MLA 2018 Abstracts and Program

We are excited to share a lineup of participants and abstracts for both sessions of the “Marginality in Spanish Theater” working group at the MLA 2018. A first draft of these papers will be available at the ITPN commons page ( after December 1. Participants will present for ten minutes and we will leave enough time for discussion.


This first session will explore marginal subjectivities and their negotiation within the realms of gender, sexuality, race, and identity.

1. Harrison Meadows (The University of Tenneessee Knoxville) “Wild Obsession: Staging the Margins of Ideology in Baroque Iberian Theater (1588-1693)”

The theatrical production of Baroque Iberia exhibits an obsession with wildness that remains to be fully explored. By the time Segismundo takes the stage dressed in animal pelts in Calderón’s La vida es sueño, the wild figure had already enjoyed a long history on the Spanish stage, first appearing in Lope de Vega’s El nacimiento de Ursón y Valentín in 1588. Enduring popularity until Bances Candamo’s 1693 comedia, La piedra filosofal, this steady preoccupation with the concept of wildness offers unique insights on the evolving landscape of Baroque ideologies over time, which are rarely considered diachronically. Dramatic representations of wildness signify the transgression of a prescribed norm––be it social, political, racial, or otherwise––which leads to its necessary elimination to resolve the conflict of a given play. In this paper, I will plot the trajectory of dramatic conventions in their diminishing ability to resolve the recurring problem of wildness, thus offering a literary history of the comedia’s social efficacy as it struggled to sustain the weight of its own ideological commitments. Furthermore, I will examine the implications of my approach on long-standing debates on the ideological function of Baroque Iberian drama by analyzing the theoretical problem inherent in the existence of the marginal terrain wildness inhabits. My approach considers who stands to benefit from social order, and those who, like the wild figure, find themselves excluded. At a time of renewed energy for exclusionary ideologies, aspirations of encompassing the marginalized are as important today as they were in 1588.

2. Esther Fernández (Rice University) “Beyond the End: Re-Presenting Spain’s Early Modern Women’s Tragedies

From wife-murder to cloak and dagger plays, female bodies, minds and financial status are, for the most part, disempowered and abused by male protagonists with societal compliance. Since the 2000’s, coinciding with the approval of the Ley Integral contra la Violencia de Género (2004), a wave of stage adaptations emerged in Spain that questioned the marginalization of women characters in the comedia. I claim that this trend in performance has become a socio-cultural phenomenon that uses the symbolic capital of the Comedia to raise awareness on women’s misrepresentation and gender violence.

3. Cristina Martínez-Carazo (University of California Davis) “Electra (1901): la marginalidad cuestionada”

Benito Pérez Galdós was especially concerned in elucidating women’s roles in the changing society at the turn of the century. His highly controversial play Electra (1901) condenses the tension between the central and the marginal positioning of female subjectivity and the impact that conservatism and Catholicism had in women’s participation in Modernity. Galdós himself is ambivalent in his Electra and shifts his female protagonist from the margins to the center while anchoring her within the realm of patriarchy.

4. Anton Pujol (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) “Technologies of Marginalization in Paco Bezerra’s Theatre”

Paco Bezerra (Almería, 1978) has become a unique and unremitting voice in Contemporary Spanish theatre. While young playwrights are lucky to see their plays staged, Paco Bezerra has successfully staged almost all of his plays in rapid succession, a seemingly unreal feat given the economic and artistic realities of Spanish culture. Only Dentro de la tierra (2008) the work for which he was awarded the Premio Nacional de Teatro Calderón de la Barca 2009, has received many international productions yet has never been staged in Spain. The rest of his copious output, Grooming (2011) Ahora empiezan las vacaciones (2012), El señor Ye ama los dragones (2014) and El pequeño Poni (2016) to name a few, have been staged by some of the most important names on the Spanish stage and have been very well received by both audiences and critics.

