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Jill Robbins, Chair 150 W 21st Street, Stop B3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4936

Fall 2009

SPN 387 • Violence in Medieval & Early Modern Spanish Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
48300 MW
1:30 PM-3:00 PM
BEN 1.118

Course Description

This course examines literary manifestations of violence, both literal and metaphorical. Recent studies of media violence and audience responses to it suggest that media violence can be classified according to intensity (playful or unrealistic; realistic or graphic), authenticity (i.e., involving violence close to the viewer's reality, such as domestic violence, or as in news footage or documentaries), or degrees of metaphor or literalness. Theoretical analyses and literary representations of violence can range from the very abstract and detached to the very specific and meticulous. Some of these analytical schemes can be applied to literature of the past; others are more problematic. What is clear is that medieval and early modern Spanish literature exhibits its share of violence, both literally graphic and metaphoric-hegemonic. The Cantar de Mio Cid is about feudal and frontier warfare. But its most violent depictions involve extreme domestic violence (assault and rape). Berceo's Milagros de Nuestra Señora express virulent anti-Semitism and clearly approve of inquisitorial interrogation and pogroms. Amadís, the most famous and popular chivalric romance, contains numerous scenes of violence worthy of the most graphic horror films of the present day. La Celestina, wallowing in a sordid urban reality that prefigures the dog-eat-dog naturalism of a Pardo Bazán or a Zola, culminates in murder and execution. Bernal's Historia verdadera depicts big-canvas scenes of slaughter, mayhem, and torture. Lope's Fuenteovejuna dramatizes a story arc of seignorial oppression in the form of rapes and beatings, of peasant uprising that takes the form of quasi-ritual lynch mob violence, and of monarchic investigation involving mass torture of an entire community. Don Quijote often provokes hilarity by its scenes of violence, which seem cartoonish (beatings, thrashings, lopped ears, smashed teeth, thwacked skulls, etc.), until we directly compare them to analogous scenes in the romances. The course interprets violence as a diffuse but omnipresent cultural system that involves both elite and subaltern groups.

Grading Policy

1 term paper, 15-20 pages (longer papers welcome): 50% 1 20-30-minute research topic presentation 15% 1 20-30-minute topical presentation 15% 1 WEEKLY 250-word précis of assigned reading 20%


PRIMARY WORKS: Cantar de Mio Cid (selected passages) Berceo, Milagros de Nuestra Señora (selected passages) Amadís de Gaula (selected passages) La Celestina Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (selections) Don Quijote (selections) Lope de Vega, Fuenteovejuna SECONDARY WORKS: Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence René Girard. Violence and the Sacred Serge Gruzinski, La guerre des images: de Christophe Colomb à "Blade Runner" (1492-2019) Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, eds. The Violence of Representation. Literature and the history of violence


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