörg Rieder, Dr. Lars Blöhdorn and Steffen Bornholdt for help in IT matters. The volume gives the first overall view of Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of Continental Europe and thus can hopefully make a valuable contribution to the further development both of English Studies and of other disciplines.


Braidotti, Rosi, ‘The Uses and Abuses of the Sex / Gender Distinction in European Feminist Practices’, in Thinking Differently: A Reader in European Women’s Studies, eds. Gabriele Griffin / R. Braidotti (London: Zed Books, 2002), pp. 285–307.

Engler, Balz / Renate Haas, eds., European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline I+II (Leicester: English Association for ESSE, 2000/2008).

Griffin, Gabriele / Rosi Braidotti, ‘Introduction: Configuring European Women’s Studies’, in Thinking Differently, eds. G. Griffin / R. Braidotti (London: Zed Books, 2002), pp. 1–28.

Gupta, Suman, ‘A Conflict of Faculties?’, in English Studies On This Side: Post-2007 Reckonings, eds. S. Gupta / Milena Katsarska (Plovdiv: Plovdiv UP, 2009), pp. 17–30.

− / Ana-Karina Schneider, eds., English Studies in Romania, American, British and Canadian Studies: Special Issue 14 (2010). ← 21 | 22 →


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1 Broadly embedded, mention of the First Women’s Movement would hopefully not suggest simple adoption of the Western wave pattern but rather draw attention to native traditions that have frequently been ignored.

2 Since it was impossible to keep updating the early chapters, the date of submission is given in each case.

3 There are various ways of subdividing Europe, depending on the criteria (geography, history, politics) and the vantage points. Preferences keep changing. In my attempts at a relatively neutral table of contents, I tried several approaches and have finally decided on the traditional method of moving from West to East and adding the other cardinal points of the compass.

B.   National Surveys

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Southern Europe

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Ana Gabriela Macedo / Margarida Esteves Pereira

Women’s and Gender Studies in Portugal: An Overview from an Anglicist Perspective

1.  Introduction

Feminism signifies a set of positions, not an essence; a critical practice not a doxa; a dynamic and self-critical response and intervention not a platform. It is the precarious product of a paradox. Seeming to speak in the name of women, feminist analysis perpetually deconstructs the very term around which it is politically organized.
(Griselda Pollock, Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts: Feminist Readings, 1996, ‘Introd’.)

Dear sisters:
But what is the power of literature? Or rather: what is the power of words?
[…] Which time? Our time. And which weapon, which weapon do we use or neglect? Where do we seek shelter or which is our struggle if only in the realm of words?
(Maria Isabel Barreno / Maria Teresa Horta / Maria Velho da Costa, Novas Cartas Portuguesas, 1972)1

The authors of this essay both teach and have been doing collaborative research within a Department of Anglo-American Studies (Faculty of Arts and Humanities) in a Portuguese University (Universidade do Minho, Braga, the north of the country), where the teaching of feminism and gender studies has an important role to play, both as a critical methodology indispensable amongst other recent critical and hermeneutical approaches to the text (be it strictly literary or otherwise visual, i.e., painting, film, performance, etc.), ← 27 | 28 → and as a way to anchor literature and art in general in social reality, inviting thus a situated engagement with the object of our study.

It is not however ‘easy’ to teach feminist / gender studies in most places in the world (as it is not easy to be a feminist), and certainly Portugal is amongst these. You have to struggle to feed it into the curricula, you have to be prepared to argue your case when proposing a graduate or undergraduate course, or even a course within a specific degree, and it is not easy either to find a willing publisher for a monograph or a collection in the field, as the word ‘feminist’ is often thought of as unmarketable.

Our aim in this essay is to offer as far as possible an overview of the situation of gender studies in the Portuguese academia, mainly in connection with the teaching and research activities of English Studies. It seemed to us natural that we should first refer to what is closest to our own sphere of action, that is, the contribution to the field at the University of Minho.

We could thus trace the first teaching modules of feminism and gender studies at the English and American Studies Dept of the Universidade do Minho since the early 1990s, within a) English Literature courses, comprehending Contemporary Literature, Modernism, Victorian, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Studies, and b) seminars on Critical Theory and Theory of Literature, namely within postgraduate courses. A number of women were involved in the teaching of these courses, some of them had recently completed their PhDs in the UK, others were starting their master’s and doctoral degrees in the newly created programs in Portugal. The launching of projects arrived slightly later, in the mid-1990s, first on a rather informal basis, gathering researchers, male and female, with a focus on interdisciplinarity, under the umbrella of the Humanities Research Centre at UM, CEHUM (Centro de Estudos Humanísticos da Universidade do Minho), supported by the Portuguese research council FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia). Only later were some of these projects made financially competitive through the possibility of grants, namely towards the organization of conferences and ensuing publications. Amongst these it is worth mentioning three volumes which came out of those earlier projects and produced a strong impact in local academic terms, due to the novelty of their focus and for directly addressing feminism as an ‘out of the closet’ issue in Portugal: A Mulher, O Louco e a Máquina (Woman, Madness and the Machine; 1998), Re-presentaçõnes do Corpo / Re-presenting the Body ← 28 | 29 → (2003), Poéticas Inter-artes: do Texto à Imagem, ao Palco, ao Écran / Interart Poetics: Text to Image, Stage, Screen and beyond (2006).

However, despite that often covered up or residual antagonism towards feminism which we referred to above, we can say that the early years of the new century auspiciously inaugurated a turn in the kind of collaborative research and individual projects, including Master’s and PhD dissertations, reclaiming a clear focus in gender studies, both as critical methodology, theoretical framework and privileged case-studies. The MA in ‘English Language, Literature and Culture’, which had been created in 1992, was partially responsible for this development with the completion of a large number of dissertations focussing on gender studies. Moreover, a substantial number of PhD dissertations with a focus on Gender and Literature, Linguistics, Culture and most recently in the field of the Visual Arts is of paramount importance, in terms of the growth and visibility of the discipline. The attribution of postdoctoral research grants to young researchers, not part of the University staff, but integrated in the research centre CEHUM should be highlighted in this context, as it had a tremendous impact through the very significance of their engagement in research within a number of transdisciplinary fields, where Gender, Postcolonial, Cultural Studies and Visual Poetics have fostered a salutary dialogue against the strict borderlines of the disciplines, thus permitting the hosting of permanent seminars and summer schools as well as the launching of new projects. Furthermore, as far as teaching is concerned, in 2012 a new doctoral program was created at the Universidade do Minho, entitled ‘Comparative Modernities: Literatures, Arts and Cultures’, which will bring about important doctoral research in gender studies across the disciplines it comprises.

On a more competitive level, the first decade of 2000 brought a crucial turn in the kind of collaborative gender studies projects: in 2002, publication of the first critical anthology of contemporary feminism edited in Portugal, Género, Identidade e Desejo: Antologia Crítica do Feminismo Contemporâneo, which assembled a dozen of pivotal texts from a variety of fields unavailable in Portuguese before (Macedo 2002). In 2005, another significant project (funded by the Portuguese research council FCT) accomplished the first dictionary of feminist criticism in Portuguese, Dicionário da Crítica Feminista, coedited by Ana Gabriela Macedo and Ana Luísa Amaral. It integrated a large team of researchers, Margarida Pereira ← 29 | 30 → among them, and, to this day, the Dicionário is the only one of its kind in Portuguese.

In 2008, following the participation of a group of researchers from CEHUM in an interdisciplinary conference on feminism and gender studies, a special issue of the Centre’s journal Diacrítica was organized on this topic. Apart from individual essays, it also includes a series of national and international contributions by various feminist scholars that were solicited as ‘personal histories’ with regard to the history of feminism in different cultural and geographical locations.

Most recently, in 2011, a second collection of key texts in translation was issued, Género, Cultura Visual e Performance: Antologia Crítica, aiming to divulge the ongoing debate on the history of art from a feminist viewpoint and topical issues in these very challenging interdisciplinary fields (Macedo 2011).

In our view, the main asset of these collaborative projects, which engage us symbiotically as teachers and researchers, is to contribute to a deeper knowledge but also a de-essentialization of what feminism and gender studies are and what they currently stand for. At the same time, they aim to make available and promote in Portugal, and concretely within the Portuguese lexicon, the conceptual knowledge, theoretical premises, strategic conceptualizations, methodologies and awareness of the larger problem area where they are anchored, not in a static and essentialist manner, but through a transversal and interdisciplinary rapport with other fields of knowledge, theories and academic disciplines. And, most important of all, they aim to promote the engagement of students and young researchers in this transversal discipline, by sharing with them an awareness of its unsettling dynamics and ever-new challenges. For we believe, as Griselda Pollock has written, that we should at all costs make sure that the ‘price of “institutionalisation” of feminism, or the “writing of feminism’s history” does not effectively erase the feminist effect, or render [it] invisible’ (2008: 255). As Pollock emphasizes, feminism is, above all, a ‘critical practice’ and not a doxa or an essence in search of institutionalization. Indeed, feminism dwells on a paradox; despite all the necessary struggle for its recognition, its prerequisite derives from its ‘partially utopian’ dimension, that is, the non-accommodation to the status quo and the refusal of ideological ← 30 | 31 → instrumentalism, in the name of a ‘future anterior of language’ (Kristeva) and a positive disruption which it ought to preserve (Macedo 2013).

2.  Feminism and Feminist Movements in Portugal: General Situation and Glimpses from History

As in other places in the world, the history of women’s studies in Portugal may be said to have originated in the first wave of women’s movements that fought for the promotion of a more egalitarian society. Here, as elsewhere, the fight for female education, female independence and female political rights constituted the hallmarks of the first women’s periodical publications (in the form of magazines or newspapers) in the nineteenth century and, later on, of the first feminist organizations, which appeared in Portugal at the beginning of the twentieth century. According to Rosmarie Wank-Nolasco Lamas, the first female publications to have a clear editorial line in favour of female independence were: A Assembleia Literária (The Literary Assembly), edited by Maria Antónia Pusich from 1849 to 1851; A Voz Feminina (The Feminine Voice), 1868, later re-named O Progresso (Progress), which survived for two years under the editorial supervision of the couple Francisca and Guilherme Wood; finally, in 1883, the newspaper A Mulher (Woman; cf. Lamas 1995: 25–26).

A proper feminist movement started only at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1910 a successful revolution overthrew the monarchic regime and introduced for the first time a Republican government in Portugal. It was in these contexts, in connection with the Republican Party and with Free Masonry that the first Portuguese feminist groups were established. The pioneer was the Grupo Português de Estudos Feministas (Portuguese Group of Feminist Studies), which appeared in 1907 led by Ana de Castro Osório. In 1909 this would give rise to the first national feminist organization, the Liga Republicana das Mulheres Portuguesas (cf. Silva 1983: 876–77; Lamas 1995: 32–33), which was mainly due to the efforts of some leading Republican men, among whom Bernardino Machado.2 Leading ← 31 | 32 → feminist women like Ana de Castro Osório, Adelaide Cabete, Maria Veleda, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo, Angélica Porto, among others, were part of this national movement and were instrumental in the establishment of a feminist consciousness in different circles (although the Liga primarily addressed the cultivated urban middle classes). Its aims, as stated in the statutes, were to ‘guide, educate and instruct the Portuguese woman within the democratic principles […], making her an autonomous and conscious individual; to make civic propaganda inspired by the democratic and republican ideal; to promote the revision of the laws in particular with regard to women and children, etc.’ (apud Silva 1983: 877, our translation).

At the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century there were also authors outside of the movement that wrote in defence of female education and autonomy, people whose pioneering contributed, if not to the establishment of a field of feminist studies, at least to a reflection that led to changes in the social condition of Portuguese women. Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho (1847–1921)3 and Alice Pestana (1860–1929)4 both wrote in favour of female education, though from very different standpoints. Carolina Michaëlis de Vasconcelos, an eminent German philologist turned Portuguese by marriage, who was the first woman to hold a position as Professor in a Portuguese university, also pleaded for female education, for instance, in 1902 in a daily newspaper of the time, O Primeiro de Janeiro, where she contributed a six-part article on the feminist movement in ← 32 | 33 → Portugal, stating that the most pressing problem of the Portuguese woman was her lack of education.5

In March 1914, with the doctor Adelaide Cabete as its head, the Conselho Nacional das Mulheres Portuguesas or CNMP (National Union of Portuguese Women) was founded. From the start, it was created as a federation of twelve groups and associations, but it also accepted individual people as members. The CNMP lasted until 1947, when it was closed down by imposition of the dictatorial regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, on the grounds that the regime would appoint its own female associations to deal with the problems related to women.6 It had an international dimension through its affiliation to the International Council of Women (ICW), which had been founded in 1888 in Washington D.C. and aggregated associations from all over the world, and, later on, to the International Alliance for Women’s Suffrage (IAWS). The relevance of the ties with other European and non-European associations can be measured by the great number of women’s journals received from them, of which the CNMP journal Alma Feminina (Feminine Soul) gives evidence (Lamas 1995: 49). The international focus of the association was greatly enlarged by the participation in international meetings, namely, in 1923, the International Conference of Rome, organized by the IAWS and, in 1925, in the International Feminist Conference, held in Washington, organized by the ICW. In both cases Portugal was represented by Adelaide Cabete, the founder and president of the Conselho. In 1924, the CNMP organized the first feminist conference in Lisbon: Congresso Feminista e da Educação. After the coup d’état of 1926 (which would later on lead to the establishment of the new regime of the ← 33 | 34 → Estado Novo / New State), the climate in Portugal was not congenial to the development of feminist ideals and the international focus of the Conselho would fade out due to lack of financial support.

It must be said that the First Wave of feminism in Portugal was very fruitful in terms of publications on women’s issues. Women would publish articles in the magazines and journals of the associations, but they would also publish books, some of which stand out as strong first-wave feminist pamphleteering. Since it is impossible to name them all, we just mention some of them, like: Ana de Castro Osório’s Às Mulheres Portuguesas (To Portuguese Women; 1905), Virginia de Castro e Almeida’s A Mulher: História da Mulher – A Mulher Moderna – Educação (Woman: History of Woman – The Modern Woman – Education; 1913), Maria Velleda’s A Conquista: Discursos e Conferências (The Conquest: Speeches and Conferences; 1909), Aurora de Castro e Gouveia’s Reivindicações Sociais e Políticas da Mulher Portuguesa na República (Social and Political Claims of the Portuguese Woman under the Republic; 1921).

Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the presence of women was gradually growing at all levels of education. The first woman to get a degree from a Portuguese university was Domitila de Carvalho in 1894,7 at Coimbra (at the time still the country’s only university). According to Joaquim Ferreira Gomes (apud Samara 2007: 63), 23 women enrolled at Coimbra until 1910 and 280 from that date to 1926. In 1911 two new universities were created, the University of Porto and the University of Lisbon. This meant that more students could attend university, and the number of women attending courses increased as well. Their preferences lay in the Humanities, followed by Medicine and Pharmacology. According to a study by João Peixoto, the percentages of women attending university ← 34 | 35 → in Portugal, in comparison to those of men, were 20.3% in 1940, 26% in 1950, 31.4% in 1960 and 45.5% in 1970 (Peixoto 1989: 184). However, on the whole, we are talking of minimal numbers (in fact, both for men and women), at least until the 1970s. The admission numbers for women would be inferior to those of men until the 1980s; by the middle of that decade (in 1985) female and male admissions were even and from then on there has been a reversal with higher female enrolments, even if in the 1980s there was still a minority of women attending engineering courses and a majority attending courses in the arts and humanities (cf. Lopes / Perista 2010: 195).8

From 1947 until 1974, that is, until the Carnation Revolution overthrew the dictatorship established by Salazar in 1932, women’s studies did not have much of a chance to be set up. Nevertheless, in response to the closing down of the CNMP, Maria Lamas, a journalist, prominent feminist leader and the last president of the CNMP, wrote an important book with the title As Mulheres do Meu País (Women of My Country), which was first published between 1948 and 1950.9 In it Lamas gave a thorough account of the Portuguese women’s situation all over the country and in all the different occupations that they held. During this time many feminists integrated their action in the movements fighting the regime, namely the Movimento de Unidade Democrática (Democratic Union Movement), also known as MUD, and the Movimento Democrático Nacional (Democratic National Movement), also known as MDN, where many of the former feminists together with younger women developed their own oppositional politics, sometimes in specific feminine cells.10 Thus, during this period the political action of women was diluted into the various oppositional channels, be it the movements mentioned above, the student unions in the country’s three universities or the only organized political party (however clandestine), the Portuguese Communist Party. In other words, the political battles against the regime and, later on, against the colonial war going on in several Portuguese colonies in Africa did not leave much space for further forms of fight. As Manuela Tavares states: ← 35 | 36 →

The great aspiration to equality of rights between the sexes that the second wave of feminisms brought to women in the United States and Western Europe did not, however, find similar resonance in a country where the antifascist fight was still absorbing the energies of many women and where the dimensions of class and gender did not manage to meet in that struggle. (Tavares 2010: 93, our translation)

In the chapter dedicated to professional women in As Mulheres do Meu País (1948–50), Maria Lamas stressed that although there were already many professional women working in such diverse areas as education, health, law, laboratories, public services and private enterprises, most behaved as if this did not have a bearing on women’s social roles, which were still viewed as linked to the domestic and the maternal (Lamas 2002: 440–41). Understandably (in the face of the recent closing down of the CNMP), she saw the reason in the absence of women’s studies in the country: ‘To this state of affairs greatly contributes the absence of female institutions especially dedicated to the study and solution of woman’s problems and to her enlightenment, as to her position in the family, in society and in national life’ (Lamas 2002: 442, our translation).

