Amy R. Williamsen University of Arizona

Although as critics of María de Zayas‟s two collections Novelas amorosas y ejemplares (1637) and Desengaños amorosos (1647) we often debate the “feminism” or “anti-feminism” of her work, we seldom discuss one of her most potent weapons against the extreme social restrictions imposed on women during her time.[1] In both texts, irony operates as a comic challenge to cultural “myths” defining la mujer. Before undertaking a textual analysis of the irony in Zayas‟s prose, a few words about the process of critical reception and the impact of the narrative structure on reception seem warranted. If indeed the texts do serve to undermine a misogynistic implementation of societal norms, how can it be that such subversive manipulation of dominant cultural practices would have remained unexplored until now? As literary scholars, we are all aware that our experiences and expectations influence our interpretations of literary texts. Scientific experiments have proven that even transitory experiences can affect a reader‟s understanding (Crawford 11). A significant number of our expectations stem from our contact with other critical studies of the texts in question, literary history and literary theory. Current criticism of Zayas‟s art relies, to a certain extent, on past judgments of her work. Some of these are damaging, unfounded claims that have been accepted without challenge. Thus, as we will see, past reception of her work can act as a deception that misleads critics and prevents them from perceiving vital aspects of her achievement.

E. D. Hirsch, in his study entitled Validity and Interpretation, argues that an interpreter‟s generic conception of a text “is constitutive of everything that he subsequently understands and this remains the case unless and until that generic conception is altered” (Hirsch 74, emphasis mine). Yet, the concept of genre represents but one source of expectations that we bring to the study of any given work. Other elements that inform our predisposition toward a text include those resulting from a familiarity with existing interpretations regarding the period, the author, and the work itself. The theoretical stance of Hans Robert Jauss and other proponents of Reception Theory offers many insights into the problematic relationship between interpretation and the heritage of past reception. Nonetheless, as Kaminsky notes, reception theory has all too often remained blind to “gender as a critical category” (Kaminsky 378). Fortunately, more theorists have now begun to recognize the need to consider the role of gender in interpretation. If a transitory experience such as reading an introductory study can so deeply affect readers‟ reactions, then gender and gender-typing which are “among the most powerful influences channeling the experiences of individuals” must inform a reader‟s interpretation (Crawford 13). Annette Kolodny argues convincingly that “reading is a learned activity which, like many other learned interpretative strategies in our society, is inevitably sex-coded and gender-inflected” (Kolodny 588). Several elements contribute to the complexity of the situation. First, just as no one “male” reader exists, there exists no one “female” reader. We need not adopt an essentialist perspective in our consideration of gender; rather, we must recognize that cultural circumstances generate many of the “gender” differences we percieve. Gender remains unfixed, subject to “cultural” and individual reformulations. Hence, a woman reading a text may not always read as “woman.” To a great extent, many women, including students and literary

each narrator directly addresses two groups of narratees—one female. becomes a narratee who responds to the others‟ stories. characteristics and beliefs are postulated by the narrative itself. the divergences between the postulated female and male readers become clear. a first-level narratee may be considered the inscribed or encoded reader of the work” who provides a “built-in interpretive system. the other male. References to the differing expectations and reactions of the narratees based on their gender encircle all the novelas. . however. one female and the other male. through the exemplification of response dramatized in the narrative. have been trained by a patriarchal system to read in accordance with a “dominant male critical vision” (Culler 57). g.[3] Both her Novelasand her Desengaños make use of frame narratives in which each of the narrators.. serve a crucial function. In .critics. . The narratees. a frame narrative). The two postulated readers. the levels are related to each other hierarchically. As Appendix I illustrates. in several cases. allows for only one interpretation. As Susan Suleiman states: “In a narrative with more than one level of narration (e. share some traits. encoded within the text. I would argue that a bipartite system operates on all levels. in turn. a fact that directly contradicts Montesa‟s assertion. Each set of “inscribed” readers posits the existence of a corresponding “implied” or “postulated” reader—a reader whose existence. . Clearly.” (Introduction 1) Because the text incorporates two sets of encoded readers. especially considering the emphasis on the manipulation of reader response in the works. it embodies at least two divergent interpretations.[2] A basic awareness of the dynamic of gender-inflected reading seems crucial for an understanding of Zayas‟s novelas. The duality of the narrative structure extends beyond the level of the narratees encoded in the frame. Although Salvador Montesa maintains that the text.

