THEORISING GENDER, SEXUALITY AND THE BODY

IN CALDERONIAN THEATRE

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by

MICHAELA J. HEIGL

(University of Dublin, Ireland)

 

ISBN 1-889431-84-2


This work applies postmodern theory to selected seventeenth-century play texts of the dramatist Pedro Calderon de la Barca to effect a systematic reinterpretation and reevaluation of the playwright’s dramatic output.  The focus of the work lies especially upon the concept of “excess,” which, in a psychological and political sense, challenges conceptions of gender, sexuality and subjectivity dominant in Early Modern Spain.

            This thesis is concerned with the ways in which Calderon’s deviant figures, such as transvestites, scolds, sodomites and monsters, embody this concept of “excess,” destabilize the boundaries between the sexes or the different classes on which the social order depends.  These dramatic figures, marginalized by the society portrayed in the plays, are, in reality, not “Other,” because they stand for the perversion and corruption inherent in society but frequently denied through the psychological process of projection.

            Society, in general, projects disorder, chaos and filth onto the invented and demonized “Other,” and thereby creates a center and a periphery.  Calderonian theatre, however, questions the absolute validity of boundaries and categories such as “gender,” “race,” and “class.”  It delegitimizes political and social domination, frequently justified through the argument that the dominant self is more civilized or rational than the despised “Other.”  The playwright has a strong distrust in the notion of “civility,” and demonstrates, over and over again, that the hierarchy of reason over the passions cannot be sustained.  Since no one can completely master his or her own passions, attempting to exert control at all costs is futile, and this is true on a political level (imperialism and gender hierarchy) as well as on a personal and psychological level (self-control).  Calderonian theatre thus analyses fear and desire in the face of excess, defining and simultaneously questioning cultural norms.

 


Michaela Heigl
was born in Regensburg, Germany and completed her PhD in Spanish Literature at the University of Cambridge in 1998.  She is currently Lecturer in Spanish at Trinity College, Dublin.

  

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