Nevertheless, some women’s groupings emerged even under the restrictions, in the face of such a long-lasting regime, which, despite some changes over the years, invested the family with the centrality of the social organization and firmly maintained the ideology of separate spheres. The Movimento Democrático das Mulheres / MDM (Women’s Democratic Movement) was established in 1968 (Tavares 2010: 136), but it was essentially a movement that fought against the regime, directing its efforts against the Colonial War and supporting political prisoners; its action would be extended after the revolution. Also a Portuguese branch of The Grail (Graal), a progressive Catholic movement, was founded in 1957 headed by Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo.11 It led a pioneering action for the improvement of the social condition of women (Tavares 2010: 148–50). ← 36 | 37 →

In 1972, foreshadowing the downfall of the regime, a book was published that would draw the attention of international feminists to Portugal: Novas Cartas Portuguesas (The New Portuguese Letters), by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa, referred to in the epigraph to this chapter. This book – a collection of texts written collectively by these three (they have never disclosed the authorship of any of the parts) – was banned by the established censorship and seized by the political police; the three women were accused of immoral behaviour and obscenity and faced a trial, but would be acquitted immediately after the Revolution, in May 1974. In the meantime, this case led to a wave of international solidarity on the part of feminist movements, and worldwide many demonstrations were held in support of the three Marias (as they came to be known). One of the effects of this wave of solidarity was the establishment in Portugal of a Women’s Liberation Movement, just after the Carnation Revolution and the end of the trial for obscenity in May 1974 (Tavares 2010: 176–94).

3.  Women’s and Gender Studies in Portugal

3.1  General Overview

Although, as we have tried to demonstrate in the above section, there were several women’s organizations in Portugal throughout the twentieth century, but especially before the fascist regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, it was only after the revolution in 1974 that we can speak of the establishment of women’s studies in Portugal, first still outside academic structures. One of the institutions that had an instrumental impact was the governmental Comissão da Condição Feminina, CCF (Commission of the Female Condition), later re-named Comissão para a Igualdade e os Direitos da Mulher, CIDM (Commission for Woman’s Rights and Equality), and currently under the name of Comissão para a Cidadania e Igualdade de Género, CIG (Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality). This commission was ← 37 | 38 → established in 1975,12 under the tutelage of Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, who was at the time Minister of Social Affairs.13 Its purpose and mission were to ‘support all forms of promoting Portuguese women’s awareness and the elimination of discrimination practiced against them, in order to integrate them into the transformation process of the Portuguese society […]’. One of the first tasks, in view of the lack of information concerning women, was to get a quantitative as well as qualitative overall picture of their social situation.14 Thus, through its publications, the commission made an enormous contribution to the field of women’s and gender studies, at a time – the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s – when the presence of these studies in the universities was only very tentative.15 Simultaneously, the commission was also instrumental in developing women’s and gender studies as a research field, especially within the social sciences.

Concomitantly, in 1979, the Comissão para a Igualdade no Trabalho e no Emprego, CITE (Commission for Equality in the Job Market) was established. Thus, according to Rosa Monteiro (2010: 31–56), from the middle of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s, the preconditions that led to the establishment of a very advanced legal framework for the promotion of labour equality were created in Portugal. According to this author: ‘The existing space in the Portuguese political and institutional system for such a “woman’s” agenda was a space conquered […] by more or less institutionalized women’s networks (staff belonging to the Comissão da Condição Feminina, politicians, civil servants, representatives of women’s ← 38 | 39 → organizations) against the indifference and even hostility of a civil society insensitive or uncritical concerning these issues of the status of women, even at a revolutionary and democratizing moment like that of the 1970s’ (Monteiro 2010: 39, our translation).

There is a broad consensus (cf. Magalhães 2001: 32–38) that in Portugal the constitution of Women’s Studies as a university discipline was slow and may be said to date back to the final years of the 1980s. The retardation is attributed both to the general underdevelopment of research in Portugal and to the financial problems of the time (very few economic resources were available), as well as to the near absence of women in academia (Idem: 32). Other reasons seem to be connected to a certain resistance to change within the academic disciplines themselves (cf. Magalhães 2001: 33).

Be that as it may, women’s studies, gender studies or feminist studies started to come into being in Portugal at the turn of the 1980s to the 1990s, making themselves visible in the form of MA or PhD dissertations, publications, seminars or courses, but not, it must be said, as an autonomous discipline.

In 1991, the Associação Portuguesa de Estudos sobre as Mulheres, APEM (Portuguese Association of Women’s Studies) was created and its journal Ex-Aequo launched in 1999. The APEM has been instrumental in congregating all the people that are dedicated to women’s studies in Portuguese universities, as well as in other institutions. Its activity has been wide and far-reaching, namely the organization of several conferences, congresses and seminars, some of them in collaboration with universities, and publications.16

In 2001 and 2002, Ex-Aequo dedicated two volumes (Nos 5 and 6) to assessing the state of women’s studies in Portugal. They contain contributions from the different disciplinary areas within which women’s studies have developed here, namely the social sciences and the humanities. Thus, from within such disciplines as Philosophy, Literary Studies, Cultural Studies, Education, Sociology, Social Psychology, History, Economy and Law, experts give an outline and take stock of the way their disciplines have drawn on feminist / gender studies. A number of them agree that the great impetus ← 39 | 40 → in the development of women’s studies was mainly felt in the 1990s,17 although in some disciplines, such as Education and History, it was from the 1980s onwards that the gender focus made its appearance in the form of dissertations and colloquia, among other things. By the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, several MA and PhD dissertations had been produced in all the areas mentioned before. Funded research projects in the field and subsequently teamwork, mostly interdisciplinary, also became established in the 1990s, at first timidly but slowly growing in visibility and impact, which in our view meant a groundbreaking step in the process of recognition of the research field and discipline – the Dicionário da Crítica Feminista (Macedo / Amaral), referred to earlier on, is amongst these.

As was stressed in the Introduction, the institutionalization of gender studies in the Portuguese academy has not been an easy task; much has been done either through the adoption of clear feminist perspectives in the courses taught (for example, studying literature with an emphasis on gender and feminist criticism) or through the adoption of themes and issues that were concerned with women. However, from the 1990s onwards women’s studies have gained a new institutional visibility, either through the introduction of degree programs in gender studies, or through the introduction of gender and women’s studies courses in graduate degree programs of a more general turn.

There has been long-standing work in gender studies within departments of psychology and social studies in several Portuguese Universities, amongst which we can mention the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e do Emprego – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, ISCTE – IUL, and the leading work of Lígia Amâncio in the area of gender stereotyping (cf. Amâncio 1994). Another landmark in the area of social sciences is the establishment in 2012 of the Centro de Estudos Interdisciplinares em Estudos de Género, CIEG (Centre of Interdisciplinary Studies in Gender Studies) in the School of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lisbon. At the Universidade Nova de Lisboa work in women’s studies has also been conducted, particularly linked to the disciplines of Sociology, Philosophy and History, ← 40 | 41 → which led to the launching of the journal Faces de Eva and which has enabled the recent creation of an MA course in Women’s Studies, with the title ‘Women’s Studies: Women in Society and Culture’ (started in 2013).

The first Portuguese degree course in Women’s Studies was an MA at the Universidade Aberta (Open University) in Lisbon, which started in 1995, followed by a PhD in 2002, at the same university. These are interdisciplinary courses with a focus on women’s studies, with a strong connection to the social sciences (History and Sociology), as well as to Philosophy; the leading role of Teresa Joaquim, coordinator of the degree, should be highlighted in this context.

In the curricular year of 2007/2008 the University of Coimbra started an MA in Feminist Studies, followed, the next year, by a doctoral program. These new programs have meant greater visibility in an area of studies which, as we have tried to demonstrate, made their entrance in the Portuguese academia in the 1980s, but have been slow to develop.

3.2  Focus on English Studies

According to Martin Kayman (2000: 15), the introduction of English Studies at Portuguese universities dates back to the first decades of the twentieth century, with the creation of the Faculties of Letters in Lisbon, Coimbra (the old Faculty of Theology was transformed into the modern Faculty of Letters in 1911) and Porto (the Faculty of Letters there being founded in 1919). Thus, the institutionalization of English Studies at university level was, in Portugal, a rather late affair. As acknowledged by Kayman in the same article, as far as ideas and the arts are concerned, Portugal, a Catholic country, ‘traditionally drew inspiration more from France and Italy’ (2000: 14), although the situation changed radically in the second half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, at so many other levels, especially in the economy and in politics, the relation with England and English was a much older one, which means that the English language had been studied since at least the seventeenth century, when the first English grammars for Portuguese speakers were produced (Kayman 2000: 14).

In general, women from the high bourgeoisie were particularly exposed to the study of languages, since, as happened in other European countries, they were educated at home by governesses and, apparently, Portuguese ← 41 | 42 → governesses came mainly from other European countries like France, England or Germany.18 The girls were taught in the languages of their tutors. This means, on the one hand, that these girls read and wrote in French, English and German (or, at least, in one of these languages) and, on the other, that they were acquainted with the culture of these countries. Thus, for example, we can find a book by Cláudia de Campos, a by now obscure nineteenth-century woman writer, titled Mulheres: Ensayos de Psychologia Feminina (Women: Essays on Feminine Psychology), about several women writers, where the author deals with her English education and the influence she received from English women writers like Charlotte Brontë.19 This book is not only a good example of the influence of English literature and culture on Portuguese women, but represents a study of female writers in a remarkable work of gynocriticism avant la lettre. Notwithstanding, the pervasive cultural tie was essentially with French.

In Portugal, the cultural transition from French to English was mainly felt after the 1960s and, as explained by Kayman (2000), the big push of English appeared in the 1970s and the 1980s, when there was a reform in the ‘classical’, older universities of Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto, as well as the introduction of new teacher training courses in the newly founded universities of Minho, Aveiro and Universidade Nova de Lisboa, and, later on, in the Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, among other polytechnics where English started to be taught. This represents an enormous growth in the teaching of English in Portugal, which, from the late 1980s onwards, began to replace French as the main foreign language of communication.20

With the increase of English and North-American departments in several universities all over the country, the influence of English Studies started to be strongly felt in Portugal and with it, the obvious spreading of women’s ← 42 | 43 → studies connected to these departments in universities like Minho (as stressed in the Introduction) as well as Coimbra, Aveiro and Porto.

Despite the transdisciplinary approach to the subject, the MA and PhD courses in Feminist Studies in the University of Coimbra were launched by the Anglo-American Studies group, which still coordinates the course and constitutes the majority of its teaching staff. In the assessment made for the Ex-Aequo volume about the situation of Women’s Studies in Portugal, Maria Irene Ramalho (the scientific coordinator of these programs in Coimbra) argues that the development of women’s studies is largely affiliated to an Anglo-Saxon tradition. In addition, she establishes a link between the development of Women’s Studies in the United States and the parallel development of the discipline of American Studies (Ramalho 2001: 108–9), explicitly stating that a ‘brief overview of the route taken by the two areas in the United States will easily confirm that they have affirmed and consolidated themselves, academically as well as institutionally, in close connection’ (idem: 109; our translation). In the Portuguese case, Ramalho herself as an Americanist seems to prove a similar route. On the whole, we can say that in Portugal the connection between gender / feminist studies and Literary Studies is certainly more significant in departments of Anglo-American Studies than in other literature departments, particularly Portuguese ones.

Accordingly, we can find the engagement of English Studies with gender and feminist studies in several other Portuguese universities (this includes the American Studies variant of the field, which in Portugal belongs to the same departments or disciplinary sections). As far as the University do Minho is concerned, we gave a detailed overview of the situation in the first part of the chapter. We would only like to stress that the input (teaching and research) given to the field, comes primarily from the English and American Studies Department, when we focus on the Humanities. Nevertheless, it should be highlighted that significant research has been carried out in the Schools of Psychology, Sociology and Media Studies. In the University of Porto an optional introductory course titled ‘Introdução aos Estudos Feministas’ has been taught to undergraduate students of Humanities programs since 2002. Ana Luísa Amaral, who has created and taught this course up till now, also coordinated from 2004 to 2012 a variant of Women’s Studies in the MA in Anglo-American Studies, where several graduate courses were taught on Feminist Studies, feminist utopias and women’s writing. ← 43 | 44 → Simultaneously, in the MA in Comparative Literature, a course entitled ‘Estudos Feministas e Estudos Queer’ has been offered since 2004. All this means that there is a visible body of feminist research being conducted within the Anglo-American department at the University of Porto.21

At the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon, and in connection with the teaching and research produced in the Department of Anglo-American Studies, a large and solidly anchored department, there has, at least over the last two decades, been work done with a focus on Women’s Studies, namely at postgraduate level, MA, PhD and postdoctoral research. This is also the case in other universities where English and North-American Studies exist as a field of study and / or a department, notably the University of Aveiro and Universidade Nova de Lisboa, although in this last case the development of gender studies is not predominantly linked to English.

4.  Some Final Notes as a Conclusion

As this essay tried to demonstrate, the feminist ideals have been present in Portugal since the end of the nineteenth century at the least, and although there is not a widespread awareness of the feminist fights in Portuguese society, the historical legacy is not to be overlooked. Nevertheless, the history of this legacy, actively engaged with society and with bringing about change, reminds us that, as was mentioned in our Introduction, feminism as a critical practice must resist institutionalization, so as not to be made invisible as ‘history’, that is, as a finished process and a stagnated theory, rather than an engaged critical praxis and discourse.

Although women’s and gender studies often are not considered an autonomous academic discipline, which is signalled by the absence of undergraduate courses and the scarcity existing at MA and PhD levels, there is evidence of a continuing strong body of research in gender and women’s studies linked to a wide variety of disciplinary fields – from Law to Economics, from Psychology to Sociology, from Education to History, from Literary Studies and the Visual Arts to Linguistics –, which can no longer be ignored. ← 44 | 45 →

As we hope has been made clear, the feminist impetus in the Portuguese academy stems as much from the positive contamination that comes through the contact with the feminist empowering movements outside the academy as from the academic discourses that, especially from the 1980s onwards, have started to permeate the social movements themselves.

As far as the Humanities are concerned, and notwithstanding the substantial work that has been produced in gender and women’s studies linked to disciplines such as History (cf. Vaquinhas 2002: 147–74) and Philosophy (cf. Joaquim 2001: 60–106), in the field of Literary Studies and Linguistics the major output has come from within departments of English Studies. There is undoubtedly a fruitful relation between Anglicist Studies (in their English and American variant) and gender studies in the Portuguese academy, which have positively ‘contaminated’ each other over the years, at least over the last two and a half decades, as we have shown, certainly with a clearer incidence in particular locations and more welcoming contexts.

As a final note, we would like to reemphasize the need to de-doxify and de-essentialize the concepts of feminism and gender studies, as a ‘dynamic and self-critical response and intervention not a platform [which] perpetually deconstructs the very term around which it is politically organized’ (Pollock 1996: XX). We thus defend the future of feminisms in the plural, whether within the academy or outside it, firmly anchored in difference and heterogeneity, rather than attempting to represent a single and homologic version of sameness.


