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REVIEWS Donnell, Sidney. Feminizing the Enemy: Imperial Spain, Transvestite Drama, and the Crisis of Masculinity. Lewisburg: Bucknell UP, 2003. 312 pages. Interest in looking at the comedia from the perspective of queer studies has grown quite rapidly in the past ten years, and Sidney Donnell has established himselfas one ofthe pioneers in this relatively new field. His first monograph, Feminizing the Enemy, is a brilliant, solid, clever, and important work that should forever dispel the notion that it is somehow inappropriate to look at early modern theater through the lens oftwentyfirst century theory. Indeed, although queering the plays in question is one of his principal goals, this book is also a work of extraordinary literary insight and a serious treatment of some lesser-known plays of both the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that will no doubt become a standard reference for comedia scholarship, queer or not. The first half of the book is dedicated to an historical overview, both theatrical and political, of the sixteenth century, as well as dedicated to studies ofLope de Rueda's Comedia Medora and Comedia de los amores y locuras del conde loco, by Alonso de Morales. Drawing heavily, and appropriately, on George Mariscal's 1991 monograph, Contradictory Subjects, Donnell attempts to problematize the shift in the late 1580s from using men and boys to play women's roles to having women appear on stage. Donnell may frequently oversimplify the aims and methods of Felipe II as absolutist and masculinist, thus denying to his historical research the kind of rich nuance he brings to his literary studies, but his points are valid. Without doubt, there was a growing anxiety about the strength and purpose of the empire, and this anxiety was bound up in notions of gender. For a variety of reasons, Spain viewed its adversaries 209 210BCom, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2005) as more feminized and fretted over any possible loss of masculinity at home that could undermine the imperial edifice. As examples of these anxieties, Donnell brings his considerable literary talents to his discussions of two plays, the very familiar Comedia Medora and the much less well-known El conde loco. In both cases, Donnell displays considerable erudition and a great facility for explaining his ideas. Of special note here are his discussions of the cross-dressing and double-casting in Comedia Medora, against the background of boys in the roles of feminine characters, and his notion ofrecasting ofthe love triangle in three-dimensional terms as a tetrahedron in El conde loco. Less convincing is the application of Lacanian psychoanalysis to the latter play; his use of such terms as phallus and real are rarely appropriately applied, but if one looks at his study for what it says about the play (rather than what it says about Lacan), Donnell's assertions are once again interesting and useful. The second half of the book is dedicated to the seventeenth century, and it follows a similar trajectory. Donnell begins with an historical contextualization ofthe Spanish self-image under the later Habsburgs, and he makes good use of the case of Catalina de Erauso. He then moves on to placing the theater in the context ofever more frustration and disappointing news for the empire, while noting the relative freedom allowed the theater to address topical issues and satirize them, especially by means of playing with gender norms. The seventeenth-century plays for discussion, all of them of interest, but none of them frequently studied, are Lope de Vega's El paraíso de Laura y florestas de amor, Monroy y Suva's El caballero dama, and Calderón's Lapúrpura de la rosa. Basing much of his discussion of Lope's El paraíso de Laura on the important work of Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, he explores the role of the male-to-female transvestite and, more generally, the broad overlapping ofgender, class, and politics in the signifiers brought to the stage by clothing. From Donnell's precise description, it is imminently clear that not nearly enough attention has been paid to this remarkable play in which the gracioso, Camarón, convinces each oftwo lackeys to seduce the other's master...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 209-211
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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