Catalan Review

Between the Abject and the Sublime: Excessive Bodies in Mercè Rodoreda's El Carrer de Les Camèlies and Mirall Trencat

Catalan Review (2010), 24, (1), 311–328.

Abstract

This article traces vestiges of Noucentista iconography in the construction of the female body in Mercè Rodoreda's El carrer de les Camèlies and Mirall trencat. It argues that an analysis of Noucentista representations of the female form in the plastic arts provides an invaluable insight into the political, social, and aesthetic principles that underpin the movement, thus ultimately informing the reading of Rodoreda's formulation of the female body of contextual as well as intertextual detail. Eugeni d'Ors's concept-novel La Ben Plantada featured a mythic female character of classical attributes and proportions. This literary figure had a sculptural quality that conformed to the concepts of form, volume, and structure applied by Noucentista plastic artists in their representations of the female nude. However, whereas Noucentista sculpture best expressed the ideology's investment in notions of measure, balance, and order, it also betrayed a concern with bodily limits and the problems of the body's containment and impermeability. Despite the considerable critical and scholarly attention that has so far been given to both the construction of femininity and national identity through the figure of La Ben Plantada, no consideration has been given to the gendered discourses contained within the formal and structural limits of the Noucentista sculpted female body. Following Lynda Nead's study of the aesthetics of the female nude in Western art, this article examines notions of sanitation and containment with reference to Noucentista sculpture and contends that Rodoreda imbues some of her female characters with traces of the abject and the sublime, thus contesting bodily intelligibility as well as exceeding the limits of its representation.

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Bru, Eva