"Weak womanly understanding": Writers of women from the "Arcipreste de Talavera" to Teresa de Cartagena

by Barberet, Denise-Renee

Abstract (Summary)
As we gaze into the mirror of literary texts, we often forget that the images projected back at us are verbal constructs that may bear little resemblance to the reality they purport to represent. This is the case with a group of fifteenth-century Spanish texts that denigrate or defend women. We do not witness these women as they really were; instead, we see fictionally embodied projections of the fears and fantasies of both their authors and of the societies in which they were formed. We see how man's relation to woman plays itself out in a constant oscillation between overwhelming attraction and fear of the loss of control over both himself and woman; or, we see women who are so perfect and so willingly subjected to man's control that they will never achieve status as an individual. This dissertation examines three modes of discourse used by these texts to represent women. The misogynist discourse of Alfonso Mart�­nez de Toledo and Luis de Lucena achieves near hallucinatory visions of chaos with its depictions of Woman as Wild Man: the incarnation of every excess and sin that men might dream of but know they cannot indulge in. These creatures destroy the "natural" order of society by defying its control. Attempts to tame them may fail, for only the annointed few are equal to the task. In contrast, the profeminist discourse of Juan Rodr�­guez del Padr�³n, Mos�³n Diego de Valera, �lvaro de Luna, and Fray Mart�­n de C�³rdoba raises women up to a potential paradise of harmony and respect between the sexes, but below the surface of these portrayals of exemplary wives, widows, and virgins, we see the continuing discourse of male control. Indeed, this control is now tightened, so that even perfect women are tested, to see which will fall. Finally, we come to Teresa de Cartagena, this group's only female voice. Teresa borrows from both male-determined discourses and then subverts them so that she can at last free herself with the very words meant to imprison her and, by extension, all women. men.
Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Massachusetts Amherst

School Location:USA - Massachusetts

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1999

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