Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Rodríguez-Rodríguez, Ana M

First Committee Member

Filios, Denise K

Second Committee Member

Martín-Estudillo, Luis

Third Committee Member

Méndez Rodenas, Adriana

Fourth Committee Member

Merino, Ana


This dissertation examines narratives of early modern women travelers and the spectacles these women produced as a strategy to negotiate gender paradigms that aimed to silence and immobilize women. In María de Zayas's short novel “La esclava de su amante” (1647), the protagonist's journey to North Africa gives her the tools she needs to publically address her rape. Historia de la Monja Alférez (c. 1626) is the autobiography of Catalina de Erauso, whose constant movement on both sides of the Atlantic allows her to construct a spectacle of hybridity that both entertains her audiences and authorizes her many transgressions. Finally, Viaje de cinco religiosas capuchinas de Madrid a Lima (1722) highlights the masses of people who clamor to catch a glimpse of the itinerant nuns, creating a spectacle that reaffirms the women's importance in the social hierarchy of the Spanish Kingdom. In these three baroque texts, I highlight the construction of the female traveler's body and the suffering it endures while crossing great distances. I examine the ways in which each text reimagines or reorganizes the traveler's social relationships and her place in early modern Hispanic society. Through an analysis of spectacle based on the mediation of these relationships, I interrogate the image of women travelers and the power that image has to push back against a gendered social hierarchy.

Public Abstract

This dissertation examines narratives of Spanish women who traveled and narrated their travels in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I analyze the strategies women used to justify their mobility in three texts. The first is María de Zayas’s “La esclava de su amante” (1647), a short novel about a noble Christian woman who dresses as a Muslim slave to escape her home after she is raped by a family friend. The second is Historia de la Monja Alférez (c. 1626), the autobiography of a woman who flees a convent to disguise herself as a man and travel to South America as a Spanish soldier. The final text is Viaje de cinco religiosas capuchinas de Madrid a Lima (1722), which includes the memories of five nuns who travel from Madrid to Lima to found a new convent. As these women travel and write about their travels, they must take into account the social norms of the time period. During this time, noblewomen were raised to be silent and obedient, and they were expected to remain inside their homes or convents. In my analysis of these three travel narratives, I examine the ways that traveling women present themselves to an audience, and the strategies they use to protect their reputations and authorize their movement to and through public spaces. These traveling protagonists frame their narratives and identities in such a way as to persuade their audience to identify with the women and their sometimes problematic and risky decisions to leave home.


publicabstract, Early Modern Spain, Erauso, Catalina de, Gender, Spectacle, Travel literature, Zayas y Sotomayor, María de


vii, 250 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 238-250).


Copyright 2016 Cortney Marie Benjamin