Women Writing in Early Modern Spain

Lisa Vollendorf

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online February 2013 | | DOI:
Women Writing in Early Modern Spain

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Women gained access to the written word in unprecedented numbers during the early modern period. They also exercised considerable political influence during Spain’s so-called Golden Age (1492–1700). One important contributing factor was the rise of the vernacular, which occurred during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. Queen Isabella I of Castile (b. 1451–d. 1504) and King Ferdinand II of Aragon (b. 1452–d. 1516) married in 1469. The unification of two of the largest kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula initiated the foundation of the nation-state of Spain. Their state-building policies would come to have a lasting impact on Spain’s social, cultural, and political structures. Under the Catholic Monarchs, the first dictionary of the Spanish language was published by Antonio Nebrija (1492). The emphasis on a common vernacular language was accompanied by the cultural homogenization perpetrated through the persecution of religious heterodoxy. The monarchs’ request for a Spanish Inquisition was granted in 1478, after which local tribunals were established to extinguish heresy. Their financing of Christopher Columbus’s voyages led to the establishment of the Spanish Empire, which later would be expanded under the Habsburg Charles I of Spain (Charles V of Austria). The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was the first of several attempts to rid the nation of non-Catholics. While the Inquisition initially focused its efforts on Jewish individuals, it later broadened its focus to offenses such as blasphemy, bigamy, and sodomy, as well as to numerous religious heresies as practiced by women (e.g., sorcery and witchcraft), Protestants (e.g., Illuminists), and Moriscos, among other groups. As in the rest of Europe, the advent of Humanism, the Protestant Reformation, and the Catholic Reformation all had a significant impact on Spain and, for our purposes, on Spanish women. Yet, the nation’s unique ethno-religious history was unlike that of any other European nation. Moreover, undergirded by the rise of a transatlantic and trans-European empire and the linkage between the Inquisition and the state, the Spanish early modern period was unlike that of any other European nation. Any consideration of women’s writing in Spain’s early modern period must take into account all of these social, cultural, and political factors that influenced the rise and fall of the Spanish empire.

Article.  9551 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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