Professor of Spanish Enrique García Santo-Tomás recently published his latest book, María de Zayas y la imaginación crítica: Bibliografía razonada y comentada.
1. What is your book about?
This is a very unusual book in my trajectory as well as field-wise. On the one hand, it is a theoretical reflection on the state of Zayas studies and on early modern Spanish literature as a whole—a microhistory of Hispanism, if you will. On the other, it offers something much more practical in the form of a bibliography of ‘all things Zayas’, that is, a catalogue of Zayas’ complete works as well as all that has been written about her. And although the format of this part of the book is as user-friendly as it gets—organized in different categories such as books, articles, reviews, etc.—the novelty lies in that I have supplied the reader with a summary of each entry to make their job as easy as possible. This was initially thought of as a small project when we all went into lockdown in March of 2020, but with close to 650 entries in addition to three long essays and several indexes, the final product has turned out to be a little longer than expected.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
María de Zayas is an elusive figure, and this book claims that, in many ways, not a lot of substantial progress has been made in the last 100 years. We know very little about her, and recent research has revealed that there were at least nine women with that name living in 17th-century Madrid. Some very influential critics have recently gone even further, arguing that Zayas was the heteronym of a famous novelist who fancied dressing in female garments when socializing with his peers in the literary gatherings of the time—the word saya referred to a type of very popular skirt. So, with the arrival of this ‘Mary the skirt-wearer’, things remain considerably muddy, and this book therefore recommends some caution when equating history with fiction (or life with literature), as has often been the case. The suggestion, in fact, begins with the imaginación crítica of its title: a bit of rigor is always welcome when taking the written word as the result of a personal experience.
3. Who is your target audience?
I hope this book can cater to different audiences. Zayas was first and foremost a novelist, so I hope it can be useful to not only my colleagues studying her two short story collections and/or the history of the early modern novel, but also to students and anyone approaching her work for the first time. I also hope it can serve as a reference guide to scholars writing on her work, as I provide a very useful resource that can save them a lot of time. Additionally, since Zayas also wrote a bit of poetry and a fairly famous play, I hope this study can be useful to other types of readers such as theater directors and actors.
4. What do you hope people gain from reading your book?
This book does several things simultaneously and depending on how you read it. On a very basic level, I think it helps us understand the main threads of Siglo de Oro studies in the last century through the examination of one of its most admired authors. But I also think that it can lead us to rethink critically some established ideas that may need to be revisited, such as the notion of escritura femenina, for example. Ultimately, I believe Zayas is driving a very exciting conversation I would like to be part of.