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

Harden, Faith Suzanne, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Gerli, Michael, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Padrón, Ricardo, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

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.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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