” As Lotman clarifies: “any text (and especially a literary one) contains in itself . the “she” believes in the existence of virtuous women. the text encodes diametrically opposed responses defined by gender. In the Desengaños. however. the “she” is a potential victim of “engaños. in Desengaños. the image of the audience . This and other crucial differences have been obscured by the conflation of the two works (Kaminsky 378). this image actively affects the real audience by becoming for it a kind of normalizing code” (Lotman 81). In the Desengaños. . The frame structure in the Novelas is explicitly designed to provide a sense of equilibrium between female and male perspectives. a prime example of the impact of critical tradition on interpretation. the manipulation of reader response differs drastically between the two collections. the continuing tendency to read the texts as one unit serves to diminish the power of theDesengaños. Whereas in theNovelas the audience reponse following the tales stresses agreement among the listeners.” the “he” is a potential “engañador. the “he” does not.” The frame in both works fulfills a vital function by postulating both female and male audiences. The dominant vision defines not only the accepted literary . . men are excluded from the act of narration—they are relegated to the role of narratees. .the Novelas. jamás cuentan los malos pagos que dan” (118). The textual description of the organization of the “sarao” states that it constitutes the women‟s usurpation of a previously male dominated sphere: “Y como son los hombres los que presiden en todo. . As Kaminsky suggests. a fact that proves especially significant given that the narrative deals with the presentation of the often discordant relationship between the sexes without forcing the reader to adopt the position occupied by the “Other. The encoding of two different “roles” within Zayas‟s text permits the real reader to choose a stance.

Amezúa‟s pronouncement. This subjective element cannot be eliminated. Montesa counters that “la insistencia en los aspectos trágicos de las novelas y en el pesimismo que destilan puede hacernos olvidar una faceta interesante en la obra zayesca: el . influenced by their own circumstances. the critical reception of Zayas‟s narrative provides an excellent example of how previous assessments can thwart. We must acknowledge the potential bias inherent in every generation of scholars and respond to the undeniable need for continual re-examination of the presuppositions that operate in our discipline. “no conocerá el humor ni la ironía porque esos matices no son posibles a su temperamento dinámico y fogoso” (Amezúa XXI) remained unchallenged until the publication of Salvador Montesa‟s study in 1981. so do literary historians and literary critics elect the “masterpieces” of accepted literary canons according to their tastes which are. nor can it be ignored. but also the “approved” methodological procedures with which critics approach literature. works may also receive unduly harsh critical treatment based upon unchallenged past evaluations. of course. rather than enrich. We must realize that Hayden White‟s assessment of the fictionality of history applies to literary history as well. Just as historians emplot historical facts according to their personal interpretation. the interpretation of literary texts. both Jauss and Julian Hirsch cite examples of the perpetuation of positive “myths” regarding texts and authors (Jauss 20 and Holub 48-9). In fact. Yet. Among the many misleading claims regarding Zayas‟s works (not to mention the harsh censure of their “immorality” and “lasciviousness” by some critics) are repeated affirmations that her works are devoid of irony and that they unequivocally support a rigid.canon. Undoubtedly. In their illustrations of the impact of the acceptance of preceding interpretations on critical reception. “Calderonian” view of honor.

