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Isabel Rules: Constructing Queenship, Wielding Power

Barbara F. Weissberger
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Isabel Rules
    Book Description:

    As queen of Spain, Isabel I of Castile (Isabella the Catholic) laid the foundations for its emergence as the largest empire the West has ever known. This is the first book to examine the formation of the queen’s image, focusing on strategies used to cope with the dissonance created by the combination of her gender and her patriarchal political program.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9488-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Gender and Sovereignty in the Age of Isabel
    (pp. xi-xxviii)

    In March 2002, the Episcopal Conference of Spain announced its intention to reopen the case for the beatification of Isabel I, known to history as Isabella the Catholic. Although the process had been initiated by the Archbishop of Valladolid in 1958, under the regime of Francisco Franco, it took until 1972 to assemble the thirty volumes of supporting documentation. In that year Vicente Rodríguez Valencia, the official postulator of the Queen’s case, published a slim volume summarizing the evidence of her saintliness.Artículos del postulador: sobre la fama de santidad, vida y virtudes de la sierva de Dios, Isabel I,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Anxious Masculinity
    (pp. 1-27)

    In this chapter I compare two literary works usually situated at opposite extremes of the cultural hierarchy: Juan de Mena’sLaberinto de Fortunaand the anonymousCarajicomedia.¹ Mena’s poem is the paradigmatically “high” text of fifteenth-century Castilian literature, and as such it still occupies a hallowed space in the Spanish literary canon. Its early-sixteenth-century pornographic parody,Carajicomedia, is located at the “low” end of the cultural hierarchy, and has consequently been deemed beneath scholarly consideration until very recently. My analysis of gender ideology in Isabelline literature begins with the comparison of these works for three reasons. First, they demarcate the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Fashioning Isabel’s Sovereignty
    (pp. 28-68)

    Isabel was only two years old in 1453, when Constantinople’s fall to the Turks stirred up fears throughout Christendom. In Iberia those fears produced a new sense of urgency about the completion of the Reconquest. But another event of that year had much more of an impact on the infanta’s future: the birth of her brother Alfonso, who supplanted his older sister as second in line for the throne after their half brother Enrique. A year later Juan II died; his will provided financially for both the children of his second marriage, but it greatly favored Alfonso. Gender had everything...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Discourse of Effeminacy in Isabelline Historiography
    (pp. 69-95)

    The urgent tone of Iñigo de Mendoza’sDechado a la muy escelente Reina Doña Isabel, presented to the Queen just months after her coronation, reflects the fact that she was then facing the first great test of her authority: civil and peninsular war.¹ In early 1475, the oligarchic league supporting Juana I of Castile’s claim to the throne had acceded to Alfonso V of Portugal’s bid for the thirteen-year-old’s hand in marriage. The union would serve Alfonso’s ambitions to dominate the peninsula. Alfonso was also being pressured to wage war against Isabel and Fernando by Louis XI of France, who...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Neo-Gothic Theory and the Queen’s Body
    (pp. 96-133)

    To the extent that Benedict Anderson’s influential definition of nation as an “imagined community” can be applied to the medieval and early-modern periods, late-fifteenth-century Spain offers a striking example of such imagining: the so-called neo-Gothic theory.¹ Neo-Gothicism [neogoticismo] affirmed an uninterrupted line of descent from the Visigothic kings who ruled the peninsula before the Moorish invasion of 711 through to the Trastamaran sovereigns who claimed the Castilian throne in 1369. From those worthy ancestors the royal dynasty founded by the illegitimate Enrique II were believed to have inherited Gothic—and masculine—characteristics of virility, sobriety, and vigor, the very traits...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Luis de Lucena and the Rules of the Game
    (pp. 134-161)

    These lines, written by Isabel’s royal prothonotary Juan de Lucena in the early 1480s, are frequently offered as evidence of Isabel’s dedication to learning and the arts.¹ Isabel’s love of learning and promotion of the arts have been a prominent theme in the modern historiographical construction of her reign.² This makes it all the more surprising that there exists no systematic study of the specific manifestations of that patronage, its political uses, and the ways, direct or subtle, that it shaped the work of writers and artists of the period.³ In this chapter, I examine the youthful works of Juan...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Mad Queen
    (pp. 162-186)

    The conjoined effects of royal patronage and technological innovation on the literary flowering of the Isabelline epoch are very much in evidence in the so-called sentimental romance.¹ Of the twenty works listed in Keith Whinnom’s canon-forming bibliography of the genre, fully one-half were produced during the final fifteen years of Isabel’s reign; four of these are among print culture’s first international best-sellers.² The case of Diego de San Pedro is illustrative. He authored two widely read romances:Tractado de amores de Arnalte y Lucenda and Cárcel de Amor. Scholars have traditionally consideredArnaltea youthful work, that is, similar to...

  11. CONCLUSION: Isabel in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 187-206)

    This study has analyzed two interrelated strategies adopted by fifteenth-century writers in order to negotiate the anxieties raised by the tension between Isabel’s gender and her patriarchal power. One strategy is found in texts that form part of Isabelline “official” culture, most of them composed by aristocratic or clerical authors and either addressed to, commissioned by, or otherwise supported by the queen. They represent her as pious, virginal, wifely, maternal, and compassionate and attempt in direct or subtle ways to contain her within the roles and behavior prescribed for women in the late-medieval and early-modern periods. The second strategy inheres...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-278)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 279-306)
  14. Index
    (pp. 307-326)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-327)