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Maria de Zayas: The Dynamics of Discourse.

Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor (1590-1661) wrote twenty novelle in two collections, published in 1637 and 1647, as well as poetry and drama. In many ways, she stands alone as a secular prose writer who models her work on (and against the grain of) Cervantes. The Novelas ejemplares y amorosas and the Desenganos amorosos are fascinating from the perspective of structure, language, and ideology, all of which are marked, logically, by gender inflection. Zayas's subject is feminine inscription in society and in the literary text. Relatively ignored by critics until recent decades, Zayas has now come into her own, or into the canon, thanks to the efforts of a number of scholars in the United States and Spain. The twelve essays in this volume attest to the renewed interest in Zayas, whose writings invite scrutiny from multiple vantage points. The contributors include Mary Elizabeth Perry, Susan Paun de Garcia, H. Patsy Boyer, Laura Gorfkle, Margaret R. Greet, Lou Charnon-Deutsch, Amy R. Williamsen, Matthew D. Stroud, Judith A. Whitenack, Ruth El Saffar, William H. Clamurro, and Cristina Enriquez de Salamanca. The essays by Charnon-Deutsch and Clamurro have been published previously.

The "fit" of the essays is exemplary. Perry, Paun de Garcia, and Boyer, together with Whitenack in the introduction, offer an overview of the role of women in the patriarchal order of seventeenth-century Spain. Perry looks, in essence, at women in history. Her focus on the images of enclosure and repressed sexuality allows one to see how Zayas transgresses these prohibitions. Paun de Garcia moves to a different type of closed space, the female academies of the Golden Age, replicated to a degree in the frame story of the Desenganos, in which all the narrators are women. Boyer argues for a "baroque reading" of the novelle, that is, for a reading built on structural intricacies and on plays of illusion and disillusion.

Part 2 looks at "Sexual/Textual Dynamics." Gorfkle sees, within the inevitable tragedy of the protagonist of Amar solo por vencer, a temporary respite from authoritarian social practice and a challenge to the codes that define men and women. Looking at what she terms the "(M)Other plot," Greet contrasts the general absence of mothers in the novelle with the more nurturing atmosphere of the frame. If Zayas is unable fully to transform the Oedipal paradigm through narrative plotting, she can impute the validity of the "master plot" through repetition and movement within the frame. In an approach based on the notion of sexual economy, Charnon-Deutsch demonstrates ways in which Zayas, attuned to the realities of male-female relations, demystifies the sacrament of matrimony. Reflecting on the ironies of alterity, Charnon-Deutsch discusses the trajectory of the novelle in the context of social and political power struggles. Williamsen also stresses the ironic structure of the novelle as she refutes critics who present Zayas as an advocate of the honor code.

In part 3, on "The Dynamics of Desire," Stroud reads the play La traicion en la amistad through Lacan, Whitehack considers the psychology that underlies Zayas's use of enchantments and black magic, and El Saffar views literary devices and decisions made within the texts as signs of Zayas's personal confrontation with the social norm and with her own identity as a writer and as a woman. Part 4, "The Dynamics of Narrative," features essays by Clamurro on the intersection of madness, narrative form, and the social analogue in Estragos que causa el vicio and by Enriquez de Salamanca on Zayas's use of parody and the grotesque to undermine the sanctity of a masculinist ordering of the universe.

The essays are uniformly well-written and engaging. If there is a unifying purpose, it would seem to be to define the particular recourses through which Maria de Zayas calls into question the reigning judgments on women's place and women's space. The deep structure of social institutions and notions of subjectivity inform both the composition of the texts and readings by scholars interested in unjustified margins and in new centers of investigation.

EDWARD H. FRIEDMAN Indiana University
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Author:Friedman, Edward H.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1997
Words:672
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