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–, ed., Género, Identidade e Desejo: Antologia Crítica do Feminismo Contemporâneo (Lisboa: Cotovia, 2002).

– / Ana Luísa Amaral, eds., Dicionário da Crítica Feminista (Porto: Afrontamento, 2005).

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Magalhães, Maria José, ‘Dez Anos da APEM: Percorrer as Vozes, Significar os Percursos’, Ex-Aequo 5 (2001), 27–68.

Monteiro, Rosa, ‘Genealogia da Lei da Igualdade no Trabalho e no Emprego desde Finais do Estado Novo’, in A Igualdade de Mulheres e Homens no Trabalho e no Emprego em Portugal: Políticas e Circunstâncias, ed. Virgínia Ferreira (Lisboa: Comissão para a Igualdade no Trabalho e no Emprego, 2010), pp. 31–56, <http://www.cite.gov.pt/asstscite/downloads/publics/Igualdade_CITE_NET.pdf> (12 Dec 2013).

– / Vigínia Ferreira, ‘Metamorfoses das Relações entre o Estado e os Movimentos de Mulheres em Portugal: entre a Institucionalização e a Autonomia’, Ex-Aequo 25 (2012), 13–27, <http://www.scielo.gpeari.mctes.pt/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0874-55602012000100003&lng=pt&nrm=iso> (3 Feb 2014).

Osório, A. de C., Às Mulheres Portuguesas (Lisboa: Livraria Editora Viúva Tavares Cardoso, 1905).

Peixoto, João, ‘Alguns Dados Sobre o Ensino Superior em Portugal’, Revista Crítica de Ciências Sociais, 27/28 (1989), 167–88, <http://www.ces.uc.pt/publicacoes/rccs/artigos/27%20-%2028/Joao%20Peixoto%20-%20Alguns%20dados%20sobre%20o%20Ensino%20Superior%20em%20Portugal.pdf> (23 June 2014). ← 47 | 48 →

Pereira, Margarida Esteves, ‘Romancing Female Identity: The Influence of Jane Eyre on Portuguese Women’s Novels’, in Loving Against the Odds: Women’s Writing in English in a European Context, ed. Elizabeth Russell (Oxford / Bern: Peter Lang, 2006), pp. 141–52.

–, ‘“Sabichonas Não!” – A Separação das Esferas e a Educação das Mulheres em Portugal na Viragem para o Século XX’, Diacrítica (Braga: CEHUM) 16 (2001), 155–71.

–, ‘“The Spectre of the Angel”: Cross-Cultural References in the Writings of Early Portuguese Feminists’, in Identity and Cultural Translation: Women’s Writing across the Borders of Englishness, eds. Ana Gabriela Macedo / Margarida Esteves Pereira (Oxford / Bern: Peter Lang, 2005), pp. 187–200.

Pinto, Maria Teresa, A Formação Profissional das Mulheres no Ensino Industrial Público (1884–1910). Realidades e Representações, Doutoramento em Estudos sobre as Mulheres – Especialidade em História das Mulheres e do Género (Lisboa: Universidade Aberta, 2008), <https://repositorioaberto.uab.pt/handle/10400.2/1334> (6 Dec 2013).

Pollock, Griselda, Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts: Feminist Readings (New York / London: Routledge, 1996).

–, ‘What is it that Feminist Interventions Do?’, in Feminism Reframed: Reflections on Art and Difference, ed. Alexandra Kokoli (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008), pp. 248–80.

Pordata: Base de Dados Portugal Contemporâneo, Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, <http://www.pordata.pt/en/Home> (23 June 2014).

Ramalho, Maria Irene, American Studies and Feminist Scholarship in Portugal (Coimbra: Centro de Estudos Sociais, 1998), <http://www.ces.uc.pt/publicacoes/oficina/ficheiros/112.pdf> (23 June 2014).

–, ‘Os Estudos sobre as Mulheres e o Saber: Onde se Conclui que o Poético é Feminista’, Ex-Aequo 5 (2001), 107–22.

Rosa, Elzira Machado, Bernardino Machado, Alice Pestana e a Educação da Mulher nos Fins do Séc. XIX (Lisboa: Cadernos Condição Feminina, nº 27, 1989).

Samara, Maria Alice, Operárias e Burguesas: As Mulheres no Tempo da República (Lisboa: A Esfera dos Livros, 2007).

Silva, Regina Tavares da, ‘Feminismo em Portugal na Voz de Mulheres Escritoras do Início do Século XX’, Análise Social 29 / 77, 78, 79: 3.°, ← 48 | 49 → 4.°, 5.° (1983), 875–907, <http://analisesocial.ics.ul.pt/documentos/1223465449P2eYY6he7Ah47BN7.pdf> (23 June 2014).

Tavares, Manuela, Feminismos: Percursos e Desafios (1947–2007) (Alfragide: Texto Editores, 2010).

Vaquinhas, Irene, ‘Impacte dos Estudos sobre as Mulheres na Produção Científica Nacional: O Caso da História’, Ex-Aequo 6 (2002), 147–74.

Velleda, Maria, A Conquista: Discursos e Conferências (Lisboa: Livraria Central de Gomes de Carvalho Editores, 1909).

[Received February 7, 2014] ← 49 | 50 →


← 50 | 51 →

1 Our translation. ‘Minhas irmãs: Mas o que pode a literatura? Ou antes: o que podem as palavras? […] Que tempo? O nosso tempo. E que arma, que arma utilizamos ou desprezamos nós? Em que refúgio nos abrigamos ou que luta é a nossa enquanto ape nas no domínio das palavras?’

2 Bernardino Machado (1851–1944) was a leading member of the Republican Party, who would become President of the Republic of Portugal, first from August 1915 to December 1917 and again later in 1925. His voice was instrumental in the defence of the establishment of female secondary schools and in the campaign in favour of the education of women. Cf. Rosa 1989.

3 It must be said that, although she wrote in favour of female education, namely in a book titled Mulheres e Creanças: Notas sobre Educação (Women and Children: Notes about Education), published in 1887, Carvalho never endorsed in any way the notion of female emancipation. She always wrote from within the ideology of separate spheres, advocating what she viewed as the necessary separation of social roles and the maintenance of the ‘inferiority to which laws fatally condemn’ women (Carvalho 1887: 9–10, our translation). Cf. Silva 1983: 902–3 and Pereira 2001: 163–65.

4 Pestana, a writer and journalist, who published her fiction under the male pseudonym of (Eduardo) Caël, was a crucial voice, together with Bernardino Machado, in the campaign for the establishment of the first female secondary schools. Rosa 1989; Samara 2007: 45–57.

5 Silva 1983: 899. According to Silva, Vasconcelos criticized that the feminist movement in the Iberian Peninsula was still very incipient: ‘The women submit themselves, without protestation, to the secular tradition of inferiority in culture, in the preparation for the strife of life, and even in the treatment as paid labourers in comparison with their male companions’ (Vasconcelos, apud Silva 1983: 899).

6 According to Manuela Tavares, the order to close down the association was issued by the Governador Civil de Lisboa (Civil Governor of Lisbon), asserting that ‘the State relied on the Obra das Mães para a Educação Nacional (Society of the Mothers for National Education) for the task of educating and guiding women’ (Tavares 2010: 45, our translation).

7 Although she was the first woman ever to enter university in Portugal, Carvalho seems to have compensated for her singularity by taking three degrees. She first entered the University of Coimbra in 1891 to study Mathematics, but graduated both in Mathematics and Philosophy. In 1899 she returned to take a degree in Medicine, which she concluded in 1904. Her professional career further seems to prove her singularity, for she was the headmistress of the first female secondary school to be established in Portugal, the Liceu Maria Pia, from 1906 to 1912 and became one of the first three women members of the Portuguese parliament, during the Estado Novo. Cf. Samara 2007: 59–73 for a concise biography.

8 Enrolment data with variation by sex are available at the site of Pordata. <http://www.pordata.pt/en/Portugal/Search+Environment/Table> (23 June 2014).

9 It appeared first in installments and only in 1950 was it issued in book form.

10 For more details about the oppositional movements, cf. Tavares 2010: 45–131.

11 Pintasilgo would be a leading political voice in the first governments after the Carnation Revolution. Having taken part in the first, second and third provisional governments as a secretary of state and minister for social affairs, she would be the first (and until now the only) woman Prime Minister of Portugal in 1979. For information about the important social and political activities of Pintasilgo cf. the site of the Centro de Documentação e Publicações da Fundação Cuidar o Futuro (Centre of Documentation and Publications of the Foundation Caring for the Future).

12 According to a historical outline published by CIG, the commission was officially created in 1977 (‘institutionalized in November 1977 by Decree-Law No. 485/77 of 17 November’; CIG, our translation). See also, in relation to this, Monteiro / Ferreira 2012: 15–16.

13 According to the CIG outline, its history goes back to the time before the Revolution, when in 1973 the Comissão para a Política Social relativa à Mulher was created, presided by Pintasilgo. This commission, in turn, had originated in a former working group of 1970 (CIG). This information is confirmed in Monteiro / Ferreira 2012: 16.

14 In relation to this cf. Magalhães 2001: 31 and Pinto 2008: 40.

15 A first impression of the amount of work produced by the commission at this time can be obtained from the list of its publications, available at the site of CIG. See especially the collection ‘Cadernos Comissão Feminina’, launched in 1976.

16 This is well described in Ferreira 2000: 125–28 and Magalhães 2001: 27–68.

17 In her article on the state of women’s studies in the field of literature, Ramalho (2001: 108) observes that by 1995 they were taking their first steps in Portugal, but not as an autonomous branch of knowledge.

18 Cf. Cecília Barreira 1991: 39–40.

19 More information about this in Pereira 2003: 143–47.

20 This does not mean that English and English studies were absent from Portuguese society before. The English language was taught at secondary level from earlier on and it must not be forgotten that the first-wave feminists from the beginning of the twentieth century were well aware of the battles that were being fought by their counterparts all over the world, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States. Cf. Pereira 2005.

21 Currently, Ana Luísa Amaral is coordinating an inter-university project which aims at creating a wide international network around the study of Novas Cartas Portuguesas, reflecting the variety of national and international research which has been done around the subject.

Esther Álvarez López / Isabel Carrera Suárez / Carla Rodríguez González

Women’s Studies and English Studies in Spain: From Democracy to Transnationalism

1.  Introduction

The history of both English Studies and Women’s Studies is relatively recent in Spain, as these two disciplines achieved recognition in the last quarter of the twentieth century, following the end of the dictatorship in 1975 and in the context of the expansion and democratization of universities in the 1980s. Institutionalization then took place with unusual speed, fostered by the transformative urge that guided Spanish politics and culture after a long period of totalitarian isolation. English ceased to be a politically inconvenient language and Women’s Studies entered universities as the natural extension of feminist thought and activism, although not without difficulties. The extent of their consolidation in such a brief period of time is impressive, even if many obstacles remain in place. The information that follows tries to convey the history, as well as the depth and range, of Anglicist Women’s Studies in Spain, highlighting the main landmarks for research and education, in the context of the country’s political and academic history.

2.  National Context

2.1  Historical Overview: Democracy, Women’s Rights and Women’s Studies

Although feminist thinkers and activists can be traced back in Spanish history,1 both the development of the Women’s Movement and the ← 51 | 52 → establishment of Women’s Studies as a discipline in Spain take place after 1975, with the end of the dictatorship that followed the Civil War and which, in its 36 years of existence, destroyed all previous advances in civil rights and forced women back into a restrictive role based on the Catholic ideal of motherhood and marriage. Immediately before this period, during the years of the Second Republic (1931–39), a very significant development in the situation of women had taken place. Although the vote had not yet been gained at its establishment, in 1931, two women were elected to the Constituent Assembly of the Republic: Victoria Kent (1898–1987) and Clara Campoamor (1888–1972). They were to play a significant role in the achievement of women’s suffrage, finally recognized by the Constitution of 1931 (Article 36). Women were thus able to vote for the first time in Spanish history in 1933, although Franco’s subsequent dictatorship would prevent all citizens from this right between 1939 and 1975. During the Republican interval, women were legally and politically regarded as independent individuals; equality was specifically recognized by Article 43 of the Constitution, while quite extraordinary transformations took place in social relations, education and law. Aside from Campoamor and Kent, the era provided other pioneering women such as Margarita Nelken (1898–1968), elected MP in 1931, Federica Montseny (1905–1994), Minister of Health and Social Affairs during the Civil War, and, particularly famous, Dolores Ibárruri, Pasionaria (1895–1989), who founded the association Mujeres contra la Guerra y el Fascismo (‘Women against War and Fascism’), led the Communist Party in exile and would make a historic return in 1977 to preside over the constitutive session of the new democratic Parliament. The potential of such women and the many others who entered public arenas in the brief Republican period is a measure of the huge loss and regression that the dictatorship meant in Spain.

A number of women’s organizations had existed from the beginning of the twentieth century, ranging from early Catholic groups to those inspired by the experimental, progressive education project of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza. Many associations, both liberal and conservative, were active ← 52 | 53 → during the Republican period, but only those with conservative inclinations were tolerated after the Civil War, the rest being dismantled by repression, death and exile. The fascist Sección Femenina de la Falange Española was conferred great power by Franco’s regime, and aimed to impose the ideology of women’s subservience to men and nation. With the defeat of the Republic, progressive social measures such as those allowing for civil marriage, divorce, birth control or abortion were overridden, and there was a radical reversion in women’s rights, education and employment. The new laws punished women for working in paid employment and prevented their access to most jobs, allegedly to protect motherhood or their physical integrity. However, despite military control over the population, civil resistance was active from the 1950s in the form of public protests in universities and underground political movements, and some women’s groups, such as the Movimiento Democrático de Mujeres (‘Democratic Women’s Movement’), met under cover of housewives associations. While in the 1950s and 60s some reticent official moves were made towards liberalizing the economy and relaxing restrictions for married women, blatant legal discrimination survived until the death of the dictator: as late as the 1970s married women needed their husbands’ permission to work or to manage their legal and economic affairs, including bank accounts.

The dictator’s death in 1975, at the end of a year proclaimed by the United Nations as International Year of Women, brought a radical transformation to a country eager for change, where democracy developed at great speed. In 1978, the text of the Constitution was approved by referendum and became a reference for equality and non-discrimination (Article 14, on equality, reinforced by Articles 9.2, on public policies, and 35.1, on the right to work). In the new atmosphere of activism and freedom, during the period known as the Transition, feminist groups expanded and became very public. University women, together with those who had participated in political anti-Franco struggles, were active sectors, a fact that will be relevant to the development of Women’s Studies (Casado Aparicio 2002: 231). As many feminist activists were or had been members of political parties and trade unions, the question of the double allegiance to these and to feminist struggle (known as the ‘double militancy’) produced theoretical debates and sometimes divided loyalties, giving rise to a heated discussion at the convention held in Granada in 1979, where different feminisms met ← 53 | 54 → and, according to some historians (Birriel 2002), fell out, creating a schism in early Spanish feminism. There is no space to describe here the development of the feminist movement(s) in the country or their path to the multiple contemporary perspectives, but it is worth noting that the ‘political’ origins of Spanish feminism, growing in parallel to the struggle against the dictatorship and the campaigning for full democratic rights, conditioned the direction of early feminisms and the institutionalization of Women’s Studies, as will be explained further in the next section.

2.2  The Institutionalization of Women’s and Gender Studies in Spain

When Women’s Studies finally entered academe in Spain in the late 1970s, they did so against a rigid and centralized Higher Education structure, inherited from the dictatorial regime. As is true of other countries (Griffin 2006), Women’s Studies originated in grassroots feminism and were introduced into universities through the efforts of committed lecturers and researchers. The progress accomplished by the discipline in the first two decades of democracy in Spain has been recognized by Rosi Braidotti as ‘a remarkable story’ (2002: 203), aided by the yearning for change that pervaded Spanish society and was particularly strong in women.

This historical evolution, however, also produced more ambivalent consequences, such as a top-down approach to gender policies, their fluctuation with changes of government and a sometimes sceptical social reception of legislative measures. Within Spanish academe, it also meant the prominence of a feminism of rights and equality, obscuring the work carried out in less state- or public-policy-oriented areas of feminism, such as that usually produced in English Studies, which nevertheless developed steadily, often in more innovative directions.

