Women’s Representations from Radical Naturalism to the New Woman Response

A Transatlantic Perspective of European, Latin American, and American Narratives

by José F. Rojas-Viana (Louisiana State University)

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The cosmopolitan turn of the twentieth century saw, among many modernizing changes, the feminist “first wave” that opened space for women to wear trousers, smoke, drive, ride bicycles, repair their vehicles, vote, and develop careers. Naturalist writers like the early feminist Emilia Pardo Bazán had developed social critiques in a pessimistic key, highlighting the ways misfortune or rebellion doomed women characters to exile and marked them for death. Pardo Bazán herself, however, and some of the other writers José F. Rojas studies here, also produced another kind of tale, in which the non-conforming woman is no longer relegated to hospital or brothel but strides down modern boulevards unvanquished. This intriguing study invites us to reread Pardo Bazán and Thomas Hardy, Sarah Grand, Federico Gamboa, and more, paying attention to their critical essays and other lesser-known work as well as the major novels. These observations and analyses are still current in many ways, and the agility of these writers is still to be admired.

Dr. Leslie Bary
Dep of Moden Laguages,
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

In this book, Rojas explores comparatively the representations of deviant and criminal women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from Transatlantic perspectives in literary productions of the first-wave feminist writers of the New Woman movement and writers of Radical Naturalism. This work addresses how the writers' sex is relevant in depictions of social constructions of female characters and how they established a dialogue based on gender through the themes of 'femme fatale', marginal spaces, eugenics, and social Darwinism in the novels of Emilia Pardo Bazán's 'La piedra angular' (1891), 'La gota de sangre' (1911), and "Tio Terrones" (1920); Refugio Barragán de Toscano's 'La hija del bandido o los subterráneos del nevado' (1887); Federico Gamboa's 'Santa' (1903); Kate Chopin's (Katherine O'Flaherty) 'The Awakening' (1899); Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' (1891); and 'Grand's Ideala' (1888).

There is a good volume of research on different aspects of these novels, but this book addresses issues of the social constructions of deviant and criminal women from an interdisciplinary and metatheoretical perspective often missed from established criticism. This work is not only reachable for the non-expertise reader, graduate, or undergraduate students but also it is sufficiently elaborated for the expert reader in different fields. It provides a detailed analysis of the social, historical, philosophical, and scientific background that shows how the treatment of the female characters converges and diverges from male and female writers of the New Woman and Radical Naturalism points of view. It can be a good contribution for references or classes in Hispanic studies, gender studies, women's studies, sexuality studies, nineteenth-century studies, and in other fields.

The Atlantic Basin and Views of Woman in the Nineteenth Century
Theoretical and Philosophical Framework
From Radical Naturalism to the New Woman Response
Issues in Translations
The Comparative Literature Field
Corpus Justification
Geographic Scope, Biographical Background and Plot Summaries
Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Women Across the Atlantic: Perspectives of Radical Naturalism and the New Woman Response
“Tío Terrones”
La hija del bandido
La piedra angular
The Awakening
Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Chapter 2 Women throughout Alternative Spaces and Liminality in Mexican, Spanish, American and British Literatures
The House, the Inn, the Cave, the Brothel, and the Countryside
The Inn in Tess
The Countryside in Tess
The Cave in La hija
The House in The Awakening
The House in La gota de sangre
La Peña in La gota de sangre
The Countryside and The House Santa
The Brothel in Santa

Chapter 3 Santa and Tess of the D’Urbervilles: Eugenics, Alcoholism, and Social Darwinism
Eugenics, Atavisms and Social Darwinism in Tess and Santa
Work Cited

Jose F. Rojas-Viana was born in Medellín, Colombia, and dedicated many years of his life to music pedagogy. In 2005, José arrived in the United States, and since then, he has shifted his intellectual interests. He holds a master's degree in Hispanic Studies and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature. Jose has been teaching Spanish for the last fifteen years. His main research interest is the perception of the criminal and deviant women in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries in literature from both sides of the Atlantic in the works of Gamboa, Pardo Bazán, Barragán de Toscano, Chopin, Grand, and Hardy. Future research departing from this work has very broad themes and topics to work on. The late nineteenth century alone provides a great deal of material to bring up the conversation. Although this book addresses these interdisciplinary topics, it, no doubt, will open new possible connections with women in criminality, mid-twentieth-century literature, and the depiction of deviant and criminal women. Moreover, this work allows us to make connections to British law, American law, Spanish law, and Mexican law in regard to deviant or criminal women. Now, Jose is working on connections between late nineteenth-century laws and the representation of deviant and criminal women in literature works of the same period. Additionally, these topics will allow us to include other literature in the same conversation. Finally, along with his main line of research, Jose also does research in the field of linguistic variation and its relationship with Digital Humanities.

Alcoholism, American Literatures, Atlantic Basin, Barragán de Toscano Refugio, British Literature, brothel, crime, criminal, criminality, deviant, deviancies, England, eugenics, Feminism, feminist, Gamboa, Federico, Gender, Grand Sarah, Hardy Thomas, Chopin Kate, Latin American Literature, Literature, Louisiana, Mexico, Naturalism, Pardo Bazán Emilia, prostitution, prostitutes, Radical Naturalism, New Woman, sexuality, sexual behavior, sirens, social Darwinism, Spain, Transatlantic, the United States, woman, women, Zola Émile

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Women’s Representations from Radical Naturalism to the New Woman Response

Book Subtitle

A Transatlantic Perspective of European, Latin American, and American Narratives





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm

Publication date

January 2024