The Cultural Labyrinth of María de ZayasUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Anniversary Collection Anniversary Collection
A seventeenth-century writer of sensationalist short stories, María de Zayas was a bestselling author, steeped in the novella traditions of Italy and France as well as her native Spain. At the same time, she was an important player in the tabloid craze sweeping over the Europe of her day.
Marina S. Brownlee recontextualizes María de Zayas and provides a reading of Zayas's work from the double perspective of narratology and feminism. In doing so Brownlee explores the complexities of human subjectivity and its representation in the writings of Zayas, who offers provocative assessments of the modern subject and its relationship to gender, and of the woman writer's negotiations with authority and authorship.
Zayas's stories question the validity of hegemonic discourses pertaining to public expectations for the citizen, to his or her intimate life, and to the intricacies resulting from any attempt to reconcile the two. Her writing is both daring and original as it reflects developments in contemporary fiction elsewhere in Europe.
Brownlee shows that Zayas exploits existing fiction models in highly literary ways and in ways that cash in on the new phenomenon of tabloid publishing, arguing that Zayas is keenly aware of the new readership that resulted from the mass-production revolution in the printing industry and of the private readers' taste for scandal. Finally, Zayas dramatizes the rethinking of the Renaissance exemplum, replacing easy interpretations with Baroque excess-in a text which, like society itself, is an intricate labyrinth that resists easy solutions and limited forms of literary and cultural representation.
"An insightful and well written study that stimulates a welcome reconsideration."—Caliope