Bleeding Secrets: Literature, Politics, and Religion in Early Modern Iberia Restricted; Files Only

Ruiz Espigares, Violeta Cristina (Spring 2023)

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Bleeding Secrets: Literature, Politics and Religion in Early Modern Iberia examines the figures of blood and secrecy in literary, legal, religious, and medical texts during the early modern period in the Iberian Peninsula. In this context, I argue that both figures are textually deployed in order to sustain the political fantasy of a known, controllable, and unified Catholic identity. However, weaving narratives and political fantasies through blood and secrets fabricates an identity underpinned by its simultaneous deconstitution. Early modern Iberian writing, in its lyrical and linguistic qualities, articulates a series of violent ideologies of religious, monarchical, and colonial supremacy that forms their own status as fantasies (rather than realities) by their own self-disarticulation and failure.

The first chapter, “Hemopolitics,” analyzes the logic behind the controversial Statutes of Blood, where conversos, Jewish converts to Catholicism, were banned from holding any public or religious office. This religious and racial discrimination divided the Spanish Empire into pure and impure blood Christians, namely conversos, and moriscos – Catholic converts from Islam. The Statutes argue that it is possible to know someone’s blood purity by determining the faith of their ancestors through their genealogy. However, my comparative close reading of the “Sentencia-Estatuto 1449,” Alonso de Cartagena’s Defensorium unitatis christianae, and El Tizón de la Nobleza Española proves that ideologies of blood purity suffer from what Jacques Derrida names “auto-immunity,” the concurrent self-destruction of a system as it seeks its implementation.

Chapter two, “Blood Borders,” translates the markers of purity and impurity into the medical language of 16th century Spain and Italy. The chapter argues that scientific systems can only take place using fiction and mythology. In Examen de Ingenios Juan Huarte de San Juan’s attempts to create a system of knowledge by which to biologically determine people’s characters and abilities: a 16th century model for eugenics. In spite of his anti-Semitism, his biological determinism mixed with fictional dialogues and biblical mythology designate the Israelites to be the best people at knowing medicine and biology and the ones in charge of ordering society according to people’s talents.

In chapter three, “Spectral Blood,” I argue that literary representation of ideals of blood form an economy where the desire to keep impure blood away from one’s own lineage results in ever more blood and violence. In Maria de Zayas’ horror story, “The Traitor against his Blood,” the corpses of women brutally murdered by their male relatives or lovers take on supernatural qualities. With the use of fantastical elements, de Zayas simultaneously constructs the sanctification and purity of these women while showing through their brutal murders how obsessions with purity produce incessant death in one’s very own family and home (individual or social). This system consumed by blood and murder, which I call a blood economy, requires characters to dissimulate either with lies and tricks, or through de Zayas’ use of the supernatural. Her baroque fiction creates meaning by sanctifying and hiding away in a convent a corpse that endlessly bleeds. Outside of humanity, the woman’s brutal murder speaks through blood and magic in a language foreign to logos: foreign to human reason and to natural speech.

In the final chapter, “Crypto-,” I take up an analysis of the secret religions of conversos and moriscos – liminal figures with impure blood in the early modern imaginary – that disarms the ideologies of pure blood and revelation underpinning the previous three chapters. I conclude that the condition of these crypto-religions and their literature destabilizes the Spanish Catholic imperial project and perhaps opens channels to think alternatives to modern capital and the surveillance State. Aided by theories of translation from psychoanalyst Nicolas Abraham, and Walter Benjamin, I carry out a structural analysis of aljamía. With a multilingual vocabulary (Spanish, classic Arabic, Catalan, Aragonese, and Latin), and the constant exchange between Arabic script and Spanish phonemes, aljamía’s structure resists its categorization and revelation into a single language.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ii

Abbreviations of Parenthetically Cited Works vi

Introduction: Blood Loves to Hide 1

Chapter 1 – Hemopolitics 21

1. The Controversies of Blood 24

2. Quevedo’s Story of The Book 46

3. Mal d’archive and the Memory of Blood 54

Chapter 2 – Blood Borders 78

1. Mythological Medicine: Huarte de San Juan 83

2. Solidifying The Human Body: Vesalius and Anatomy 108

Chapter 3 – Spectral Blood 129

1. Figural Limits in Aristotle 130

2. Blood and Punishment in Derrida 145

3. Cruor Clamat 156

4. Economies of Blood in “El traidor contra su sangre” by Maria de Zayas 159

Chapter 4 – Crypto- 187

1. Crypto-languages and Their Kinds 190

2. Transliteration 195

3. Aljamiado Literature 200

4. Psychoanalytic Encryption 208

5. Abraham, Derrida, Torok 217

6. Marrano Secrets 230

7. A future reading... 254

Conclusion 258

Works Cited 265

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