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Martial Masculinities: Gender, Genre, and the Self in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Soldiers' Autobiographies

Harden, Faith Suzanne
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Harden, Faith Suzanne
Padrón, Ricardo
Gerli, Michael
Weber, Alison
This dissertation explores the connections among military, bureaucratic, religious, and literary discourses of subjectivity in the life writing of seventeenth-century Spanish soldiers. By the seventeenth century, due to the army's increased reliance on conscription and ill-paid recruits and the entrenchment of an erratic system of post-facto compensation, soldiers almost always found it necessary to present in a written format the case for their recompense and reward, sometimes directly in a relación de méritos and other times more obliquely in autobiographical texts dedicated to potential patrons outside the military hierarchy. A complex relationship with a powerful (masculine) interlocutor is the defining feature of these autobiographies, or vidas, which oscillate between the poles of the self-aggrandizing, bureaucratic relación and the self-justifying religious and judicial confession. By reading the modes of masculinity registered in soldiers' autobiographies alongside representative works from the genres that they cite – including love poetry, devotional treatises, travel narratives, the comedia, and the picaresque novel – I demonstrate how early modern literature worked across social classes to provide models of gendered self-fashioning. In bringing this framework to bear on the vidas of Jerónimo de Pasamonte, Domingo de Toral y Valdés, Miguel de Castro, and Catalina de Erauso, I investigate the gendered resonances of captivity tales and hagiography, and contrast the Neo-Stoic masculine ideal portrayed in military treatises with the subordinate masculinities, often associated with low-ranked soldiers, encoded in the picaresque. In this way, the dissertation develops, within a specific economy of autobiographical production and circulation, the contention that gender in early modernity is best conceived not as a stable or monolithic category, but rather as a multiplicity of shifting subject positions, ii intersected by the competing demands of social and economic class, religious desire, and regional and national affiliation. I conclude that the ways in which soldierautobiographers appropriated textual models of masculinity to reveal (or conceal) a range of desires and frustrations, submitted for the judgment, instruction, or entertainment of a social superior, indicate that, beyond the prescriptive conventions of gender and genre, the act of autobiographical writing contributed to the creation of new concepts of the self. Note: Abstract extracted from PDF text
University of Virginia, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, PHD, 2012
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