BA Italian and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Writing Women in the Spanish Golden Age

Course unit fact file
Unit code SPLA20161
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Women have played a central part in Hispanic literature, but they have often been showed as passive recipients of the male author’s voice. This course unit explores the representation of women in the works of canonical writers such as Garcilaso de la Vega, Cervantes and El Inca Garcilaso. We also examine the (proto)feminist texts of women writing on the cusp of modernity: Catalina de Erauso, María de Zayas and Sor Juana. Gaining a place in the intellectual circles of the Spanish empire was not an easy endeavour for them. However, by putting forward a revision of gender roles, these women distorted conventional representations of femininity on both sides of the Atlantic. No previous knowledge of early modern Spanish literature, culture or history is required to enrol on the unit. Although several readings and seminar materials will be assigned in Spanish, English translations or alternatives will be made available where required. 


Available on: All programmes with Spanish


  • To provide a cross-cultural picture of women’s writing and gender issues in early modern Spain and Latin America
  • To provide basic grounding in the relationship between literature, gender and sexuality
  • To highlight the prominence of female writers within a more inclusive and less hierarchical canon of Spanish Golden Age and viceregal Latin American literatures

Knowledge and understanding

Upon successful completion of this unit students will be able to:


  • Identify and describe major writers of either gender in Renaissance and Baroque Spain and Latin America
  • Understand and explain some of the ways in which different literary genres (novels, novellas, plays, poems) can reflect social transformations
  • Assess the potential of gender theory and critical race theory to inform the relationship between gender, race and oppression

Intellectual skills

Upon successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  • Examine and understand the challenges faced by female literary production in early modern Spain and Latin America.
  • Discuss literary representations of women by canonical male authors
  • Consolidate research and critical thinking skills

Practical skills

Upon successful completion of this unit students will have further developed their ability to:

  • Read, understand and discuss early modern literary works
  • Apply critical theory to cultural productions
  • Articulate ideas in written and oral form in a critical manner

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Upon successful completion of this unit students will have:

  • Honed their communication skills for working both collaboratively and independently
  • Furthered their ability to critically evaluate texts and ideas
  • Developed skills to critically examine the intersections between gender and sexuality within and beyond Spanish literature

Employability skills

The course will be useful for students considering a career in Spain or Latin America or with organisations that deal with Spanish-speaking countries, particularly in the cultural heritage sector (e.g. museums, libraries or archives) or in institutions that promote gender equality and women's rights. Given its research component, the course will also benefit students considering graduate studies.

Assessment methods

Assessment task Formative or Summative Weighting within unit (if summative)
Close reading commentary Summative 50%
Open book exam Summative 50%


Resit Assessment

Assessment task


Feedback methods

Feedback method  

Formative or Summative 

Oral feedback to class during lectures and to groups during seminars 


One-to-one feedback (during consultation hours or by making an appointment) at the students’ request 


Written feedback on assessed commentary 

Formative and summative 

Written feedback on open book exam 


Recommended reading

  • Baranda, Nieves, and Anne J. Cruz. 2018. The Routledge Research Companion to Early Modern Spanish Women Writers (Abingdon/New York: Routledge)
  • Franco, Jean. 1989. Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico (New York: Columbia University Press)
  • Howe, Elizabeth Teresa. 2008. Education and Women in the Early Modern Hispanic World (Aldershot/Burlington: Ashgate)
  • Greer Johnson, Julie. 1983. Women in Colonial Spanish American Literature: Literary Images (Westport/London: Greenwood Press)
  • McKendrick, Melveena. 1974. Woman and Society in the Spanish Drama of the Golden Age: A Study of the mujer varonil (London, New York: Cambridge University Press)
  • Merrim, Stephanie. 1999. Early Modern Women’s Writing and Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press)
  • Perry, Mary Elizabeth. 1990. Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville (Princeton: Princeton University Press)
  • Quispe-Agnoli, Rocío. 2016. Women’s Negotiations and Textual Agency in Latin America, 1500-1799, ed. by Mónica Díaz (Routledge)
  • Smith, Paul Julian. 1989. The Body Hispanic: Gender and Sexuality in Spanish and Spanish American Literature (Oxford: Clarendon)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Luis Castellvi Laukamp Unit coordinator

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