[4] One might argue convincingly that the divergences in interpretation directly related to the audience‟s perception of textual irony. reader response to Zayas‟s novelas did vary according to the reader‟s gender. In this manner. He states: . as he and Rincón suggest. . I would contend that Zayas‟s irony does not. . . Of the six pages out of 400 that he devotes to his discussion of humor. but rather serves to sharpen her attack on patriarchal structures. . only one considers irony. Following Kaufer‟s argument on the strategies of irony. we can explain this perceived disparity in the ironist‟s relationship to his audience if we ascribe to ironic discourse the implication of two audiences.humor” (225). while by no means absolute. Thus the ironist‟s audience . “quitar el hierro al esceptismo zayesco” (11). the other with his ironic meaning. such a technique allows authors to pretend that the target of their discourse is “part of their chosen audience” (102). . . would suggest that the narratives posit the “male” reader as the audience of the literal meanings and the “female” reader as the audience of the ironic. Male readers tended to read the texts more “literally” while female readers often mentioned how the inclusion of a certain ironic phrase undermined a more superficial level of meaning. One audience identifies with the ironist‟s literal meaning. Zayas . David Kaufer‟s recent work on irony and rhetorical strategy provides substantial evidence to support the claim that the bipartite narrative structure of Zayas‟s works represents an integral part of their ironic nature. (96-97) Elsewhere I have demonstrated that. in a structured experiment. This tendency. . is bifurcated into two distinct audiences according to its association with either the literal or ironic meaning.

the esthetic. embarks on a similar endeavor. her works may be read as a critical response to these proscriptions. Castellanos states that her purpose as a feminist is to explore the myths that govern society‟s expectations of women and to begin the process of demythification using humor to reveal the absurdities underlying accepted social conventions. (She warns us that we must accept “no dogma that cannot withstand a good joke. Zayas‟s feminism may not conform to our current conception. A consideration of the first category of cultural myths. The popular literature of the period reflects what historians term a “patriarchal economy” in which a woman‟s beauty represents her means to secure stability and happiness. the “ideals” or societal “myths” proscribing women were codified in several ways. as Montesa suggests. the intellectual and the ethical. As others have noted. a stance that might prove “politically dangerous” if expressed directly (Kaufer 102).”) She identifies three constellations of myths that constrain women: the esthetic. however. Zayas. including their propagation through popular literature in general and marriage manuals in particular. her implicit program anticipates the paradigm formalized by Rosario Castellanos. writing over three centuries before Castellanos. Thus. one of the foremost Mexican feminists of our era. Castellanos‟s construct may serve as a critical framework for the consideration of irony in the novelas.can criticize established societal norms ironically. Throughout the Novelas and . Zayas‟s ironic manipulation of definitions of Christian womanhood demonstrates her challenge to the dominant tradition. for she employs irony as a comic challenge to the same three categories of cultural myths.[5] In Golden Age Spain. especially those embodied in Fray Luis de León‟s La perfecta casada. Thus. reveals Zayas‟s ironic treatment of social conventions in which she juxtaposes. an apparent reality with an underlying truth.

however. The textual presentation of Camila in “La más infame venganza” directly challenges this position: Llegó el día deseado de Carlos. “La más infame venganza” manipulates another esthetic ideal. y gozo y paz” on Earth as well as everlasting life in the Kingdom of God (180). not her virtue. Tenía la belleza que ha de tener la propia mujer. and that “los frutos de la virtud” include “amor. In “El traidor contra su sangre” the narrator explicitly states: “El hijo tenía por nombre don Alonso. a woman‟s beauty brings her only ill-fortune. (187. The text further ironically manipulates the concept of “inner beauty. que aunque no muy hermosa. el trato y ser ropa nueva le hacía de apetecerla. . pues más en las virtudes que en la hermosura ha de florecer. Fray Luis de León asserts that “pone la hermosura de la buena mujer no en las figuras del rostro. will be blessed with a peaceful life. demás que no era tan fea que pudiera por esto ser aborrecida y cuando lo fuera. sino en las virtudes secretas del alma (172). hermosa es fuerza que lo sea porque había de ser desgraciada” (372). He assures the reader that a woman who follows this sacred path. The frequent repetition of the paired adjectives “hermosa” and “desgraciada” signals this inversion. appeal to her suitor.” clearly suggesting that her riches.the Desengaños. y la hija doña Mencía. who remains virtuous within her husband‟s house. la hiciera hermosa más de cincuenta mil ducados que tenía de dote y deseaba ya Carlos verse dueño de todo. ya nuevamente enamorado de Camila. removed from temptation. emphasis added) The inclusion of the phrase “ropa nueva” undermines the supposed emphasis on Camila‟s virtuous manners.

