A work of feminist literary analysis from an identity studies perspective, dealing with comedia, an extinct Spanish theatrical style that relied on complex poetics and melodramatic plots. The book focuses on work by Calderon and his contemporaries, and looks at plays that deal with female rulers. The author follows two principles in dealing with performance. One is that the goal of analyzing old plays long out of production is to discover what they mean to scholars now. When this is true, good scholarship can look usefully at 17th century plays as examples of contemporary ideas like transgender politics and the Freudian phallic woman. The other is that theatre is a form of literature. This idea is hard on plays where scripts had to please conservative patrons and censors, and artists relied heavily on subversion and irony in how lines were performed live. However, given the first principle, the second is necessary. The author analyzes the relationship between the texts of plays and offstage historical events, as interpreted by postmodern critical theory and gender studies, and finds that every script she looks at reflects and supports Spanish society as both very sexist and very stratified. However, her view of comedia is more nuanced and less universally condemnatory than that of most scholars in this field. Author Maria Christina Quintero intends the book as a corrective to that condemnation, and locates its genesis in Malveena McKendricks' recognition of the complexity of the work of Lope de Vega. Annotation c2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Maria Cristina Quintero is Professor of Spanish and Director of the Comparative Literature Program at Bryn Mawr College, USA.