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Carol Tully

Francisca de Larrea, Writer, Translator, Salonnière: The Complex World of a Traditional Feminist

This paper will examine and reassess the literary and cultural ‘Konstellation’ of conservative Spanish writer, translator and salonnière, Francisca de Larrea (1775-1838). She was in many ways at odds with the world: a woman desperate for a public voice but encumbered by a belief in the patriarchal system, both political and social, which she inhabited. This is given further emphasis through her influential role as the key Monarchist salonnière in the Liberal heartland of cosmopolitan Cadiz during the fraught years of the Napoleonic occupation. The tensions in her life are reflected in her translation work, choosing the work of Wollstonecraft as her subject but not daring to seek an outlet, but yet purposefully translating texts by her own daughter, Fernán Caballero (aka Cecilia Böhl von Faber), for publication under the safety of a male pseudonym.

This paper will engage with existing studies of Larrea’s work, place her work in its social-historical and cultural context, and highlight the value of her contribution by comparison with other female figures active at the time in Spain and elsewhere, in particular those defending a Liberal stance. A particular focus will be the relation of her work to that of her husband, Johann Nikolas Böhl von Faber, and her daughter, which will in turn highlight the particular dilemmas faced by this very ‘traditional’ feminist: just how does she negotiate the quest for self-expression in the patriarchal world? How does she relate to the activities of other female intellectuals: as muse or enemy? Central to this will be her work as a propagandist and translator and the transmission of ideas between her husband's native Germany and her native Spain.

SvD, April 2008

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