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The Lives of Women

A New History of Inquisitional Spain

Lisa Vollendorf

Publication Year: 2005

Recovering voices long relegated to silence, The Lives of Women deciphers the responses of women to the culture of control in seventeenth-century Spain. In this new history of Inquisitional Spain, Lisa Vollendorf incorporates convent texts, Inquisition cases, biographies, and women’s literature to reveal a previously unrecognized boom in women’s writing between 1580 and 1700. . During this period, more women wrote for the public book market and participated in literary culture than ever before. In addition, the rise in convents and female education contributed to a marked increase in texts produced by and about women in religious orders. Vollendorf argues that, in conjunction with Inquisition and legal documents, this wealth of writing offers unprecedented access to women’s perspectives on life in early modern Spain, and that those perspectives encompass diverse ethnic backgrounds and class differences. Many of the documents touch on issues of sex and intimacy; others provide new ways of understanding religious practice in the period. Perhaps most important, these writings give a richly textured view of how women reacted to the dominant culture’s attempts to define, limit, and contain femininity. Vollendorf shows that the texts reflect a shared preoccupation with redefining gender and creating legitimate spaces for women. As The Lives of Women vividly illustrates, hundreds, if not thousands, of women’s stories await rediscovery in archives. The book provides a roadmap for understanding the experiences and concerns of wives, widows, sisters, and daughters who lived in a key moment in the development of the Spanish nation and the Hispanic world. At its core, The Lives of Women argues for a reconceptualization of history, one that will rely on the experiences of women and minorities as much as on the words and actions of kings and conquistadors.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Research support for this book was provided by many sources, including postdoctoral fellowships from the Monticello College Foundation at the Newberry Library and an Ahmanson-Getty Post-doctoral Fellowship from UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and the Center for Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Studies. Wayne State University gave me several research leaves, which allowed me to finish the book. Numerous grants from the university’s general research ...

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pp. xi-xiv

The Lives of Women: A New History of Inquisitional Spain begins with the most basic of questions. What did it mean to be a woman in Spain’s early modern period? Part I, “Defining Gender: The Inquisition,” examines two Inquisition cases that share a fundamental concern with the definitions of gender and....

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pp. 1-8

In the late sixteenth century, Spanish inquisitors asked Mar

Part I. Defining Gender

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pp. 9-10

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1. “I am a man and a woman”

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pp. 11-31

In 1605, do

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2. Bernarda Manuel

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pp. 32-54

On a November day in 1650, a thirty-four-year-old woman was taken to an Inquisition chamber, where, to avoid torture, she declared her innocence and informed her jailers that she had “the curse of women”—her...

Part II. Imagining Gender

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pp. 55-56

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3. Women in Fiction

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pp. 57-73

The trial records of Elenora de C

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4. Women Onstage

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pp. 74-90

In an age in which probably less than one-quarter of the population could read, reactions to writers like María de Zayas and Mariana de Carvajal would have come primarily from people who heard texts read aloud to them. Nonetheless, the authors’ principal...

Part III. Women’s Worlds

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pp. 91-92

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5. Nuns as Writers

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pp. 93-117

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw significant change in women’s literary activity on the Iberian Peninsula. We have seen that the public book market provided a space for a few privileged, talented women, such as Ana...

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6. Nuns as Mothers

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pp. 118-144

We who live in the secular world often imagine life in convents as mysterious and far removed from everyday experience. It often is easier to imagine the lives of people like Elenora de C

Part IV. Women’s Networks

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pp. 145-146

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7. Single Women

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pp. 147-168

While early modern culture legitimized the roles of nun, wife, and mother, some women neither entered the convent nor married. Others became single through separation or abandonment. These phenomena created two categories...

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8. Toward a History of Women’s Education

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pp. 169-186

The endeavor of recovering women’s textual history necessarily involves an investigation of literacy and education. To date, no research synthesizes the roles women played in the educational sphere, yet we know that they advised...

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pp. 187-192

Perhaps because some consider Spain slightly backward—a poor stepchild to the rest of western Europe—people often express incredulity when they discover that Spanish women wrote in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Did women in....


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pp. 193-194

Brief Biographies

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pp. 195-200


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pp. 201-238

Works Cited

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pp. 239-256


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pp. 257-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591920
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514820
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514820

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2005