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THEJEWISH ROOTS OF TERESA DE CARTAGENA'S ARBOLEDA DE LOS ENFERMOS James Hussar University ofNotre Dame To date, most literary criticism on Teresa de Cartagena's two treatises, Arboleda de los enfermos (ca. 1475-1476) ? Admiración Operum Dey (ca. 1477-1478),' has focused on Teresa's significance as a woman writer in fifteenth-century Spain. Her treatises merit such analysis, particularlyAdmiración Operum Dey in which she elaborates a response to her male detractors while subverting a patriarchal and hegemonic literary system from within. Throughout Admiración, Teresa exploits the misogynistic underpinning of medieval Spanish literature by employing antifeminist portrayals of women to her advantage; apparent concessions to a misogynistic tradition, textually evident in the author's frequent self-deprecation, lay the foundation for a defense of her writing. The ramifications of Teresa's argument extend beyond a defense ofher own works; her strategy provides a readyjustification for writing by women in general. In recognition of the universal significance of Teresa's achievement, Lewis Hutton describes her as "la primera mujer en la historia de la Península Ibérica que escribiera en defensa del derecho de la mujer a ser literata" (8); for this reason, Teresa's contributions as awoman writer have demanded the attention ofliterary critics, and such work is both necessary and deserved. The emphasis on this particular aspect ofher treatises, however, appears to have stunted analysis ofother, perhaps equally important facets ofher identity: her physical impairment and her conversa status. 1 Dayle Seidenspinner-Núñez andYonsoo Kim offer these years as probable dates for the composition ofTeresa's treatises ("Historicizing Teresa" 140). La corónica 35.1 (Fall, 2006): 151-69 152James HussarLa corónica 35.1, 2006 According to Seidenspinner-Núñez, Teresawas "thrice marginalized - by her gender, by her deafness, and by her status as a conversa" (The Writings 3). The issues ofTeresa's deafness andJewish heritage typically receive cursory treatment in analyses of her treatises; the relatively limited discussion of diese two facets of her identity in criticism to date tends toward a mere acknowledgement of their presence in her writing, rather than the type of protracted, in-depdi study warranted in this case. The present essay considers the implications of Teresa's conversa status with respect to her discussion ofillness and deafness in Arboleda de los enfermos, a text in which die author'sJewish heritage and family history play a significant role. Born between 1420-1435, Teresa belonged to one of the most prominentconverso families offifteenth-century Spain. Her grandfather, Pablo de Santa Maria (ca. 1350-1435, formerly Rabbi Selomó ha-Levi), and some members ofhis family converted to Christianity onJuly 21, 1390, the year before a wave of anti-Semitic violence swept across Spain and forced thousands ofJews to choose conversion or death.2 Alonso de Cartagena (1385-1456), Pablo de Santa Maria's second son and Teresa's uncle, appears to have shared a close relationship widi his niece. Seidenspinner-Núñez and Kim detail Alonso's role in securing Teresa's transfer from the Franciscan to the Cistercian Order in 1449, documented in two petitions written by Alonso on behalf of his niece. In these petitions, Seidenspinner-Núñez and Kim suggest, Teresa's uncle and bishop emerges as "her advocate and protector" (138). In light of Teresa's relationship with her uncle, a consideration of Alonso's life and work contributes directly to the study oíArboleda de los enfermos. Alonso de Cartagena proved instrumental in the development of what, in retrospect, has been termed "converso dieology". This theology, according to Bruce Rosenstock, turned on two basic elements: "the primacy of the Jewish people in redemption and the theology of covenantal continuity that denies a rupture between Old Testament and New" (22). In his Defensorium Unitatis Christianae (1449), a response to vicious anti-converso accusations perpetrated by Toledo's "Old Christians",3 Alonso de Cartagena attempts a reconciliation ofJudaism 2 The proximity ofSanta Maria's baptism to the 1 391 pogroms has generated some controversy regarding the accuracy oftheJuly 21, 1390 date, leading to conjecture that the pogroms preceded, and influenced, Santa Maria's decision to convert (Luis Fernández Gallardo 16). 3 For example, Pero Sarmiento...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 151-169
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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