Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature

BookDisabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature

Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature

Prostitutes, Aging Women and Saints

Representations: Health, Disability, Culture and Society, 7


December 31st, 2017

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'Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature: Prostitutes, Aging Women and Saints provides a politically urgent critical approach to disability and female corporeality in early modern Spanish literary and social discourse. Rigorous in its historical contextualization and offering innovative, compelling readings of classic works, this book challenges familiar interpretations of women’s bodies in texts of this period, transforming prior disciplinary boundaries and categories of analysis.'
Professor Susan Antebi, University of Toronto

'Blending historical context and literary text with disability studies method, Encarnación Juárez-Almendros sets out to challenge the foundations of early modern scholarship through a long-awaited critical feminist examination of disability as both a social construction and an embodied material experience.'
Benjamin Fraser, Professor and Chair, Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences, East Carolina University

Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature: Prostitutes, Aging Women and Saints examines the concepts and role of women in selected Spanish discourses and literary texts from the late fifteenth to seventeenth centuries from the perspective of feminist disability theories. This study explores a wide range of Spanish medical, regulatory and moral discourses, illustrating how such texts inherit, reproduce and propagate an amalgam of Western traditional concepts of female embodiment. It goes on to examine concrete representations of deviant female characters, focusing on the figures of syphilitic prostitutes and physically decayed aged women in literary texts such as Celestina, Lozana andaluza and selected works by Cervantes and Quevedo. Finally, an analysis of the personal testimony of Teresa de Avila, a nun suffering neurological disorders, complements the discussion of early modern women’s disability. By expanding the meanings of contemporary theories of materiality and the social construction of disability, the book concludes that paradoxically, femininity, bodily afflictions, and mental instability characterized the new literary heroes at the very time Spain was at the apex of its imperial power. Ultimately, as this study shows, the broken female bodies of pre-industrial Spanish literature reveal the cracks in the foundational principles of power and established truths.


Author Information

Encarnación Juárez-Almendros is Associate Professor of Early Modern Spanish Literature and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
I. The Creation of Female Disability: Medical, Prescriptive and Moral Discourses25
II. The Artifice of Syphilitic and Damaged Female Bodies in Literature64
III. The Disabling of Aging Female Bodies: Midwives, Procuresses, Witches and the Monstrous Mother91
IV. Historical Testimony of Female Disability: The Neurological Impairment of Teresa de Ávila124
Works Cited178