Monsters, transgression, and female corporeality in Spanish Golden Age and colonial Spanish-American theater

Bonnie Lynn Gasior, Purdue University


This dissertation examines the inherent monstrous qualities of the female body as an articulation of sexual difference. While early written commentaries on female monstrosity were frequently adopted in an effort to control, subdue, and criticize female comportment, the newest trend in gender studies focuses on the deconstruction of rhetorical discourses by exposing a patriarchal society that exploited the image of the monster to help pacify its own social, cultural, and sexual anxieties exacerbated by expressions of female autonomy. I examine how the masculine subject employs the monstrous as a way to illustrate the female's deviance, deficiency, or inferiority while alternately, the female uses the monstrous as a recourse of self-expression, a display of autonomy, and a voice-channeling medium. Each of the female characters in this study possesses a distinct monstrous attribute: Finea in La dama boba is associated with the animal world, as evinced when she is frequently referred to as a “bestia” (135, 315, 333, 1007, 1795) due to her lack of language mastery; Catalina de Erauso in La monja alférez is an active participant in transgendering activities; Beatriz and Celestina in La segunda Celestina are monstrous because of their “anti-feminine” behavior. Ironically, the monstrous characteristics these women are assigned affords them a textual space in which they can transgress textual boundaries and express their emerging subjectivity that ultimately poses a threat to masculine economy and law. The implications of equating one's self with a monster or being termed a monster by another are elucidated by theoretical approaches which are grounded in aspects of the monstrous, including Lacanian psychoanalysis, the Bakhtinian grotesque/carnivalesque body, and Feminist literary criticism. They share what I argue is a compatible view of the female body, which tends to align itself with fragmentation and exaggeration, two monstrous qualities, in an attempt to highlight identity construction and deconstruction. Although a body described in parts (debilitated and dissected) facilitates the masculine populace's reestablishment of order, it simultaneously, and more importantly, shows why the disruption of order is inevitable in the first place if women are to be (rightly) configured into the signifying system.




Ganelin, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Romance literature|Latin American literature|Theater

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server