a position deemed consistent with Catholic doctrine. porque debía de querer Dios que esta desdichada y santa señora padeciese más martirios para darle en el cielo el premio de ellos” (195). así les limitó el entender” (149). . Camila cuerda. . . happy existence. The textual signs underscore this injustice: “Mira que culpa tiene la inocente. The use of “debía de. (Prólogo) . Zayas‟s defense of woman‟s intellectual capacity has been well documented. villano ni desagradecido.” however. Not only does Zayas question the assumptions underlying the esthetic myths governing women. the majority of prominent thinkers portrayed women as intellectually inferior to men. Instead.” (190). no con obligaciones de hacer buenas novelas. no has de querer ser descortés. podrías disculparme con que nací mujer. The only reward the conclusion allows for is the promise of eternal life.According to Fray Luis‟s writings. Mas Camila honesta. At the time. . leaves the matter open to interpretation. nonetheless. It does not assure the reader that her suffering will be rewarded. sino para un solo oficio simple y doméstico. her texts also actively attack myths regarding women‟s intellect. . necio. In the prologue to the Novelas she states: Con mujeres no hay competencias. . ni para los negocios y dificultades. Te ofrezco este libro muy segura de tu bizarría. Within this context. Y así pues. Camila‟s virtue should ensure her peaceful. Camila‟s husband “le dió un veneno para matarla. . some elements still merit further study. Fray Luis de León affirms that: “a la mujer buena y honesta la naturaleza no la hizo para el estudio de las ciencias. mas no le sucedió así. Camila recogida y no tratando sino de servir a su marido . . the brother of her husband‟s mistress seeks to avenge his honor by raping her. y en confianza de que si te desagradare.

” The male protagonist. He argues: “Si las almas no tienen sexo. an imposition of patriarchal structure. . tampoco los escritos lo tienen: ni son de dama ni de varón .” Once again Montesa‟s critical evaluation of the statement by Isabel. views women‟s intelligence as the cause of their deceptions. The image of the “edifice” reflects. . He does not consider that the uniquely female voice posited by Zayas‟s discourse might represent one of her most revolutionary accomplishments. The attack on the intellectual myth reaches ironic heights in “El prevenido engañado. Don Fadrique. discúlpala. he discounts his active participation in their sexual exploits. what he interprets as acquiesence to the myth of woman‟s intellectual inferiority actually manipulates the male reader‟s response by obliging him to comply with his part of the “ideal. as I will discuss later. adóralos y alábalos. The metaphor he chooses to express his position also proves interesting. considerando que no tiene más caudal” reveals his particular bias. totally naive young girl despite warnings that stupidity does not . puesto que tiene que ampararlo bajo el manto de la feminidad para hacer comprensibles sus fallos. idea que le gusta repetir. He opts to marry a completely innocent. the narrator of “La esclava de su Amante”: “Si son buenos los versos que no son tuyos y más si son de dama.” (135) He fails to recognize the presence of the topos of selfdeprecating irony commonly found in prologues of the period as evinced by Ernst Curtius‟s exhaustive study. one that her text defies by resisting categorical enclosure.Montesa claims that in this passage Zayas “desautoriza su propia capacidad intelectual. This narrow understanding of feminism does not allow for the valorization of gender differences. Moreover. y si malos. no equiparable a la del hombre. al no comprenderlo así abre una profunda grieta en el edificio de su feminismo” (135).

