Galdós's El amigo Manso: Masculinity, Respectability, and Bourgeois Culture

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2007





Publication Title

Romance Quarterly


Feminist critics have put questions of subjectivity and gender at the forefront of Galdós studies over the last two decades. Readings of his work from different theoretical perspectives, especially psychoanalytical, cultural, gender, and queer theory, have illuminated the abundance of characters who defy gender conventions. Many of Benito Pérez Galdós’s heroines, such as Mauricia la Dura in Fortunata y Jacinta and Camila in Lo prohibido, transgress the feminine ideal of “el ángel del hogar” by controlling their bodies and desires despite a patriarchal culture that demanded that femininity equal passivity and docility. Many of his male characters can also be read as defying established norms of culturally produced categories of sex and gender. For example, Maxí Rubin in Fortunata y Jacinta challenges conventions of normative masculinity by presenting alternative constructions of the masculine role. Focusing on these characters can be a productive way to analyze the representation of masculinity in nineteenth-century Spain. As Jane Flax reminds us, critical attention should be paid to constructions of masculinity as well as femininity:

To the extent that feminist discourse defines its problematic as “woman,” it, too, ironically privileges the man as unproblematic or exempted from determination by gender relations. [. . .] That men appear to be and (in many cases) are the wardens, or at least the trustees within a social whole, should not blind us to the extent to which they, too, are governed by the rules of gender.


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