Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Graduate School


Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Larson

Second Advisor

Dr. Moisés Castillo


Queer(ing) Confessions reconsiders the readings – both the act of reading, as well as the interpretations produced during that act – of Silver Age Spanish texts representing non-(hetero)normative identities and behaviors. Traditionally, texts portraying female queerness have been read as either literary tropes and constellation points for anxieties of modernizing Spain, or simple, saucy smut intended to fuel male fantasies. These interpretations – which have now become normative – are, nevertheless, rooted in thorny notions of authorial intent and textual purpose. This dissertation diverges from existing scholarship in proposing that a shift in paradigm – away from the Author, and toward the function of the reader in their process of literary exchange – can liberate these truly revolutionary texts from the prisons of purpose and intention in which they have been incarcerated.

Breaking away from author-centered approaches to literature that envision texts as fixed artifacts that contain predetermined messages which require decoding, the present project posits Carmen de Burgos’s La melena de la discordia (1925), Zezé (1909) by Ángeles Vicente, and Se limpia a domicilio (c. 1916-1927) by Carlos Santafé, as the confessions of a queer society, the revelations of a perverse, and, yet, very real nonnormative social truth. Transliterated by subjects made privy to said truth, it is that very truth, and the reading subject’s psychical exchange with it, that take center stage in this framework. These textual compositions, rather than fixed artifacts containing predetermined meanings and requiring decoding, had the potential to become radically liberating spaces of psychical fantasy for early-twentieth-century Spanish readers. For some, these emancipatory spaces provided a simple judgment-free jaunt into taboo territory; for others, they afforded a necessary psychical release, essential for the queer subject’s very survival in a material reality hostile to non-normativity. The consideration of these radical psychical experiences presents a necessary alternative to studies that reproduce “normative” readings of these texts, interpreting them through a heteropatriarchal lens, and further contributing, however unintentionally, to the silencing and rendering invisible of non-(hetero)normative female subjects and their queer voices.

Taking an eclectic but decidedly queer methodological approach, Chapter One analyzes the societal framework and dominant gender ideology in circulation in early twentieth-century Spain. Chapter Two looks to Carmen de Burgos’ La melena de la discordia to illustrate how the framework and ideology discussed in Chapter One confesses itself upon

the Silver Age page, revealing society’s queerness. Chapter Three, calling upon Spanish philosopher María Zambrano’s concept of razón poética as well as her publications La confesión: género literario (1941), La vida en crisis (1934), and El freudismo, testimonio del hombre actual (1940), in conjunction with Foucauldian notions of confession, articulates a theory that understands literary texts as compulsory confessions of (societal)-truth-witnessing subjects. Chapter Four, engaging with nonfictional representations of non-(hetero)normativity in illustrated magazines, as well as with the sociological studies of Ramón Serrano Vicéns and Matilde Albarracín, reveals data-driven truths about real-life Silver Age queer female subjects. Chapter Five, drawing from psychosocial as well as Benthamian and Foucauldian panoptical theories, exposes the why and how behind the closeting of the queer truths – the erasure of the real-life presence/existence of non-(hetero)normative female subjects – revealed in Chapter Four. Bolstered by psychoanalytic theory (particularly the work of Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, Jacques Lacan and Sigmund Freud), reader-response (Louise Rosenblatt and Wolfgang Iser), and reception theory (Hans Robert Jauss), Chapter Six illustrates how, through the psychoanalytic structure of phantasy, queer(ing) confessions function as, both, psychical spaces of liberation and/or edification. Chapter Seven carries out be(for)e the reader, the queer(ing) confessionary exchanges through close readings of selections from Zezé and Se limpia a domicilio. Chapter Eight humanizes the academic research proposed in the pages of this dissertation, highlighting its importance and utility not solely within the realm of Hispanism, but beyond.

Queering Confessions, in scrutinizing Spanish texts, subjects, and social structures between 1898 and 1939, is a comprehensive study specific to Silver Age Spain. Nevertheless, in exposing the universal human psychological processes, and social politicoreligious processes that are involved in upholding and perpetuating iniquitous systems that necessitate the persecution and erasure of subjects that defy facile categorizations of gender and (sex)uality, this dissertation may also appeal to a broader readership. While enriching the field of Hispanism, this dissertation also seeks to make a strategic intervention in Anglophone areas of study that consider alternative female identities and sexualities, while simultaneously making a strategic contribution to the current political debate regarding LGBTQ+ rights in contemporary North America.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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