Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences


Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Moisés R. Castillo


Throughout her two collections of novelas, Novelas amorosas y ejemplares and Desengaños amorosos, María de Zayas, as a noble woman writing in Golden Age Spain, strategically holds onto aspects of the patriarchal society under which she lives, and from which she benefits, while simultaneously deviating slightly from some of these aspects. This adherence to and deviation from the norms characterizes her style and allows her to support some of the expected codes of conduct in her society while, at the same time, pointing out flaws and questioning these codes to show how they should be altered to make life better for both the men and women of that society.

Through various narrative voices and characters, Zayas creates a type of guidebook, or manual, for both the men and women of her society. Through cross dressing she establishes an essential equality between the abilities of the sexes and establishes that the actions of men and women are chosen activities, and are not related to innate ability or disability to perform a certain way. How individuals position themselves in regard to accepted or expected behavioral codes of conduct is a choice and, as individuals, men and women can choose to perform either negative or positive practices associated with their sex.

This dissertation looks closely at the guide that is created and the practices which are highlighted as good and bad, thus identifying which manners of being should be emulated and which should be avoided, and therefore altered as societal expectations or norms, by men and women. Through negative and positive portrayals, Zayas shows men and women how they should and should not act in order to create a more ideal and, consequently, more equal society that differs in some ways from their present society while still retaining the overall structure and values of the patriarchy under which they already exist. It is not the creation of an entirely new society that the resulting guidebook suggests, rather it suggests an alteration to the perspectives and behavior, toward the positive, of both men and women as they exist in their current society.

Available for download on Friday, March 03, 2023