Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

They Sail to Byzantium: Spanish Women Poets and Ageing

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2014), 91, (5), 493–512.

Abstract

Old age is seen less as golden years than as a gloomy time of physical decline, loneliness, and loss. Scholars in a wide range of fields have been devoting increasingly more attention to different aspects of this last phase of life, but in literary criticism scant interest has been shown in exploring this theme in the poetry written by Spanish women. An analysis of what might be called the first generation of Spanish women poets uncovers noteworthy reflections on old age and death while revealing as well a stoicism or serenity that stems from the ability of their poetic speakers to divert their focus from material to spiritual or artistic concerns. The poetic personae of Concha Méndez, Ernestina de Champourcin, Carmen Conde, and Josefina de la Torre find varying types of antidotes for the pain of ageing, but they coincide in preserving their own particular existential postures.

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Conde, Carmen, 1982. Desde nunca (Barcelona: Libros Río Nuevo). Desde nunca Google Scholar

Conde, Carmen, 2007. Poesía completa, ed. and intro. Emilio Miró (Madrid: Castalia). Poesía completa Google Scholar

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De la Torre, Josefina, 1968. Marzo incompleto (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: San Borondón). Marzo incompleto Google Scholar

De la Torre, Josefina, 1989. Poemas de la isla (Canary Islands: Gobierno de Canarias). Poemas de la isla Google Scholar

Deats, Sara Munson, and Lagretta Tallent Lender, 1999. Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective (Westport, CT: Praeger). Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective Google Scholar

Diéz de Revenga, Francisco, 1988. Poesía de senectud (Barcelona: Anthropos). Poesía de senectud Google Scholar

Eagleton, Sandra, 1988. Women in Literature: Life Stages Through Stories, Poems, and Plays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall). Women in Literature: Life Stages Through Stories, Poems, and Plays Google Scholar

Ehrenreich, Barbara, 2009. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (New York: Henry Holt). Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Google Scholar

Friedan, Betty, 1993. Fountain of Age (New York: Simon & Schuster). Fountain of Age Google Scholar

Gutiérrez-Vega, Zenaida, and Marie-Lise Gazarian-Gautier, 1992. Carmen Conde en viva voz (New York: Senda Nueva de Ediciones). Carmen Conde en viva voz Google Scholar

Hepworth, Mike, 2000. Stories of Ageing (Buckingham, UK: McGraw Hill/Open University Press). Stories of Ageing Google Scholar

Holstein, Martha, 1999. ‘Women and Productive Aging: Troubling Implications’, in Merideth Minkler and Carroll L. Estes, Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy (Amityville, NY: Baywood), pp. 359-73. Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy 359 73 Google Scholar

Jacoby, Susan, 2011. Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age (New York: Pantheon Books). Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age Google Scholar

Kaplan, E. Ann, 1999. ‘Trauma and Aging: Marlene Dietrich, Melanie Klein, and Marguerite Duras’, in Kathleen Woodward (ed.), Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), pp. 171-94. Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation 171 94 Google Scholar

Landeira, Joy, 2005. Ernestina de Champourcin. Vida y literatura (Ferrol: Sociedad de Cultura Valle-Inclán). Ernestina de Champourcin. Vida y literatura Google Scholar

Martín Gaite, Carmen, 1974. Retahilas (Barcelona: Destino). Retahilas Google Scholar

Méndez, Concha, 1979. Vida a vida y Vida o Río (Madrid: Caballo Griego para la Poesía). Vida a vida y Vida o Río Google Scholar

Méndez, Concha, 1981. Entre el soñar y el vivir (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Entre el soñar y el vivir Google Scholar

Merlo, Pepa, 2010. Peces en la tierra. Antología de poetas en torno a la Generación del 27 (Málaga: Fundación Manuel Lara). Peces en la tierra. Antología de poetas en torno a la Generación del 27 Google Scholar

Minkler, Merideth, and Carroll L. Estes, 1999. Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy (Amityville, NY: Baywood). Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy Google Scholar

Parkin, Tim, 2005. ‘The Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds’, in A History of Old Age, ed. Pat Thane (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 51-60. A History of Old Age 51 60 Google Scholar

Russo, Mary, 1993. The Female Grotesque (New York: Routledge). The Female Grotesque Google Scholar

Snook, Edith, 2011. Women, Beauty and Power in Early Modern England: A Feminist Literary (New York: Palgrave Macmillan). Women, Beauty and Power in Early Modern England: A Feminist Literary Google Scholar

