Topics in the Intellectual History of Spain

Historical concepts such as power, ideology, class, culture, identity, attitude, race, perception, and methods as they developed among elite and nonelite groups of the 16th and 17th century Spanish society. Focuses on evolution of ideas, sciences, arts, techniques, and cultural expression of social movements – nationalism, colonialism, racism – and historical reflection.This course explores the history, culture, ideology, and literature of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain as illustrated through the most representative fictional genres of the period: the picaresque, the pastoral, the Morisco, and short stories. Several cultural and historical factors during the Golden Century in Spain have inspired the artistic creativity of many writers that manifests itself in a great variety of genres, dictions, and styles. Taking into account Rojas’ Celestina (1499), Lazarillo (1554), Montemayor’s Diana (1561), the Abencerraje (1561), Cervantes’ Novelas ejemplares (1613), Quevedo’s Buscón (1626), and Zayas’ Desengaños amorosos (1647), among others, we will examine early modern Spanish fiction with an interdisciplinary approach. While we situate the works in their literary contexts, we also consider how the writing of fiction interacts with various cultural factors including contemporary social problems, religious and intellectual movements, and Spain’s encounter with worlds theretofore unknown. Through a close reading and analysis of the major fictional works of the

New Perspectives on the History of Spanish Early Modern Bodies and Sexualities

Important note: excellent cultural and theoretical introduction to the Medieval and Early Modern comps exam readings.

In this seminar, we shall join the company of historians, literary critics and art historians who are currently reinterpreting the vast range of Renaissance literature in which the sexual body is both an object of study and an agent of cultural expression. While Foucault argued that modern sexual “identities” were decisively organized during the nineteenth century, social historians specializing in gender and queer studies have opened fresh perspectives on the definition and experience of “sexuality” in pre-modern Western societies.

Curiously, however, the field of early modern Iberian studies seems to have remained immune, by and large, to the major historiographical debate on the histories of bodies and sexualities from which these new perspectives arise. Thus, after a review of the seminal works that set the foundational basis for the study of the sexual in history, we’ll use period texts and extracts to bring into focus a range of issues relating to historical experience and conceptions of sexuality and gender in the Spanish Renaissance, and the possibility of theorizing and analyzing them. Based on our selection of texts we analyze themes such as mystical eroticism, the topos of the erotic dream, the eroticized female body, sex in medical and scientific discourse, sexual perversions in literature, same-sex sex, sex and censorship, etc. Indeed, in order to interpret the “sexing” of the body from a period-specific perspective, we will also be concerned with scientific, psychological, moral and artistic texts that provide a variety of interpretive frames for the representation of “sexuality.” At the same time, precisely because our point of departure will by necessity be comparative and interdisciplinary in method and content, this course will serve as an excellent introduction to several of the better known, canonical works of the Renaissance that the students will have to study for they passing exams.

Our theoretical framework will investigate the “nexus of discourse and organization” (Ruggiero), what we might term the reciprocal constitution of institutions and representation, whether text or image. Exploiting the approaches of several different disciplines and cultural perspectives, we will engage in a single project of historicization, an “histoire de la sexualité” along Foucauldian lines, seeking to connect related questions of sexuality during the Early Modern period—the bodily realm (reproductive or seductive), the historicity of sex and gender, the conflict of violence and idealization, the connection between the punitive and the normative, etc.—into figures of larger significance for the practice of literature. We will question whether European cultural concepts of romantic love and their relationship to sexual experience change between 1300 and 1600, if early modern constructions lie behind persistent modern ideas about love and sex, as well as the scientific study and legislation of “proper” and “improper” sex, and if, like literature today, literature in the Renaissance was an arena for testing the limits of socially permissible representations.

New Perspectives on the History of Spanish Early Modern Bodies and Sexualities

Important note: excellent cultural and theoretical introduction to the Medieval and Early Modern comps exam readings.

In this seminar, we shall join the company of historians, literary critics and art historians who are currently reinterpreting the vast range of Renaissance literature in which the sexual body is both an object of study and an agent of cultural expression. While Foucault argued that modern sexual “identities” were decisively organized during the nineteenth century, social historians specializing in gender and queer studies have opened fresh perspectives on the definition and experience of “sexuality” in pre-modern Western societies.

Curiously, however, the field of early modern Iberian studies seems to have remained immune, by and large, to the major historiographical debate on the histories of bodies and sexualities from which these new perspectives arise. Thus, after a review of the seminal works that set the foundational basis for the study of the sexual in history, we’ll use period texts and extracts to bring into focus a range of issues relating to historical experience and conceptions of sexuality and gender in the Spanish Renaissance, and the possibility of theorizing and analyzing them. Based on our selection of texts we analyze themes such as mystical eroticism, the topos of the erotic dream, the eroticized female body, sex in medical and scientific discourse, sexual perversions in literature, same-sex sex, sex and censorship, etc. Indeed, in order to interpret the “sexing” of the body from a period-specific perspective, we will also be concerned with scientific, psychological, moral and artistic texts that provide a variety of interpretive frames for the representation of “sexuality.” At the same time, precisely because our point of departure will by necessity be comparative and interdisciplinary in method and content, this course will serve as an excellent introduction to several of the better known, canonical works of the Renaissance that the students will have to study for they passing exams.

