Title

The Silent Sorrow of the Invisible Mother in Martin Gaite’s Lo que queda enterrado

Subject Area

Hispanic Women Writers

Abstract

Even nearly two decades after the official end of the Spanish Civil War, many continued to mourn loved ones lost during those years, often forced to bury a grief for those they were unable to bury physically with a proper interment. Carmen Martín Gaite alludes to this literal and metaphorical burial in the title of her 1958 piece Lo que queda enterrado, a short story that follows a couple through the grieving process after the death of their daughter. Many critics have interpreted their home as a microcosm for post-war Spain, noting both the shared atmosphere of suppressed grief and the patriarchal norms that silence and control the female protagonist. While both valid and valuable, such readings shift attention away from seeing María and her husband Lorenzo as individuals who are confronting not only the loss of their child but also of their status as parents. While mothers abound in Spanish literature--good mothers, bad mothers, absent mothers and even the occasional infertile want-to-be mother--what Martín Gaite gives us here is a rare glimpse into the life and mind of the invisible mother who has lost her only child and is therefore relegated by society to the dark liminal space of both being and not being a mother. Suffering over her ambiguous maternal identity is exacerbated, I contend, by the nature of the loss; evidence suggests that the scarcely mentioned niña mostly likely was stillborn, a trauma poorly understood by society but captured here in a masterful portrait of complicated perinatal grief.

Brief Bio Note

Debra C. Ames is an Associate Professor at Valparaiso University (Indiana) with joint appointments in Foreign Languages and International Studies. She teaches Spanish and chairs the program in International Economics and Cultural Affairs. Her research and teaching interests include Hispanic women writers and human rights literature of Latin American, particularly works of the Southern Cone set under dictatorships.

Keywords

Carmen Martín Gaite, Complicated perinatal grief, Motherhood, Spanish post-war fiction

Location

Coastal Georgia Center

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

4-7-2016 2:00 PM

End Date

4-7-2016 2:20 PM

Embargo

11-1-2015

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Apr 7th, 2:00 PM Apr 7th, 2:20 PM

The Silent Sorrow of the Invisible Mother in Martin Gaite’s Lo que queda enterrado

Coastal Georgia Center

Even nearly two decades after the official end of the Spanish Civil War, many continued to mourn loved ones lost during those years, often forced to bury a grief for those they were unable to bury physically with a proper interment. Carmen Martín Gaite alludes to this literal and metaphorical burial in the title of her 1958 piece Lo que queda enterrado, a short story that follows a couple through the grieving process after the death of their daughter. Many critics have interpreted their home as a microcosm for post-war Spain, noting both the shared atmosphere of suppressed grief and the patriarchal norms that silence and control the female protagonist. While both valid and valuable, such readings shift attention away from seeing María and her husband Lorenzo as individuals who are confronting not only the loss of their child but also of their status as parents. While mothers abound in Spanish literature--good mothers, bad mothers, absent mothers and even the occasional infertile want-to-be mother--what Martín Gaite gives us here is a rare glimpse into the life and mind of the invisible mother who has lost her only child and is therefore relegated by society to the dark liminal space of both being and not being a mother. Suffering over her ambiguous maternal identity is exacerbated, I contend, by the nature of the loss; evidence suggests that the scarcely mentioned niña mostly likely was stillborn, a trauma poorly understood by society but captured here in a masterful portrait of complicated perinatal grief.