Margot Antoinette Versteeg

Margot Versteeg
  • Professor
  • Interim Director of the Humanities Program
    Associate Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Contact Info

Office Phone:
Wescoe Hall, room #2616
Bailey Hall, room #308B


Biography Margot Versteeg holds two MAs, one in Translation Studies and one in Spanish Literature, from the University of Amsterdam and received her Ph.D. from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Her area of specialization is contemporary peninsular cultural studies, focusing mainly on the 19th and early 20th century. Before she came to KU she taught at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University in The Netherlands. Her monograph De fusiladores y morcilleros. El discurso cómico del género chico (1870-1910) was published by Rodopi in 2000. Her most recent book, Jornaleros de la pluma. Hacia la (re)definición del papel del escritor-periodista en la revista Madríd Cómico was published in 2011 with Iberoamericana/Vervuert. Her most recent book project, about the theater of Emilia Pardo Bazán, Propuestas para (re)construir una nación: el teatro de Emilia Pardo Bazán, is forthcoming. Versteeg's scholarly articles have appeared in, among others, Diálogos hispánicos, Foro Hispánico, Gestos, Excavatio, España Contemporánea, New Comparison,cover of Journalerso de la pluma Bulletin of Spanish Studies, Hispania, Journal of Iberian and Latinamerican Studies, ALEC, Hecho teatral, Moenia, and Siglo Diecinueve. She also authored several book chapters, among others in Au natural: Rereading Hispanic Naturalism, edited by J. P. Spicer-Escalante and Lara Anderson, and in Perfiles del heroismo en la literatura hispanica de entresiglos (XIX-XX), edited by Luis Alvarez-Castro and Denise DuPont (2013). Currently, she is working on a project called Divas and Chorus Girls, a study of representations of female performers in 19th and early 20th century Spain. Versteeg is also editing a volume on Pardo Bazan in the MLA's Approaches to Teaching World Literatures series (with Susan Walter, U Denver), and one on Spanish Realism (with Mary Coffey, Pomona College). She has been awarded a Cramer Award and a Cramer professorship (2012-2014) for excellence in research and teaching. In 2016 she was awarded a Mortar Board outstanding educator award. Previously, she received a Grotius research fellowship from the University of Amsterdam. In 2009 she developed, with María García Otero (Francis Marion University), a summer course for European Studies that took a group of KU students along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Versteeg has frequently (co)directed KU's Summer Language Institutes in Barcelona, Spain (2007, 2010, 2012), Puebla, Mexico (2008) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (2011, 2013, 2014, 2017). Dissertators working with Margot Versteeg have recently worked or are currently working on a series of topics related to performance studies (adultery in 19th and early-20th century plays, female performances of violence, and theatre under Franco's dictatorship). Interests 19th and early 20th century Spanish narrative and performance studies, periodical and gender studies, the Spanish civil war, European studies


My research focuses on nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Spanish Peninsular Cultural Studies with a special emphasis on theater/performance and periodical studies. Cultural Studies has taught me to be extremely perceptive to the production, reception, and appropriation of the works I study, and has influenced my understanding of the functioning of these works in the field of cultural production of the period. I am especially interested in what have been called "borderline texts," works that are outside the range of works commonly valued and read in academic environments, but that have been of crucial importance for the cultural dialogue of their time. My way of approaching these borderline works has been gradually shaped by my previous research projects. The research that I conducted on an extensive corpus of once tremendously popular género chico plays (first published book, De fusiladeros y morcilleros. Rodopi, 2000) has enriched my understanding that in theater the script is just one of many components of the theatrical experience. Extensive reading of both theater reviews and actor's biographies has led me to the conclusion that the género chico plays owe their popularity (with the general public and with many nineteenth-century intellectuals) not to their almost mechanically produced scripts, but to the way in which the one-act plays were staged (four representations per night) and to the skills of their performers, who whenever possible included moments of improvisation in which they subverted the ideological content of the plays. A second project that has also much enhanced my insight into the nineteenth- century field of Spanish cultural production focused on the festive journal Madrid Cómico (second published book, Jornaleros de la pluma, Iberoamericana 2011). Presented with the difficulty of making sense of an extremely vast corpus, I opted for a methodological approach that tracked the contributions of six of the journal's most outstanding collaborators over time in order to show how these authors took advantage of the illustrated festive magazine to strengthen their position in the literary field, and to engage in a dialogue with their peers and their readers about the nation, literature, and authorship. The research for my recently finished book-length manuscript combines several of the skills I acquired during the completion of these previous projects. This new manuscript, titled Propuestas para (re)construir una nación: el teatro de Emilia Pardo Bazán (forthcoming Purdue UP) also focuses on borderline works: the theatrical production of one of Spain's foremost novelists, Emilia Pardo Bazán. My insights into the nineteenth and early-twentieth-century field of cultural production have enabled me to see how the sophisticated theatrical production of this canonical author (but novice playwright) dialogues with the rich cultural production of the fin-de-siècle. Propuestas para(re)construir una nación positions Pardo in the context of "regeneracionist" and noventayochista authors, and offers new perspective on the participation of female writers in the contentious debate about the Spanish nation. I explore how Pardo Bazán addresses Spain's 1898 crisis, reflects on the nation's place in the international arena, critiques the myth of a glorious past, and points to a lack of education and the prevailing double standard for men and women as causes for Spain's predicament. Pardo's vision of Spain is forward looking: a nation free from hypocrisy, energetic and laborious, not drained by military expenditures, in short, a safe place for both men and women. I show that in cross- fire with the main male players in the literary field of her time (Echegaray, Galdós, Unamuno, Valle-Inclán...), the author offers her critique of national decadence in plays that cleverly subvert a broad range of outdated theatrical conventions (melodrama and vaudeville), and that introduce the public to new currents of theatrical innovation generated by the work of Ibsen, Maeterlinck, and d'Annunzio. My book will be the first book-length study of the author's theatrical oeuvre. It contributes to an understudied area in Pardo Bazán's literary production and challenges the so often repeated topic of the backwardness of the Spanish stage and the alleged lack of innovation during the fin-de-siècle. I have recently published one co-edited volume Approaches to Teaching the Writings of Emilia Pardo Bazán (first- named editor, MLA) and I have initiated the design, and completed almost all the editing for a second volume focused on nineteenth-century realism (Imagined Truths, second-named editor; Toronto UP has expressed interest in this project). I have also published a dozen peer-reviewed essays in books and academic journals. My new project, Divas and Chorus Girls: Women, Art and Commerce in nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Spain, focuses on the figure of the female performing artist in an extensive corpus of Spanish novels, short stories, (auto) biographical writings, plays, film, produced by both male and female authors between 1845 and 1936, thus slightly extending the time frame in which I usually work. By foregrounding the fictional female performer as an analytical category and as a metaphor for what is happening outside the text, my study will show that the female performing artist –as a source of both attraction and anxiety - is a potent symbol through which new and sometimes threatening roles for women in society can be negotiated. The female performer becomes a vehicle through which authors can interrogate and destabilize contemporary ideological values and aesthetic ideas. This project has already resulted in a series of articles.

Research interests:

  • 19th and early 20th century cultural studies, especially theater, performance, intellectual history


Teaching interests:

  • 19th and early 20th century literature
  • Realism, Performance, Spanish Civil War