The Gaze of Celestina: Celestina's Anamorphosis and the Sixteenth-Century Reader

Romero, Loreto, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Gerli, Michael, Department of Spanish, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the reasons for the success of Fernando de Rojas’s masterpiece in terms of its readership’s cultural and ideological horizons, both at the moment of the work’s inception and over the course of the sixteenth century. My purpose is to explore the conceptual relationships between the changing sociohistorical settings in which Celestina came into being and circulated as a printed text. In the sixteenth century, anamorphosis is one particular cultural phenomenon in which text and sociohistorical context converged in experiencing the literary work of art. The aesthetics of anamorphosis, known by writers and artists and exploited by them since antiquity, was also a widely used optical artifice in late medieval and Renaissance fine arts. Anamorphosis entails a heuristic exercise of manipulated perspectives created by conveying a visually distorted image whose shape, form, and message change when viewed from different angles or points of view. Drawing on Renaissance and post-modern theories of anamorphosis and semiotics, Lacanian hypotheses and materialist criticism, my work develops a theory of the work’s reception based on the presence of anamorphic images in the text, whose explicit shapes and meanings are not always visible at first sight. The principle is also a recurrent presence in the works of Lacan and Žižek, in which anamorphosis is associated with the shifting function of the gaze that shapes psychological and ideological modes of perception. In the main, I adapt this method from pictorial—and filmic—analyses to textual criticism, where it serves as a tool to assess the texting and perusal of Celestina in terms of the continuous negotiation of the work’s reception and meaning. In this way, my dissertation seeks to discover the question of Celestina’s abiding human and intellectual appeal through a theoretical and contextualized study of its readership that, in general terms, brings into focus anamorphic spaces in Rojas’s work as imagined and performed by Celestina’s audience up to the beginning of the seventeenth century.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Celestina, Anamorphosis, Reception
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