Women and the republic of letters in the Luso-Hispanic world, 1447-1700

Villegas de la Torre, Esther Maria (2012) Women and the republic of letters in the Luso-Hispanic world, 1447-1700. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Questions of gender, feminism, and écriture feminine in individual cases continue to be given priority in studies of women’s writing in Baroque Spain, to the exclusion of study of the wealth of original sources that show women participating freely and equally in all aspects of the Republic of Letters, as contemporaries called the literary profession.

My doctoral thesis seeks to correct this imbalance by charting the rise and consolidation of the status and image of women as authors in and around the period now recognized as having seen the beginnings of the literary profession, 1600-1650. I take as my field the república literaria in the Spanish Atlantic empire in the period 1450–1700, with parallels from England, France and Italy. Using Genette’s studies of the paratext (2001) and Darnton’s theory of the “communication circuit” (2006), and building on the work of cultural historians (Bouza 1992, 1997, 2001; Bourdieu 1993; Chartier 1994; Cayuela 1996 & 2005), I examine the role of women as authors and readers, chiefly through an analysis of the discourse of their paratexts in a representative corpus of texts patronized, written, or published by women in Catalan, Portuguese, and Spanish. The key criterion of selection has been the projection of a female voice in public texts, whether via a sobriquet, a real name, grammatical gender, or a pseudonym. However, where appropriate, it has been extended to include also literary correspondence, book inventories, and texts, which despite being published anonymously, have been shown to be by women.

The study is divided into two parts wherein extant sources have been selected and arranged chronologically and by theme, rather than by author. Part I, comprising Chapters 1 and 2, examines the rise and expansion of women’s symbolic capital in the public literary sphere. Part II, comprising Chapters 3 and 4, shows that, by the seventeenth century, women’s literary practices had achieved commercial, professional and didactic renown on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chapter 1 shows the rhetorical significance embedded in women’s first metadiscourses, whether in identifiable or anonymous authorship, dating back to the fifteenth century. Chapter 2 illustrates women’s rising literary authority by reviewing their public endeavours and literary self-consciouness in the sixteenth century. Chapter 3 shows the rise of discourses of fame and professionalization in single publications by identifiable female authors, a shift most noticeable in commercial traditions in print (ephemera, the novela and the theatre). Chapter 4 challenges the fallacy that women chose anonymity or hid behind a patron (or publisher) because of their sexual difference. It thus assesses whether the question of women’s literary successes ultimately depended on a negation of their female sex —through publishing anonymously, under a pseudonym, or in the name of a publisher— or was, rather, influenced by their authorial intent, social and religious status.

In sum, the thesis shows that women’s sexual difference did not prevent them from gaining a successful and recognized place within the rising Republic of Letters, but was on the contrary turned to their advantage as a promotional point. Women were as important as men as agents in the emergence of the modern concept of the author as independent artist.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Lawrance, J.
Subjects: P Language and literature > PQ Romance literatures > PQ6001 Spanish literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Item ID: 12740
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2012 13:01
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 05:11
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12740

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