Although many nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century feminist writings constitute antecedents of academic feminism, it is the end of the 1970s that saw the official establishment of seminars and courses in Women’s Studies, created by committed feminist academics. In 1979, two Women’s Studies groups (Seminario de Estudios de la Mujer) were created at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), soon followed by the University of the ← 54 | 55 → Basque Country (1980) and University of Barcelona (Centre d’Investigació Historica de la Dona, CIHD, 1982). These early seminars sprung from the areas of sociology, anthropology and history. New research groups involving further areas were also created in Granada (1984), Málaga (1984), Madrid (Complutense, 1985), Valencia (1985), Oviedo (1986) and Tarragona (1990) among the most consolidated (Ballarín et al. 1995: 25–26; Ortiz Gómez 2003: 9) and with strong Anglicist presence.

The 1980s, following the election of the first Socialist government in 1982, brought remarkable political and legal support for equality. One of the landmarks was the creation in 1983 of the Instituto de la Mujer (‘Women’s Institute’).2 This government-dependent institution would play a crucial role in promoting and funding research and dissemination of Women’s Studies, as well as in designing the successive triennial Plans for Equal Opportunities (PIOM), which, launched in 1988 and inspired by European Union equivalents, underlined the need for research and education in the field.3 Such timely support coincided with a major change effected in the structure of universities by means of the University Reform Act (Ley de Reforma Universitaria, LRU), also passed in 1983. Aside from establishing democratic procedures in the university, this Act emphasized the importance of research and collective R&D projects, which the Institute would eventually support. Further backing came from newly created equal opportunities bodies at regional and local levels, from international contacts and from EU funding. Given its exclusion from the continent’s affairs for over three decades, Spain was quite decidedly pro-European, and the entrance into the European Union in 1986 brought political models for equity and ← 55 | 56 → expanded opportunities for educational networking. Spanish feminists were active in networks such as WISE, ENWS or FICIHM, and in ERASMUS, ALFA, MED-CAMPUS and SIGMA programmes.

In addition, the Spanish university system was expanding. In the early years of the following decade (1990 to 1993), thirteen new universities were created across the country, bringing an increase in students and lecturers, and thus further opportunities for women to enter a male-dominated academia, even if this had to be done through traditional disciplines. The context of change and participation therefore favoured the expansion of Women’s Studies, although mostly at an informal level, in the shape of seminars, summer courses and research, not yet in terms of official degrees or even courses. By the end of the 1990s, there were seminars or groups – in varying degrees of institutionalization and intensity of dedication – in almost every university in Spain (Ortiz 2003), and two consolidated national networks were in action: Asociación Universitaria de Estudios de las Mujeres (AUDEM, ‘Women’s Studies University Association’) and Asociación Española de Investigación Histórica sobre las Mujeres (AEIHM, ‘Spanish Association of Historical Research on Women’), both created in 1991 and holding annual conferences to this day. Several of the Women’s Studies seminars were turned into Research Institutes as defined by the LRU Act (Autonomous University of Madrid, Centre Duoda at the University of Barcelona, University of Granada, University of Valencia), while the dissemination of feminist knowledge in publications, conferences and seminars became widespread. Women’s Studies was infiltrating the university system, although specialists were unable to escape the double shift, moving between their official discipline and the extra, often contested, labour in Women’s Studies.

Much of the early research was promoted and financed by the Women’s Institute, which crucially negotiated the inclusion of a specific Programme for Gender and Women’s Studies in the National R&D Programme from 1996. This helped to confer prestige and scientific status to the discipline of Women’s Studies, too often belittled by traditional academics. In fact, goals such as these were achieved through direct action of the feminist movement in academe, channeling demands through the Women’s Institute, and more often than not, with support from national or regional equity bodies rather than the universities themselves, which continued to be traditional and male-dominated in structure. ← 56 | 57 →

The fact that the Spanish higher education system is very centralized and rigid in its disciplinary structure (see Carrera Suárez, Viñuela Suárez and Rodríguez González 2005), together with resistance to change by more conservative university members, also meant that less was achieved in the area of teaching. Very few compulsory courses in gender were incorporated into official programmes, most feminist teaching remaining at the optional or extra-curricular level. By the beginning of the new millennium, according to Ortiz Gómez (2003: 11–15), there were 39 Women’s Studies groups active in 28 Spanish universities, 25 of them created in the 1990s. She also records 16 PhD programmes in Gender or Women’s Studies and 14 postgraduate (expert, specialist or unofficial MA) programmes, while 17 universities had one or more undergraduate courses in their curricula, almost all of them optional. Because the only flexible structure at the time was that of the PhD programmes, which were allowed free course content and titles, and could be changed without the cumbersome process of centralized approval by the Ministry, these were the earliest official degrees in Women’s Studies, beginning in the 1990s. The first was established at the University of Granada in 1990, soon followed by Barcelona, Málaga (1991), Valencia (1992) and Oviedo (1995).

In the early years of the new millennium, given that all national degrees and curricula were to be adapted to the EHEA, and that the Ministry of Education planned to do this through a ‘national catalogue of degrees’ which would radically change the map of HE studies, hopes were raised of having a Women’s Studies degree recognized at national level. Meetings and conferences (such as those organized by AUDEM, 2000–2004) brought together important actors in Women’s Studies to discuss tentative mappings of a WS/Gender curriculum, and a Manifesto was signed by over 1,000 university lecturers (Pedregal 2007). A subsequent change of direction by the Ministry, discarding the idea of a national catalogue (see Carrera Suárez and Viñuela Suárez 2006) meant that this first degree would not be established as a national syllabus, nor did individual universities implement it. ← 57 | 58 → 4

In contrast, MA degrees flourished at this point. Masters had not been an official category in the Spanish HE system until then, but the Ministry of Education decided to begin European harmonization by transforming postgraduate studies, and this became an opportunity to introduce official MAs in Gender and Women’s Studies into this employment-oriented category. PhD programmes and some of the former, unofficial postgraduate degrees (Títulos Propios) were transformed into official MA programmes. The first nine official MAs in WS/Gender/Feminist Studies were approved by the quality assessment agency, ANECA, in 2006;5 another 19 universities at the time offered postgraduate studies with some Gender or Women’s Studies content, several of which became independent gender MAs in subsequent years. The relatively established and internationalized history of doctoral Women’s Studies in Spain smoothed the process of meeting accreditation requirements, as some of the existing PhD programmes already held the prestigious Mención de Calidad or ‘Quality Award’ (Oviedo, Cádiz-Huelva) and many had international connections; they also all complied with the conditions of multidisciplinarity, equivalence with European degrees and engagement with social and employment matters.

This mapping did not vary too substantially between 2007 and 2013, although, given the constant changes in legislation and the ever-increasing prerequisites, not all programmes initially approved survived, and others were added or changed. The universities offering both postgraduate degrees (MA and PhD) are relatively stable, mostly corresponding to established feminist groups. Current MA degrees show a preference for the term gender vs women and many focus on equality, partly showing the influence of recent state policies, which governed funding and employment prospects. ← 58 | 59 → 6 The programmes share an interdisciplinary approach, with a number of them evidencing the presence and influence of Anglicist scholars (see 3.2).

The Bologna process thus initially resulted in many employment-oriented MAs in Gender and Women’s Studies, with PhD programmes losing their central role. Subsequent changes in government and constant restructurings have taken place, with an Act (Real Decreto) passed every two years or less (RD56/2005; RD1393/2007; RD861/2010; RD99/2011; RD534/2013). These affect accreditation requirements and, together with the recession, are making it increasingly more difficult to sustain MA and PhD programmes. At the time of writing, a new reorganization into Postgraduate Schools is taking place, which requires larger groups of staff and students for a PhD programme to survive, and the outcome of adaptation is uncertain.

As of September 2013, the national register of degrees (RUCT, Ministry of Education) lists 24 official MA programmes and 17 PhD programmes (see Table 1 below) in Gender or Women’s Studies.

Table 1


← 59 | 60 →


Source: RUCT, accessed 8 Sept 2013. The titles are originally in Spanish (our translation).7

This relative abundance of degrees against the odds of academia reflects the consolidation of the work carried out by feminist lecturers, and also the enabling effect of certain political measures. Between 2004 and 2011, important equity legislation was passed, targeting higher education. The 2004 Act against Gender Violence (Ley Orgánica de medidas de protección integral contra la violencia de género) established that universities would promote ‘training, teaching and research in gender equality and non-discrimination’ (I.I.4.7). In 2007, the ‘Equality Act’ (Ley Orgánica para la igualdad efectiva de mujeres y hombres) devoted a full article to the promotion of women in higher education (II.2.25), making it mandatory for public administrations to promote teaching and research on equality through courses in the curricula, postgraduate degrees and research. Other articles in this Act dealt with the teaching of women’s presence in history (II.II.24), sex segregated statistics (II.I.20), the use of non-sexist language (II.I.11), and the creation of Equality Units in all Ministries (VIII.77); several deal with equal ← 60 | 61 → representation in decision-making bodies. Also in 2007, the ‘University Reform Act’ (LOMLOU) was passed, and the preamble defined the role of universities as conveyors of values, meeting the contemporary challenge ‘to achieve a tolerant and egalitarian society’ (LOMLOU 4/2007: Preamble). The Act introduced mandatory measures for all universities, among them the creation of Equality Units, the production of periodic reports on gender equality; the balanced representation of women and men (a 60/40 limit) on all boards for elections, promotion and peer evaluation. Such legislation should have reinforced Women’s Studies as a discipline and created job opportunities, but implementation found resistance or passivity in too many quarters. On the Socialist Party’s re-election in March 2008, equality was still announced as one of the three main lines of action, a new Ministry of Equality was created and a paritary government, with six women ministers, designated for the first time in Spanish history. However, the recession almost immediately curtailed all developments; cuts were applied to all public spending and the Ministry of Equality, fiercely contested by conservative – and even progressive – sectors, was suppressed. The election of 2011 gave the conservative party an absolute majority. Since then, politically targeted cuts have seriously affected the welfare state and a deep regression in the legal handling of women’s issues and human rights is in process, including plans for fundamentalist Catholic control over women’s reproductive rights, a turn unimaginable a few years back.

On a more optimistic note, considering the relative youth of Women’s Studies in Spain, the development has been remarkable, and it is hard to imagine that they will not continue to produce some excellent research and teaching, even if hampered by political and economic drawbacks. In the new century, postgraduate degrees have expanded, and the same is true of competitive research projects obtained and led by Women’s Studies specialists. Journals such as Arenal, Asparkía, Duoda, Anuario de Hojas de Warmi, Clepsydra, Mujer y Salud; book series published by the universities of Cádiz, Granada, Málaga, Oviedo (Alternativas), or commercial publishers such as Cátedra, Icaria, KRK, Síntesis, have continued their work, although also affected by cuts. On the other hand, the variety of perspectives brought into feminisms in the last decades, often by Anglicist feminists, such as the focus on class, race, ethnicity, difference, ecofeminism, globalization, migration or space, among others, show that the narrowly ← 61 | 62 → focused ‘political’, equality and citizenship oriented feminism, born from the Transition period, has expanded its outlook and is seriously able to challenge androcentric and Eurocentric thought from a variety of angles. Internationalization, often led by Anglicists, has played a crucial role in this opening.

Over the past two decades, European programmes have provided external referents for Women’s Studies degrees, reinforcing their claims, and occasionally contributing with decisive funding. Several established feminist groups (Granada, Complutense Madrid, Oviedo, Alicante, Balearic Islands and Málaga) took part in the influential Advanced Thematic Network in Activities in Women’s Studies, ATHENA, which produced collective volumes, supported feminist conferences and created a lively educational and scholastic discussion across Europe from 1998 to 2009. Almost all official representatives from Spanish universities came from English Studies, demonstrating the crucial role played by this discipline in the internationalization of Women’s Studies. Similarly, the success of the first (and only) Erasmus Mundus MA programme in Women’s and Gender Studies (GEMMA; see 3.2) involving two Spanish universities, Granada as coordinator and Oviedo as a partner, shows the importance of European funding and prestige for the consolidation of Spanish Women’s Studies, as well as their continental integration. European research calls are at present looked upon as a further opportunity for overcoming local and national limitations, both monetary and ideological.

Given the huge recession that Spain is suffering, one cannot be too optimistic about immediate renewal of groups through new academic posts, but, bearing in mind that a number of feminist academics are finally well-established and have become full professors in a variety of departments and areas, they may at least have some power to make access smoother for younger aspirants. The question of the relationship with the next generation, already raised in 2003 (Ortiz 2003: 19), is currently tinged by youth disenchantment with traditional politics, reflected in the Occupy the Street movement and in young feminist activism (FEMEN among them); a different way of conceiving feminist transformations and strategies seems to be in process, and it can only be hoped that the next generation gets a chance to define these also in academe. ← 62 | 63 →

3.  Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies in Spain

English Studies in Spain date back to 1952, when a Section of Modern Languages was created at the University of Salamanca. Although English language courses had been taught at other Spanish universities since the early twentieth century,8 it was not until 1954 that the first degrees in English Philology were sanctioned by the Spanish Ministry of Education for the University of Salamanca and the Complutense University of Madrid, followed by the University of Barcelona in 1955. International relations played an essential role in the consolidation of English Studies in Spain after the Civil War, as Tomás Monterrey (2000) states. The important contribution of The British Council in Madrid, ‘a triumph of the British diplomacy in its attempt to counteract the German influence’ (2000: 37), and the growing presence of American culture in the country in the 1950s coincide with ‘a significant Economic and Military Agreement between Spain and the United States’ (2000: 38), which provided the regime with some of the international recognition it required. After 1958, when the Madrid headquarters of the Fulbright Commission opened, this institution’s initiatives, together with those of the Embassy of the United States, were crucial for the cultural and higher education exchange between the USA and Spain. The 1970s and 1980s would witness the consolidation of English Philology in Spanish universities, partly as a consequence of increasing job opportunities in the teaching sector (both at secondary and higher education levels), but also due to the efforts of a generation of vocational academics who introduced new perspectives into the teaching of English and who had started to produce the first doctoral theses in English Studies in the 1960s.

Women scholars were very active in the process from the very beginning. After Tomás Ramos Orea completed the first PhD in English Studies in 1961, Asunción Alba Pelayo (1962), Carmen Vázquez Ruiz (1962), Doireann MacDermott (1964) and Patricia Shaw (1964) followed closely (Monterrey 2000: 41). They became professors in the late 1960s or early 1970s and contributed greatly to the development of the English departments in ← 63 | 64 → different Spanish universities. Doireann MacDermott introduced Commonwealth – later to become Postcolonial – Studies in Spain (Hand 2003), and also became the first woman professor at the University of Zaragoza. Patricia Shaw became president of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies (AEDEAN), of the Spanish Society for Mediaeval English Language and Literature (SELIM) and the International Association of University Professors of English (IAUPE), among many other significant merits. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1988 for her outstanding work in English Studies.

Patricia Shaw left her Chair at the University in Barcelona in 1970 to lead the English Department at the University of Oviedo, which she presided over until 1986. Shaw’s interest in and commitment to literature written by women was crucial for subsequent researchers. Unlike more conservative professors, who prevented any work in the field of feminist/women’s literature or gender perspectives, this inspirational scholar practiced and fostered such studies. As early as 1979, when only (male) canonical writers seemed to merit academic attention, her lecture on ‘The Romanticism of Mary Wollstonecraft,’ in the 9th English Week in Oviedo, was the only talk to focus on a woman. She would soon supervise PhDs in the area and enable other scholars to consolidate a strong Gender Studies group at the University of Oviedo, led by María Socorro Suárez Lafuente and Isabel Carrera Suárez. Anglicist women in other universities underwent similar processes in academe, encouraged by pioneers such as Ángeles de la Concha, Pilar Hidalgo, Barbara Ozieblo, Elizabeth Russell or Justine Tally.

The dynamic 1980s period brought a significant growth in student numbers nation-wide, together with a baby-boom generation who came of age just after Franco’s death, had different yearnings and concerns, and embraced a new language to name and define them. They were eager to try out new ideas and life-styles, as well as the liberties recently conquered, and to do so both inside and outside the country’s now fully opened borders, after joining NATO in 1982 and the EU in 1986. They looked to England and the United States as the home of major pop culture, along with far-reaching struggles for freedom, such as the civil rights, youth (hippy, anti-Vietnam) and women’s liberation movements. English-speaking countries had also been producing a groundbreaking body of theory and literature for over two decades that aimed to contest hegemonic values and traditional ← 64 | 65 → (patriarchal) notions of identity, sexuality, society and culture, while highlighting the interplay of race, gender, and class. In an all-white country with very little immigration to speak of (yet), race or ethnicity did not engage immediate interest, but issues of gender and class, of difference and equality, became paramount.

