From the Outside Looking In: Narrative Frames and Narrative Spaces in the Short Stories of Emilia Pardo Bazan, by Susan Walter.
Besides being one of the best and most prolific writers of Spain’s nineteenth century, Emilia Pardo Bazán was an outspoken feminist who wrote with surprising candor and great clarity about the challenges that women had to face in her times. Although her feminist essays are few in number, they cover a wide breadth of topics as she probes the issues that relegate women to an inferior status in Spain during the nineteenth century. While some of Pardo Bazan’s novels engage with these same themes, it is in her short stories where Pardo Bazán addresses women’s roles in society with greatest nuance and subtlety. Furthermore, her treatment of these topics gains complexity through the use of various narrative structures. In particular, the framing devices employed in her stories require her readers to take an active role as interpreters of the various layers of the text.
From the Outside Looking In is an analysis of framing devices in the short stories of Emilia Pardo Bazán. Theoretically, it locates itself at the critical intersection between narratology and gender studies. It studies the use of male and female narrators in the framed short stories of the Countess Pardo Bazán to help to understand how the interaction of the two narrative levels contributes to the production of meaning in the texts. The content of the stories addresses gender dynamics and women’s limited role in society while the presence of two narrators in all of them brings to light questions of narrative authority. The gaps and fissures that are created as these divergent voices interact in the stories calls into question the hegemonic perspective of Spain’s patriarchal culture in the nineteenth century which in turn suggests that—in Pardo Bazan’s short stories as well as in the broader national Narrative—this point of view must be recognized as one subjective perspective, rather than a definitive and impartial one.
The study opens with a theoretical overview that serves to familiarize the reader with the terminology and theoretical implications of several aspects of narrative frame theory and feminist narratological approaches. The following chapters analyze thirteen of Pardo Bazán’s framed narrations that engage with issues of gender and representation. Each chapter analyzes the use a one type of narrator in several stories in order to elucidate how the use of this narrative perspective influences readers’ interpretations of the texts. The final three chapters of the study also explore the differences in content and setting from one type of narrator to another in order to demonstrate how the parallel nature of the stories’ form and content work together to deliver a feminist message with great subtlety.
ISBN 978-1-58871-178-6 (HB, 178 pp.) $50