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Beyond Containment

Corporeality in Mercè Rodoreda’s Literature

Series:

Eva Bru-Dominguez

This book provides a critical and context-sensitive reading of corporeality in the narrative fiction of Mercè Rodoreda, through the perspectives of art and film theory, feminism, literary criticism, spatial studies, and nationalist theory. The text approaches Rodoreda as a Catalan woman writer whose work engages with and explores formulaic and normative notions of the gendered body in a particular cultural, geographical and political space. The study covers four main areas: corporeality as surface, image and texture; the relationship between the body and space; the idea of the culturally and politically constructed body as limit; and the concept of the abject or open body. The author places Rodoreda’s work in dialogue with a range of texts, media, modes of representation and discourses in order to examine how her artistic vision is both integrated with and a mediator of material experience in the twentieth century.

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Chapter 4 Coerced Bodies

Extract

From Ramon and Maria’s cruelty to their frail younger brother Jaume in Mirall trencat to the brutishness of the blacksmith in La mort i la prima- vera, Rodoreda’s literature is saturated with narratives of violence. However, even though extant criticism has not been shy of acknowledging the over- whelming presence of physical and psychological aggression in some of her fiction, there has been a tendency to interpret the representation of violence exclusively as a textualization of patriarchal dynamics of power (Carbonell 1995; Scarlett 1994; Masgrau 2002; Vollendorf 1999; inter alia). Some feminist readings have gone even further and suggested that Rodoreda’s fiction asserts the exilic condition of women in society and presents it as the sole alternative to patriarchy (inter alia: Everly 2003; McNerney 1994, 1999; Nichols 1986). Whereas these studies have drawn attention to the power struggles intrinsic to the gendered and sexual dichotomies that Rodoredan scholars had previously disavowed,1 physical aggression in Rodoreda’s narrative is by no means an exclusively gendered af fair. Nor does the unhomed quality of her texts of fer her heroines a viable space outside the misogynist and violent terrain of patriarchy, contrary to what Kathryn Everly (2003) has suggested. Instead, both violence and exile in Rodoreda are unquestionably rooted in a very specific historical, political and cultural reality. Furthermore, Rodoreda’s stories about estrangement, destitution and loss of identity are generally temporally and circumstan- tially situated and most definitely lead to an often very dif ficult process of self-reconstitution. This is a central...

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