Women’s Studies underwent a relatively fast institutionalization, and by the 1990s had increased the number of lecturers and students in the field, the vast majority of which were (and still are) female. Sheer numbers, however, do not necessarily mean power, and all statistic studies show that women have had greater difficulties in reaching decision-making posts, in being eligible for national R&D project funding, and, as a consequence of these and other factors, in being promoted, whether in research groups, departments, or more political positions within the university system.9 The glass ceiling has been, and continues to be, a subtle but weighty reality in women’s academic careers. As described earlier, Women’s Studies managed to develop at a regular pace thanks to the support of the Women’s Institute, networking and the unwavering determination of established groups, Seminars or Research Institutes, a good number of whose founding members were Anglicist women.

These committed Anglicists saw the need to create academic spaces to reflect upon and disseminate women’s/gender/feminist work. Thus, in 1990, Professor Pilar Hidalgo (University of Málaga) presented the first panel on Feminism and Literature at the 14th (Vitoria-Gasteiz) conference of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies (AEDEAN), which had been created in 1976.10 She coordinated this panel until 1994, when Elizabeth Russell, another pioneering and active scholar from Rovira i Virgili University (Tarragona) took over the renamed Feminist and Gender Studies panel (1994–2002). This section has been a permanent feature of ← 65 | 66 → AEDEAN’s annual conferences since then and is presently one of the nineteen permanent panels comprising different areas, subareas, and periods of English Studies. In 2013, the feminist panel at the 37th AEDEAN Conference included 22 papers from established scholars and young researchers, male and female, coming from 12 universities. A good number of other panels in the areas of linguistics, literature and culture also registered relevant contributions, a positive sign of the interest the field continues to awaken in both senior and junior academics. The same holds true for the international conferences held biennially by the Spanish Association for American Studies (SAAS), and conferences organized by different universities on postcolonial, Canadian literatures or specific topics related to research projects, as well as Spanish contributions to ESSE and other international conferences.

Feminist Anglicists have also been active and influential in national transdisciplinary Women’s Studies associations, such as AUDEM (Women’s Studies University Association, see 2.2), which has had two Anglicist presidents, María Socorro Suárez Lafuente (1999–2003), María Elena Jaime de Pablos (2011-). A number of Anglicists have also been invited speakers at conferences by the influential women’s history association AEIHM, and networks such as RING, as well as numerous multidisciplinary conferences.

Yet despite the quantity and quality of the research, and the extracurricular activities and dissemination carried out since 1975 (see 3.4), there has not been a parallel impact on education. Cristina Segura (1999: 136) argues that gender issues should be most present in teaching, as it is through education that prevailing ideas about women can be changed. The inscribing therein of the contributions of Women’s Studies, she contends, is key to eradicating patriarchal paradigms and effecting social change. While there have been considerable advances at postgraduate level, such a goal has not yet been achieved to a significant degree in the broader university education of the undergraduate levels.

3.1  Gender Content in Undergraduate English Studies

Sustained debates around the Bologna process (see 2.2) notwithstanding, the insertion of the vast bibliographical production and knowledge in Gender Studies into the undergraduate level in Spain is limited. The causes are varied and include rigid university structures, but it must also be stated that, ← 66 | 67 → like the English language until the late 1980s, Gender and Women’s Studies have been academically underrated, even while their success was feared in many quarters. Nevertheless, and judging from the increasing presence of gender epistemologies in the syllabuses, there appears to be room for hope. In a survey conducted to gather information for this chapter among Anglicist Women’s/Gender/Feminist Studies lecturers and researchers,11 many respondents reported that the specialization of lecturers, as well as the number of specific courses, has steadily increased, and that there is a crucial awakening of gender awareness and academic interest on the part of English Studies undergraduates. This interest is manifest in the number of undergraduate dissertations dealing with gender. Beyond their personal or collective contribution to the field through publications, seminars, R&D projects and teams, as well as numerous social, cultural and political actions – sometimes earning them valuable awards and distinctions inside and outside academe – most respondents declare that their long-standing determination and work have been essential to making gender issues visible. Given the scarcity of official courses, some regard the inclusion of one or two subjects in the curricula as one of the most significant achievements of all.

A look at the new EHEA-adapted English Studies degrees in the country is illustrative of the obstacles met in traditional perspectives and rigid national structures. In general, courses have been incorporated into the curricula of English Studies where there already existed a strong group of lecturers committed to Gender and Women’s Studies, who pushed their claims and succeeded in including them, even if only as electives.12 Given the shortening of former English Studies curricula (from 5-year to 4-year degrees), the new compulsory first year common to all Humanities degrees (where gender is unfortunately absent), the mandate to restructure specific courses to fit the broader Bologna spirit,13 and last but not least, the ← 67 | 68 → demands of more established senior lecturers to keep the(ir) conventional, ‘orthodox’ subjects, gender rarely managed to make it into the compulsory list. Only at the University of Oviedo and the Open University (UNED) was this possible, despite the Equality Act of 2007 (see 2.2). The Autonomous University of Barcelona created a unique Minor in Gender Studies launched in 2012–13, but is not specific to English Studies.

Most English Studies degrees do have at least one elective course, which is usually integrated in the literature modules.14 The specific weight of these gender elective courses within the curricula ranges from 3 to 8 ECTS, an acceptable figure were it not for the significant fact that students may choose from a list ranging from 30 to 180 ECTS. What does distil from the different syllabuses in most English Studies disciplines consulted on the university/ department webpages is that in order to disseminate the extensive literature in the field, lecturers have incorporated specific gender content transversally into conventional subjects. Many had been doing so since at least the early 1980s, as reported for our survey by Ozieblo (Málaga), Tally (La Laguna), Durán (Complutense Madrid), and Suárez Lafuente (Oviedo), among others.

3.2  Gender in English Studies MA Degrees

Increasing legal, administrative and academic requirements, sometimes including interdisciplinarity, have greatly conditioned the number of MAs offered by Spanish universities, so that not all departments with an English Studies degree have a corresponding English Studies MA. Those that have been officially accredited usually offer one or more subjects from the perspective of gender, only very few of these being compulsory. Among current programmes, special mention must be made of the MA in American Studies ← 68 | 69 → (MUENA), University of La Laguna, with four courses in all; the University of Granada can also boast three courses in their English Literature and Linguistics MA. As is the case with degrees and MAs in other disciplines, a good number of courses in the English Studies MA programmes are traversed by gender contents and perspectives, a common practice among English Studies MA lecturers.

In terms of leading transdisciplinary and international MA studies, the role of the University of Granada is particularly noteworthy, coordinating a consortium of seven European institutions that in 2006 launched the first European Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Gender and Women’s Studies (GEMMA). GEMMA was reinforced in 2011, being once again selected for funding under the prestigious Erasmus Mundus brand and distinguished from amongst 177 proposals as ‘a pilot project and model in the field’ (http://masteres.ugr.es/gemma/). Anglicist Adelina Sánchez heads this interdisciplinary, inter-university programme, and the University of Oviedo is a partner university with coordinators and most lecturers from English Studies. Both this programme and the one-year MA in Gender and Diversity were initiated and have been coordinated in Oviedo by Anglicists (Isabel Carrera Suárez, Esther Álvarez López, Emilia Durán Almarza). Other English Studies staff in Spain have been responsible for creating very strong inter-university MAs: Pilar Cuder Domínguez and Mar Gallego Durán (Huelva), together with Asunción Aragón Varo (Cádiz), have, at different stages, coordinated and fully established the awarded MA in Gender, Equality, and Citizenship, with extensive participation of Anglicists. Many English Studies specialists have actively taken part in the creation and/or consolidation of specialized interdisciplinary Gender MAs and teach courses within them. Such is the case in Almería (Gender Studies: Women, Culture and Society, coordinated by María Elena Jaime de Pablos); Complutense Madrid (Feminist Studies); Balearic Islands (Equal Opportunities Policies and Gender Violence Prevention); La Laguna (Gender Studies and Equal Opportunities Policies); Málaga (Equality and Gender); Salamanca/Valladolid (Interdisciplinary Gender Studies); Seville (Gender Studies and Professional Development); UB, UAB, Rovira i Virgili (Estudis de Dones, Gèneres i Ciutadania); UB (Construction and Representation of Cultural Identities); Vigo (Education in Gender Equality and Equal Opportunities Policies), among others. ← 69 | 70 →

3.3  Doctoral Programmes

PhD programmes have the longest history in Gender Studies in Spain (see 2.2) and can be traced back to their pioneering past and through their legacy in the present. From the 1980s onwards, the research and vocational dedication of university lecturers were channeled through either specific PhD programmes or through courses within those offered in related disciplines. In Cristina Segura’s survey of Gender Studies in higher education for the early period of 1992–95, PhD programmes constituted by far the largest number of gender entries, whether in the form of courses, parts of a course or extracurricular activities (1999: 156, Table 3.5). A segregation of figures by disciplines shows that Literature at the time came first in the rank of gender entries (69), followed closely by History (63) and very far behind by Anthropology (26) and Education (24) (1999: 158, Table 3.6). Of the 69 entries for the overarching term ‘Literature’, a good portion corresponds to English Studies, as transpires also from our own survey. Respondents to the latter remarked that doctoral courses with specific feminist guidelines had been part of PhD programmes and duly taught since the mid-eighties onwards (Complutense Madrid, La Laguna, Seville). In Málaga, the Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Programme (established in 1991) was not only taught but also coordinated by the English Studies Department for many years. Such is also the case with the University of Oviedo, where English Studies lecturers made sure that the gender/feminist perspective was offered in the curricula before (and after) an independent PhD programme on Women’s Studies could be established in 1995, also coordinated in its successive modifications and re-adaptations by English Studies lecturers and by the English Department.

The outcome of these first kernels of the eighties and nineties is the number of present-day MA and PhD programmes (24/17 as of 2013) in Gender or Women’s Studies. In terms of current PhD programmes with Anglicist leaders, there are a few outstanding examples: in Andalusia, the multidisciplinary Women in the Social Sciences, initiated in Cádiz in 1994, eventually became the inter-university Gender, Identity and Citizenship (universities of Cádiz and Huelva), which received the ‘Quality Award’, at present coordinated by Asunción Aragón Varo (Cádiz) and formerly by Mar Gallego Durán (Huelva); the University of Granada has an independent programme, ← 70 | 71 → Women’s and Gender Studies, coordinated by Adelina Sánchez Espinosa and located in the English and German Department. At the opposite end of the country, Oviedo has just renewed its six-year accreditation for the PhD in Gender and Diversity, running since 1995, awarded a ‘Quality Award’ in 2006, the Award of Excellence in 2011, and coordinated almost uninterruptedly by English Studies scholars (from 2005 by Isabel Carrera Suárez).

While PhD programmes have the longest history and now constitute the top academic achievement for Women’s Studies, it is also true that current restrictions may affect their continuity or force them into coalitions, as much larger ‘critical mass’ and higher student numbers are being required for accreditation from 2014.

3.4  Survey of Anglicist Research in Women’s and Gender Studies in Spain

Early academic feminism, in the case of Anglicist Studies, materializes in the completion of the first doctoral theses dealing with gender issues in the 1980s. Many of these ground-breaking dissertations focus on British women’s writing or American literature, with postcolonial studies making a first appearance at the end of the decade. Early English Literature scholars, Luis Rodríguez García (Seville, 1981), M. Luisa Venegas Lagüens (Seville, 1984), M. Rosario García Doncel (Seville, 1986), Pilar Sineiro Rodríguez and M. Paz Kindelán Echevarría (Complutense Madrid, 1986) write on Behn, Gaskell, the Brontës, and contemporary women’s fiction; US gender studies are pioneered by the theses of Angels Carabí Ribera on Toni Morrison (Barcelona, 1987), Esther Álvarez López on Afro-American women’s fiction (Oviedo, 1989) and Carlos Martín Gaebles (Seville, 1989) on gay fiction. Isabel Carrera Suarez’s comparative study of short story women writers (Oviedo, 1988) is the first to adopt a transnational approach to women’s literature, combining postcolonial and gender theory. Mercedes Bengoechea Bartolomé’s work on Adrienne Rich (Madrid, 1991) opens the productive 1990s with a study of language and gender. This new decade brings a dramatic rise in the number of theses combining Anglicist and Gender Studies, a figure which has grown steadily up to the present. According to TESEO, the official database of doctoral theses of the Spanish Ministry of Education, these theses have been submitted in 30 out of 40 Spanish ← 71 | 72 → universities that either have degrees in English Studies, English departments or have incorporated these studies and research into other structures, like Translation or Humanities degrees, or interdisciplinary postgraduate programmes. TESEO shows that the universities with a higher number of theses are those with strong groups with institutional recognition, mostly at postgraduate levels, although absences also reflect the relative youth of some otherwise active universities or departments, which could only begin producing PhDs in recent years.

Table 2

Anglicist PhD Theses in Gender or Women’s Studies 1981–2013
UniversityNumber of theses
U. Oviedo24
U. Seville16
Complutense U. Madrid14
U. Barcelona11
U. Málaga11
Autonomous U. Barcelona9
UNED (Open University)9
U. Granada8
U. Huelva8
U. Alcalá7
U. La Laguna7
U. Valencia6
U. Zaragoza5
U. Santiago5
U. Alicante4
U. Castilla-La Mancha4
U. Coruña4
U. Cádiz3
U. País Vasco3
U. Salamanca 3
Autonomous U. Madrid2 ← 72 | 73 →
U. Burgos 2
U. Córdoba2
U. Deusto 2
U. Las Palmas2
U. Jaén1
U. León1
U. Lleida 1
U. Murcia 1
U. Valladolid 1
U. Vigo1

Source: TESEO.15

TESEO confirms the clear prominence of theses dealing with literary, visual or cultural matters, with an initial prevalence of works on British and American texts. The latter group pioneered the adoption of intersecting categories of analysis that may include ethnic, religious or linguistic difference until, in the 1990s, postcolonial approaches burst onto the scene. This powerful drift can be observed in the increasing number of theses on the work of authors from the former British colonies, but also in the incorporation of postcolonial theory into other fields of research. Atlantis, the journal of AEDEAN, founded in 1979, evidences this shift. The first article on gender issues to be published in Atlantis (3:1, 1981) was Pilar Hidalgo’s ‘The Crisis of Realism in Doris Lessing’s Shikasta’ (‘La crisis del realismo en Doris Lessing: Shikasta’) and subsequent pieces are mostly about American ← 73 | 74 → or British literature until the 1990s, when contributions on postcolonial studies also become a regular phenomenon.

The field of linguistics is represented by Mercedes Bengoechea Bartolomé’s group at the University of Alcalá, who focus on cultural representations and discursive constructions (gender violence, gender identities in virtual environments, heterosexual desire in poetry, gender in legal documents, among others). They have also elaborated glossaries of non-sexist expressions (Spanish-English), and studied, within the transdisciplinary NOMBRA group, gender issues in the Spanish normative dictionary, DRAE (Dictionary of the Royal Academy of Language). The resulting volume, Lo Femenino y lo Masculino en el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (1998) received a special mention by the United Nations. Bengoechea is the director of the research group GENTYLL (Gender in Translation and Language and Legislation) and has coordinated national R&D projects in the area of gender, language and translation.

In general, research groups have tended to materialize around the work of one or several committed scholars whose leadership and mentoring have become crucial for training younger scholars and consolidating research. This often happens initially in older or larger universities where strong feminist groups operate, but younger academics soon move to action in newly established institutions, which sometimes offer the advantage of less fossilized academic structures.

