Female Quixotism in Marta y María by Armando Palacio Valdés

In Marta y María (1883), Spanish novelist Armando Palacio Valdés's protagonist aspires to religious heroism, a particular type of female quixotism that would also characterize Leopoldo Alas’s protagonist in La Regenta (1884-1885) and is reminiscent of the protagonist of Mexican novelist Leandro Fernández de Lizardi’s La Quijotita y su prima (published in installments between 1818-1819, and in complete form in 1832). Like these novelists, Palacio Valdés appropriated and feminized the transnational quixotic model to critique Spain’s process of modernization and the definition of national character. As Eve Tavor Bannet states, “quixotic texts repeatedly put into question the continued applicability of anachronistic transnational imitations in conduct and writing to different ranks, localities, and genders” (“Quixotes, Imitations, and Transatlantic Genres,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 40.4 [2007], 553). In the course of their circulation, translation, and adaptation, quixotism and quixotes were detached from their Spanish origins only to be reinserted, carrying the traces of their transnational figurations. Analyzing the quixotic character in the context of world literature, Aaron Hanlon points out that the uprooting of the character of Don Quixote from the Spanish national context allowed the quixote to become a vehicle to define other national characters (“Quixotism as Global Heuristic.” SECC 46 [2017]: 49-63, forthcoming). This presentation will consider Marta y María’s relation to the discourse of transnational female quixotism and to the process of national identity formation in 19th-century Spain.


  • Spanish Peninsular Studies