Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Romance Languages and Literatures: Latin American and Iberian Literatures (Hispanic Literature)


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 4-22-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Eloisa Palafox


My dissertation the first book-length project to address long-held notions about elite masculinity in medieval Iberia. I contend that the study of masculinity must transcend our understanding of the male subject as a fixed point of reference; rather, he is to be understood as a mobile and multivalent construct in constant negotiation with cultural artifacts. I understand masculinity to be the set of socially constructed meanings and values imposed upon biologically male persons. The social norms associated with masculinity exist in relation to a given historical and cultural context, and are subject to change. Even within a particular moment in space and time, various masculinities or masculine experiences coexists as gender intersects with other factors such as race, social class, religion, and vocation.

My dissertation focuses on elite masculinity, or what R.W. Connell calls hegemonic masculinity, though I will most often refer to this lived masculine experience as aristocratic or noble. The historical and cultural specificity of hegemonic masculinity--that is, the notion that the most prized and convenient gender practices are always configured according to a unique context--makes it a useful category of analysis for medieval Castilian studies. However, the concept of hegemonic masculinity must be problematized when applied to the medieval period, as the split between clerical and lay gendered values results in the construction of more than one dominant form of masculinity. The present project, therefore, expressly concerns itself with the lay model of elite masculinity. The particular masculine experience of the Castilian lay elite in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, though by no means representative of all medieval masculinities, merits special attention due to the instability of the aristocracy as the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula approached early modernity. The imperatives for aristocratic masculinity shifted over the course of the later middle ages. Mark Breitenberg's notion that masculine subjects experience an inherent anxiety within the structures of patriarchy helps us to comprehend the masculine experience of those whose position depends directly upon the favor and support of a monarchic system that, as was the case during the medieval period in Castile, is subject to instability.

The included works are written in and circulated during the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries. "Castilian" refers both to the language of composition, that being the Castilian vernacular, and to the geographic provenance of the authors and/or the primary reading public of the works, that being the kingdom of Castile. The corpus of primary texts is restricted to narrative genres, wherein the plot arcs of fictional characters, or fictionalized versions of historical figures, provide rich content for the fashioning of a paradigm of masculinity. In each of the 5 chapters of the dissertation, I examine a particular literary genre. Through various means, the works in question attract, among others, elite male readers. These noble male readers are invited to let the example of male characters within the narrative shape their performance of masculinity. All of the texts included in the project fall somewhere on a spectrum of didacticism, ranging from the explicitly instructive content of exemplary frame tales to the implicit moral criticism of late medieval depictions of courtiers.

Chapter One discusses three epic poems that helped give rise to two of modern Spain's most enduring mythical male figures: Fernán González and El Cid Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. Chapter Two focuses on two works of Castilian exemplary literature--Calila e Digna and El Conde Lucanor--that boast unique didactic content relevant to the aristocratic male reader, as the narrative frame of each work generates a sort of mirror of nobles (espejo de nobles) through the depiction of courtly characters and situations. Chapter Three studies the knights-errant at the center of two Castilian early chivalric novels: the Crónica de Flores y Blancaflor and the Libro del Cavallero Zifar. Chapter Four examines the historical male figures who appeared in two collections of literary portraits during the second half of the fifteenth century: Generaciones y semblanzas (c. 1450) by Fernán Pérez de Guzmán, and Claros varones de Castilla (c. 1485) by Fernando del Pulgar. Chapter Five focuses on the male protagonists of five well-known fifteenth-century Castilian sentimental novels: Siervo libre de amor (c. 1440) by Juan Rodríguez de Padrón; Tractado de amores de Arnalte y Lucenda (1491) and Cárcel de amor (1492), both by Diego de San Pedro; and finally, Grisel y Mirabella and Grimate y Gradissa, both penned by Juan de Flores circa 1495.


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