Esther Fernández


  • PhD, University of California, Davis

Research and Teaching

  • Early Modern Iberian Literatures
  • Visual and Material Culture
  • Performance Studies
  • Theatre History

Recent Courses

  • SPPO 380 Current Issues in Spain
  • SPPO 361 Women and Gender in Spanish Culture
  • SPPO 348 Introduction to Modern Spanish Literature and Culture
  • SPPO 347 Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Literature and Culture
  • SPAN 382  Social Justice & Spanish Theater Outreach

Esther Fernández works on Iberian Studies, with a special interest in the history of theatre and its relationship to an emerging civil society in Spain. Her most recent book, To Embody the Marvelous (2021), explores the role of puppets and automata in early modern Spain for the development of a rationalized sense of wonder that questioned the normative authority of religious and artistic traditions. Fernández is also a founding member of the Dragoncillo Puppet Troupe, a public engagement project dedicated to bilingual storytelling with shadow puppets. She is also a regular theatre critic on both sides of the Atlantic and she has published critical editions of early modern dramatists, such as Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina, but also of contemporary Spanish authors, such as Carmen Martín Gaite. At Rice, Fernández has served as Program Advisor for Spanish and Portuguese, Divisional Advisor for the Humanities, Resident Associate at Wiess College, and Fellow at the Center for Teaching Excellence. She received the  Sophia Meyer Farb Prize for Teaching in 2018 and the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 2022. In 2018, she was a Summer Fellow at the National Humanities Center.

Selected Publications

1. Monographs

  • To Embody the Marvelous: The Making of Illusions in Early Modern Spain.Vanderbilt UP, 2021. Awards:   
    • The 2023 Nancy Staub Publications Award (UNIMA-USA)
    • The 2023 Vern Williamsen Comedia Book Prize (Association for Hispanic and Classical Theater)
  • Eros en escena: El erotismo en el teatro del Siglo de Oro, Juan de la Cuesta, 2009.

2. Recent Edited Volumes

  • Daring Adaptations, Creative Failures and Experimental Performances in Iberian Theater. Co-Edited with María Chouza-Calo and Jonathan Thacker, Liverpool UP, 2023. 
  • Drawing the Curtain: Cervantes’s Theatrical Revelations. Co-edited with Adrienne L. Martín.Toronto UP, 2022.

3. Recent Articles and Book Chapters

  • “The Quest for New Values: Carmen Martín Gaite's Don Duardos (1978).” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 23.2 (2022): 299-314.
  • “Revolving Sets: Spatial Revelations in the Entremeses.” Co-authored with Adrienne L. Martin. In Drawing the Curtain: Cervantes’s Theatrical Revelations. Eds. Esther Fernández and Adrienne L. Martín. Toronto UP, 2022. 177-197.
  • Sketching PortugalidadeReinar después de morir for the Twenty-First Century Stage.” In Staging and Stage Décor in Early Modern Theatre. Ed. Barbara Mujica. Vernon Press, 2022. 19-35.
  • En otro reino extraño or, Lope and the Digital Stage. Romance Quarterly 69.2 (2022): 73-82.

Research Areas

Spanish Peninsular Literature and Culture


Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies, University of California (Davis), 2005

B.A. in Hispanic Studies and French, Wheaton College, 1999

Teaching Areas

Early Modern Iberian Literatures

Theatre History

Performance Studies

Visual and Material Culture

Honors & Awards

CTE Faculty Fellow, 2020-23

George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching, 2022

Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship Supervisor, Humanities Research Center, Rice University, 2020

Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, Grand Valley State University, 2020

Creative Ventures: Scholarly and Creative Works, Rice University, 2020


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