María de Zayas’s Novelas Amorosas y Ejemplares through the lens of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex

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This dissertation examines María de Zayas’s first framed novella collection, Novelas amorosas y ejemplares (1637), using the feminist theories of Simone de Beauvoir as developed in her book The Second Sex. Zayas, a seventeenth-century female writer, is considered by many critics of her works to be Spain’s first feminist author. Her texts speak out against the injustices early-modern women endured as a consequence of strict patriarchal rule. This analysis reads the short-stories through the lens of Beauvoir’s theories in order to offer an in-depth, gender centered approach to Zayas’s works. Through the exploration of specific concepts such as immanence and transcendence, existence, and myth, a new approach is offered for the analysis of the didactic message of female equality, the condemnation of male abuse, the questioning of gender roles, and the exaltation of convent life that can be found in the author’s writings. In addition to the theoretical examination, Zayas’s frame narrative is explored in order to reveal how it serves as an integral component of the seventeenth-century author’s call for a patriarchal reformation that would bring an end to its unfair treatment of women. Using her characters as the mouthpiece through which she reveals her comments on patriarchy and the challenges it presents for women, Zayas confronts proscriptive systems of control that limit female agency, education, and participation in the public spheres of seventeenth-century Spanish society.

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Modern language, Literature