During his first absence. that in married life. The conclusion incorporates another ironic twist: “Entró doña Gracia monja. the frame narrative. . the woman‟s nightly “duty” consists of keeping armed watch over her husband.” (173). y si no lo son.guarantee virtue. she excitedly informs her husband. and other tales unequivocally defend women‟s intelligence as a necessary. Gracia. If “el ácido corrisivo de la risa” fails to reveal the absurdity of the dominant view of women‟s intelligence as “dangerous” and antithetical to moral development. that “another husband” has helped her discover a more entertaining way to spend their evenings. Zayas‟s examination of the ethical myths that attempt to define women‟s morality proves even more scathing. positive force. . porque como era boba. Fray .” The honor code represents one of the social structures designed to perpetuate unchallenged male dominance and to ensure women‟s compliance with the cultural expectations regarding morality. He falsely informs his new bride. the narrator explicitly identifies the text‟s purpose: “para que se avisen los ignorantes que condenan la discreción de las mujeres. In the end. hacen sus cosas con recato y prudencia” (173). an ardent suitor assures Gracia that he can teach her another way to fulfill her wifely duty—one she finds much more pleasant. contenta . . Her novellas reflect the period‟s preoccupation with the moral and ethical obligations imposed on women. fácil halló el consuelo gastando la gruesa hacienda que le quedó” (173). they also had to remain completely above reproach. que donde falta el entendimiento. This novella. Not only did women need to behave in accordance with societal expectations. Fadrique praises “las discretas que son virtuosas porque no hay comparación ni estimación para ellas. Unaware that she has engaged in an illicit activity. no puede sobrar la virtud . upon his return. . As Fray Luis and others argued: “Woman‟s natural state is that of subjugation to man.

and appeals to her brother-in-law (Don Luis) for help. María de Zayas. que a lo largo de casi toda su obra defendió Cervantes. la típicamente calderoniana.) When her husband‟s unexpected arrival interrupts their fourth tryst. más humana y realista. Studies often paraphrase Portal‟s assessment: Por lo general. recounts how she marries Don Pedro only to find herself pursued by Don Luis. la deshonra sólo se lava con sangre. She resists his advances. The protagonist.” several of the novelas subvert the honor code.Luis de León. explaining that: “no he ofendido a mi marido y vuestro hermano de obra.” Even those critics who recognize Zayas‟s challenges to other social restrictions placed on women still affirm that she adheres to a strictly codified definition of honor. his brother. si bien con el pensamiento” (247). y aquella otra. optaría por la rigidez calderoniana. la novela cortesana ante el honor adopta una doble postura. (The obstacles to their union prove quite humorous. in La perfecta casada states that: “aquella sola es casta en quien ni la fama mintiendo osa poner mala nota” (40. Four times they arrange to meet to consummate their illicit love. Hipólita encloses Gaspar in a trunk. When she resists. Any suspected transgression required the shedding of the offender‟s blood in order to remove the “stain. recordemos. apasionada y fatalista. Perhaps “Al fin se paga todo” best represents this ironic manipulation of the code. She mistakenly believes he has suffocated. (Portal 17) Although various characters articulate views Portal labels as “Calderonian. he schemes to enter her . but succumbs to Don Gaspar‟s charms. each time their encounters fail. Don Luis seeks to use his knowledge to force her to accept him. emphasis mine). Hipólita.