The cities of Madrid and Barcelona bring together a number of higher education institutions, some of which also function within regional networks. Feminist research at Catalan universities was unified at institutional level in the early 1990s, with the creation of the Inter-University Institute of Women’s Studies and Gender Research (IIEDG). Anglicist Women’s Studies are mainly associated with the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, yet very solid work has also been produced at Rovira i Virgili University (Tarragona), by the group Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Class (GREC), with Elizabeth Russell and Cynthia Wyatt leading its Anglicist domain. Russell’s intense involvement in feminist scholarship is evident in her many international publications. She coordinated a national R&D project on ethnic and national identity in contemporary Anglophone women’s writing, has collaborated in other national and European projects and established international feminist networks. ← 74 | 75 →

In 1994, Àngels Carabí co-founded the Centre for Women and Literature. Gender, Sexualities and Cultural Criticism at the University of Barcelona, thus institutionalizing activities begun in 1990 as the Seminar of Literature Written by Women. The centre publishes Lectora: Revista de Dones i Textualitat (Journal of Women and Textuality, coedited by Anglicist Cristina Alsina), as well as the series Mujeres y Culturas (Women and Cultures). The Centre’s stated aim is to analyze gender and cultural minorities in multicultural and postcolonial contexts, women’s artistic creations (cinema, literature), masculinities, and gender and sexual difference. Carabí has coordinated three research projects on masculinities since 1999, and the work in this area has now been extended to the University of Castilla-La Mancha, where Josep M. Armengol (PhD on masculinities from Barcelona) lectures in American Literature and leads the research team Bodytext. The University of Barcelona also has a dynamic research team on Women’s Creation and Thought (Creació i Pensament de les Dones). Also in the city of Barcelona, at the Autonomous University (UAB), Aránzazu Usandizaga led two national research projects, on gender and war narrative and on female authorship, gender and genre in Spanish and English writing. Felicity Hand has published widely in postcolonial and transnational women’s writing, and Sara Martín Alegre, a member of the transdisciplinary group Cos I Textualitat (Body and Textuality), has added Popular Culture Studies to feminist research in Spain.

Another node of intense activity is based in Madrid. At the Complutense University, Isabel Durán Giménez-Rico, Esther Sánchez-Pardo and JoAnne Neff, among others, have a long trajectory in feminist studies. The English Department organized its first International Conference of Women’s Studies in 1990, a biennial event which has produced ten collective books. This was the starting point for the creation of a research group on Women’s Studies in Anglophone countries (Estudios de la Mujer en el Ámbito de los Países de Habla Inglesa), led by Durán Giménez-Rico since 2008. Members of this group have coordinated eight research projects since 1999, most of them led by María Antonia Rodríguez Gago, Eulalia Piñero Gil or Julia Salmerón, and have supervised theses on a wide range of topics. Some of these Anglicists at the Complutense have also collaborated in projects with colleagues from the Autonomous University of Madrid, where, aside from a strong interdisciplinary group brought together by its Institute, there is ← 75 | 76 → an Anglicist Women’s Studies Seminar, founded in 1998 and led by Piñero Gil and Salmerón. Publications in the areas of US and Canadian literature feature strongly, and Pilar Somacarrera has specialized in Canadian literature, particularly on Margaret Atwood.

The Madrid-based UNED (Open University) has likewise been a focal point since 1992, when Ángeles de la Concha, who had carried out extensive research on British women writers, organized the first summer course in Literature and Feminism at its Ávila venue, six years before a degree in English Philology was implemented at this university. Subsequent editions were at times led by other Anglicist colleagues, like María Teresa Gibert Maceda, and held elsewhere (Pontevedra and Denia) in cooperation with scholars from other universities. Collaboration with other disciplines at the UNED resulted in the creation of the interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies, whose main areas of interest involve science and technology, language, multiculturalism and equal opportunities. De la Concha has also led two interdisciplinary research projects on gender, one on the cultural construction of maternal roles, the other on the representation of gender violence in literature. Anglicist theses completed at the UNED, supervised by de la Concha and Gibert Maceda, mostly focus on contemporary literature; the department now includes further long-standing feminist researchers such as Ana Zamorano.

One of the most productive groups is based at the University of Oviedo (Ortiz Gómez 1999: 88), where Anglicist scholars have played an essential role in the institutionalization of Gender Studies at postgraduate levels. The Women’s Studies Seminar (SEMUO), founded in 1995, as an interdisciplinary extension of the Permanent Seminar on Women and Literature (established in 1986), was initiated by María Socorro Suárez Lafuente, Isabel Carrera Suárez and Esther Álvarez López. The group publishes the series Alternativas, where Anglicist titles prevail. Álvarez López, Carrera Suárez and Suárez Lafuente have supervised most of the 24 theses completed in the field and some of their former PhD candidates are now lecturers at other Spanish universities – León, Illes Balears, Zaragoza, Vigo, La Coruña – where they have continued their specialization and have been active members or founders of seminars, new modules or academic structures, also becoming supervisors of a younger generation of feminist researchers. Carrera Suárez and Suárez Lafuente have taken part in EU funded projects and reinforced ← 76 | 77 → international connections with other universities through networks like ATHENA. Suárez Lafuente has coordinated two projects, on otherness in literature and on the deconstruction of myths about the female body, whereas Carrera Suárez, aside from participating in two EC-funded R&D projects on Women’s Studies (5th and 6th Frameworks), has coordinated five projects on topics ranging from the re-rendering of canonical texts by women writers, textual strategies in postcolonial writing and translation or the redefinition of national identities from postcolonial and gender theory, to two recent national projects focusing on gender and urban representation. The group also took part in two projects on women filmmakers and gender in cinema coordinated by María del Carmen Rodríguez Fernández, and collaborated in a number of national and international projects on gender.

Doctoral dissertations in Oviedo have dealt mainly with postcolonial literatures (8), American literature and culture (7), English, Irish or Scottish literature, some combining the analysis of visual and literary texts. Oviedo has a strong multicultural and postcolonial focus, and has produced many international publications in the area since the end of the 1980s. Carrera Suárez and Suárez Lafuente were the organizers of the EACLALS (European Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies) Silver Jubilee Conference in Oviedo in 1996, where gender papers abounded. They are now joined in the research teams by an active cluster of feminist scholars, already supervising PhD theses themselves and the authors of extensive publications on postcolonial, Irish, Scottish and transcultural literatures. Luz Mar González Arias and Carla Rodríguez González have long trajectories in Irish and Scottish literatures respectively, while Emilia Durán Almarza, Alejandra Moreno Álvarez and Carmen Pérez Riu are among the most consolidated in the next generation, reinforcing the Oviedo lines in performance, postcolonial and film studies, respectively.

In the Canaries, the adoption of gender perspectives in Anglicist research at the University of La Laguna began with Justine Tally’s work and the early interest shown by J.S. Amador Bedford. Along with Aída Díaz Bild, who has also published on the matter, they encouraged younger scholars to pursue this specialization, now supported by the University Institute of Women’s Studies (founded in 2007 as an extension of the former Centre of Women’s Studies, inaugurated in 1995), which publishes, since the year ← 77 | 78 → 2000, the feminist journal Clepsydra. This journal’s contents demonstrate that Anglicist research has played a prominent role. Equally, the Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (Canaries Journal of English Studies), one of the earliest Anglicist journals in Spain, provides, as was the case with Atlantis, good information on the development of these studies in the country.16 The journal’s contents confirm that the 1990s are pivotal and mark the expansion of Anglicist feminism in Spanish academe. This can also be observed in the rest of English Studies journals in the country, which have progressively included articles on gender issues, particularly those with a literary and cultural focus.17 Also in La Laguna, Eva Darias leads the research team Literature and Gender in English, and has coordinated two research projects on Canadian women’s writing; many of the theses completed in this university deal with Canadian literature.

In Andalucía, the University of Seville, as one of the older Andalusian universities, was responsible for training early English graduates, and several of the 16 theses completed in the field were submitted by scholars who are now active in neighbouring universities, such as María Rosario García Doncel, Pilar Cuder, and Zenón Luis, or are part of the staff in Seville itself, as is the case with Carolina Sánchez-Palencia, an established feminist literary scholar. The Interdisciplinary Seminar of Women’s Studies, although officially registered in 2013, has been functional since 1992. The participation of Anglicist scholars has been strong and some are also members of the transdisciplinary research group Women Writers and Writings (Escritoras y Escrituras). ← 78 | 79 →

Feminist Anglicists at the University of Málaga, on the other hand, are mostly concerned with British writing and culture or with American playwrights, demonstrating the influence of Pilar Hidalgo Andreu and Barbara Ozieblo Rajkowska. The Association for Women’s Historic Studies (AEHM) was the starting point for a homonymous research group in the English department, which now focuses on American women’s theatre. Along with Ozieblo, scholars like Blanca Krauel Heredia, Miriam López Reyes and Inmaculada Pineda have organized conferences on American drama, one of them on the representation of gender violence on stage. Other members of the department have also analyzed gender issues in American and British literature, like Rosario Arias Doblas, Ruth Ann Stoner, Carmen Lara Rallo or Sofía Muñoz Valdivieso, with Silvia Castro Borrego and Isabel Romero Ruiz focusing on diaspora and migration. The university inaugurated the book series Atenea in 1991, which specializes in gender studies and has had important contributions by Anglicists.

Also in Andalucía, the University of Cádiz is the home of pioneering Women’s Studies scholar María Rosario García Doncel, who now coordinates the research group Cultural Studies in English incorporating gender perspectives. The interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Seminar, founded in 1990, includes scholars from English and American Studies who have at times presided it, like Asunción Aragón Varo, also part of the transdisciplinary and gender-oriented R&D project Afroeurope@s, led by Marta Sofía López Rodríguez, another Anglicist, from the University of León.

In Alicante, María Teresa Gómez Reus leads the all-Anglicist research team on Literature, Gender and Society. Members have participated in research projects focusing on the cultural construction of motherhood (Silvia Caporale), intermediality as cultural mediation (Terri Ochiagha) or women’s representation of transit spaces and urban cultures and literature (Gómez Reus), which have been the origin of several PhD theses. The University of Alicante publishes the journal Feminismos, edited by the Centre of Women’s Studies since 2003.

Some of the more recently established universities nationwide (the product of the 1990s expansion, see 2.2.) have had the benefit of young, dynamic scholars who participated actively in the structural organization of their institutions and introduced gender studies early on. At the University of Huelva, the first activities related to Anglicist gender studies take place ← 79 | 80 → in 1994, one year after the creation of the university, within the ‘Women and Literature: Women from Text to Context’ forum, which precedes the foundation of the Women Studies Seminar in 1996. Research projects at this university have been led by Pilar Cuder Domínguez, Sonia Villegas López and Luis Zenón, on women writers of the English Restoration, sexualities and gender identities in contemporary Anglophone cultures, and, with Belén Martín Lucas, from the University of Vigo, on transnational poetics in the 1990s.

At Jaume I University, the Seminari de la Dona (Women’s Seminar) has been operating since this institution’s foundation in 1991. Its name changed into Seminar of Feminist Research in 1992 and eventually became the University Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies in 2009. Anglicist Mary Farrell was one of its founding members, soon joined by Nieves Alberola Crespo. The Institute publishes the feminist book series Sendes and the feminist journal Asparkía, founded in 1992. Anglicist contributions abound in both, as they do in the journal Dossiers Feministes, published annually since 1998. Alberola Crespo participated in a research project on gender violence and its representation, and collaborates in interdisciplinary educational initiatives.

The University of Vigo also has a relatively recent but very committed group, led by Belén Martín Lucas and Ana Bringas López, both holding feminist PhDs from Oviedo. They run the ‘Feminisms and Resistances: Theories and Practices Feminar’ [sic], have published extensively, organized academic activities and coordinated research projects on contemporary women’s writing, mostly postcolonial, the most recent on globalized cultural markets (led by Martín Lucas). Martín Lucas is editor, with Cuder Domínguez (University of Huelva), of the journal Canada and Beyond, which has a declared focus on feminist criticism from its launch in 2011.

To some extent, Anglicist feminism at the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) is also a spinoff of the University of Oviedo. The English degree was implemented in 2001, requiring academic staff from other institutions. Specialists in feminist Anglophone literatures begin to arrive in 2002 and have integrated into existing feminist academic structures while also contributing to the development of new ones, such as the Dones i Lletres (Women and Letters) Seminar. They also incorporate gender perspectives into their teaching practices. The group organized the AUDEM conference ← 80 | 81 → in 2005 and have contributed to the series Treballs Feministes (Feminist Works), published by the UIB. Patricia Bastida Rodríguez, specializing in British and diasporic writers, and Marta Fernández Morales, an American Studies scholar, who ran the Chair for the Study of Gender Violence (Cátedra d’Estudis de Violència de Gènere), are currently the main Anglicist feminist scholars at UIB.

Aside from these universities, hosting established groups, it must be emphasized that work is carried out by specific Anglicist lecturers in almost every university in Spain. At the University of Salamanca, Ana Manzanas, Ana María Fraile and Olga Barrios publish on contemporary women writers in US, Canadian and postcolonial contexts. The same interests in US and postcolonial literatures are shared by specialists from the University of La Coruña, like María Frías Rudolphi, María Jesús Lorenzo Modia or Begoña Simal González, with two research groups including gender as part of their work. In Santiago de Compostela, the focus is mainly on American and Irish literature. Constante González Groba has coordinated research projects on space, gender and race in American fiction, and Patricia Fra López has published on American women’s literature. Manuela Palacios González has supervised theses and led five research projects in Irish women’s writing, with Margarita Estévez Saa coordinating a related project. At the University of Alcalá, aside from Bengoechea’s linguistics group, other Anglicists have applied feminist theory to the study of literary and cultural works: Carmen L. Flys Junquera (ecocriticism), Maya García de Vinuesa (African literatures), Esperanza Cerdá Redondo (American literature). At the University of Almería, María Elena Jaime de Pablos coordinates the research group ‘Women, Literature and Society’ and specializes in Irish women’s writing, while Blasina Jesús Cantizano Márquez explores gender in children’s literature. Adelina Sánchez Espinosa leads a research group on women, literature and genre in Granada. In Zaragoza, Maite Escudero Alías publishes on ecocriticism and performativity, and Silvia Martínez Falquina on American native women. Added to this already extensive list, a growing number of thoroughly trained young scholars, who have submitted their PhDs recently or are in the process of writing them, are contributing with specialized and highly theorized publications, and are eager to enter the academic world with this training. ← 81 | 82 →

4.  Conclusion

Anglicist Women’s, Gender and Feminist Studies in Spain have grown steadily since the crucial year of 1975 (which brought Franco’s death and the UN International Year of Women), and have reached a relatively high degree of institutionalization and relevance in Spanish academe. Anglicist feminists have exerted a considerable influence in Spanish Women’s Studies, introducing international perspectives into an excessively equity-oriented vision of gender, anticipating and reinforcing notions of intersectionality, race, ethnicity or postcoloniality, and adding depth to theories of masculinity, queer studies, ecofeminism, globalization or diasporas. Anglicists have also played a crucial role in reinforcing international networks for Women’s Studies in Spanish universities, a contribution sometimes duly recognized by their institutions. Within the area of English Studies itself, as is the case worldwide, the work of feminist scholars has transformed the field, not just through their dissident re/reading of the literary and cultural canon, but by thoroughly renovating the discipline in the addition of texts and authors and, crucially, through the critical stance and theoretically informed perspective that are essential components of feminist expertise. In both research and teaching, they have effected a major transformation, which can be measured by even a cursory comparison between the content of current programmes, R&D projects and PhD dissertations, as described in this chapter, and those existing in the 1970s. Resistances and obstacles do remain, as has also been discussed here, and the former official support for gender studies is unlikely to continue in the current period of conservatism and recession. Nevertheless, given the achievement so far, we can only expect that the level of commitment and the institutionalization reached will allow its survival and academic growth. The many consolidated research groups and the now well established feminists within academe will hopefully continue to mentor and enable younger researchers, who might bring new energies and perspectives into the dynamic world of Women’s and Gender Studies, and into English Studies in Spain.


Ballarín Domingo, Pilar, dir., Los Estudios de las Mujeres en las Universidades Españolas 1975–1991, Libro Blanco (Madrid: Instituto de la Mujer, Ministerio de Asunto Sociales, 1995). ← 82 | 83 →

Birriel Salcedo, Margarita, ‘SIGMA Women’s Studies Report: Spain, 1995’, in The Making of European Women’s Studies, eds. R. Braidotti et al. (Utrecht, 2002), pp. 210–29.

Braidotti, Rosi / Janny Nieboer / Sanne Hirs, eds., The Making of European Women’s Studies, Vol. IV, Advanced Thematic Network in Activities in Women’s Studies in Europe (ATHENA) (Utrecht: U of Utrecht, 2002).

Carrera Suárez, Isabel / Laura Viñuela Suárez / Carla Rodríguez González, Disciplinary Barriers between the Social Sciences and Humanities. Spain, (2005), <http://www.york.ac.uk/res/researchintegration/National_reports.htm> (10 Aug 2010).

