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Marvelous Generations: Lancastrian Genealogies and Translation in Late Medieval and Early Modern England and Iberia

  • Author(s): Torres, Sara Victoria;
  • Advisor(s): Chism, Christine;
  • Gallagher, Lowell
  • et al.

My dissertation, "Marvelous Generations: Lancastrian Genealogies and Translation in Late Medieval and Early Modern England and Iberia," traces the legacy of dynastic internationalism in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and early-seventeenth centuries. I argue that the situated tactics of courtly literature use genealogical and geographical paradigms to redefine national sovereignty. Before the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, before the divorce trials of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in the 1530s, a rich and complex network of dynastic, economic, and political alliances existed between medieval England and the Iberian kingdoms. The marriages of John of Gaunt's two daughters to the Castilian and Portuguese kings created a legacy of Anglo-Iberian cultural exchange that is evident in the literature and manuscript culture of both England and Iberia. Because England, Castile, and Portugal all saw the rise of new dynastic lines at the end of the fourteenth century, the subsequent literature produced at their courts is preoccupied with issues of genealogy, just rule, and political consent. Dynastic foundation narratives compensate for the uncertainties of succession by evoking the longue dur�e of national histories--of Trojan diaspora narratives, of Roman rule, of apostolic foundation--and situating them within universalizing historical modes. At the same time, they reconfigure national space and geography in fantasies of imperial mapping that spatialize their genealogical (re)constructions. The dynastic internationalism characterizing late medieval royal marriages contributes to emerging discourses of the nation and sets the stage for the imperial rivalries between England and Iberia during the Renaissance era.

Within this Anglo-Iberian context, my dissertation tracks an understudied aspect of the legacy of Lancastrian kingship: its claims to the throne of Castile and the multiple Iberian marriages that materialize those claims as they shape late medieval and early modern international historiography. In the early stages of Lancastrian rule, the prestige of foreign kingship reinforced Lancastrian claims to England, claims which in turn fueled political ambitions in France. In the process, English and Iberian historiographies become entangled. I argue that common dynastic descent is mobilized as an alternative way of understanding national relations, thus positioning the consanguinity of royal houses against cultural, linguistic and religious difference--the international claims of dynastic affinity over the specifically national ones of the polity. In both cases, the political fantasy of a moment of dynastic origins reinforces political theories that render the "king's body" as proximate to the nation, while at the same time destabilizing the relationship between the monarch and the polity. In excavating the sometimes-repressed matter of Spain as a determinant in the domestic imaginings of England, my project works against insular nationalism to reveal a "sceptered isle" whose political integrity is both reinforced and troubled by its deep and unavoidable genealogical and geographical proximity to realms outside.

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