Not only does the text manipulate the honor code. That Hipólita. Hipólita admits that she has intended (and attempted) to commit adultery. but the doctrine of intention that was often employed to determine guilt as well. Hipólita kills Don Luis with her husband‟s knife. pues al fin todo se paga” (257). she enters a convent. She then avails herself of the código (from which her dalliances remained exempt) to avenge her honor by killing her brother-in-law with impunity. Hipólita subsequently marries Don García. “Al fin se paga todo” clearly undermines this doctrine. de quien no se tenía por ofendido. When Don Pedro dies. he beats her cruelly. After revealing that Don Gaspar‟s servant killed him to steal Hipólita‟s jewels. steals her jewels. then seeks refuge in Don Gaspar‟s house. rapes her. Only the men in the narrative (Don Luis. the manservant) appear subject to the “justice” alluded to in the title. pretending to be her husband. The repetition of the title ironically underscores the subversion of societal norms in the tale.bedroom under the cover of darkness and. nonetheless. and throws her into the street. . after her open defiance and subsequent manipulation of the honor code lives “happily ever after” shakes the very foundation of the patriarchal system. The honor code incorporated this definition in that the mere suspicion of ill intent was considered justification for revenge. “dejando a su mujer. Perversely. One need not complete the “offense” to be guilty of the sin. the Fourth Lateran Council decreed that the intention behind any act determines its morality. the narrator pronounces “que cada uno mire lo que hace. Don Gaspar. refusing to return to her husband‟s house. heredera de toda su hacienda” (257). She eventually contacts the authorities who have arrested her innocent husband. To avenge her honor. They declare her innocent of any wrongdoing. yet she escapes any official sanctions. In 1215. she remains in the convent. After her rescue by Don García.

but cannot transgress the law of the dagger and the phallus. he diminishes the subversive force of the text through a revealing “mis-reading. Nonetheless. her own sister. (Smith 235) He fails to notice the suggestive usurpation of male power embodied by the phallic symbol. not her spouse. In an unselfish act.In Paul Julian Smith‟s otherwise intriguing article. In “El jardín engañoso. of infidelity.” He states: Thus Hipólita. she eventually marries as she wishes. and does not question the belief that blood can only be cleansed with blood. In fact. . he willingly returns the deed to a young man‟s soul. She falsely accuses her rival. The dagger Hipólita employs is her husband‟s. Teodisa employs the code to secure the man she desires. The devil‟s participation in “El jardín” also proves problematic. the honor code would call for Hipólita‟s husband to kill her so that her blood could cleanse the “stain” on his honor. Zayas implies an acceptance of the patriarchal code of honour. the frame tale highlights it by acclaiming the devil as the character who commits the greatest act of . As traditionally presented in Golden Age literature. a weapon she turns against her brother-in-law.” for example. A careful examination of the function of ironic inversion in this novella and others challenges current critical evaluation of Zayas‟s stance regarding the honor code which affirms that her sense of justice “consiste tanto o más en recompensar a los buenos y en castigar a los malos” (Montesa 171). . The inclusion of the devil‟s good deed is not gratuitous. honor. in Al fin se paga todo plunges her dagger „five or six times‟ into the heart of her sleeping husband. Instead. not her husband‟s. Women are thus permitted to adopt a travesty of man. she avenges her own. a ruse that costs an innocent young man his life. .

good. Marcia Welles and Elizabeth Ordóñez have intimated that Zayas‟s preoccupation with enclosure anticipates that identified by Gilbert in 18th-century Gothic fiction. siendo fuerza a don Gaspar el correr metido en su marco . . Fray Luis specifies that “los fundamentos de la casa son la mujer y el buey” (Fray Luis 47). In “Amar sólo por vencer. yet dismisses them because they do not fit with his construction of Zayas.” (245). portrays the house as an instrument of torture employed against women. At the same time that patriarchal architecture . .” the father and the uncle kill the protagonist by collapsing a wall on top of her. Montesa argues that if one were to accept Zayas‟s manipulation of the construct of good and evil as deliberate. Desaparecería el arraigado sentido de justicia de nuestra autora” (171). In “Al fin se paga todo” Don Gaspar. He correctly identifies the implications of the scene. The recasting of the devil as a entity capable of good can be read as a revisionist myth that challenges the most fundamental oppositions imposed by traditional doctrine. he fails to recognize the tremendous subversive power of the novela. se quedó atravesado en el marco de la ventana por la mitad del cuerpo . Desengaños. becomes trapped within the confines of the house: “. That Montesa‟s critical analysis again incorporates the metaphor of the “edifice” brings to mind another cultural “myth” that Zayas confronts. . As Gilbert suggests. During the period. the “house” becomes a sign for the “architecture of patriarchy” which represents the entrapment of women by male-dominated social institutions. . . This resolution holds significant interpretive possibilites. (85) In Novelas amorosas. In so doing. on the other hand. attempting to enter Hipólita‟s chambers. Zayas explores the comic possibilites of this architectural sign. at times demonstrating that the rigid imposition of patriarchal order also restricts men. “esto sería quebrantar las bases sobre las que se sostiene todo el edificio. the house served to define the woman‟s role. .