Our theoretical framework will investigate the “nexus of discourse and organization” (Ruggiero), what we might term the reciprocal constitution of institutions and representation, whether text or image. Exploiting the approaches of several different disciplines and cultural perspectives, we will engage in a single project of historicization, an “histoire de la sexualité” along Foucaultian lines, seeking to connect related questions of sexuality during the Early Modern period—the bodily realm (reproductive or seductive), the historicity of sex and gender, the conflict of violence and idealization, the connection between the punitive and the normative, etc.—into figures of larger significance for the practice of literature. We will question whether European cultural concepts of romantic love and their relationship to sexual experience change between 1300 and 1600, if early modern constructions lie behind persistent modern ideas about love and sex, as well as the scientific study and legislation of “proper” and “improper” sex, and if, like literature today, literature in the Renaissance was an arena for testing the limits of socially permissible representations.

Selected Critical Bibliography:

  • Agamben, Giorgio. Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.
  • Classen, Albert. “The Cultural Significance of Sexuality in the Middle Ages, The Renaissance and Beyond. A Secret Continuous Undercurrent or a Dominant Phenomenon of the Premodern World? Or: The Irrepressibility of Sex Yesterday and Today. Sexuality in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times. Albert Classen and Marilyn Sandidge, eds. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008: 1-142.
  • Crawford, Katherine. European Sexualities, 1400-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007.
  • —–. “The Good, the bad and the textual: approaches to the study of the body and sexuality, 1500-1750.” The Routledge History of Sex and the Body.1500 to the Present. Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher, eds. London: Routledge, 2013: 23-37.
  • Deleuze, Gilles. “Desire and Pleasure.” Two Regimes of Madness. Texts and Interviews 1975-1995. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2006: 122-134.
  • Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Vol. I: An Introduction. Translated from the French by Michael Hurley. New York, Pantheon, 1978.
  • Kosofsky Sedgwick, Eve. Epistemology of the Closet. Updated with a new preface edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  • Phillips, Kim and Barry Reay. Sex Before Sexuality. A Premodern History. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011.
  • Turner, James G. Schooling Sex. Libertine Literature and Erotic Education in Italy, France and England, 1534-1685. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003.
  • Vickers, Nancy J. “The Mistress in the Masterpiece.” The Poetics of Gender. Carolyn G. Heilbrun and nacy K. Miller, eds. New York: Columbia UP, 1986: 19-41.

Topics in Spanish Intellectual History

This semester, 738 is an introduction to canonical works of Medieval and Early Modern Spanish literature. We take a novel approach to the reading and interpretation of masterpieces of Spanish literature to revisit the notion of canon, and to challenge standard disciplinary approaches that constrain Spanish and Portuguese within the boundaries of national literary and cultural traditions. We do this by following the way to stardom of iconic literary characters like Trotaconventos, Celestina or Don Quixote, from their birth to today, through the theoretical framework of comparative cultural studies. As we read our texts we will discuss issues of transnationality, network dissemination, fragmentariness, fandom, material culture, etc. Students work in a Project Based Learning (PBL) environment and collaborate on a digital studio suite to create and build experiential and educational resources on Spanish Medieval/Early Modern literature and culture that connect their academic research to schools, adult education programs, heritage preservation organizations and other community centers.

Using five main themes – canon, transnationality, transactionality, fragmentariness and fandom — as the framework for our exploration, we will read, analyze, and discuss nine seminal works of the Spanish medieval and early modern period, from which we will tease out an interdisciplinary understanding of the cultural and aesthetic forces that shaped their critical interpretation and their international fame. In turn, our approach will offer insights into the shaping of our own cultural and professional attitudes towards the role of literature and the arts in our lives.

The course is organized in modules. Each module is composed of the same four blocks, respectively addressing a different dimension of the study of literary texts.

  • Block 1 is a historical introduction to the work we are studying.
  • Block 2 is an in-class close reading and textual analysis of selected excerpts from the work.
  • Block 3 presents a collection of critical essays by experts in the field and asks the students to discuss them.
  • Block 4 integrates the previous three by offering a panoptic view of the cultural influence that the work has had from the time of composition to today.

Within a module, each block exposes students to different critical schools of interpretation, different research methods and different dissemination teaching styles.

  • Block 1 requires students to listen and contribute to a general cultural introduction to the topic/author/period at hand. Information provided in block 1 can usually be found in any good literature manual or in Wikipedia.
  • Block 2, the close reading, confronts students with understanding and interpreting excerpts of the original work. Preparatory reading of the assigned text is compulsory.
  • Block 3 is the seminar part of the course. Students will have selected and read a set of critical essays in advance and will come to class prepared to discuss the critics’ interpretations.
  • Block 4 opens our works to their context, and it heavily relies on internet search and the ability to integrate disparate information.

The course leverages on the deep-learning principles promoted by inquiry-based, project-based and experiential education. Three Mondays over the semester we’ll hold a Design Thinking Lab where we will use digital tools to design and build learning resources on Spanish literature and culture. In addition, the lab will serve as a primer to introduce students to the process of devising and carrying to completion a Digital Humanities project.

Primary Texts:

Anónimo Poema de Mío Cid
Ruiz, Juan Libro de buen amor
Montalvo, Garci Rodríguez de Amadís de Gaula
Rojas, Fernando de La Celestina
San Pedro, Diego de Cárcel de amor
Anónimo La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades
Cervantes, Miguel de El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha
Santa Teresa de Ávila El libro de la vida: Capítulos 11-21 OR Las moradas: Moradas 5-7
Molina, Tirso de Molina, Tirso de El burlador de Sevilla

Previously Offered:

Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018