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  • Exemplary Tales of Love and Tales of Disillusion
  • Charles Patterson
Zayas y Sotomayor, María de . Exemplary Tales of Love and Tales of Disillusion. Ed. and Trans. Margaret R. Greer and Elizabeth Rhodes. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009. Pp. 364. ISBN 978-0-226-76864-9.

Although there have been a small handful of previous translations of María de Zayas's works, Margaret R. Greer and Elizabeth Rhodes's new edition fills an important niche. Instead of attempting to simplify the stories and make them accessible, Greer and Rhodes have done their best to replicate the experience of reading Zayas's works in Spanish, thereby conveying the difficulties and complexities of language and culture that make Zayas so intriguing to scholars.

This volume is part of a series entitled The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe, the purpose of which is to introduce early women writers from throughout Europe to English-speaking audiences. The introduction to the series, published at the beginning of each volume and written by the series editors, Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr., is a concise and panoramic history of the development of misogynist attitudes in ancient and medieval Europe. It culminates in a discussion of Renaissance humanism, which gave rise to the emergence of women writers capable of rebutting the anti-feminist attitudes rooted in Greek philosophy, Roman law, and Christian theology.

The historical survey given in the series introduction effectively contextualizes Greer and Rhodes's own introduction to Zayas's life and work as one of these early modern women writers. The biographical information included is by necessity speculative, since very little documentation exists about Zayas's life, and, as the editors point out, María de Zayas was a fairly common name in Spain. Their discussion of historical context is scholarly yet accessible for non-specialists. The strongest part of this introduction is the discussion of Zayas's place in literary tradition and her manipulation of literary conventions. The editors tie her poetic and narrative innovations to the tensions she faced as a female writer in a literary world dominated by men, which leads to an informative review of recent critical evaluations of Zayas's feminism.

The volume includes a selection of tales from Zayas's two works, Novelas amorosas y ejemplares and Desengaños amorosos. Greer and Rhodes wisely chose to include Zayas's two prologues, in which she rebuts misogynist discourse and defends literary pursuits for women, as well as the frame material accompanying the selected tales in order to preserve the context in which they are found in the original. The tales included are "Aventurarse perdiendo" ("Taking a Chance on Losing"), "El prevenido engañado" ("Forewarned but Fooled"), "El juez de su causa" ("The Judge of Her Own Case"), "El jardín engañoso" ("The Deceitful Garden"), "Desengaño 1: La esclava de su amante" ("First Tale of Disillusion: Her Lover's Slave"), and [End Page 715] the fifth and tenth "Desengaños." The translators note that they chose the first and last tale from each volume, as well as two additional selections from the Novelas amorosas and one additional tale from Desengaños amorosos. They explain that their intent was to include a sampling of tales told by narrators of both sexes, show an example of Zayas's humor, and include tales that highlight various types of women (4). While certainly more inclusions would have been desirable, the volume provides a representative sampling of Zayas's work.

Greer and Rhodes describe their approach to translation as seeking "a balance between readability and fidelity to Zayas's style and texture" (32). They were more successful at the latter than the former, mainly because of their insistence on translating "at just one remove from a literal rendition" (39). For the most part, they preserve Zayas's long, complex sentence structure. The result is a reading experience that closely replicates that of reading Zayas's original in all its Baroque complexity. This approach presents certain difficulties. For example, where Zayas often plays with the gender ambiguity of Spanish pronouns, the translators had to choose between masculine and feminine in their English rendition. Occasionally Zayas's sentences lack...


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