Current Issue Article Abstracts
Winter 2020, Vol. 20.1
The Apocalyptic Spanish Race
José Juan Villagrana
This essay shows how a late sixteenth-century English polemic racialized Spaniards not only in terms of their perceived tincture of Moorish and Jewish blood but also in terms of their partly European Gothic otherness. Medieval and early modern Spanish chronicles created a positive pedigree from the figures of Tubal and Magog from the Noachic Table of Nations in Genesis. For Spaniards, these figures represented a pure, original Spanish or Gothic ancestry variously used to underwrite the reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, assert blood purity against anxieties of Jewish and Moorish miscegenation, and justify Spain's claim to colonial dominance in the sixteenth century. For its part, this English polemic fastened Spain's pedigree to a sinister version of Magog described in Ezekiel and Revelation to explain Spanish cruelty and to qualify English claims to Spanish possessions. This essay uncovers the broader racial contours of the Black Legend through an approach centered on critical race studies and intellectual history.
Early modern medical discourse regarding gender and reproduction defined women as naturally inferior to men. Those who accepted Aristotle's theorization of male and female differentiation regarded the female body as an imperfect or monstrous copy of its male counterpart. This essay examines two novellas from María de Zayas's Desengaños amorosos (1647), in which Zayas confronts such patriarchal ideologies. Zayas's work has commonly been understood to challenge patriarchal norms that reinforced male dominance. This essay, however, offers a new interpretation of Zayas's resistance to misogyny by exploring her fifth and ninth desengaños through the critical discourse of disability studies. It argues that the literal blindness of Zayas's female protagonists in these stories combines with the metaphorical blindness of the men who determine women's roles within society in order to dismantle the logic upon which the social constraints placed on women were based. In these novellas, Zayas redefines the category of "monstrous" women as she rejects the idea of natural female impairment.
English domestic recipe manuscripts make clear that early modern households required a great deal of water, and these texts offer surprising glimpses into the significance placed on the sources of that water. Recipe manuscripts allow us not only to see how households used water, but also how—and why—compilers envisioned it as a key ingredient. The qualities of different waters mattered, and references to specific types of water help us determine not just where a recipe originates, but the varying environments a compiler inhabited at different points in her life. These manuscripts underscore the changes that movement from one household to another brought for early modern women, as well as the influence that natural and commercial spaces surrounding a compiler's home exercised over the medical recipes in her collection. This sensitivity to physical mobility is felt in recipe compilations even as they reflect traces of the Hippocratic notion that an individual's place of birth determines where he or she can experience optimal health. Using the College of Physicians of Philadelphia manuscript 10a214 as a case study, this essay shows how water in recipe manuscripts reveals the function of both physical location and social network in early modern domestic practice.
This essay focuses on the interactions between Dido and Cupid in Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage. Unlike Marlowe's source material, Marlowe's play focuses on the way Dido pretends to be the mother of Cupid, constructing herself as a kind of surrogate mother. These interactions reflect the fraught status of surrogate children, who were at increased risk of exploitation even as they were viewed as a potential threat to their adoptive parents. The performance conditions of the play exacerbate this unease as Dido was performed by a group of child actors who were viewed as surrogate children to the theater manager. Like a surrogate child, the boy player was both a commodity to be exploited and a threat because he occupied a liminal space between boyhood and adulthood. Drawing on broader cultural unease concerning surrogate parent-child relationships, Marlowe uses Cupid's status as surrogate son who is both a sexual plaything and a sinister threat to highlight anxieties about the agency of boy players on the cusp of manhood. The discrepancy between Cupid's boyish appearance and his crafty manipulation of Dido reminds the audience that the actor playing Cupid will also one day possess the full sexual and political agency of an adult.