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The Representation of Women in the Novels of Juan Valera

A Feminist Critique


Teresia Taylor

Traditional criticism on Valera has stressed his excellence as a stylist, his contributions to Spanish regionalism and to establishing the psychological novel in Spain. A very large proportion of available scholarship focuses on his reputed masterpiece, Pepita Jimenez, or on thematic aspects including a penchant for the marginally «sacreligious» or winter-spring romances. In The Representation of Women in the Novels of Juan Valera: A Feminist Critique, Teresia Taylor's text-oriented essay analyzes the role of major female characters in Valera's eight full-length novels. Giving equal attention to the less commonly studied novels, these are organized in four pairs based on similar representations of women (for example, Pepita Jimenez and Dona Luz compare two women who love «priests»). Taylor examines the presence of archetypes and mythologization, Valera's penchant for female stereotyping, his treatment of women as commodity, and his perhaps inadvertent depiction of the marginalization of women as well as some women's ability to overcome despite these odds. While Valera is often praised without qualification for his presentation of female characters, this feminist critique points out his supportive depiction of patriarchal control, including gender stereotypes, the acceptance of feminine relegation to the margins and preference for conforming female characters, together with punishment or degradation of women who transgress culturally accepted norms. This text is a valuable contribution to extant Valera criticism that typically gives short shrift to the less commonly studied novels. It also adds to the previously scant critical feminist critique available on Juan Valera's novels.