Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures School of Languages and Cultures

The Art of Subversion in Inquisitorial Spain: Rojas and Delicado

Manuel da Costa Fontes

Fernando de Rojas’s Celestina (1499) is perhaps the second greatest work of Spanish literature, right after Don Quixote, and Francisco Delicado sought to surpass it with La Lozana andaluza (1530), an important precursor of the picaresque novel. Both works were written during the height of the Inquisition, when the only relatively safe way for New Christian writers of Jewish extraction like Rojas and Delicado to express what they felt about the discrimination they suffered and their doubts regarding the faith that had been forced upon their ancestors was to do so in a covert, indirect manner. Some scholars have detected this subversive element in Rojas’s and Delicado’s corrosive view of the Christian societies in which they lived, but this book goes far beyond such suggestions, showing through abundant textual evidence that these two authors used superficial bawdiness and claims regarding the morality of their respective works as cover to encode attacks against the central dogmas of Christianity: the Annunciation, the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, and the Holy Trinity.

This book, which will generate controversy among Hispanists, will be of interest not only to students and scholars of Spanish literature, but also to those involved in Jewish studies, Medieval European history, and cultural studies.

"This is a magnificent book. It makes for delightful reading, as over and over it explains and clarifies crucial aspects of two sometimes misunderstood early Spanish masterpieces. It breaks new ground, the exposition is brilliant, and it will be must reading for anyone interested in medieval and early modern Spanish literature." Samuel G. Armistead, University of California, Davis

"Fontes goes beyond other scholars who have detected subversion in Rojas' and Delicado's works to suggest that these authors used superficial bawdiness and claims of morality to encode attacks against the central dogmas of Christianity." Book News, May 2005

"Costa Fontes examina todos los aspectos en que Rojas estaría parodiando, con acidez criptojudaizante, la ... figura de la Virgen María. ... El análisis es bien convincente, pese a algún ocasional punto disputable. ... Costa Fontes [también] enumera y revisa los extremos que permiten la lectura de La Lozana como un respuesta, o réplica, y ello a varios niveles, a Celestina; ... nos parece que estamos en presencia de un título que ocupará de inmediato un lugar importante dentro del vasto mar de la bibliografía celestinesca." —Juan Carlos Conde, Celestinesca

For the full review, see Celestinesca 29 (2005): 247-57.

"Este libro de Manuel da Costa Fontes aborda el muy espinoso problema de la interpretación conversa de dos textos en especial, La Celestina y La Lozana andaluza. El autor se decanta por una repuesta decididamente afirmativa a la pregunta de si sus autores son conversos y a la de si estos dos textos pueden (y deben) leerse como literatura conversa....Estamos, en fin, ante una obra de lectura obligada. Obra densa, que recoge un gran caudal de crítica, fuentes secundarias, y que es indiscutiblemente reflejo de una vida dedicada a pensar sobre estos textos. No nos queda sino felicitar al autor y recomendar la lectura (y crítica) de su obra." Adelaida Cortijo Ocaña, eHumanista

Read the full review in eHumanista, Volume 6, 2006, at http://www.spanport.ucsb.edu/projects/ehumanista/

"Scholars and students alike will undoubtedly benefit from this thoroughly documented study that encompasses most of the complex historical, social, religious and political issues of medieval and early modern Spain."—Horacio Chiong Rivero, La córonica

Read the full review in La córonica 34.2 (2006): 324-28.

"with this book, the reader gains a more thorough understanding of Celestina and Lozana and of their authors' world. It is very organized, easy to follow, and engaging in its approach to the topic. This study adds to our understanding of these two works by going beyond existing interpretations. As such, it remains a valuable addition to scholarship on Rojas and Delicado as well as to Medieval and Renaissance literature generally." —Mark J. Mascia, Calíope

For the full review, see Calíope 12.1 (2006): 107-10.

"Libro polémico éste, bien escrito, mejor aún argumentado, ... donde [Manuel da Costa Fontes] recoge algún trabajo suyo anterior y se lanza a una magna labor de defensa del carácter converso de La Celestina y La Lozana andaluza.... Estamos ante una obra que merece una lectura reposada.... Quién esté en desacuerdo con Da Costa—y habrá muchos—deberá embarcarse en una labor igualmente exchaustiva de desencajar una a una las múltiples piezas del puzzle sobre las que el autor ha cimentado su cuidada interpretación." —Antonio Cortijo Ocaña, Iberoamericana

For the full review, see Iberoamericana 6.21 (2006): 223-28.

For more reviews of this book, see:
Bulletin of Spanish Studies
83 (2006): 986 (Thomas R. Hart)
Sephardic Heritage Update
28 Mar. 2007: 1-6 (David Shasha)

Manuel da Costa Fontes, Kent State University, is author and editor of several books and has published widely on the Portuguese ballad, crypto-Judaism, and medieval and Renaissance Spanish literature. His most recent book is Folklore and Literature: Studies in the Portuguese, Brazilian, Sephardic, and Hispanic Oral Traditions.

2004. Vol. 30. xiv, 346 pp. Paper $44.95

Information last updated June 24, 2015.

For further information about this book, contact the production editor at clawsons@purdue.edu


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2005 National
Jewish Book Award,
in the category
Sephardic Culture


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