SPAN30280 Women's Life Writing in Spain

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module will explore the practice of writing women’s lives in Spain from the Francoist dictatorship (1939-1975) into the twenty-first century. The course will explore what we understand by and expect from autobiographical writing, and how expectations about content, form, and authorship of this literary practice have changed fundamentally since the mid-twentieth century with the evolution of life-writing theory. It will investigate the impact of socio-historical context on the development of this tradition in Spain, where, under the long dictatorship and during the transition to democracy, the status and production of autobiographical writing seems to be out of step with the boon in works and innovation elsewhere in Europe, in Latin America, and in the US. The course will examine the effects of censorship and self-censorship on literary self-expression during this period and consider why the impact on women’s writing was particularly pronounced and enduring. By analysing and comparing a range of first-person prose fictions, auto/biographical accounts, and autofictions published in the early years of the dictatorship, at the start of the Transition to democracy, and since the turn of the millennium, it will trace the response and challenge to the stifling of voices and identities under Franco in women’s life-writing. It will map the key characteristics and recurrent preoccupations of this practice of self-representation, together with the evolution in form and style, as we move through to the present day.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

• Identify and discuss key developments in expectations around autobiographical writing since the mid-twentieth century
• Evaluate how historical, political, and social developments shape narratives of selfhood and identity, and how these narratives can in turn navigate and challenge constraints on self-representation
• Use skills in close reading and comparative analysis to analyse and present on different forms of life-writing and identify key motifs, techniques, and approaches in women’s self-representation in Spain

Indicative Module Content:

Week 1 - Introduction to life-writing theory
1 lecture, 1 seminar: What do we understand by ‘writing lives’? [readings to be distributed and questions to prepare in advance of seminar]

Week 2 - Censorship, self-censorship, and the status of life-writing in Spain
1 lecture, 1 seminar: Exploring the effects on literary self-representation [readings to be distributed and questions to prepare in advance of seminar]

Weeks 3–5 - Imposed identities and fictions of the self
3 lectures, 2 seminars, 1 workshop: Carmen Laforet, Nada (1945) [case study]
Week 3: 1 lecture, 1 seminar [Spanish Civil War and Francoist dictatorship]
Week 4: 1 lecture, 1 seminar [Carmen Laforet, Nada]
Week 5: 1 lecture, 1 workshop [Close readings in context]

Weeks 6-7 - Political, cultural, and literary transitions
2 lectures, 1 seminar: Carmen Martín Gaite, El cuarto de atrás (1978) [case study]
Week 6: 1 lecture, 1 seminar [socio-political context of the transition from dictatorship to democracy]
Week 7: 1 lecture, 1 seminar [literary context and introduction to El cuarto de atrás]

Reading week: read text and plan group presentations

Week 8-9 - Carmen Martín Gaite, El cuarto de atrás
Week 8: 1 close analysis workshop, 1 seminar/presentation preparation session
Week 9: 2 evaluation sessions [group presentations]

Weeks 10–12 - The Spanish ‘Memory Boom’ and (Auto)biographical Accounts
2 lectures, 2 seminars, 2 workshops: Cristina Fallarás (2018) [case study]
Week 10: 1 lecture and 1 seminar [social, political, and literary context of the ‘memory boom’]
Week 11: 1 lecture and 1 seminar [Cristina Fallarás, Honrarás a tu padre y a tu madre]
Week 12: 1 close analysis workshop and 1 essay-planning workshop

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module will be taught face to face in a mixture of lectures and seminars. Students are expected to read the following three primary texts in Spanish (consulting English translations where needed and available):

Carmen Laforet, Nada (1945)
Carmen Martín Gaite, El cuarto de atrás (1978)
Cristina Fallarás, Honrarás a tu padre y a tu madre (2018)

Extracts will be provided on Brightspace to help guide this reading. There will be extracts to read and questions to prepare ahead of the seminars, and students will be expected to participate actively.

The resit assignment for this module will be an essay of 1500-2000 words.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Mini essay of 500-750 words (to be submitted by the end of Week 6) Week 6 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Essay: Essay of 2000-2250 words on the development of life-writing practices in Spain across the period, comparing at least two of the texts they have read (to be submitted by the end of Wk 14) Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Presentation: Group presentations Week 9 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

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