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, www.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 She is also the author of the extensive critical edition of Fortun's unpublished novels Oculto sendero and El pensionado de Santa Casilda.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.
Read about my latest work on the much loved children's author Elena Fortún here: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/humanities/2015/10/
I welcome enquiries about postgraduate supervision (MRes, MPhil, PhD) in all areas of nineteenth and twentieth-century Spanish literature, especially autobiography, feminism and the avant-garde.
Modern and Contemporary Spanish Feminism
My main fields of research within the burgeoning area of Hispanic feminism are representations of generic and sexual ambiguity in literature and art and the relationship between woman and nation. I am also interested in the exploration of equality and difference in society and culture and, finally, in female literary and artistic authorship in modern and contemporary Spain.
Female-authored Autobiographical Writing
I am interested in the many forms autobiography written by women has taken in the twentieth century and beyond: from memoirs of the Spanish Civil War written by women to psychological poetry and narrative that explores the construction of the female ‘I'. Portrait-painting and feminist theory are two other areas I explore in the context of my investigation of autobiography created by women.
Avant-garde Literature and Art
My interest focuses on the work of avant-garde female authors and artists in Spain. Their names, mostly obliterated by time, constitute the most European exponents of Iberian culture. Examples of them are the ultraist poet and anarcho-feminist Lucía Sánchez Saornil and avant-garde sculptress and illustrator Marga Gil Roësset.
I am becoming more interested and involved in contemporary gender analysis and in gender mainstreaming, a global strategy to achieve equality between the sexes and to eradicate violence against women in all its manifestations and in all aspects of contemporary life. I am particularly interested in the presence of violence and/or discrimination against women in the media, in the workplace, in policy-making and in culture and society.
See public engagement link for information on recent collaborations.
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles has written the extensive critical introduction of the anthology ‘Elena Fortún y Matilde Ras: El camino es nuestro’ and selected the texts with her collaborator MJ Fraga (U Complutense, Madrid). This 425-page volume, published in the much acclaimed Obra Fundamental Collection (http://fundacionbancosantander.com/publicaciones_listado.cfm?idCategoria=24), Fundación Banco de Santander, reveals Fortún and Ras’s intellectual contribution as major 20th century avant-garde writers, female intellectuals active during the Spanish Second Republic, Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship whose literature, journalism and feminist thought were largely forgotten on becoming political exiles after the Spanish Civil War. Elena Fortún continued writing the adventures of the famous Celia and Matilde Ras continued writing on graphology for the Spanish and French press but Francoism put an abrupt end to the project of modernity and emancipation they represented, a project rescued in this volume. The volume can be purchased in e-book format here> https://www.fundacionbancosantander.com/es/el-camino-es-nuestro
After a well attended press conference at the Fundación Banco de Santander (http://www.todoliteratura.es/noticia/8007/RECOMENDADOS/Fundacion-Banco-Santander-rescata-a-dos-escritoras-pioneras:-Elena-Fortun-y-Matilde-Ras.html) , the official book launch took place on the 21st January at the Instituto Cervantes, Madrid, with Prof. Capdevila-Argüelles and Dr Fraga joined by leading novelists Almudena Grandes and Maxim Huerta and by Borja Baselga, principal of the Fundación, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLzez3sbu3M. Another book launch event took place in October 2015 at the Spanish Embassy in London, http://www.spainculturescience.co.uk/events/book-launch-%E2%80%9Cel-camino-es-nuestro%E2%80%9D-nuria-capdevilla.
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
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles has accessed and researched new, privately held, archival material by women artists and intellectuals, placing the archival research 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; Hildegart Rodríguez’s letters, held in London; Carmen Laforet’s letters; Isabel Oyarzábal’s memoirs; Marga, Marisa, María and Consuelo Roësset’s art and literature in Marga Clark’s archive; and Lucía Sánchez Saornil’s works in lost avant-garde magazines (now published as an anthology including 56 new poems).
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.
Professor Capdevila-Argüelles really enjoys working with th media. She has taken part in a recent radio documentary on Elena Fortún ( podcast: http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/audios/documentos-rne/documentos-rne-quien-fue-elena-fortun-autora-celia-17-10-15/3326042/) and has also taken part in the programmes Carne cruda, Vaje a Itaca and Women´s Hour. She has been interviewed often in the Spanish press (La galla ciencia, JotDown, Vísperas and others)
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.