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Propuestas para (re)construir una nación: El teatro de Emilia Pardo Bazán

Margot Versteeg

Propuestas para (re)construir una nación explores how Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851–1921) imagines and engenders the Spanish nation in her theatrical productions staged and/or published between 1898 and 1909. In the aftermath of Spain’s colonial losses, when Spain’s male authors, in a growing mood of collective introspection, directed their attention to the homeland, Pardo Bazán generated a series of theatrical proposals to revitalize the nation. In her plays, she manifests her ideas about Spain’s fin de siècle crisis, reflects on Spain’s place in the international arena (emphasizing the nation’s civilizing mission), critiques the intoxicating power of the so-called golden legend (Spain’s glorious past), and sees the origin of the nation’s hardship in the lack of education of its inhabitants and in the inequality between men and women.

Pardo Bazán’s vision of Spain is forward looking, and she imagines a future in which new social configurations will be possible. Instead of locating her plays in an ancestral Castile, she situates several of her works in her native Galicia. For the author, Spain’s regional issues are inseparable from the country’s national issues and these can all be traced back to the woman question. The playwright appeals to the spectators/readers’ reason and emotions in order to let them think and feel that the problems the nation faces can all be attributed to the Spanish men. For Pardo Bazán, Spain’s potential for national regeneration resided in the inner strength of women.

Propuestas offers a new perspective on the participation of female authors in the contentious debate about the Spanish nation. Pardo Bazán’s theater is an overlooked area in the author’s extensive creative production, and Propuestas challenges the so often repeated topic of the backwardness of the Spanish stage and the alleged lack of innovation during the fin de siècle.


This is a terrific book. The author analyses Pardo Bazán’s plays as representations of regional (Galician) and national identity, but consistently underscores her focus on feminism and the role of women in society. Pardo Bazán was an impressively flexible dramatist whose plays included regional concerns, national issues, gender discussions, class conflicts, symbolist rhetoric, melodrama, dialogues, and monologues. There has been a lot of critical commentary in the past twenty years concerning gender, anxiety, and nation, but here we get concrete examples of how these concerns informed the work of one of Spain’s greatest nineteenth-century writers.”

David T. Gies, University of Virginia

In addition to Margot Versteeg's comprehensive analysis of Pardo Bazán's theatrical works, Propuestas para (Re)construir una nación: El teatro de Emilia Pardo Bazán also includes copious notes...two helpful appendices, an alphabetical index, and an extensive bibliography. I am inclined to agree with David T. Gies's assessment, as printed on the back cover of the volume: "This is a terrific book" about a long-overlooked subject. It needs to be in the library of any scholar of Emilia Pardo Bazán, gender, or the function of literature in nation-building.

Joan Hoffman, Hispania. For the complete review, see Hospania 103.3 (2020): 435.


Margot Versteeg is a professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas. She has published numerous articles on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century literature and culture, and is the author of two books: one on 19th century Spanish theater (De fusiladores y morcilleros: el discurso cómico del género chico (1870–1910), Rodopi 2000) and another on nineteenth-century proto-intellectuals (Jornaleros de la pluma. La definición del papel del escritor-periodista en la revista Madrid Cómico, Iberoamericana/Vervuert 2011). She also coedited Teaching the Works of Emilia Pardo Bazán (MLA 2017, with Susan Walter), and Imagined Truths: Realism in Modern Spanish Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press 2019, with Mary Coffey).



PSRL 76. Paper. $45.00. e-Book available. 


Page last updated on 25 June 2021.

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