Paper presented at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Annual Conference
- October 9 – 11, 2014
- Boise, Idaho
The works of Spanish author Emilia Pardo Bazán show a tendency to favor feminist ideals and empower the female characters. Despite this fact, Pardo Bazán’s work La Gota de Sangre emphasizes the power of the detective Selva, a male character. Selva is noted for his intelligence and intuition, which he uses to resolve a murder while the other characters, including the police, rely on his hard work. The female characters in the novel on the other hand are represented in a very different light, portrayed as victims of society with no power whatsoever. According to theorist Judith Butler, gender is a performance and is formed by our everyday acts and decisions. Because it is created by the individual, gender, unlike sex, is not a biological determination and can therefore be manipulated. In conformity with Butler’s theory of gender performativity, Pardo Bazán uses the figure of an effeminate man according to Spanish societal norms in the early twentieth century and Selva’s actions seem to suggest a gender that is considerably more feminine than masculine for the time. The detective in the novel possesses numerous feminine traits, tends to act like women of the era, and suffers from neurasthenia, a condition that was generally associated with women. In La Gota de Sangre Pardo Bazán uses the concepts described by Butler and by manipulating Selva’s behavior, she creates a literary hermaphrodite; in terms of sex Selva is male, but in terms of gender he appears to be female. Women appeared very infrequently in Spanish literature during the period in which Pardo Bazán was writing and detective novels tended to follow a well-established formula that generally did not include a woman as a detective. By using a male detective who in reality is female in terms of gender, the author manages to empower women in a society that would not accept a woman detective.