Exile and identity formation in the autobiographies of twentieth century Spanish women writers

Date of Completion

January 2008


Literature, Comparative|Biography|Literature, Romance|Women's Studies




This dissertation explores the ways in which exile influences and transforms perceptions of self. A forced territorial uprooting, caused by a tangible social and political reality, is much more than social alienation or a metaphor for estrangement because the exodus brought about by military regimes affects corporeal, material, and emotional reality. It is a disruptive event that unsettles a way of life and disturbs a way of being. Expatriation becomes a question of self-definition because the situation initiates a series of changes—national, geographic, social, political, economic, familial, and personal—, which in turn destabilize the self because components of identity undergo modification. ^ This study examines the manner in which the compulsory displacement caused by the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the onset of the Franco regime shapes the representation of self as portrayed in autobiographies written by Spanish female writers. Although the disintegrative force of exile alters identity, it does not fragment the self; the female autobiographical subject counteracts the inevitable change brought upon components of her identity with new narratives of self that mend her disrupted life. ^ The autobiographies chosen for this study were texts written in exile through the span of thirty-nine years (1939-1978). The selected texts for this project, Constancia de la Mora's In Place of Splendor (1939); Maria Teresa León's Memoria de la melancolía (1970); and Federica Montseny's Seis años de mi vida 1939-1945 (1978) describe the expatriate experience and the process of self-redefinition. ^