destroys the young woman. underscoring matrilineal alternatives to patriarchal coding in text and social context. the narration of the “desengaños” exclusively by women (during a supposed engagement party for Lisis) in itself represents an inversion of. it itself crumbles. join hands and enter the convent together defies the social norm. Nevertheless. Nevertheless. refuses to return to him despite the Viceroys‟ mandate. . That women. Fray Luis proclaims “Que por más áspero y de más fieras condiciones que el marido sea es necesario que la mujer le soporte. after listening to the tales. Laura of “La fuerza del amor. she does challenge the ethical “myths” that bind the woman to her husband‟s house forever. (8) . Among them. . . . As Ordóñez notes: The choice to enter a convent is based not only on a female decision to save body and soul from victimization by men.” (57). she elects the convent. ¡Oh que es un verdugo! Pero es tu marido . the patriarchal order. The text seems to suggest that such extreme implementations of the honor code may lead to the erosion of the social structure itself. . . rather than compliance with. Instead. . The Desengaños present the most fervent challenge to the cultural dictum that marriage represents the “natural order” and “serves to restore order and maintain harmony” (Ordóñez 9). Both collections present women who actively reject these strictures. Montesa and others interpret this decision as one motivated by fear and consistent with the dominant order.” frequently beaten by her husband. Many critics have read Zayas‟s texts as offering no alternatives to the oppressive patriarchal order. but it signals a more positive move toward the formation of another kind of bonding . He censures those women who abandon their homes to “calentar el suelo de la Iglesia” (23). All female protagonists either die or choose to enter a convent.

it also serves to reveal the selfpropagating nature of criticism.A. which privileges a gynocentric orientation. ed. 1948. intellectual and ethical myths that proscribed women‟s conduct. Thus. This may explain resistance to the broadest implications of her ironic manipulation of the culturally defined constructs of good and evil. a careful textual analysis of the Desengaños and Novelas refutes the critical assertion that Zayas‟s narratives are devoid of irony. Her work itself has been interpreted by critics trained by a patriarchal system to read in accordance with a “dominant male critical vision” (Culler 57). opinions fossilized through years of stagnation become transformed into “indisputable” facts. the consideration of irony in Zayas not only reveals how she challenges esthetic. de. the entire asymmetrical structure of the second volume. Agustín G. Novelas amorosas y ejemplares de doña María de Zayas y Sotomayor. We cannot naively accept past reception without falling prey to possible deception.In fact. Madrid: R.E. . Unquestionably. of “la perfecta casada” and “la mala mujer.” Zayas‟s comic challenge ultimately serves to “quebrantar las bases sobre las que se sostiene todo el edificio” (Montesa 171). The revolutionary nature of her work has often been dismissed by critics who note that she does not address other inequities inherent in the social order. Zayas need not examine all the manifestations of injustice generated by her society‟s hierarchical configuration. ironically represents an inversion of patriarchal order.. for she attacks the very “foundations” of the patriarchal order. All too often. Works Cited Amezúa.

