Images of the self : a study of Florbela Espanca
The aim of this thesis is to explore the images of the self constructed by Florbela Espanca in her poetry, viewing the complexities of her work in the light of her difficult position as a woman writing in the early twentieth century and showing how this work challenges conventional ideas of womanhood. The first part of the study provides the necessary background to understand the poet's early career. Chapter 1 examines the emergence of women's poetry in Portugal at the turn of the century, showing how it provided a favourable context for her aspirations to become a writer. Chapter 2 focuses on Florbela Espanca's poetic beginnings and her assimilation and reworking of male influences, while drawing attention to the problems facing a woman writer trying to emulate male authors. The central part of the study is divided into three chapters. They deal in turn with each of her collections, Livro de Mágoas (1919, Livro de Soror Saudade (1923)) and her most famous work, Charneca em Flor (1931, posthumous). The chronological order aims to throw into relief the evolution in her poetry. Each chapter provides a detailed analysis of the poet's treatment of her problematic identity as a woman and as a writer, and of love as a means to self-assertion, through which traditional sexual stereotypes can be subverted. The final part of the thesis looks at the transformations which her image has undergone since her death. It shows how initially Florbela Espanca was viewed as a neglected romantic artist, forever seeking something more. It analyses how it then took a lengthy argument over the erection of her bust in Évora to reinforce the poet's place in the literary canon and to ensure that her stock image became that of a representative woman writer.