Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles
Professor in Hispanic Studies and Gender Studies
Pre-Francoist feminist writers and artists were erased from public memory by the Spanish Civil War and the decades of dictatorship that followed. Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles’s research brought to public attention the lives and works of these women and contributed to the revival and public recognition of Spain’s pre-Francoist feminist legacy. She is now recognised as a preeminent influence in the understanding of the history of Spanish feminism by leading contemporary cultural and political figures
Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles has published extensively in the fields of Gender Studies and Hispanism on both sides of the Atlantic. Her books, Autoras inciertas (2008), He de tener libertad (2010) (http://www.laopiniondemalaga.es/cultura-espectaculos/2011/06/08/isabel-oyarzabal-mujer-ejemplar/428424.html) and Artistas y precursoras (2013) (http://www.m-arteyculturavisual.com/2014/01/12/las-roesset-esas-perfectas-desconocidas/) have all won awards from the Spanish Ministry of Education (Dirección General del Libro y Bibliotecas).
Her most recent books are El regreso de las modernas (2018) (https://www.lacajabooks.com/book-author/capdevilla/), and the much-awaited critical anthologies Corcel de fuego (2020) ( Corcel de fuego - Lucía Sánchez Saornil - Ediciones Torremozas), Colofón de luz (2022) (Colofón de luz - Nuria Parés (torremozas.com) and Cartas a mí misma (2022) (Cartas a mí misma - Carmen Castellote (torremozas.com))
She directs the audiovisual project CartasVivas, https://cartasvivas.org/ , and co-directs the collection Biblioteca Elena Fortún, Editorial Renacimiento, https://www.editorialrenacimiento.com/autores/270__fortun-elena. She has completed extensive critical editions for, among others, Celia madrecita, Celia institutriz, two of the most important titles of Fortún's famous Celia series. She is also the author of the extensive critical edition of Fortun's unpublished novels Oculto sendero and El pensionado de Santa Casilda. For more information on this revival of Spain's most famous children's author, see http://www.elcultural.com/revista/letras/Oculto-sendero/38817, http://edaddeplata.org/edaddeplata/Actividades/actos/acto.jsp?rsection=Actividades&acto=6458. Please click here for information into the English version of this best-seller, published in USA by Swan Isle, https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/H/bo68982878.html
Confirming her influence abroad, a recent evaluative review of Professor Capdevila-Argüelles’s work in the literary supplement of Argentine broadsheet La Nación notes that pre-Francoist women’s history has finally been connected with post-Francoism, and that the importance of the public, private and secret lives of women, along with the need to know about the impact of gender violence and discrimination in all three, has been understood by Hispanic audiences and those interested in Spanish history and culture, influencing public debate as well as cultural, educational and political development. She has supervised doctoral and postdoctoral research in the areas of modern and contemporary Hispanic Studies, Feminism and Gender Studies and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
The Spanish Civil War and the ensuing 40 years of Francoism succeeded in erasing feminist memory in Spain. After 1975, scholars were quick to declare the feminist debate open and activists started to dismantle Francoist misogyny, but with little awareness of a feminist legacy to support the heavy burden of undoing deeply rooted sexism. Women’s rights and gender equality seemed new. Orphanhood characterised feminist debate until the new millennium. The research I have carried out since coming to Exeter in 2005, has contributed to reversing this lack of engagement with the legacy of the mothers of Spanish feminism via monographs, critical editions and extensive collaboration with non-academic actors.
I have been privileged to access and research new, privately held, archival material by women artists and intellectuals. My archival research sits in the frameworks of memory and gender studies. Examples of this detective work of discovering and framing the works and lives of these women within the historical context and contemporary struggles for gender equality include: Elena Fortún’s previously unpublished lesbian novel Oculto sendero and her El pensionado de Santa Casilda, her letters and those of Carmen Laforet; Isabel Oyarzábal’s memoirs; Marga, Marisa, María and Consuelo Roësset’s art and literature; Lucía Sánchez Saornil’s works in lost avant-garde magazines (now published as an anthology including 56 new poems) and abundant new work on the last "niñas de la guerta" published in Torremozas.
The flow of my research and impact is ongoing and expanding, as new research on new archival material is commissioned by leading publishers, and new ventures, such as the ongoing CartasVivas, are developed to disseminate its results. This story of research and impact momentum is the unifying thread of my latest monograph El regreso de las modernas, commissioned by La Caia Books for their collection on ‘women rebels’ (Las rebeldes). The book creates a narrative of the journey that led to the definitive return of Spanish modern authors to the cultural realm, a point emphasised in the prologue written by leading Spanish novelist Elvira Lindo.
Pre-Francoist feminist writers and artists were erased from public memory by the Spanish Civil War and the decades of dictatorship that followed. My research has brought to public attention the lives and works of these women and contributed to the revival and public recognition of Spain’s pre-Francoist feminist legacy. Through a series of collaborations with the creative industries, and the support of partners including Fundación Banco de Santander and the Spanish Ministry of Education, I have achieved substantial impact, including:
Follow me on social media to learn about public talks in Spain and the UK. All my events and partnerships are advertised in my IG account @capdearguelles
Conference Papers Given (since 2001)
‘El post/feminismo narrativo'
March 2001 at the University of Sheffield, conference on ‘El post/feminismo ibérico'
‘Coloquio con Nuria Amat y Peter Bush: sobre la voz metaliteraria'
May 2001 at the Taylorian Institution, Oxford University, special lecture sponsored by the Instituto Cervantes.
