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Passing for Spain

Passing for Spain: Cervantes and the Fictions of Identity

Barbara Fuchs
Series: Hispanisms
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Passing for Spain
    Book Description:

    Passing for Spain charts the intersections of identity, nation, and literary representation in early modern Spain. Barbara Fuchs analyzes the trope of passing in Don Quijote and other works by Cervantes, linking the use of disguise to the broader historical and social context of Counter-Reformation Spain and the religious and political dynamics of the Mediterranean Basin._x000B_In five lucid and engaging chapters, Fuchs examines what passes in Cervantess fiction: gender and race in Don Quijote and Las dos doncellas?; religion in El amante liberal? and La gran sultana; national identity in the Persiles and La española inglesa.? She argues that Cervantes represents cross-cultural impersonation -- or characters who pass for another gender, nationality, or religion -- as challenges to the states attempts to assign identities and categories to proper Spanish subjects. _x000B_Fuchs demonstrates the larger implications of this challenge by bringing a wide range of literary and political texts to bear on Cervantess representations. Impeccably researched, Passing for Spain examines how the fluidity of individual identity in early modern Spain undermined a national identity based on exclusion and difference. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09132-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: Serious Play
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 Passing and the Fictions of Spanish Identity
    (pp. 1-20)

    Given the various pressures of centralization, imperial ambition, and religious dissidence, the construction of national identity in early modern Spain was an enterprise fraught with difficulties. As a reaction to the peninsula’s long-term occupation by Islam, and to bolster its claims to the New World, sixteenth-century Spain ostentatiously assumed the mantle of Defender of the Faith—main bastion of a beleaguered Catholicism and Christian nation par excellence. The conflation of the fall of Granada to the Catholic kings, the expulsion of the Jews, and Columbus’s arrival in Hispaniola in 1492 served as a triple landmark on the road to consolidation...

  5. 2 Border Crossings: Transvestism and Passing in Don Quijote
    (pp. 21-45)

    The disjunction between truth and fiction in Don Quijote has often been circumscribed as a literary problem: how is Don Quijote interpreting the world around him as a literary text; and, conversely, how does that world resemble literature? Yet there are moments of deception in Don Quijote that require deciphering within the social text of Counter-Reformation Spain—a text in which the distinctions between appearances and reality are often much more nuanced than in the romances of chivalry that constitute Cervantes’s primary literary referent. Reading the perspectivism of Don Quijote’s literary madness is relatively simple: when he takes sheep for...

  6. 3 Empire Unmanned: Gender Trouble and Genoese Gold in “Las dos doncellas”
    (pp. 46-62)

    Much like the Ana Félix episode in Don Quijote, the novella “Las dos doncellas” provides a powerful example of an apparently conventional romance narrative that disguises its engagement with political and social controversies under the cloak of transvestism. The plot features two young women who set off on the treacherous path of the cross-dressed romance heroine to follow the same truant lover. The ostensible conceit—beautiful wronged maidens passing as young men—is revealed in the very title of the narrative, a red herring that suggests a tale of tame gender transgressions in the service of a marriage plot.¹ As...

  7. 4 Passing Pleasures: Costume and Custom in “El amante liberal” and La gran sultana
    (pp. 63-86)

    While Cervantes’s “Las dos doncellas” examines the gender economy of peninsular Spain and the enervating cost of its empire, both “El amante liberal”—another of the Novelas ejemplares—and the play La gran sultana Doña Catalina de Oviedo catalog the cultural and religious transactions of Spanish subjects at the frontier of Christendom. Set in the eastern Mediterranean of Sicily and Cyprus against the backdrop of the Turkish threat, “El amante liberal” focuses on the far reaches of Spain’s empire at a liminal time and place; La gran sultana, meanwhile, locates an Old Christian woman at the very heart of the...

  8. 5 “La disimulación es provechosa”: The Critique of Transparency in the Persiles and “La española inglesa”
    (pp. 87-110)

    First-time readers of Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (The trials of Persiles and Sigismunda) might well wonder where on earth the title characters are. This is not a question of identifying the bewildering landscapes traversed by “Periandro,” “Auristela,” and their companions—generations of critics have carefully mapped the exotic northern lands of books I and II and the European trajectories of books III and IV. Instead, it is the far more basic issue of locating title characters who are not even mentioned until the middle of the text or revealed until the very end, in chapter 12 of book...

  9. Afterword: Passing and the Arts of Subjectification
    (pp. 111-114)

    “Ever passed for something you’re not?” With this simple advertisement in a Miami newspaper, artists Hillary Leone and Jennifer Macdonald collected hundreds of stories from individuals who considered passing to be a central part of their identity. They selected thirty representative narratives to create a video project entitled, quite simply, Passing (1996). In the piece, a group of people face the camera simultaneously on a divided video screen, as if in a police lineup or flip-book, to relate how they pass across multiple categories: race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. As they speak, they each perform the same...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 115-136)
  11. Index
    (pp. 137-142)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 143-146)