Spicker, Stuart F., Kathleen M. Woodward and David D. Van Tassel (eds), 1978. Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press). Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology Google Scholar

Thane, Pat (ed.), 2005. A History of Old Age (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum). A History of Old Age Google Scholar

Troyansky, David G., 2005. ‘The Eighteenth Century’, in Pat Thane (ed.), A History of Old Age (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 175-210. A History of Old Age 175 210 Google Scholar

Valender, James, 1995. Introduction, in Concha Méndez. Poemas (1926-1986) (Madrid: Hiperión), pp. 9-41. Poemas (1926-1986) 9 41 Google Scholar

Villar, Arturo de, 1985. ‘La vida con las palabras de Ernestina de Champourcin’, Alaluz, 18.2: 5-14. ‘La vida con las palabras de Ernestina de Champourcin’ Alaluz 18 5 14 Google Scholar

Walker, Margaret Urban (ed.), 1999. Mother Time: Women, Aging, and Ethics (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield). Mother Time: Women, Aging, and Ethics Google Scholar

Wilcox, John C., 1997. Women Poets of Spain, 1850-1990 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). Women Poets of Spain, 1850-1990 Google Scholar

Wilcox, John C., 2011. ‘Gerontological Poetics in Gloria Fuertes's Posthumous Es difiícil ser feliz una tarde’, in In Her Words: Critical Studies on Gloria Fuertes, ed. Margaret H. Persin (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press), pp. 100-17. In Her Words: Critical Studies on Gloria Fuertes 100 17 Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen (ed.), 1999. Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen, and Murray M. Schwartz (eds), 1986. Memory and Desire: Aging-Literature-Psychoanalysis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Memory and Desire: Aging-Literature-Psychoanalysis Google Scholar

Wyatt-Brown, Anne M., and Janice Rossen (eds), 1993. Aging and Gender in Literature: Studies in Creativity (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia). Aging and Gender in Literature: Studies in Creativity Google Scholar

Acillona, Mercedes, 1990. ‘Poesía mística y oracional en Erestina de Champourcin’, Letras de Deusto, 20.48: 103-18. ‘Poesía mística y oracional en Erestina de Champourcin’ Letras de Deusto 20 103 18 Google Scholar

Andrews, Jean (ed.), 2009. Mientras los hombres mueren/Carmen Conde (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press). Mientras los hombres mueren/Carmen Conde Google Scholar

Ascunce, José Ángel (ed.), 1991. Prólogo, in Poesía a través del tiempo/Ernestina de Champourcin (Barcelona: Anthropos), pp. ix-lxv. Poesía a través del tiempo/Ernestina de Champourcin ix lxv Google Scholar

Arizmendi, Milagros, 1997. ‘Introducción’, in Ernestina de Champourcin, Cántico inútil, Cartas cerradas, Primer exilio, Huyeron las islas (Málaga: Centro Cultural de la Generación del 27), pp. 9-85. Ernestina de Champourcin, Cántico inútil, Cartas cerradas, Primer exilio, Huyeron las islas 9 85 Google Scholar

Beauvoir, Simone, 1972. The Coming of Age (New York: Putnam). The Coming of Age Google Scholar

Bellver, Catherine G., 1995. ‘Conversación con Ernestina de Champourcin’, Ojáncano, 10: 68-77. ‘Conversación con Ernestina de Champourcin’ Ojáncano 10 68 77 Google Scholar

Bellver, Catherine G., 2001. Absence and Presence: Spanish Women Poets of the Twenties and Thirties (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press). Absence and Presence: Spanish Women Poets of the Twenties and Thirties Google Scholar

Bellver, Catherine G., 2010. Bodies in Motion: Spanish Vanguard Poetry, Mass Culture, and Gender Dynamics (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press). Bodies in Motion: Spanish Vanguard Poetry, Mass Culture, and Gender Dynamics Google Scholar

Bellver, Catherine G., 2012. ‘Mysticism, Meditation, and Monologue in Poemas del ser y del estar by Ernestina de Champourcin’, Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature, 36.2: 220-41. ‘Mysticism, Meditation, and Monologue in Poemas del ser y del estar by Ernestina de Champourcin’ Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature 36 220 41 Google Scholar

Bellver, Catherine G., 2014. ‘Confronting the Urban Nightmare: La pared transparente, by Ernestina de Champourcin’, Hispania, 97.1: 81-90. ‘Confronting the Urban Nightmare: La pared transparente, by Ernestina de Champourcin’ Hispania 97 81 90 Google Scholar

