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Economy and Rhetoric of Exchange in Early Modern Spain


Economy and Rhetoric of Exchange in Early Modern Spain


Eduardo German Ruiz

Doctor of Philosophy in Hispanic Languages and Literature

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Ignacio Navarrete, Chair

In this dissertation I analyze four canonical works (Lazarillo de Tormes, La Vida es Sueño, "El Celoso Extremeño," and Heráclito Cristiano) with the goal of highlighting material-economic content and circumstantial connections that, taken together, come to shape selfhood and identity. I use the concept of sin or scarcity (lack) to argue that Lazarillo de Tormes grounds identity upon religious experience and material economy combined. In this process the church as institution depends on economic forces and pre-capitalistic profit motivations as well as rhetorical strategies to shape hegemonic narratives. Those strategies have economic and moral roots that, fused together through intimate exchanges, surround and determine the lacking selfhood represented by the title character. La Vida es Sueño begins with defective selfhoods, too. Segismundo and Rosaura must negotiate spatial reinsertions and organic reconstitutions through material and rhetorical exchanges that, in the end, also shape their identities. One of the rhetorical exchanges in Calderón's play adopts the form of an intertextuality, specifically a pretextuality that harks back to one of El Conde Lucanor's medieval examples, which is grounded upon the "material" notion of hunger and the related theme of the master-and-slave dynamic between an ignorant master and his wise servant. In the Cervantes tale of the jealous man this dynamic of mutual inscription undergoes a renewal via the capitalistic and colonial circumstance faced by Carrizales, the protagonist. First he has to escape his circumstance; then he has to undergo reinsertion in order to survive as a functioning but deeply troubled self. His project of a viable selfhood appears unachievable unless through the added space and agency of colonial alterity. Only in this way can the subject be fulfilled and hegemonic narrative reconstituted, even if an ultimate or potential downfall also dooms the protagonist. Hence the slave plays an essential role in the formation of hegemonic identity (represented by Carrizales). The slave, one of the incarnations of dominant discourse, occupies an interstitial space, which allows him to expose, undermine, and ultimately make available to discourse such transformative powers as are required for hegemonic continuation. Finally I study Francisco de Quevedo's metaphysical poetry in Heráclito Cristiano and trace there some of the colonial metaphors that, through their economic weight, pull the metaphysical content towards the sinner's physical suffering, manifested psychologically as a need for conversion and a keen awareness of grotesque death.

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