Women's Modernism in Peripheral Catholic Europe: The Poetry of Blanaid Salkeld and Concha Méndez
McGrath, Ciara Catherine
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Hindered by both the gendering of modernism and entrenched patriarchal Catholic notions of gender, the Irish poet Blanaid Salkeld and the Spanish poet Concha Méndez have been respectively erased from their national canon or only partially accepted. Over twenty years later, Bonnie Kime Scott's seminal work, Gender of Modernism, arguing to reread women poets under a broader definition of modernism is still relevant to the recovery of women's modernism in Ireland and Spain. Additionally, because of the period in which these two poets wrote (from the mid 1920s to the end of the 1930s), their modernism is of special interest because it involves a feminist critique of state, institution and Catholic patriarchal hierarchy. Their feminist projects (intended or not) are politicized in significant and unexpected ways, and take on a strong political and aesthetic sense of urgency as their respective governments' contestation of modernity had direct impacts on women's basic freedoms and liberties. What we find in the recovery of both Irish and Spanish women's modernism is that it is not simply about trying to find narrative or political alternatives to their male counterparts, or even just about revising the marriage plot. The work of these poets confronts issues between female autonomy and agency and the conservative desire to forcefully shape the constructs of nation, state and family. Our literary histories are limited by national and stylistic boundaries, and these can blind us to other important things. For both Salkeld and Méndez, their independent vocation and position as poets, giving voice to a marginal female experience, create unease in the literary world and complicate their full integration in to the national canon. Also, there are fundamental questions of institutional powers of authority shared between Ireland and Spain that reveal a comparable social situation for both women. These include the rise of right-wing conservativism, based on fascist principles, the politicization of gender, and the inextricable ties between the Catholic Church and the government, all of which help shape similar experiences and reactions in their poetry and allow for new modernist readings beyond stylistic and national limitations.