Holub. Texts and Contexts. León. Kaufer. Reception Theory. Kaminsky. Foa. Castellanos. 1967. Rosario. Hirsch. “The Text and the Structure of Its Audience. Mexico: Concepto.2 (1988): 377-91. Yury M. “Reply to Commentaries: Women Writers. “Irony and Rhetorical Strategy. La perfecta casada. Mary and Roger Chaffin. and Martian Readers. 1990. New Haven: Yale UP. “Reading as a Woman. 1982. Judith. Fray Luis de. Mujer que sabe latín. Gilbert. Kolodny. Jonathan. 1984. 1979. 1973. Feminismo y forma narrativa: Estudio del tema y las técnicas de María de Zayas y Sotomayor. The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven: Yale UP. Hans Robert. Literary Historians. 3-30. David. “The Reader‟s Construction of Meaning: Cognitive Research on Gender and Comprehension.” Romanic Review 79. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Valencia: Albatrós. Ed. 1982. Sandra and Susan Gubar.Butler. Toward an Aesthetic of Reception. Mexico: SEP. Validity in Interpretation. 1979.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 10. Annette.” New Literary History 11 (1980): 58792. 1981. “Dress and Redress: Clothing in the Desengaños amorosos de María de Zayas y Sotomayor. Ithaca: Cornell UP. Elizabeth Flynn and Patrocinio Schweickart. Robert C. Sandra M. Lotman. Amy Katz.2 (1977): 90-110. New York: Methuen. Culler. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. Crawford. D. Jauss.” On Decon-struction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism. New York: Routledge.” New Literary History 10 (1980): 97-116. 1986.” Gender and Reading: Essays on Readers. . E.

María de Zayas y Sotomayor: su época y su obra. Ed. ed. Ordóñez. Madrid: Minsterio de Cultura. Novelas completas de María de Zayas. María de. “Woman and Her Text in the Works of María de Zayas and Ana Caro. Susan. 1973. Williamsen.” Forthcoming in Discurso Literano. Desengaños amorosos. Alicia Yllera. “María de Zayas and her novela cortesana: A Reevaluation. Paul Julian.2 (1987): 220-40. 1980. . 1973.” Modern Language Notes 102. María Martínez de Portal. 1968. The Reader in the Text. 1983. ___. Madrid: Catédra. Marcia. María Martínez del. Welles. Texto y contexto en la narrativa de María de Zayas. 1981. Madrid: Playor. Princeton: Princeton UP.Montesa.1 (1985): 3-13 Portal. Novelas completas. Irma V. Salvador. Madrid: Alianza. “Gender and Interpretation: The Manipulation of Reader Response in María de Zayas.” Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 19. Madrid: Bruguera. 1973. Sulieman. Rincón. Ed. Smith. Novelas amorosas y ejemplares o Decameron español. Zayas y Sotomayor.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 60 (1978): 301-10. Eduardo. Amy R. Vasileski. ed. “Writing Women in Golden Age Spain: Saint Teresa and María de Zayas. Elizabeth J. Madrid: Bruguera.

.... 0 men ......APPENDIX I From Narrators to Readers: The Bipartite Narrative Structure Main Voice Narrative Individual Narrators of the “novelas” Novelas Amorosas....... 5 women.................. 10 women...... 5 men Desengaños Amorosos..............................................

t t Female Narratees Male Narratees t t Postulated reader Postulated male reader (Implied) (Implied) female t t Real readers Real male readers female .

[2] In a work of the present scope. [3] For additional discussions of the relationship between the reader and the text in Zayas see Elizabeth J. For a provocative discussion of “gender” as a performative construct. Ordóñez (6). I believe that the concept of gender-inflected reading provides crucial insight into the analysis of María de Zayas novelas (see works cited). The preceding discussion parallels that found at the beginning of my related study “Challenging the Code: Honor in María de Zayas” (forthcoming). Nevertheless. see Butler. the references to the Desengaños are from Yllera‟s. 352). . [4] [5] This is the central argument of my article (“Gender and Interpretation”). I cannot possibly address all the intricacies of these theoretical issues. Sandra Foa (126).[1] All parenthetical references to the Novelas are from Portal‟s edition. and Salvador Montesa (333.

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