- ‘Twentieth-Century Iberian Feminism: Writing Equality or the Constant Re-Writing of Difference' March 2003 at the University of Cardiff, conference on ‘New Readings'
- ‘Reina de America/Queen Cocaine: Intercultural Narrative and Literary Death Across the Sea' December 2003 at Lancaster University, IALIC 4th Annual Conference
- ‘Nuria Amat, Nuria Capdevila and Peter Bush: the author, her critic and her translator', keynote address at the Writers' Forum Debate Writing and Translating between Cultures, moderated by David Bellos, December 2003 at Lancaster University, IALIC 4th Annual Conference
- ‘Marga Gil-Roesset (1908-1932): la soledad y el desamor en granito y papel' May 2007 at The Queen's University of Belfast, conference on ‘Caballeros y damas en crisis: erotismo en la vanguardia'
- ‘Autobiografía y autoría de la mujer en el exilio' en La significación cultural y literaria del exilio español (1939)/ The Cultural and Literary Meaning of the Spanish Political Exile of 1939, Universidad de Exeter/Fundación Francisco Largo Caballero, November 2009.
Papers at research seminars in Madrid, Valladolid, Cambridge, Oxford and London
External impact and engagement
The former minister of education, Ángeles González-Sinde, has stated that Capdevila-Argüelles’s research shows today’s feminists ‘are not alone’ and that ‘young people know that the feminist plight is not new and has a history that belongs to them’. Leading cultural figures such as the writers and journalists Almudena Grandes and Elvira Lindo, and Octavio Salazar (jurist, lawyer, writer and queer activist), have also underlined the impact of Capdevila-Argüelles’s work, with Grandes noting that it ‘has been fundamental to the recovery of such important authors as Elena Fortún, of whom […] we now know that she was much more than the great creator of Celia's books’. Lindo writes that ‘we owe it to Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles’s work to know the mothers of our feminism continued to be faithful to their vocations despite exile’, and Salazar praises Capdevila-Argüelles for bringing to light and explaining the dimensions of ‘Fortún’s rebellion against heterosexuality and patriarchy’.
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles’s work influenced other activities and enterprises such as Proyecto Wemen (a multimedia project showcasing men’s views on feminism), card game Theatre Against Oblivion, feminist tourist walks Herstoricas (in Madrid and London) and the cultural tourism project Rutas Teatrales. Her research of a ‘field […] forgotten by official history but […] of great importance for the construction of collective memory’ informed the design of the tour Mujeres que inspiran (Inspiring Women) taken by over 200 people on a single day – International Women’s Day in 2019 – as part of official City of Madrid activities. Herstóricas meanwhile assert that her research ‘and, most importantly, her methodology’:
‘…has inspired us to always challenge the absence of women in any cultural space and to rethink our cities and their history as herstory. Through works like Nuria’s Artistas y precursoras, Autoras inciertas, her extensive critical editions of Fortún […] we have rediscovered a genealogy, worked with other feminist groups and scholars, developed our cultural walks, workshops and our card game ‘Herstóricas Pioneras.’
In 2019, in collaboration with Fundación Banco de Santander (FBS) Professor Capdevila-Argüelles launched CartasVivas (www.cartasvvias.org), a series of short films featuring acclaimed Spanish actors reading letters and memoirs by women intellectuals and artists from the Spanish avant-garde.
Contribution to discipline
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College and also a member of the AHRC and of WISPS. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the prestigious Spanish organisation Clásicas y modernas (www.clasicasymodernas,org) , involved in eeffective implementaton of gender equality legislation in Hispanic culture.
I do quite a lot of media work, mainly but not solely, with Spanish radio and TV. If you are interested please follow my partners and publishers Renacimiento, Torremozas, Sílex, horas y HORAS, La Caja Books and Santander Foundation.
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles has incorporated learning technologies in all her modules. Her final year ELE sites, MLS3048 and MLS 3037, have been cited as examples of particularly good practice for their interactive design and the diversity of sources used to illustrate the nature of gender studies and the importance of autobiographical acts in contemporary society. Her approach has been described in MACE as “an eye-opener”, “a new way to look at history and modern life”, “highly enlightening”, and “a whole new perspective from which to consider cultural acts”. She has received nominations for Best Feedback, Best Lecturer and Innovative Teaching. These are some of the comments received to support her nominations: “Overall just a fantastic lecturer, she takes the subject into as much detail as possible and makes sure that not only do we, as students, keep up with her, but that we actively participate in the lesson making the topic much more interesting and the course much more rewarding!”; “Nuria is pure inspiration. She is so passionate and genuinely interested in what she teaches that it is infectious. She makes you want to learn and also to do well. Her lectures can be amusing and fun at times but also incredibly moving. She has made my final year feel like going to university was worth it”; “Great choice of unknown texts and authors that the canon have not credited and that I wouldn't have come across otherwise. They are serving as a basis for a new understanding and a different way of approaching this term's modules as well as general every day incidents”; “Efficient module structure where there was plenty of opportunity for debate during student-led lessons”.
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Professor Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles graduated in 1995 with a Licenciatura in Filología from the University of León (Spain). She completed an MSc and a PhD in Hispanic Studies at the University of Edinburgh and spent her postdoctoral research period at Oxford University where she was the holder of the Queen Sofía Junior Research Fellowship (1999-2002). She spent three years working as a permanent lecturer in Hispanic studies at the University of Lancaster before joining the University of Exeter in 2005. She is now Professor of Hispanic Studies and Gender Studies.