Subtle Subversions: Reading Golden Age Sonnets by Iberian Womenby Gwyn Fox
Pub. Date: 07/01/2008
Publisher: Catholic University of America Press
Women across early modern Europe suffered repressive and restrictive patriarchal measures that denied them education and a voice. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Counter-Reformation Iberia. Yet there is increasing awareness of a wealth of cultural activity by women, produced in spite of long-cherished masculine notions of biological determinism, masculine control, and feminine shame. Women proved that given the opportunity and the education they were equal in reason and intelligence to their male counterparts.
Subtle Subversions is the first full-length, contextual, and analytical study of the sonnets of five seventeenth-century women in Spain and Portugal: Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, Catalina Clara Ramírez de Guzmán, Sor María de Santa Isabel, Leonor de la Cueva y Silva, and Sor Violante del Cielo. Using the sonnets as a basis for inquiry, Gwyn Fox adds significantly to scholarship on women's interpersonal relationships through nuanced and revealing analyses of family and friendship as seen through the sonnets. She deciphers issues of subjectivity, interpersonal relationships, and power structures and engages with patronage as a major issue in women's writing.
As a difficult form of poetry requiring wit, artistry and education, sonnets provided the ideal framework to display intellectual skills and education, but they also allowed the women to create a subtext of criticism of contemporary systems of control. Although their criticisms had to be subtle, since these systems still offered them much in terms of social advancement and privilege, these women and their works revise our understanding of women's lives in Baroque Spain and Portugal.
Englishtranslations accompany the Spanish quotations throughout the book.
Gwyn Fox is honorary research fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where she teaches Spanish language and literature. Fox is currently translating Los baños de Argel, a previously untranslated play by Miguel de Cervantes.
- Catholic University of America Press
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