While the topics explored in his plays vary widely (e.g. molestation, feminism, ecoterrorism, immigration, bullying) the theme of marginalization is a constant in all of his works. This is achieved through his portrayal of most of his main characters as oppressed on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or class. It is reinforced through an unrelenting criticism against a higher form of political power or authoritarianism that pervades his protagonists’ particular circumstances. This creates the context of oppression with an unspecified center whose position keeps shifting but invariably controls and marginalizes the beleaguered characters.

In my presentation, I analyze Bezerra’s Dentro de la tierra and Grooming. I also examine Sr. Ye via an act of oppositional discursive strategy to show how the playwright’s marginalization process occurs. By bringing Foucault, Gramsci and Huggan, among others, into the fold, I show how Bezerra’s theatre moves from the particular to a larger phenomenon that affects not only the characters but also the audience, and consequently creates a troubling forecast for Spanish society.


The final session of our working group will explore spatial marginality as it functions both in the division of the space and in subject positioning within the social space.

1. Antonio Guijarro-Donadiós (Worcester State University). “How to cook a cat: Marginal Space in 17th Century Spanish Short Theater”

The image of a courtly and cosmopolitan Madrid that enjoyed an intense cultural life, where millions were spent on luxurious festivals that attracted famous artists and travelers, also contained a marginal space, where poor people, the crippled, thieves, soldiers, gamblers, prostitutes, and black people lived and made a living, even cooking cats to survive. Where the long walks along the Prado at sunset lost their gallantry, and became spaces of the night where ruffians challenged each other to duels and ended up, in most cases, in the overpopulated jails of the kingdom. Where the domestic space was transformed into house brothels and gambling dens, full of gamblers and on-lookers. Where in the streets, one didn’t go only to shop but to beg for alms, do cons and rob, or where the churches, a place of knowledge and shelter, became places to hide amorous and clandestine meetings, and where prostitutes, thieves, and murderers hid to escape the law. In this talk I will examine the social meaning of this underworld in 17th century urban Madrid from the perspective of marginality. My interpretation of the urban centers explores baroque Madrid as space of conflict. From this conflict new ways of speaking, living, writing, and reinventing urban landscapes arise. Many of the short pieces that were written in that time articulate their plots through the relationships between marginal society and the established power structures and exhibit social changes in light of the economic processes associated with the development of Madrid as the imperial capital.

2. Jennifer Duprey (Rutgers University) “Marginality and the Grotesque in Valle Inclán’s Cara de Plata”

This paper studies marginality within a spatial rural context. Duprey sees marginality as a result of oppression by addressing the relationship between the marginal characters and noble landowners in terms of the struggles over land control. Duprey shows how Valle’s technique of the esperpento articulates his scathing critique of an archaic society in which land was still the principal form of wealth and subjugation by the ruling classes.

3. Elena García-Martín (University of Utah) “Gender, Race and Interculturalism in TNT-El Vacie’s Romani Fuenteovejuna.”

My paper addresses the performance of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna undertaken by TNT-El Vacie (Territorio de Nuevos Tiempos), a theater company from Seville, Spain. I Consider how Antonio Álamo’s adaptation, Pepa Gamboa’s direction and the staging of El Vacie, a company comprised exclusively of non-professional Roma women, constitutes a site of resistance as well as a performance of race, identity and place. From this vantage point, I wrestle with issues of agency and intercultural communication in order to make sense of ontological as well as hermeneutic aspects of the performance text: deletions and additions; improvisation and authority; acting and becoming. Furthermore, the fact that el Vacie, the name of the impoverished settlement where the women reside, is placed within a mere 60 yards of the theatre where the play is performed, enriches the text and further complicates their reading of Fuenteovejuna by adding levels of referentiality and indexicality that redefine boundaries and processes of exclusion and inclusion. While this is not the first collaboration between TNT and El Vacie—it is preceded by the successful and award-winning 2009 staging of La Casa de Bernarda Alba —I consider this performance a particularly important contribution to the construction of a historized cultural politics of identity that makes the Romani community visible by positioning the women of El Vacie center stage as participants, creators, and interpreters of the national cultural patrimony.

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