Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2013

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 01/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Filios, Denise K.

Second Advisor

Rodríguez-Rodríguez, Ana Ma.

First Committee Member

Gollnick, Brian

Second Committee Member

Lewis, Tom

Third Committee Member

Martín-Estudillo, Luis


In "Contestatory Subjects: Performance and the Politics of Recognition in Don Quijote," I analyze the performative strategies used by several well-known characters in Cervantes' 1605 Don Quijote to counter their initial displacement and to constitute an alternative yet acceptable subject position for themselves within the socio-historic structure of the text. Throughout the study, I posit that successful subjectivity requires more than the character who performs any given subject position; it requires a response, an on-going dialogue between self and other - and most importantly - it requires an ethical commitment to the process on the part of the witness, be that witness intra- or extra-textual.

My analysis of Dorotea, Ruy Pérez, and Zoraida shows that their individual performances are really communal or dialogic processes played out in conjunction with other characters. My project therefore counters the tendency to study each character's story as an isolated performance or as a self-contained intercalated tale in Don Quijote. Rather, I offer a more holistic or integrated examination of a trajectory of contestatory performances throughout Part I of the Quijote. With each performance, the 1605 novel increasingly expands the normative limits of social inclusivity in Early Modern Spain, ultimately arguing in the last chapters for the accommodation of a mora cristiana within the limits of the recognizable. In viewing these characters not as isolated, self-fashioning individuals but rather as a community of performers and ethical witnesses, my analysis points toward a didactic project on Cervantes's part in the 1605 novel, in which he uses these characters to model and tutor the reader in empathetic reading strategies that forestall the inquisitorial hermeneutic imposed by the State and the Church in Habsburg Spain.

My analysis of Cervantes's contestatory performances and their receptions draws primarily on critical theories of gender and performance studies in combination with the cultural materialist studies of early modern Spain (e.g., Cruz, Fuchs, Hernández-Pecoraro, Johnson, Maravall, Mariscal, Presberg, Sieber). Of particular importance are Judith Butler's work on gender performativity and Kelly Oliver's work on witnessing, which nuances Butler's notion of performativity by addressing the ethical responsibilities on the part of the witness/spectator. Each chapter links the performance in question back to the material conditions and available discourses vying to produce acceptable subjects in early modern Spain. In terms of normative discourses, the most obvious institutions involved in the formation and reformation of the seventeenth-century Spanish subject are the Church and the Absolutist state, quite effectively combined in the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Therefore, this study features a number of theological, economic, and social treatises that were written in an effort to constitute the ideal Spanish subject in terms of gender, religion, race/ethnicity and class/estado. Around these normative subject positions we observe the subsequent formation of resistant or contestatory discourses, which also feature prominently in each chapter of the study.

By combining the work of Butler and Oliver, and insisting on an analysis of both the performer and the spectator in various scenes of Don Quijote, Part I, this project fills gaps in the scholarship on Cervantes and performance studies, which have tended to privilege the performance of the self-fashioning individual while overlooking the dialogic nature of performativity. I show that there is more at stake than opening space for projects of private perfection, which is no doubt a necessary goal. Also at stake are ethical relationships with others and shared projects of social reform and restoration. In all of the performances I analyze here, Cervantes creates characters who self-fashion by reiterating and manipulating contrary, traditionally binary discourses around gender, class, race/ethnicity, religion, and nationality. In turn, his fictional witness-listeners model the ethical posture necessary to maintain a productive openness to the characters' difference. Together, their performances induce us to accept the contestatory virtues of faith, good works, and caritas over the normative determinants of blood (purity) and lineage (old-order occupations; ejercicios), which the novel shows to be tired categories that are encouraging costly foreign wars, emigration to the New World, declining fertility rates, and unproductive economic investments.


Cervantes, Don Quijote, Dorotea, Performance, Ruy Pérez de Viedma, Zoraida


vii, 188 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 180-188).


Copyright © 2013 Christine Anne Garst-Santos

Available for download on Friday, January 31, 2020