The Art of Subversion in Inquisitorial Spain: Rojas and Delicado by Manuel da Costa Fontes (review)
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 12, Number 1, 2006
- pp. 107-111
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- Additional Information
RESEÑAS D D D D D 107 for a future volume in a series which continues to set the highest standards for innovative critique in our field. Reviewer’s note: Since this review was written, David R. Castillo and Massimo Lollini’s Reason and its Others: Italy, Spain and the New World has been published in the Hispanic Issues Series (Nashville: Vanderbilt UP 2006), engaging more specifically the reappraisal of the Baroque in relationship to postcolonial theory and critiques of modernity. The new volume will be a useful companion to Hispanic Baroques. Crystal Chemris Portland State University Costa Fontes, Manuel da. The Art of Subversion in Inquisitorial Spain: Rojas and Delicado. Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures 30. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue UP, 2005. PB. xiv + 346 pp. ISBN: 15575 -3348-2. Scholars with an interest in Fernando de Rojas’ La Celestina (1499) and Francisco Delicado’s La Lozana andaluza (1528), which share in common a converso authorship, are certainly at no loss for critical perspectives on these works. However, one significant, but less studied aspect of these two works, is the subversion of Christian dogma. As critical attention has often focused on the sexually subversive aspects of these works, readers may be surprised to know just to what extent Rojas and Delicado parodied certain beliefs central to their new religion, a feat accomplished during the early and vigilant years of the Inquisition. Manuel da Costa Fontes’ The Art of Subversion in Inquisitorial Spain examines precisely this issue. This highly interesting work of scholarship will appeal to specialists in Medieval and Renaissance Spanish literature and in Sephardic Jewish civilization and culture, and also to students interested in expanding their knowledge of Medieval and Golden Age Spain or of Christian-Jewish relations. Fontes’ work is well-organized and is written in an immensely readable style. Quotations are extensive and are translated to be accessible to the general reader; longer quotations of primary source material have translations appearing in the appendix. This is also a well-annotated work with an extensive bibliography. The author’s own interests in Medieval and early Modern ballads, as well as Sephardic and crypto-Judaic sources, are evident in the many intertextual parallels which he draws. Starting with a brief preface explaining the situation of conversos and the climate of the Inquisition, Fontes explains his central thesis that Rojas and Delicado used folly and sexual adventures as a 108 REVIEWS D D D D D disguise for attacking dogma central to Catholicism, as these two converso authors felt a fundamental need to express themselves in a climate of fear and repression. Fontes argues that any understanding of these two works must take into account the converso origins of their authors (xi). The eight chapters that follow lead the reader from a general understanding of the situation of conversos and their literary milieu to the specific attacks on Christianity embedded in La Celestina and La Lozana andaluza. The work concludes with a summary of his main points regarding Rojas and Delicado, and the ways in which they ridiculed Christian beliefs under the otherwise watchful eye of the Inquisition. Fontes argues that Rojas and Delicado were able to do this as conversos, because of their more educated and sophisticated ways of self-expression. Their reading audience would also include many fellow conversos who would be attuned to subtle attacks on Christianity without incurring the wrath of Inquisitors. Chapter 1 traces the historical origins of conversos and details the cultural climate in which they operated. Fontes gives the reader a clear understanding of the educated and influential world in which medieval Sephardic Jews, and their converso descendants, lived. Fontes avails himself of highly respected sources as well, such as Kamen and Domínguez Ortiz, especially in describing anti-Semitic statutes and the workings of the Inquisition. The reader learns how even in this climate of fear, a number of individual Jewish and New Christian figures intentionally blasphemed the Christian faith (26). The second chapter continues the historical context established in the first chapter, and adds frequent examples of other works written by conversos attacking Christianity, to show that Rojas and Delicado were not alone. Fontes also provides a brief introduction...