Renaissance Quarterly 64.2 (Summer 2011) has several reviews for us:
Jessica Boon, in her paper, “Sin Rastro: How to Write Franciscan Religious Biography without Archives,” argues that while inquisition archives have proven to be so important for learning about religious figures, especially in the early 16th century, what about those who did not get into trouble with the inquisition, or whose records were lost? Using the example of Bernardino de Laredo, notary records and inquisition fragments can be useful. In Laredo’s case, Boon has been able to map out the social network of this Franciscan and apothecary, as many of his associates were conversos, although he himself was never called before the inquisition. These records can also demonstrate how the history of science can help us understand the nature of his mysticism, as contemporary scientific and medical theories of cognition and memory played a role in the intensely physical nature of his passion meditation. The paper, incidentally, is itself a fragment of Boon’s forthcoming work, The Mystical Science of the Soul: Bernardino of Laredo’s Recollection Method (University of Toronto Press, forthcoming spring 2012).
Jodi Bilinkoff’s paper, “John of the Cross in His Earliest Biiographies” used the first accounts of the saint’s life to explore vocation and masculinity. John of the Cross has little autobiographical material, so what we know of this controversial man comes from these early biographies. Even his supporters had anxiety about his qualities as a leader – his personality and administrative skills did not always make for smooth relations between him and the other male Discalced Carmelites in the order he helped found. He never held the highest offices in the order, and was in fact cashiered of the offices he did hold late in his life. It seems he liked solitude and contemplation, and urged those activities on his colleagues in what was often seen as harsh criticism. Interestingly, it seems there was a split between friars, like John, who wanted the new order to remain strictly contemplative and ascetic, and those who wanted a more active mission, with activities like preaching and overseas missions. It was a male version of enclosure that John of the Cross espoused, perhaps: stop begging – God will provide – and get back into your sell and pray. Nevertheless, the early biographers of John of the Cross deployed a narrative strategy that allowed them to present these events (ie John ends up on the losing side of these conflicts, is deprived of office, etc.) as evidence not of failure but of sanctity.
Marta Vicente’s paper, “Making Sex in Eighteenth-Century Spain,” was taken from a forthcoming book on sex and gender in 18th century Spain, and it looked at how the emerging mechanical view of nature affected Spanish commentators on sex roles. Under the previous, humoral paradigm of explaining bodily functions, the female genitalia were thought to be merely male ones inverted. This made changes between genders easy to explain: if a woman suddenly was found to be a man, the genitals must have emerged from the body thanks to humoral changes. This remained the popular view during the 18th century – that people could change their sexes even once they had become adults. Physicians, however, were reluctant to acknolwedge sex changes. A monk denounced to the inquisition for having sex with men, for example, was judged by physicians to have unusual physical characteristics, not a hermaphrodite, but as a man. But in another case where a priest, not a physician, examined a nun who had become a man (and thus was able to inherit from his father), the priest agreed and allowed the (now male) nun to leave the convent. Thus the emerging medical professional view of the body as constituting discrete, fixed organs working together mechanically rested uneasily in the 18th century with popular views of rather than humoral flows and changeable bodies.
Adam G. Beaver’s paper, “From Pharaohs to Moros: Egypt in Renaissance Spain, ca. 1250-1517,” made a compelling historiographical argument about the importance of studying the relationship between Spain and the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt. He points out that although studying links across the early modern and medieval Mediterranean is fashionable right now, it really boils down to two historiographical points. One is that the Mediterranean was a site of free-wheeling cultural exchange with a relaxed modus vivendi, and the other is that Said’s orientalizing theme can be found already in the Renaissance and earlier. Beaver further argues that the two approaches are to some extent predetermined by their subjects and sources: the orientalizing theme draws its sources from Renaissance humanists who never actually journeyed to the Levant and were not really interesting in accurately portraying Muslim societies, and the cultural exchange theme draws its sources from merchants and diplomats, whose raison-d’etre is of course to make deals (and further, focuses heavily on Venetian relations with the Ottomans, shrinking the “Mediterranean” down to a bridge between Venice and Constantinople). Examining Spain and Egypt provides a useful corrective to this, since they enjoyed a relatively stable alliance of mutual benefit for centuries. Further, it was founded neither on moralizing-humanists nor on deal-making merchants, but instead on issues like pilgrim’s access to holy sites (Jerusalem and Mecca). Focusing on the Spanish-Mamluk connections can expand our idea of the Mediterranean and the kinds of interactions that western Christians and eastern Muslims had with one another.
To begin my series of posts on the papers I heard at the ASPHS, here is a summary of Ed Behrend-Martínez, “Domestic Violence and Discipline in the Marital advice Literature of Early Modern Spain.”
While the larger project of which this paper forms a part is on domestic abuse based on court cases, Behrend-Martínez here is discussing the prescriptive advice of the humanists Erasmus, Vives, and Luxan (and he made no claims that these three influenced behavior, only that they reflect learned opinion on the issue). All three were concerned with the bounds of legitimate correction – that is, they acknowledged that while husbands had the right to physically discipline their wives, they placed limits on how much violence they might apply. Interestingly, Vives used the example of his own mother, it seems, to discuss the issue of a “good wife,” and he blamed bad wives for the problem of domestic abuse. Similarly, Erasmus acknowledged that batter is bad, but especially battery in public – and the worst was when wives took to the streets to complain about ill treatment from their husbands. This leads to Behrend-Martínez’s larger point, which is that early modern humanists recognized domestic violence as a problem, but no so much because of the suffering of the victims, but because of the disturbance of social order – they were anxious to put curbs on men’s behavior with the aim of achieving an ordered society.
The paper in turn led to an interesting discussion by the audience on whether our idea of “victim” is anachronistic, and on the nature of what “escandalo” meant in early modern Spain.
The ASPHS conference in Lisbon was really good – there was a surprisingly high proportion of very interesting papers.I meant to start posting about them tonight, but unfortunately I left my conference notes at my school office; I am at home right now; and my family and I are leaving tomorrow morning for the Jersey shore (not that Jersey shore). So I’ll start a string of posts about what I heard in Lisbon starting in a week or so.
Ramón Sánchez González , “La biblioteca del colegio San Bernardo de la compañía de Jesús en Oropesa (Toledo).”
Pablo Antonio Iglesias Magalhães, “Frei Francisco de San Juan: um missionário espanhol na Bahia em 1624.”
Teresa González Pérez, “Agustin Madan, profesor, canónigo y asesor de Campomanes.”