– / Laura Viñuela Suárez, ‘Spain’, in Women’s Employment…, ed. G. Griffin (Hull, 2002), pp. 427–69.

–, ‘The Impact of Women’s Studies Training on its Students in Spain’, in Employment…, ed. G. Griffin (Frankfurt, 2004), pp. 187–211.

Casado Aparicio, Elena, ‘Women’s Studies in Spain: An Update’, in The Making of European Women’s Studies, eds. R. Braidotti et al. (Utrecht, 2002), pp. 230–42.

Gallego, Mar, ‘Hacia la Convergencia Europea: Los Estudios de Género y Ciudadanía en la Universidad de Huelva’, Revista Internacional de Culturas y Literaturas 2 (2005), <http://www.escritorasyescrituras.com/revista.php/2/16> (17 June 2013).

Griffin, Gabriele, ed., Women’s Employment, Women’s Studies, and Equal Opportunities 1945–2001: Reports from Nine European Countries (Hull: U of Hull P, 2002).

–, ed., Employment, Equal Opportunities and Women’s Studies: Women’s Experiences in Seven European Countries (Frankfurt/Main: Ulrike Helmer, 2004).

–, ed., Doing Women’s Studies: Employment Opportunities, Personal Impacts and Social Consequences (London: Zed Books, 2005).

–, ‘Women’s Studies, Professionalization and the Bologna Process – Cross-European Reflections’, NORA. Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies 2:14 (2006), 87–102.

Hand, Felicity, ‘Postcolonial Studies in Spain’, Links & Letters 8 (2001), 27–36, <http://www.raco.cat/index.php/linksletters/article/viewFile/22730/22564> (24 July 2013). ← 83 | 84 →

Ley Orgánica 6/2001, de 21 de diciembre, de Universidades, BOE 24/12/2001, <http://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2001/12/24/index.php> (1 Sept 2013).

Ley Orgánica 1/2004, de 28 de diciembre, de medidas de protección integral contra la violencia de género, BOE nº 313 29/12/2004, <http://www.boe.es/aeboe/consultas/bases_datos/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2004-21760> (1 Sept 2013).

Ley Orgánica 3/2007, de 22 de marzo, para la igualdad efectiva de mujeres y hombres, BOE nº 71 de 23/3/2007, pp. 12611–12645, <http://www.boe.es/aeboe/consultas/bases_datos/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2007-6115> (1 Sept 2013).

Monterrey, Tomás, ‘Notes for a History of English Studies in Spain’, in European English Studies: Contributions towards the History of a Discipline, eds. Balz Engler / Renate Haas (Leicester: The English Association for ESSE, 2000), pp. 161–81.

–, ‘Los Estudios Ingleses en España (1900–1950): Legislación Curricular’, Atlantis 25:1 (2003), 63–80.

Ortiz Gómez, Teresa, ‘Consolidación y Visibilidad de los Estudios de las Mujeres en España: Logros y Retos’, in Seminario ‘Balance y Perspectivas de los Estudios de las Mujeres y del Género (Madrid: Instituto de la Mujer, 2003), pp. 7–22.

– / Johanna Birriel Salcedo / Vicenta Marín Parra et al., Universidad y Feminismo en España (I). Bibliografía de Estudios de las Mujeres (1992–1996), Colección Feminae, 3 (Granada: SP de la Universidad de Granada, 1998).

– et al., Universidad y Feminismo en España (II). Situación de los Estudios de las Mujeres en los Años 90, Colección Feminae, 4 (Granada: SP de la Universidad de Granada, 1999).

Pedregal, Amparo, ‘Propuesta de Declaración por la Plena Integración de los Estudios de las Mujeres, Feministas y de Género en el Espacio Europeo de Educación Superior’, in Los Feminismos como Herramienta de Cambio Social, II. De la Violencia contra las Mujeres a la Construcción del Pensamiento Feminista, eds. Victoria Ferrer / Esperanza Bosch (Palma de Mallorca: SP UIB, 2007), pp. 371–78.

RUCT (Registro de Universidades, Centros y Títulos), <https://www.educacion.gob.es/ruct/home> (1 Sept 2013). ← 84 | 85 →

Segura, Cristina, ‘La Docencia y los Estudios de las Mujeres, Feministas y de Género en la Universidad’, in Universidad y Feminismo en España (II), eds. T. Ortiz Gómez et al. (Granada, 1999), pp. 135–85.

Vargas, Ana / Eulalia Lledó / Mercedes Bengoechea et al., Lo Femenino y lo Masculino en el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Madrid: Instituto de la Mujer, 1998).

[Received October 24, 2013] ← 85 | 86 →


← 86 | 87 →

1 Notably, at the turn of the century, women who publicly advocated women’s political and cultural rights, such as Concepción Arenal (1820–93), who had attended University disguised as a man; Carmen de Burgos (1879–1932, pseudonym Colombine), journalist and writer; Teresa Claramunt (1862–1931), textile worker and trade-union activist; essayist and fiction writer Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851–1921), or educator María de Maeztu (1882–1948), who founded the Residencia de Señoritas for women students (1915), and the Lyceum (1926) in Madrid.

2 Initially located in the Ministry of Culture, and successively, with government changes, in those of Social Affairs, Employment and Social Affairs and (briefly) of Equality; currently (2013) in the Ministry of Health, Social Affairs and Equality.

3 Among the declared aims of the 2nd Plan for Equal Opportunities (II PIOM, 1993–95) were the improvement of the socio-political knowledge on Spanish women, through better statistics, research, and gender indicators; a further aim was to promote equal participation of women in the production and transmission of knowledge, and the critique of the androcentric character of science and knowledge. These were advanced but unfortunately only recommended measures, and their power of implementation was limited. Mandatory laws would only appear in the Acts passed between 2004 and 2007.

4 There was one exception: the young Juan Carlos I University (Madrid), offering two degrees in Gender Equality, one of them online. These have been cancelled by the university for the year 2014–15.

5 These first official MA programmes were taught by Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; U. Cádiz and U. Huelva, jointly; U. Granada; U. Jaume I and U. Miguel Hernández, jointly; U. Oviedo; U. Santiago de Compostela; U. Valencia; U. Vigo; U. Zaragoza (see Resolución de 17 de Mayo de 2007 de la Secretaría General del Consejo de Coordinación Universitaria, por la que se publica la relación de los programas oficiales de posgrado. BOE 14/06/2007).

6 The debates and history of the naming of ‘Women's Studies’ (Estudios de la mujer / de las mujeres), ‘Feminist Studies’ and ‘Gender Studies’ are similar to those in other countries, responding both to changes in feminist philosophy and to negotiation with university, local and national authorities. For further information on the Spanish context of the terminology debate, see Birriel 2002: 218; Casado Aparicio 2002: 233; Ortiz 2003: 21.

7 The renewal of PhD programmes accredited in 2010 (practically all those in existence) in the new, stricter conditions is currently in process, and data are not available yet in the RUCT. Oviedo was accredited in July 2013, and others should be doing so in the near future, some in a new form or as joint degrees.

8 See Tomás Monterrey 2003 for a detailed account of the educational reforms affecting the inclusion of English Studies in Spain during the first half of the twentieth century.

9 See Mujeres y Hombres en España, published by the Instituto de la Mujer with the National Statistics Institute (INE) at <http://www.inmujer.gob.es/estadisticas/mujeresHombres/home.htm> for data. Percentages show the classic ‘scissors diagram’ of women’s progress in the different academic levels: a presence of women which is over 50% at student level, but well below this figure in lecturers, whose numbers dwindle steadily towards the professor end, 18.1%.

10 Founded by Patricia Shaw, Javier Coy, and Joaquín Oltra. Patricia Shaw would be member number 1 of the association and President from 1977 to 1983.

11 Carried out through the mailing list of AEDEAN in 2013.

12 There are exceptions, however, as some English Studies degrees in universities with well-established and very active groups, such as Cádiz, Huelva, Málaga, Jaume I, do not appear to have incorporated any.

13 Usual course nomenclatures maintain traditional reference to geo-political areas (English, Irish, American, Canadian, African, Postcolonial, etc.), periods (Modern, Contemporary, Nineteenth-century, Twentieth-century, Medieval, etc.) and genres (Literature and Film; The Novel; Drama; Poetry). Most of these denominations are accompanied by ‘in English’ or its alternative, ‘in English-speaking countries’.

14 Literature and gender courses are offered at Alcalá, UAB, Autónoma de Madrid, Basque Country, Complutense Madrid, Granada, UIB (Balearic Islands), La Coruña, La Laguna, La Rioja, León, St Louis University in Madrid, Salamanca, Seville, Oviedo, UNED. Titles of courses refer to literature and gender/women, in a few cases combined with sexualities, class, race, ethnicity, culture, nature or identity.

15 Due to the traditional stigmatization of feminist research in Spanish academe, sometimes authors exclude, among other traces of their approaches, words such as feminism or gender from their keywords and abstracts, which complicates the search and may have distorted slightly the data included in this table. TESEO also has lacunae for theses completed in the 1980s, yet it is the only official record in the country. Where we have found or received information of others, they have been added.

16 The first relevant article in RCEI is F. van Leeuwen’s ‘Female Gothic: The Discourse of the Other’ (1982); a year later an interview with Doris Lessing by J. Fernando Galván Reula and Bernhard H. L. Dietz Guerrero was published, followed in 1985 by Justine Tally’s interview with Beverly Guy-Sheftall, ‘Black Women Studies in the 1980s’.

17 This list comprises Anglogermánica Online; AUDEM; Babel a.f.i.a.l; BELLS; ES; Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense; Estudios Irlandeses; The Grove; International Journal of English Studies; Journal of English Studies; Miscelánea; Odisea; Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses; Revista de Estudios Norteamericanos; SEDERI; SELIM. There is also a clear presence of Anglicist research in academic feminist journals like Arenal. Revista de Historia de las Mujeres; Clepsydra; Cuadernos Koré; Feminismo/s Investigaciones Feministas. All of these journals are available online.

Vita Fortunati

Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies in Italy: The Bologna Case as an Emblematic Example

1. In order to understand the complex and contradictory situation of Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies in Italy one has to take into consideration the controversy about the institutionalisation of the studies themselves in the universities. It has been going on for many years, is intimately connected to the history of Italian feminism and poses a crucial question about the visibility and inclusion of these studies in academic curricula. For many women the inclusion of Women’s and Gender Studies in institutions means the recognition of their formative and educational strength, while for others it means depriving them of their subversive potential.1 Inside this heated debate my position has always been that of supporting the importance of the transmission of feminine knowledge inside the academic institutions. Women’s and Gender Studies, in fact, are not only concerned with the study of the relationship between the categories of male and female, but also that between different identity groups, linked to issues of power and agency (the capacity that a subject has of acting inside social systems), between dominant cultures and the so-called minority cultures. This because Women’s and Gender Studies examine the distribution, the accessibility, the production of knowledge and savoirs in different disciplinary fields. In this sense Women’s and Gender Studies are connected to Multicultural Studies in a continuous exchange and expansion of the issues and questions both examine. At the end of the nineties and the beginning of the new century, we have witnessed the effort on the part of the Italian ministry for equal opportunities, especially with Ministers Laura Balbo and Katia Belillo, for an effective disciplinary insertion of Women’s and Gender Studies in academic curricula. 2 ← 87 | 88 →

For a better understanding of the development and features of Women’s and Gender Studies in Italy it is important to outline the relationship between Italian universities and North American or further Anglo-Saxon Women’s and Gender Studies. Such a relationship was born from the necessity of comparing European and extra-European realities, the latter already having had departments and teaching in this disciplinary field. Their experience has enriched ours, since there has never been an imitation, carried out with no awareness of the different historical contexts, but a comparison that has enhanced our scholarly tradition. We have, as a matter of fact, tried to translate experiences and knowledge. The migration of the various savoirs between our culture and the North American one has faced us with problems that we have taken into account when inserting Women’s and Gender Studies into Italian study curricula. And, as regards contents, the translating of various experiences has not homogenised, but has further nuanced and enriched the teaching of Women’s and Gender Studies at a European level. Amongst many congresses, the one organised in 1993 by the University of Bologna and the Centre for Women’s Documentation and Research in Bologna3 on this side of the Atlantic and the University of California on the other has shown the necessity of leaving behind controversies in order to search for a constructive comparison of experiences.

It is in this perspective that in Europe the didactics (courses, teaching materials) and research experiences in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies are being compared, in order to draw up a common development program in academic as well as high school education, keeping constantly in mind, of course, the specificity of each single case. Italy’s case is particularly complex, because, although there do exist inside the various institutions courses, seminars, PhD and master’s programs on Women’s and Gender Studies, this discipline is not actually recognised institutionally. Nevertheless, the university reform envisages the insertion of gender perspectives in ← 88 | 89 → the different degree syllabuses. The lack of recognition at a higher level of institutions has resulted in setbacks and lack of communication between the various faculties and departments where work was being carried out on Women’s and Gender Studies. The lack of communication between Italian universities and even inside the same athenaeum has slowed down the comparison of contents and progress. We (Bologna University) realised this forcibly when, due to the Erasmus projects, we entered the European Women’s Studies network, with universities such as Utrecht, York, London and Madrid, where Women’s and Gender Studies departments already existed, and where they were taught in an interdisciplinary way. Establishing links between the various teachers of Women’s and Gender Studies at a European level has foregrounded the everyday difficulties of our university in this field of study. We have found ourselves faced with a gap between an extremely high level of the research projects and an almost non-existent recognition at the institutional level. Despite all the PhD programs,4 summer schools and seminars, all backed by a long and glorious tradition, there is a difference in level between the research and the visibility of Women’s and Gender Studies inside the Academia. The crucial question is that of how to insert Women’s and Gender Studies in the university organisation. Keeping in mind the experiences that have preceded us in other countries, it would be important to establish Women’s and Gender Studies Departments, in order to create transdisciplinary research among colleagues and to facilitate the students’ choice in the direction of Women’s and Gender Studies. For this reason it would be essential to strengthen the field of comparative and integrative studies in the Italian universities. Comparative studies as a cognitive method has emphasised how one of the most innovative and fertile characteristics of feminism is its pluralism, which is based on the idea that all global summaries tend to amalgamate the complexity and multiplicity of female identity. The comparative studies practised by women will never be monolithic, precisely because the theoretical thought, culture and literature of women are formed by a set of knowledge bases which are born in social and political contexts very different from each other: knowledge ← 89 | 90 → bases which are transmitted from one continent to another with very fertile results and hybridisation.

At the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures in Bologna (now with the new Italian reform ‘School of Languages and Literatures, Interpreting and Translation’), our research and teaching experience has always had a European scope, favoured by the influx of foreign lecturers and students arriving from European universities and allowing the comparison between the different teaching methods.

The complex problem of the migration of savoirs, and the more practical one of migration in Europe make a multicultural perspective necessary: a perspective moreover that favours a theoretical approach to multiculturalism, and that does not limit itself simply to the introduction in the curricula and syllabuses of postcolonial or Afro-American criticism and literature. There is an urgent need for a ‘translation’ of experiences (e.g. postcolonial or Afro-American) that takes into account the differences of European culture’s historical experiences, investigates the different issues and produces studies and analyses of multiculturalism in Italy and Europe. Yet again the transdisciplinary quality of Women’s and Gender Studies, linked to Comparative Studies, can constitute a powerful instrument for the elaboration of new conceptual paradigms.

As regards Bologna and our specific situation at the School of Languages and Literatures, Interpreting and Translation, we have organised seminar courses in Women’s and Gender Studies addressed to Erasmus and our own students from 1989 onwards, but we found ourselves obliged to graft them on to the English Language and Literature Course, since the subject did not possess a juridical existence. In that year we created the Women’s and Gender Studies Permanent Course linked to Erasmus projects based on the mobility of students and teaching staff coming from various European universities (Utrecht, Odense, York, Dublin, Athens, Paris, London, Madrid, Antwerp), and to the ATHENA Network (based at Utrecht University). Together with the universities of the Erasmus and Socrates networks, with the Women’s and Gender Studies thematic webs (ATHENA)5 and those of ← 90 | 91 → Comparative Studies (COTEPRA, ACUME1 and ACUME26), the Permanent Course has also hosted a summer school of European Women’s and Gender Studies, having multicultural perspectives, and participated in the summer schools on Women’s and Gender Studies organised by Utrecht and Bologna. From the Course’s experience the summer schools were born, always in collaboration with the European network for Women’s and Gender Studies (Utrecht, Bologna, Madrid, Paris, York, Dublin, Thessaloniki, Åbo, Odense), and they have enabled students and teachers coming from diverse backgrounds to compare different historical contexts and socio-political realities. The summer schools were attended also by students and lecturers from Eastern Europe, which has contributed to the creation of a realistic image of the state of Women’s and Gender Studies in the whole of Europe. In addition, the summer schools have always had a transdisciplinary organisation, including scientific subjects such as biology and natural sciences.

