Disguise in the Hispanic Golden Age, University of Oxford

Oxford Graduate Symposium in Spanish Golden Age Studies

Disguise in the Hispanic Golden Age

Saturday 22 January 2011

University of Oxford

Disguises are everywhere in the Spanish Golden Age. Most obviously, its literary and dramatic works are replete with characters who change their appearance in order to transgress boundaries of gender, race and social class in order to evade authority, confound social hierarchies and achieve their desires. When taken in its broadest definition, ‘to alter an appearance so as to mislead or deceive’, however, it becomes applicable to a far wider range of phenomena than characters who change their dress to become someone else. In this sense, both trompe l’oeil architecture, where a flat surface purports to stretch into three dimensional space, and a lo divino literature, where the Christian narrative is ‘dressed’ as pagan myth, may be considered under this rubric. However, this latter example confounds the second half of the above definition; its purpose is not to deceive but to instruct.

Similarly, at the height of the Counter Reformation, the Catholic theology of the Eucharist depended on the notion that Christ’s presence was veiled by the accidents of bread and wine, not to mislead, but rather to edify. Additionally, several definitions of ‘disguise’ emphasise its purpose as effective concealment of one’s true nature. However, in several of the examples above, successful interpretation of a disguise is dependent on the recognition of the subject’s dual nature - of their true being and their disguised appearance. Throughout the symposium, we will explore all manner of examples of things taking on alternative appearances, in order to consider the following questions: How was the notion of disguise (both in its sartorial and wider sense) understood in the Hispanic Golden Age? Is there always a necessary element of deception, and can this have an educative purpose? What is the relationship between disguises in literature, the theatre, architecture and theology? How recognisable are both natures of the disguised subject, to creator, to viewer and to other characters? What are the implications when one nature is recognisable to some, but not to others? What can the treatment of the notion of disguise tell us about ways of thinking, creating and reading in the Spanish Golden Age, and about our own ways of reading the period?

Topics may include, but are not confined to, the following:

• Costume and disguise in the comedia
• Satire
• Decir sin decir
• Censorship and subversion
• Court literature and panegyric
• Trompe l’oeil architecture
• Civic and religious architecture
• Private and public spheres
• Celebrations of the Eucharist
• A lo divino poetry
• Religious syncretism in the Americas

Please submit proposals of up to 250 words for papers of no more than 20 minutes, in English or Spanish, to alice.brooke@merton.ox.ac.uk or naomi.walker@exeter.ox.ac.uk no later than 30th October 2010.