Passing in Early Twentieth-Century Spain: The Case of Mario/Elisa and Marcela

Episode 39 with Joyce Tolliver and Sean McDaniel

In 1901, news that two women had married in the region of Galicia in Northwestern Spain made national headlines and still surprises us today. How did this “marriage without a man,” as it was known, occur and what was the reaction to it in the regional and national press? Profs. Joyce Tolliver and Sean McDaniel discuss what we can learn from this unusual case about passing, gender and being in early twentieth-century Spain. This episode accompanies their article on the subject in the latest issue of the Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies.

The Episode

The Guests

Joyce Tolliver is a faculty member in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Illinois- Urbana, where she also directs the Program in Translation and Interpreting Studies. Her scholarship has explored various aspects of the literature and cultures of Spain and of the Philippines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a focus on representations of gender, race, and sexuality. She is the author of Cigar Smoke and Violet Water: Gendered Discourse in the Stories of Emilia Pardo Bazán and of an edition of Pardo Bazán’s short stories about gender, “El encaje roto” y otros cuentos de Emilia Pardo Bazán. She also co-edited the volume Disciplines on the Line: Feminist Research on Spanish, Latin American, and U.S. Latina Women, along withAnne J. Cruz and Rosilie Hernández-Pecoraro. The work we will discuss today is part of her larger collaborative project with Sean McDaniel on representations of passing in Early Modern and modern Spanish texts.

Sean McDaniel is a faculty member at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002, and having served several years as department chair. He has Masters in both Spanish and History from Ohio University and completed his Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998. His work focuses on early modern Spanish literature, and how that literature participated in the evolution of identity categories in the period. He has published on Lazarillo de Tormes, the works of Joan Timoneda, and Cervantes, among others. As part of that work, he has collaborated with Joyce Tolliver on examining representations of identity categories from the early modern period to the present.

Suggested Readings

Newspaper Accounts from 1901

  • “Un matrimonio sin hombre: Asunto ruidoso.” La Voz de Galicia, 22-30 June 1901.
  • “Matrimonio sin hombre.” El Suceso Ilustrado, 14 July 1901.
  • Pardo Bazán, Emilia. “Sobre ascuas.” La Ilustración Artística 1019 (8 July 1901). Revised version included in Pardo Bazán, De siglo a siglo (1896-1901), Obras completas. Vol. 24. Madrid: Administración, 1911.

Current Scholarship on the Press Coverage of the 1901 Wedding

  • Gabriel, Narciso de. Elisa y Marcela: Más allá de los hombres. Introduction by Manuel Rivas.  Barcelona, Libros del Silencio, 2010.
  • Gabriel, Narciso de. Elisa y Marcela: Amigas y amantes. Prologue by Isabel Coixet. Madrid: Morata, 2019.
  • Tolliver, Joyce. “‘La inaudita novela’: La masculinidad femenina en la periodística de Emilia Pardo Bazán.” In La literatura de Emilia Pardo Bazán. Edited by José Manuel González-Herrán. La Coruña: Real Academia Galega, 2009: 751-57.

About Passing

  • Butler, Judith. “Passing, Queering: Nella Larsen’s Psychoanalytic Challenge.” Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge, 1993: 167-86.
  • Fuchs, Barbara. Passing for Spain: Cervantes and the Fictions of Identity. University of Illinois Press, 2003).
  • Ginsberg, Elaine, ed. Passing and the Fictions of Identity.Durham: Duke University Press, 1996.
  • Irigoyen, Javier. Moors Dressed as Moors”: Clothing, Social Distinction, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Iberia. University of Toronto Press, 2017.
  • McDaniel, Sean, and Joyce Tolliver. “Superficialidad, seriedad, passing, y Los intereses creados.” Hecho Teatral 12 (2012): 43-60.
  • McDaniel, Sean, and Joyce Tolliver. “La vergüenza de don Alvaro.” Obscenidad, vergüenza, tabú: Contornos y retornos de lo reprimido entre los siglos XVIII y XIX.  Edited by Fernando Durán López. Cádiz: University of Cádiz, 2013: 311-19.
  • Robinson, Amy. “It Takes One to Know One: Passing and Communities of Common Interest.” Critical Inquiry 20 (summer 1994): 715-36.
  • Tolliver, Joyce, and Sean McDaniel. (2020) “Mario/Elisa and Marcela: Scandal and Surprise in the 1901 Spanish Press,” Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies 45, no. 1 (2020): 47-73.
  • Velasco, Sherry. The Lieutenant Nun: Transgenderism, Lesbian Desire, and Catalina de Erauso. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

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