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Women, Mysticism, and Hysteria in Fin-de-Siècle Spain

Author(s): Jennifer Smith

Women, Mysticism, and Hysteria in Fin‑de‑Siècle Spain argues that the reinterpretation of female mysticism as hysteria and nymphomania in late nineteenth‑ and early twentieth‑century Spain was part of a larger project to suppress the growing female emancipation movement by sexualizing the female subject. This archival-historical work highlights the phenomenon in medical, social, and literary texts of the time, illustrating that despite many liberals' hostility toward the Church, secular doctors and intellectuals employed strikingly similar paradigms to those through which the early modern Spanish Church castigated female mysticism as demonic possession.
     Author Jennifer Smith also directs modern historians to the writings of Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851–1921) as a thinker whose work points out mysticism’s subversive potential in terms of the patriarchal order. The only woman author studied here, Pardo Bazán, unlike her male counterparts, rejected the hysteria diagnosis and promoted mysticism as a path for women's personal development and self‑realization.

Biography of Author(s)


  • "Scholars of late nineteenth-century of “fin-de-siècle” European literature, comparative literature of this era, modern Spanish literature, and women’s studies will find much useful information about hysteria, mysticism, and the relationship between the two."
    Elizabeth Smith Rousselle, author of Gender and Modernity in Spanish Literature: 1789-1920 (2014)