Benson, Douglas K., 2006. ‘Transtextualidad, hipertextualidad y poliglosia en la poesía religiosa de Ernestina de Champourcin’, in Una rosa para Ernestina, ed. Joy Landeira (Ferrol: Sociedad de Cultura Valle-Inclán). pp. 107-21. Una rosa para Ernestina 107 21 Google Scholar

Berman, Lorna, and Irina Sobkowska-Ashcroft, 1987. Images and Impressions of Old Age of Western Literature (700BC-1900AD) (Lewiston/Queenston, NY: St. David's University Press). Images and Impressions of Old Age of Western Literature (700BC-1900AD) Google Scholar

Booth, Wayne, 1992. The Art of Growing Older: Writers on Living and Aging (New York: Poseidon Press). The Art of Growing Older: Writers on Living and Aging Google Scholar

Botelho, Lynn A., 2005. ‘The Seventeenth Century’, in Pat Thane (ed.), A History of Old Age (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 113-74. A History of Old Age 113 74 Google Scholar

Brennan, Zoe, 2005. The Older Woman in Recent Fiction (Jefferson, NC: McFarland). The Older Woman in Recent Fiction Google Scholar

Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter (New York: Routledge). Bodies That Matter Google Scholar

Butler, Robert, 1978. ‘Afterword: "Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology"’, in Stuart F. Spicker, Kathleen M. Woodward and David D. Van Tassel (eds), Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press), 389-92. Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology 389 92 Google Scholar

Calasanti, Toni M., and Kathleen F. Slevin (eds), 2006. Age Matters: Realigning Feminist Thinking (New York: Routledge). Age Matters: Realigning Feminist Thinking Google Scholar

Champourcin, Ernestina, 1991. Poesía a través del tiempo, intro. José áscunce (Barcelona: Anthropos), 1991. Poesía a través del tiempo, intro. José áscunce Google Scholar

Chivers, Sally, 2001. From Old Woman to Older Women: Contemporary Culture and Women's Narratives (Columbus: Ohio State University Press). From Old Woman to Older Women: Contemporary Culture and Women's Narratives Google Scholar

Cixous, Hélène, 1983. ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’, in The Signs Reader: Women, Gender and Scholarship, ed. Elizabeth Abel and Emily K. Abel (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), pp. 279-97. The Signs Reader: Women, Gender and Scholarship 279 97 Google Scholar

Cole, Thomas R., 1992. The Journey of Life (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). The Journey of Life Google Scholar

Cole, Thomas R., and Claudia Edward, 2005. ‘The Nineteenth Century’, in A History of Old Age, ed. Pat Thane (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 211-62. A History of Old Age 211 62 Google Scholar

Colomer Pellicer, Francisca, 2006. ‘El exilio interior de Ernestina de Champourcin’, in Ernestina de Champourcin: Mujer y cultura en el siglo XX, ed. Rosa Fernández Urtasun and José ángel Ascunce (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva). Ernestina de Champourcin: Mujer y cultura en el siglo XX Google Scholar

Comella, Beatriz, 2002. Ernestina de Champourcin, del exilio a Dios (Madrid: Rialp). Ernestina de Champourcin, del exilio a Dios Google Scholar

Conde, Carmen, 1982. Desde nunca (Barcelona: Libros Río Nuevo). Desde nunca Google Scholar

Conde, Carmen, 2007. Poesía completa, ed. and intro. Emilio Miró (Madrid: Castalia). Poesía completa Google Scholar

Cruikshank, Margaret, 2009. Learning to Be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield). Learning to Be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging Google Scholar

De la Torre, Josefina, 1968. Marzo incompleto (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: San Borondón). Marzo incompleto Google Scholar

De la Torre, Josefina, 1989. Poemas de la isla (Canary Islands: Gobierno de Canarias). Poemas de la isla Google Scholar

Deats, Sara Munson, and Lagretta Tallent Lender, 1999. Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective (Westport, CT: Praeger). Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective Google Scholar

Diéz de Revenga, Francisco, 1988. Poesía de senectud (Barcelona: Anthropos). Poesía de senectud Google Scholar

Eagleton, Sandra, 1988. Women in Literature: Life Stages Through Stories, Poems, and Plays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall). Women in Literature: Life Stages Through Stories, Poems, and Plays Google Scholar

Ehrenreich, Barbara, 2009. Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (New York: Henry Holt). Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Google Scholar

Friedan, Betty, 1993. Fountain of Age (New York: Simon & Schuster). Fountain of Age Google Scholar

