Bachelor of Arts
School or Department
Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures
Faculty Mentor Department
Modern and Classical Languages
María de Zayas, feminism, victim-blaming, Spain, aristocracy, women writing
Other Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Spanish Literature | Women's Studies
María de Zayas y Sotomayor (1591 – 1661?) was the best-selling author of two extant collections of novellas, Novelas Amorosas y Ejemplares (Exemplary Tales of Love) (1637) and Desengaños Amorosos (The Disenchantments of Love) (1647). Both collections, consisting of stories of love, marriage, and gendered violence between aristocratic men and women, are explicitly and unapologetically pro-woman. Zayas condemns systemic misogyny and calls for institutional inclusion and protection of women, earning her place as an early modern feminist. Despite her depictions of violence against women and her denunciation of patriarchal institutions, Zayas does not advocate for a radical restructuring of society. She fails to condemn hierarchical race, class, and gender structures, and to advocate radical structural changes that could protect women from male-authored violence. Instead of envisioning and advocating for a just society, Zayas endorses the convent as the best option for women, sending our protagonist and other narrative women to the religious life.
At the root of her inability to call for a societal restructuring is a misanalysis of oppression and oppressive structures. She frequently blames the most marginalized and oppressed for the plight of women, failing to understand the complexities and intersections of oppressive systems. Without being critical of the oppression of people of color and poor people, who, of course, include women, Zayas is unable to offer liberation even to her fictional women characters.
Honors College Research Project
Zundel, Jennifer, "Blaming the Victim: Deconstructing María de Zayas's Feminism" (2018). Undergraduate Theses and Professional Papers. 213.
© Copyright 2018 Jennifer Zundel