What is a woman? This book questions the persistent assumption that the large corpus of medieval Hispanic texts that discuss the nature of women can be defined in terms of the cliched discourses of misogynism and defence of women, arguing instead that the problem of gender identity is vital to them all. The texts, some well-known, others which have received scant critical attention, are each discussed in their specific contexts and in relation to the ostensible reasons for their composition, such as a political, literary, religious, or didactic 'agenda'.They are also related to the literary traditions in which they are written (misogynistic denunciation, satire, humour, defence, narrative debate, among others), and the particular theoretical problems arising from them are discussed. But it is also argued that the full meaning of the texts lies at the less immediately accessible level at which they address this very problem of definition, one which arises directly from the self-perpetuating contradictions of authoritative wisdom on the nature of women. Robert Archer holds the Cervantes Chair of Spanish, King's College London.