Gutiérrez-Vega, Zenaida, and Marie-Lise Gazarian-Gautier, 1992. Carmen Conde en viva voz (New York: Senda Nueva de Ediciones). Carmen Conde en viva voz Google Scholar

Hepworth, Mike, 2000. Stories of Ageing (Buckingham, UK: McGraw Hill/Open University Press). Stories of Ageing Google Scholar

Holstein, Martha, 1999. ‘Women and Productive Aging: Troubling Implications’, in Merideth Minkler and Carroll L. Estes, Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy (Amityville, NY: Baywood), pp. 359-73. Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy 359 73 Google Scholar

Jacoby, Susan, 2011. Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age (New York: Pantheon Books). Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age Google Scholar

Kaplan, E. Ann, 1999. ‘Trauma and Aging: Marlene Dietrich, Melanie Klein, and Marguerite Duras’, in Kathleen Woodward (ed.), Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), pp. 171-94. Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation 171 94 Google Scholar

Landeira, Joy, 2005. Ernestina de Champourcin. Vida y literatura (Ferrol: Sociedad de Cultura Valle-Inclán). Ernestina de Champourcin. Vida y literatura Google Scholar

Martín Gaite, Carmen, 1974. Retahilas (Barcelona: Destino). Retahilas Google Scholar

Méndez, Concha, 1979. Vida a vida y Vida o Río (Madrid: Caballo Griego para la Poesía). Vida a vida y Vida o Río Google Scholar

Méndez, Concha, 1981. Entre el soñar y el vivir (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). Entre el soñar y el vivir Google Scholar

Merlo, Pepa, 2010. Peces en la tierra. Antología de poetas en torno a la Generación del 27 (Málaga: Fundación Manuel Lara). Peces en la tierra. Antología de poetas en torno a la Generación del 27 Google Scholar

Minkler, Merideth, and Carroll L. Estes, 1999. Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy (Amityville, NY: Baywood). Critical Gerontology: Perspectives from Political and Moral Economy Google Scholar

Parkin, Tim, 2005. ‘The Ancient Greek and Roman Worlds’, in A History of Old Age, ed. Pat Thane (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 51-60. A History of Old Age 51 60 Google Scholar

Russo, Mary, 1993. The Female Grotesque (New York: Routledge). The Female Grotesque Google Scholar

Snook, Edith, 2011. Women, Beauty and Power in Early Modern England: A Feminist Literary (New York: Palgrave Macmillan). Women, Beauty and Power in Early Modern England: A Feminist Literary Google Scholar

Spicker, Stuart F., Kathleen M. Woodward and David D. Van Tassel (eds), 1978. Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press). Aging and the Elderly: Humanistic Perspectives in Gerontology Google Scholar

Thane, Pat (ed.), 2005. A History of Old Age (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum). A History of Old Age Google Scholar

Troyansky, David G., 2005. ‘The Eighteenth Century’, in Pat Thane (ed.), A History of Old Age (Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 175-210. A History of Old Age 175 210 Google Scholar

Valender, James, 1995. Introduction, in Concha Méndez. Poemas (1926-1986) (Madrid: Hiperión), pp. 9-41. Poemas (1926-1986) 9 41 Google Scholar

Villar, Arturo de, 1985. ‘La vida con las palabras de Ernestina de Champourcin’, Alaluz, 18.2: 5-14. ‘La vida con las palabras de Ernestina de Champourcin’ Alaluz 18 5 14 Google Scholar

Walker, Margaret Urban (ed.), 1999. Mother Time: Women, Aging, and Ethics (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield). Mother Time: Women, Aging, and Ethics Google Scholar

Wilcox, John C., 1997. Women Poets of Spain, 1850-1990 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). Women Poets of Spain, 1850-1990 Google Scholar

Wilcox, John C., 2011. ‘Gerontological Poetics in Gloria Fuertes's Posthumous Es difiícil ser feliz una tarde’, in In Her Words: Critical Studies on Gloria Fuertes, ed. Margaret H. Persin (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press), pp. 100-17. In Her Words: Critical Studies on Gloria Fuertes 100 17 Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen (ed.), 1999. Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generation Google Scholar

Woodward, Kathleen, and Murray M. Schwartz (eds), 1986. Memory and Desire: Aging-Literature-Psychoanalysis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). Memory and Desire: Aging-Literature-Psychoanalysis Google Scholar

Wyatt-Brown, Anne M., and Janice Rossen (eds), 1993. Aging and Gender in Literature: Studies in Creativity (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia). Aging and Gender in Literature: Studies in Creativity Google Scholar

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Bellver, Catherine