The seminars have enabled students and teachers to confront each other with the main theoretical debates on cultural traditions and critical methods of Women’s and Gender Studies, maintaining a multicultural, transdisciplinary and multimedia approach. To cross the boundaries between literary genres and disciplines, to bridge the gap between different cultures and eliminate the dichotomy that has been created in Western thought between high and low culture are amongst the routes that are deemed most important in women’s thought, together with a rethinking of traditional fields of knowledge by means of a hermeneutical process that includes women in their being ‘different’ and those subjects that were once defined as ‘marginal’. From the didactic and research experiences linked to the permanent Gender and Women’s Studies Seminar critical and methodological texts ← 91 | 92 → were created, such as the first critical anthology in Italian, Critiche femministe e teorie letterarie, published in 1997 (Baccolini et al).

2. A few examples of the content of our modules and seminars may also illustrate the aim of our research. The analysis of the theories and the methods linked to Women’s and Gender Studies, in stressing the comparative critical and methodological set-up, confronts the main interpretative categories in a transdisciplinary way, starting from women’s cultural traditions, up to their connections with the most recent intercultural studies. In this context the relationship between genres and gender is useful in order to explain the link between canonising operations and ideological systems. The emphasis on the rewriting of the body and on nomadic thought deepens the complex relationship between dominant savoirs and cultures that are marginal or marginalised at different epistemological, hermeneutic and political/cultural levels. The study of Afro-American criticism in the teaching of Women’s and Gender Studies in Europe foregrounds the critical and methodological instruments that are most relevant to the construction of a European thought open to other cultures. The complex issue of exile − of belonging, of alienation and of the relationships between different ethnic groups − is analysed also with the tools of postcolonial criticism and cultural anthropology. The issue of otherness and of identity is taken as an example, at a theoretical level, in contexts in which differences are in direct contact, in order to tackle the complex issue of the relationship between identity and alienation, belonging and exclusion. The link between Women’s and Gender Studies and Cultural Studies has always been fundamental for explaining the construction of the critical methodology of Women’s and Gender Studies, not to mention the need for a transversal debate amongst the various disciplines. Amongst the topics treated we would like to mention the following: 1) Comparative Studies and Cultural Studies: analysis of the various critical theories and methods, 2) Translations and metamorphoses in the migration of different savoirs between Women’s Studies in Europe and the USA: comparative critical analysis, 3) Exile, belonging, nomadism: the impact of postcolonial criticism on women’s literature, 4) Revisions of the literary canon, 5) Women’s and Gender Studies: genealogies, methods and theories in various traditions of criticism, 6) Nomadic subject and ‘situated knowledge’: revisions of marginalisation. ← 92 | 93 →

The strength of Women’s and Gender Studies is in fact that of offering transversal paths and, above all, of re-crossing the various savoirs from a gender-hermeneutical perspective. What has emerged after feminism’s first phase is the importance of considering gender as linked to other categories, such as ethnicity, class and sexual preference. In harmony with scholars that operate in various cultural contexts, we think that Women’s and Gender Studies offer the opportunity of confronting certain pivotal conceptual issues of our age: multiculturalism, the relationship between different fields of knowledge, between hegemonic cultures and minority ones, the body, and in particular the difficult attempt at finding a common basis between women and different cultures, without assimilating differences. The problem consists in valorising the different cultures women belong to with the awareness of belonging nevertheless to a common tradition. It is the sense of belonging to this common tradition that gives women the strength to leave marginality and to construct a social force that cannot be isolated without much difficulty.

Women’s and Gender Studies can thus be considered as a complex discourse – in the sense that Foucault and feminist scholars have taught us – where different savoirs interact, involving issues related to power and to the different roles that men and women play in society. The comparison between different savoirs and belonging favours the capacity of being able to translate and move easily beyond disciplinary borders and areas that have for too long been kept separate and rigidly fixed. In this sense we hope that transversal courses can be a useful tool for implementing innovation at the university level. Innovation means creating new teaching materials and teaching new transdisciplinary modules, making academic knowledge no longer fixed to disciplinary classification, which remains anachronistically the same, despite the quick changes in knowledge.

The most recent result (2007) in the teaching of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Bologna is its inclusion in the European Master GEMMA. GEMMA Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Women's and Gender Studies is a joint European multidisciplinary program which provides high quality academic education and professional competencies for students wanting to conduct further research or intending to work in the areas of Women’s Studies, Gender Studies and equal opportunities. ← 93 | 94 →

This European Master is unique in the way it brings together approaches to feminism from different European perspectives. Created as a result of concerted efforts on the part of several universities working together within the Socrates Thematic Network ATHENA, it utilises the expertise on postgraduate studies of all the institutions involved. In its composition the GEMMA consortium represents the harmonisation of seven different institutions from six different European countries: University of Granada (co-ordinator), University of Bologna, Central European University (Budapest), University of Hull, University of Lodz, University of Oviedo and University of Utrecht. GEMMA is thus the fine tuning of North European, South European and Central European higher education institutions where Women’s and Gender Studies is one of the main elements in their postgraduate offer. The innovative character of this project consists in offering courses which explore women’s issues through the politics of location through transdisciplinary methodologies. The various courses deal with the crucial issues of feminisms experienced in all cardinal parts of Europe, such as women’s migration, violence on and exploitation of the female body, traumatic experiences in recent conflict areas, equal opportunities in education, careers and job market, discrimination in sexual orientation, religious prejudices, equal access to justice. As for the methodologies, the category of gender is examined with other axes of differences such as race, class, ethnicity, age, and sexuality. Within this frame, the methodology of intersectionality is essential. In each partner university, the Master’s courses explore not only the different historical traditions of feminism in Europe, but also the main trends in contemporary gender theories such as: the comparison between French and Anglo-American Feminism, European vs. Trans-European Feminisms, Postcolonial and Cultural Studies, Cyberfeminism, Queer, Lesbian and Gay Studies.

An innovative element in this Master is the mobility offered to the students and scholars. The students’ mobility allows them to select their field of research and specialisation according to their intellectual and practical skills, while scholars’ mobility stimulates and develops different competences and expertise. This is another added value for the Master’s students, since they practice a dialogical and open approach to feminist knowledge. After this positive experience the GEMMA Consortium has recently received a grant from the European Commission (Lifelong Learning Program LLP ← 94 | 95 → Edges) in order to develop a model of a joint European PhD on Women’s and Gender Studies.

3. Women’s and Gender Studies in Italy have a distinct specificity, linked to the history and tradition of our own context, accordingly nuanced in each region, in the North and the South. It is useful to illustrate this with a significant example. Oral culture, such as folklore, which is so important in women’s world, has been recently analysed by women scholars as a category to be deconstructed, because if it is true that it identifies the specific cultural heritage of minorities and preserves the memory of its own identitary roots, it is also true that such a heritage has been ideologically used to keep women in a subaltern state. (See for example the research of Daniela Corona at the University of Palermo.)

Women’s Studies challenge fossilised knowledge; it is not by chance that one of the founding concepts of a great American poet and critic, Adrienne Rich, was that of re-vision, the act of looking at history with new eyes, of observing knowledge from new critical perspectives. For Rich, the act of re-gazing becomes an act of survival. Part of the project of revision consists not only in investigating Western history from a perspective that is no longer andro- and Euro-centric, in making the so-called mainstream culture interact with the once marginalised ones, but also in eliminating the separation between high culture and low culture, between different artistic codes, from cinema to television, from comics to spoken tradition. (See for example the research of Ornella De Zordo, University of Florence, and Mirella Billi, Tuscia University.)

In this direction, Italian research and didactics have centred on an analysis of the main critical methods of Gender Studies and of theories of culture, together with the re-reading not only of texts written by women, but also of classics (Maria del Sapio, University of Rome III, Laura di Michele, University of Aquila, and Gilberta Golinelli, University of Bologna) and of so-called postcolonial texts (Giovanna Covi, University of Trento, and Eleonora Rao, University of Salerno). Studying the impact of Women’s and Gender Studies on literary studies, postcolonial criticism and Cultural Studies has brought about a re-discussion of the relationship between different savoirs and cultures when put into contact with one another (Carla Locatelli, University of Trento, Lidia Curti, University of Naples, and Laura Di Michele, University of Aquila). ← 95 | 96 →

These critical debates have also the aim of re-discussing a possible redefinition of European identity in a multicultural setting. The usual categories of gender, the issue of race and ethnos, of sexual difference and its various constructs are thus put in connection with the relationship between identity and otherness, with processes of hybridising, and with the issues brought on by subjectivity and agency. In this field, some themes, certainly crucial in Women’s and Gender Studies, have revealed themselves as essential to connect critical and literary genealogies and traditions to future research prospects. Amongst these we would like to list the re-writing and the subversion of literary genres, the use of the theme of the body and its re-writing as a source of subjectivity, as a sign of the construction of different discursive processes (Nicoletta Vallorani, Milan University). A complex issue is the so-called ‘nomad subjectivity’, which has been examined as a relocation of the concept of margins and of centre, a mobile and multifaced category that indicates the fluidity of the concept of gender, and, at the same time, the necessity for a dynamisation of knowledge (Paola Zaccaria, University of Bari, Liana Borghi, University of Florence, and Maurizio Calbi, University of Salerno). The body, materiality and sexuality envisaged as discourses linked to the construction of the self and its identity refer to processes of deconstruction of stereotypes and clichés involving the female body. At the same time, to talk of the re-writing of the body means finding new pictures of the self and of one’s own materiality, freeing women from the constrictions that traditional images of the body have built upon them. The body becomes thus the place not of the biological differences, but the incarnation of historical and cultural differences of the subject. An important element for the rethinking of our cultural system is finding new representations of reality, capable of breaking the double thought and the reproduction of traditional symbols (Nicoletta Vallorani, University of Milan, Annamaria Lamarra, University of Naples Federico II, and Vita Fortunati, University of Bologna).

Another important line of research in Italy is ‘Cultural Memory and Oblivion in Women’s and Gender Studies’. Taking its start from an analysis of the social, political and cultural functions of memory, the research focuses on some conceptual crux. It particularly takes into consideration the relationship between the (re)construction of the past, the written or recounted experiences of women, individual stories and collective history (Rita Monticelli, University of Bologna). The study of family stories and ← 96 | 97 → sagas, for example, is examined as an epic re-reading, embracing the old and the new through the recounting of the histories of individuals and the communities. In these sagas, realistic style and symbolic language, oral culture folklore and classical tradition all come together in the attempt to depict female experience in all of its complex aspects. History is thus re-read through the stories of women and of other marginalised groups.

Women’s autobiography has been studied from the point of view of gender highlighting how it has followed the various stages of feminist critical theory from structuralism to post-structuralism, from deconstruction to neo-historicism. Furthermore women’s autobiography has been analysed from the point of view of ‘memory studies’. One of the central concepts emerging from recent studies on memory is that it is not a fixed, monolithic entity, but a dynamic, fluid one: it changes in relation to the different phases of a woman’s life. From this important concept there emerges the idea that autobiography spotlights how the moulding process of woman’s identity, of her subjectivity is not only stratified in time, but depends upon the different political and socio-historical contexts in which the reminiscing woman is set at the moment (Vita Fortunati, University of Bologna).

Amongst the events of the past, conflicts between nations are endowed with particular significance, being periods subject to great celebrations, both preceding and following the events themselves. Traditionally excluded from the genre of war literature and its archives of memory, women’s war testimonies are studied both as historical documents and as critical literary and cultural reconstructions. Women’s memory is thus a criticism of oblivion and of marginality, and not only a testimony and a recovering of female genealogies and experiences.

Cultural memory is also studied together with forms of oblivion, since both have an ambivalent meaning in women’s culture. The leading strain in women’s memory is found in the intention to acquire, recover and transform the past as a preparation for the future and an awareness of the present. Through deconstruction and the retrieval of memory, oblivion, amnesia and nostalgia, women’s writings, in particular dystopias and slave narratives, propose a constant critical re-reading of official History (Rita Monticelli, University of Bologna, and Giulia Fabi, University of Ferrara). The reading of texts that are defined as transcultural and multicultural (on the plane of the motives and contexts) highlights the double function of ← 97 | 98 → memory, as a reconstruction of the past and a retrieval of one’s origins, but also as a possible mystification of the same. Women’s cultural memory will thus be studied in transcultural texts as a threshold and a mediation between different experiences and contexts. In questioning the meaning that the memory of one’s roots has in a world of cultural hybridisation, and in reflecting on what the language of submerged cultures, the language of legends, of dreams, of spoken tales, personal and family epics teaches us today, women give complex, anti-rhetorical answers. In this perspective, the link between differences, whether of gender or of ethnos, class, sexual preferences of different geographical or political contexts, constitutes a fundamental analysis of the routes of women’s memory. The connection between different styles, between popular cultures and learned registers, written and oral culture, myths and fables marks the course of the writings of women’s memory, indicating a necessity for the transgression of genre boundaries as mirrors of gender boundaries.

By the late 1980s biography started to be studied as a distinctive genre and considered as a useful instrument in the interpretation of the literary text. This revaluation of biography was helped by the interest in this genre within Women’s and Gender Studies. Many Italian scholars have dedicated their research to trying to reconstruct the historical and socio-political context of women poets and writers together with their psychological inner life (Nadia Fusini, University of Florence, Barbara Lanati, University of Torino, and Marina Camboni, University of Macerata). Biography is an ambiguous genre, because the relationship between biographer and biographee is always ambivalent, located between the two poles of love and veneration for the biographee and, at the same time, a desire for detachment and the anxiety of her influence. The devouring relationship the woman biographer builds with the object of her narration can acquire voyeuristic features, since like a voyeur, the biographer is possessed by an obsessive will to see, to penetrate the hidden recesses of the life and the psyche of the object of her research. At the same time, she cannot avoid establishing an empathic relation with the biographee, since they must cohabit for a very long space of time. Biography has also fostered in many women researchers their creative writing: in Italy we witness this interesting phenomenon that a large number of scholars are also poets and novelists such as Bianca Tarozzi, Nadia Fusini, and Nicoletta Vallorani. ← 98 | 99 →

Another important new line of research is ‘Translation and Gender’ that studies not only the role of women translators in the different historical contexts but also faces theoretical and practical issues (Oriana Palusci and Eleonora Federici, University of Naples, and Vanessa Leonardi, University of Ferrara).

In conclusion what emerges in my brief survey of the main Italian lines of research in Women’s and Gender Studies is that there is a great gap between its high level of specialisation and originality and still its invisibility as an institutionalised discipline.


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Dottorato di Ricerca in Studi di Genere, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II <www.genderstudiesphd.unina.it>

Server Donne <www.women.it>

Società Italiana delle Letterate <http://www.societadelleletterate.it/>

[Received January 14, 2014] ← 102 | 103 →

1 Cp. Marcuzzo / Rossi Doria: 1987 and Di Cori / Barazzetti: 2001.

2 Laura Balbo was minister for equal opportunities from 1998 till 2000 and Katia Belillo in 2000–2001.

3 The Centre for Women’s Documentation and Research in Bologna was founded in 1982 and has an important Library and Archive (Server Donne: www.women.it). Other important Women’s Centres linked with universities are in Turin (Interdisciplinary Centre of Research on Women’s Studies and Gender), founded in 1991, and in Padua, founded in 1996. In Italy there are women’s associations in literary studies (www.societadelleletterate.it), in history (www.societadellestoriche.it), in science, and theology.


ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2015 (October)
Behinderung Ethnicity USA Schüler Unterprivilegierter Chancengleichheit Urban Disability Race Class Narritive History of American Studies Queer Studies Women's movements Feminism Education History of English Studies
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 442 pp.

Biographical notes

Renate Haas (Volume editor)

Renate Haas is Professor of English (University of Kiel). She has published widely, one important focus being the European history of English Studies.


Title: Rewriting Academia