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An Erotic Philology of Golden Age Spain

Author(s): Adrienne Laskier Martin

Early modern Spanish literature is remarkably rich in erotic texts that conventionally chaste critical traditions have willfully disregarded or repudiated as inferior or unworthy of study. Nonetheless, eroticism is a lightning rod for defining mentalities and social, intellectual, and literary history within the nascent field that the author calls erotic philology. An Erotic Philology of Golden Age Spain takes sexuality and eroticism out of the historical closet, placing them at the forefront of early modern humanistic studies.

By utilizing theories of deviance, sexuality, and gender; the rhetoric of eroticism; and textual criticism, An Erotic Philology of Golden Age Spain historicizes and analyzes the particular ways in which classical Spanish writers assign symbolic meaning to non-normative sexual practices and their practitioners. It shows how prostitutes, homosexuals, transvestites, women warriors, and female tricksters were stigmatized and marginalized as part of an ordering principle in the law, society, and in literature. It is against these sexual outlaws that early modern orthodoxy establishes and identifies itself during the Golden Age of Spanish letters.

These eroticized figures are recurring objects of contemplation and fascination for Spain's most canonical as well as lesser known writers of the period, in a variety of poetic, prose and dramatic genres. They ultimately reveal attitudes towards sexual behavior that are far more complex than was previously thought. An Erotic Philology of Golden Age Spain thoughtfully anatomizes the interdisciplinary systems at the heart of the varied sexual behaviors depicted in early modern Spanish literature.

Biography of Author(s)

Adrienne Laskier Martín is a professor of Spanish literature at the University of California, Davis where she teaches Golden Age poetry, prose, theater and performance. She has published extensively in Spain, Latin America and the United States on a variety of topics and genres in Golden Age literature, including Cervantes, Gongora, humor, sexuality, eroticism and women's lyric.


  • This is a richly suggestive and compelling study, well researched, eclectic in scope, and brimming with ideas and thoughtful (and thought-provoking) perspectives.
  • Martin provides a much-needed readjustment of readings and recovery of the sensuality of a period long dominated by a critical view that excluded non-normative sexualities (as well as gender studies and feminist approaches) from literary study.
    --Emilie Bergmann, University of California, Berkeley
  • A lucid guide for experts and novices alike, this is a generous book, boldly conceived, and attentive to the peculiarities of erotic literature and its complex relations with social life.
    --Steven Hutchinson, University of Wisconsin
  • "With its intelligent combination of history, sociology, critical theory and close reading of a wide variety of texts, from the late Middle Ages to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Martin's book is an important contribution to Golden Age studies."
    --Bulletin of Hispanic Studies