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Title: Bodies and Books in the Early Modern Hispanic World
Authors: Nuñez, Sophia Blea
Advisors: Brownlee, Marina S
Contributors: Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures Department
Keywords: bodies
book history
Subjects: Romance literature
Gender studies
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Bodies and Books in the Early Modern Hispanic World studies books – cuerpos de libros – and human bodies in parallel to yield new insights into both book culture and the struggles to construct identity as legible on the body. I take metaphors of books as bodies seriously, amid the elevated stakes of the early modern Hispanic world’s preoccupations with genealogy, legitimacy, and blood purity. I suggest that books were conceptualized as bodies in the early modern Hispanic world and that this was significant in part because wishful thinking of the period treated human bodies as books that ought to be legible, reliable markers of identity. This project deliberately close reads both literary and documentary, verse and prose, manuscript and print, canonical and lesser-known texts for what they reveal about books and bodies – namely, where the understanding and treatment of them was intertwined, and where it diverged. Because the equation of books and bodies was so pervasive yet broken, I study its uses and abuses from both sides: books as bodies and bodies as books. The trajectory of this project arcs from cuerpos de libros to human bodies. First, I articulate the conceptual and practical connections between books and human bodies through analysis of the multifarious comparisons found in early modern literature, poetic theory, writing manuals, and moralistic works. Next, I turn to the theory and practice of libraries as sites where books and bodies interact, focusing on the Biblioteca Colombina, gathered by Columbus’s son Hernando Colón, and the Escorial library, founded by Philip II. To examine issues of cultural patrimony, materiality, access, and the value of books and bodies, I follow the saga of Arabic manuscripts captured from Morocco in 1612, incorporated into the Escorial, and digitally repatriated in 2013. Finally, I turn to body writing, the converse of books as bodies. Centered on the convent-fleeing conquistador Catalina/Antonio de Erauso and the mixed-race surgeon and ex-slave Elena/o de Céspedes, my third section discusses the foibles of reading and writing ambiguous bodies and how concepts of racial and religious difference invoked culturally-specific ideas of gender.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

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