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Spanish comedia brims with examples of fluid gender identification. Not only do women frequently dress as men, but other characters almost always accept them as men or women depending solely on the clothes they wear. Is gender so superficial in these plays that it is merely a function of one's choosing the signifiers one wants to wear? Or is there an essentialism to gender that forces each character to assume the gender that corresponds to his or her sex in order to have a happy ending? Or is it something else, perhaps more reflective of Judith Butler's investigations into the performative aspects of gender, in which gender is an inculcated function of the symbolic Other, and is neither consciously chosen nor casually acquired? Informed by phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and feminism, Butler has constructed a thoroughgoing theory of gender in which the materiality of the body does not take precedence over its meaning. The body is inscribed by culture and history; it is a set of possibilities to be continually realized through construction by corporeal acts. Sex is a biological fact, but gender is cultural interpretation or signification, and gender is as gender does. Gender as performative implies that there is no pre-existing identity by which an act or attribute might be measured, no true or false, real or distorted acts of gender. Even the notions of an essential sex are part of the constructs to regulate and control gender and to conceal its performative nature.


Anita K. Stoll & Dawn L. Smith


Bucknell University Press





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Gender, Identity, and Representation in Spain’s Golden Age