The Tyrannies of the In-Between: Liminality in Antonio Buero Vallejo’s Historia de una escalera

Antonio Buero Vallejo’s Historia de una escalera (1949) is widely considered a fundamental work in twentieth-century Spanish drama because of its adaptation of the tradition of the sainete and its role as a direct precedent of the realismo social of the 1950s. This position between two theatrical traditions highlights Historia de una escalera’s connection to the concepts of liminality and transition, yet existing scholarship has not adequately analyzed the formal aspects of the play as experimentation in liminality itself. This paper presents an interpretation of the staircase as a liminal space—here, closely tied to Foucault’s concept of the heterotopia—between the intimate setting of the home and the exposed, public streets of Madrid, in order to reveal how normative behaviors of both offstage spaces are reproduced or challenged within the staircase. I argue that the staircase is a liminal space that fails to live up to its promise because of the social pressures exerted on it from both of its “ends.” By examining the power structures that emerge within the staircase, this paper reveals how liminality can confine its subjects in a transitional state over several generations.


Panel: Expanding the Conceptual Framework of Liminal Spaces: Literature, Culture, and Film in 20th Century Spain

Panel Organizer: Lisa Nalbone and Alison Ridley


  • Spanish Peninsular Studies