Feminine voice and space in early modern Iberian convent theater
In the early modern period, theater thrived in convents across Spain and Portugal. This dissertation takes a closer look at the phenomenon through the lens of spatial theory and theorists such as Henri LeFebvre, Michel de Certeau, and Edward Soja, who insist that space is both place and practice. The space of the convent, then, informed the works that the nuns wrote and performed within its walls. It also allowed feminist elements and subtle resistance to patriarchal norms to thrive in the works of Sor Marcela de San Félix, Sor Cecilia del Nacimiento, Sor María de San Alberto, Sor Maria do Ceo, and Sor Violante do Ceo. In their works, we find new versions of classic theatrical forms, the presence of a tradition of women writers combatting the anxiety of authorship, strong Marian figures who deflect the male gaze, and groundbreaking roles for women not found extramuros. Although the dramatic works of these women do not generally figure in the canon of Golden Age Iberian literature, they point to a unique and rich theatrical tradition that paralleled the enormously popular secular theater of the day, the comedia nueva of Lope de Vega and of his followers and successors. The convent space, both protective and restrictive, guaranteed that early modern Iberian nuns could defy societal expectations and control. Within the walls of the convent, religious women enjoyed experiences that they would not have had in the secular world. In the cloister, they freely wrote, acted, and directed, and the theater that they produced evidences a unique and distinctive dramatic tradition that deserves a place in the classical literary canon of Spain and Portugal.
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