Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date



Using perspectives typical of English and theatrical fields of study, this capstone project interprets Molina from Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel Kiss of the Spider Woman as a heterosexual transgender woman and then investigates why such an interpretation does not exist in performance adaptations. Although Molina has been called a transgender woman in recent criticism, there is a conflation of gender and sexuality that has been uninvestigated in this text. It has not been addressed how Molina constructs her identity or how this interpretation might be employed in performance, which this essay seeks to confront. The first half of the project focuses on a close reading of the text that interprets Molina’s subjective construction of gender and sexuality as a heterosexual transgender woman, finding that the presupposed assumption of Molina as a gay man is a result of critics privileging what other characters say about Molina rather than her subjective articulation. The second half of the essay analyzes elements of the performance that prevented performing Molina as a transgender woman in Hector Babenco’s 1985 Kiss of the Spider Woman movie adaptation – such as the intentions for the movie, the writing of the screenplay, and the personal acting choices of William Hurt, who played Molina – through production research and a semiotic reading of the film. This project speaks to the broader context of how individual identity is constructed, how gender is performed, how societal attitudes oppress individual identity, and how transgender characters have been minimized in media.


manuel puig; hector babenco; kiss of the spider woman; queer performance; gender in performance; sexuality in performance; latin american performance; latin american literature; transgender representations


Latin American Literature | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Modern Literature | Performance Studies

calvert_reflective_essay-2015-bvs.docx (24 kB)
Reflective essay