Ghostly traces: Gender and genre in the popular Gothic fiction of early nineteenth-century Spain

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Gema Perez-Sanchez - Committee Chair


This dissertation contributes critically to the revival of early 1800s Peninsular literature, and specifically addresses the very definition of the Spanish Gothic by teasing it out of Romanticism. At the same time, this study topically and theoretically focuses on the notion of "Woman in extremis" and traces the emergence of a new anthropological typology and literary representation of womanhood in an anonymous novella (Cornelia Bororquia), a theater play by Manuel Jose Quintana (El duque de Viseo), and short stories by Pedro de Madrazo ("Yago Yasck"), Antonio Ros de Olano ("El anima de mi madre"), and Agustin Perez Zaragoza ("Condesa de Celan"). Combining Kleinian psychoanalysis, cultural, and gender studies, the thesis shows that the semiotics of women as victims, corpses, and ghosts functions in these works as allegorical projecting sites of the uncertainties and crises resulting from the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the Bourbon restoration, and the subsequent truncation of modernity in Spain. A careful study of the political, historical, and socio-symbolic conditions at the transitional period following the Enlightenment reveals how Gothic literary works both conform and contest socio-political and economic shifts. In particular, I conclude that images of Woman in extremis in the Gothic function as sites of cultural and historic trauma, as targets for relieving anxieties resulting from economic and political crisis, and as scapegoat to suture fracturing at group level. Relief to this basic split comes by projecting unbearable tensions onto a feminine Other in death, once the French invaders and the liberal intelligentsia are banished from Spain.A comparative approach, involving British, French, and German literature (specifically Romanticism, the Gothic, Sturm und Drang, and the French roman noir and frenetique ), contributes to the task of characterizing a specifically Spanish Gothic mode. Notably, the heroine in the early Spanish Gothic, almost always dies gruesomely and is generally evil. Once the Church and the aristocracy are cast in a negative light after Fernando VII's death in 1833, then the hitherto sinful heroine turns virtuous. I also conclude that male authors' representations of femininity posit a not fully defined view of a woman's place.


Literature, Comparative; Literature, Modern; Anthropology, Cultural

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