Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Nuria Cruz Cámara

Committee Members

Jennifer Smith, Harrison Meadows, Álvaro Ayo


The Modern Woman was a figure perpetually discussed in the early twentieth century, as she embodied the increasingly public role and greater mobility of women in industrialized cities. A century later, historians and literary critics still explore the significance of this female archetype, who was at the center of debates regarding feminism and changing gender dynamics, because the Modern Woman’s defiance of social conventions opened the way for the independent lifestyle and freedoms of women today. Yet, still left unexplored is the image of the Modern Woman as both dangerous and in danger and what this contradictory depiction reveals about beliefs regarding the right of women to access spaces and employment traditionally reserved for men, which continue to manifest in prohibitive practices like sexual discrimination and harassment. Through the analysis of four novels—La rampa by Carmen de Burgos, La Venus mecánica by José Díaz Fernández, Eva Libertaria by Rafael López de Haro, and Cristina Guzmán, profesora de idiomas by Carmen de Icaza—this study elucidates the dichotomy of the dangerous/endangered Modern Woman in literature of Interwar-era Spain, between the end of World War I and the start of the Spanish Civil War.

Representations of the Modern Woman exposed to danger often served as literary proof of her unsuitability for employment and the need for male protection to usher her back into the domestic realm. Less commonly, these depictions served to raise awareness of the exploitation, unfit work conditions, and insufficient wages that women experienced in the city, in works like La rampa and La Venus mecánica, which call for social and economic reforms, or revolution, to oppose patriarchal, capitalist institutions. In contrast, the frivolous Modern Woman is an agent of disorder who threatens to dismantle the traditional family structure in Eva Libertaria and Cristina Guzmán, profesora de idiomas. Furthermore, male anxieties about androgyny, unrestrained female sexuality, and the women’s emancipation movement are evident in La Venus mecánica and Eva Libertaria, in which female characters manipulate or emasculate men. These conflicting images reflect fears of rapidly changing gender roles and illustrate the difficulties that women faced in Spanish urban centers.


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