Volviendo a España de tierras musulmanas: experiencia y transformación del cautiverio en la literatura de los retornados

Galarreta Aima, Diana, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

This dissertation analyzes texts written by “retorandos,” that is, by Christians who suffered captivity in Algiers and Turkey in the late sixteenth century and subsequently returned to Iberia. In the first chapter. I analyze Viaje de Turquía as a dystopian representation of the Spain of Philip II. I focus on the complex linguist map presented by the protagonist, Pedro, in the context of the tense relations between the Ottoman and Spanish Empires. In the second chapter I turn to Topografía e historia de Argel by Antonio de Sosa. Using modern trauma theories, I explore the tactics Sosa used to survive the loneliness and the terrible punishments of life in captivity. Topografía, like Viaje, oscillates between a visceral rejection and an admiring fascination with Islamic culture. In the third chapter, I study how Miguel de Cervantes in Quijote counters the dominant metaphor used to justify the expulsion of the Moriscos (the need to cauterize the national social body of an infected member) with a counter-narrative of the destruction of family and affective bonds. The fourth chapter is focused on the representations of renegades in Cervantes’ “El amante liberal” and “El gallardo español” as paradoxical characters – examples of coincidentia oppositorum—who lived in a transitory and transactional space between two cultures, two religions, and diverse languages.
Despite their different styles and their diverse motivations for publishing, these three writers suffered a traumatic, life -changing experience that shaped their epistemology and their texts. Their work constitutes a legacy that allows the reader to penetrate the world and thinking of men, who were taken from their home, sold as captives, and who tried to find survival strategies in a foreign land in close contact with a religious “Other.” Their traumatic learning journey made these writers more suspicions of official discourse, of Maniquean oppositions between the Christian and Islam cultures, and of stereotypical representation of the Moor. Hegemonic epistemological frameworks and classical narrative models became insufficient to express and describe their experiences of captivity as well as their perceptions of their native land. As a result, their work is marked by tensions and ambivalences: controlled irony in Viaje (expressed in the contrast between an apologetic prologue to Phillip II and a dystopian critique of Church and Crown in the dialogue itself); unintentional fissures in Topografía (manifested in the vacillation between rejection of and fascination with the Islamic Other); and original paradox and irony in Cervantes’ work.
Although we do not know exactly what impelled these “retornados” to write about their experiences in captivity and re-imagine the spaces and people they met in foreign lands, I propose in this thesis three possible motives: the fear of being punished by inquisitional authorities and stigmatized by their compatriots, the need to exorcise the demons of the mental wounds from captivity, and the desire to challenge the epistemologies and narratives of hegemonic discourse with a more complex picture with grey and porous areas. Whether they describe spaces and characters from Islamic lands or from the Iberian Peninsula, the texts of the “retornados” constitute a critical reflection and an extraordinary legacy about a period of great movement and displacement in the context of the emergence of the Hispanic modern empire.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Captivity, Cervantes, Quijote, El amante liberal, El gallardo espanol, Renegades, Antonio de Sosa, Viaje de Turquia, Moriscos, Topografia e historia de Argel, Ottoman Empire, Conversion
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