Steven Wagschal

Steven Wagschal

Department Chair, Spanish and Portuguese

Professor, Spanish and Portuguese


  • Ph.D., Columbia University, 1999
  • M.A., Columbia Universtiy, 1992
  • B.A., Concordia University, 1991

Research interests

My main area of research is early modern Spanish literature and culture, and specifically, the analysis of textual expressions of mental phenomena, including emotional experience (disgust and jealousy), sensory perception (sight, taste and smell), and non-human animal cognition (emotions, sensations, theory of mind, phenomenal consciousness, etc.). As a humanities scholar, I examine specific cultural products created by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literary authors including Cervantes, Calderón, De Zayas, and Garcilaso; non-fiction writers such as Martínez Espinar and Fernández de Oviedo; and visual artists such as Velázquez and De Gheyn. My most recent monograph, Minding Animals in the Old and New Worlds (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018) pushes at the intersections of literary-cultural studies, cognitive science and animal studies, exploring the understanding of non-human animals in the Iberian world, from the Middle Ages through the Early Modern period in different contexts and through various modes of discursive writing.

I am interested in the beliefs that people have held about the cognitive faculties of non-human animals and I evaluate to what extent these beliefs fall in line with current scientific understanding of these faculties in animals. Since ideas about suffering are inextricably tied up with human morality, a lack of appreciation for animal suffering tends to lessen the sense of moral responsibility humans have towards specific individuals or groups of animals. In other recent research, I explore the cognition of human literary characters.

Professional Experience

  • SPAN 803: Graduate Independent Study: The novellas of María de Zayas
  • SPAN 708: Graduate Seminar: Cervantes' Brain: Intention, Interpretation and Don Quixote
  • SPAN 708: Graduate Seminar Madness in Early Modern Spain
  • SPAN 695/495: Plastic Verses: Ekphrasis and Art in Early Modern Spain
  • SPAN 628: Cervantes, Cognition and the Senses
  • SPAN 628: Reading and the Rise of Leisure in Early Modernity
  • SPAN 628: Cervantes and the Literature of Madness
  • SPAN 528: Spanish Literature of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
  • SPAN 512: Theory and Criticism
  • SPAN 450: Don Quixote


  • ASPP Publication Grant for Minding Animals in the Old and New Worlds from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2017)
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Collaborative Fellowship Award (Spring 2016)
  • Faculty Exchange Program at the University of Seville, Spain (November, 2015)
  • College of Arts and Humanities Institute (CAHI) grant for the project “Sensorial Worlds: Iberian Empires and The Other Senses (1250-1650)" (2012-13)
  • Faculty Exchange Program at the University of Seville, Spain (Summer 2011)
  • College Arts and Humanities Institute (CAHI) research fellowship (Teaching release, Fall 2011)
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Remak New Knowledge Center Seminar Participant (2010-11)

Representative publications

Minding Animals in the Old and New Worlds: A Cognitive Historical Analysis (2018)
Steven Wagschal
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division.

Beyond Sight: Engaging the Senses in Iberian Literatures and Cultures, 1200–1750 (2018)
Ryan D Giles and Steven Wagschal
University of Toronto Press.

The Smellscape of Don Quixote: A Cognitive Approach (2012)
Steven Wagschal
Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America, 32 (1), 125

The literature of jealousy in the age of Cervantes (2006)
Steven Wagschal
University of Missouri Press.

Medicine, Morality, Madness: Competing Models of Insanity in Calderón's El mayor monstruo del mundo (2008)
Steven Wagschal
Revista canadiense de estudios hispánicos, 227-245

" Mas no cabrás allá": Gongora's Early Modern Representation of the Modern Sublime (2002)
Steven Wagschal
Hispanic review, 70 (2), 169-189

Contemporary Cinematic Tragedy and the ‘Silver-Lining’Genre (2014)
Sandra Shapshay and Steven Wagschal
The British Journal of Aesthetics, 54 (2), 161-174

Digging up the past: the archeology of emotion in Cervantes'" Romance de los celos" (2007)
Steven Wagschal
Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America, 27 (2), 213-228

Writing on the Fractured T: Gongora's Iconographic Evocations of Vulcan, Venus and Mars (2004)
Steven Wagschal
Writing for the Eyes in the Spanish Golden Age, 130-50

Don Quixote, the Skeptical Reader and the Nature of Reality (2013)
Steven Wagschal
Iberoamericana-Vervuert. 139-54