Dissertation Defense of Ross Karlan, “Falling into Shame: The Cultural History of an Emotion in Pre-Modern Iberia”

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese cordially invites you to attend the dissertation defense of

Ross Karlan, M.S.

Falling into Shame: The Cultural History of an Emotion in Pre-Modern Iberia

Director: Emily Francomano, PhD
Committee Member: Michael J. Ferreira, PhD
Committee Member: Sarah McNamer, PhD
Committee Member: Josiah Blackmore, PhD

Friday, February 7th, 2020
12:00 PM – 2:00PM
ICC 462


This dissertation explores literary and visual representations of shame with a particular focus on the 14th to 16th centuries. Through a survey of prose literary works and Early Modern visual culture, this project argues for an understanding of shame as a social construction of the period connected to different cultural factors. In medieval conduct manuals, authors prescribe and proscribe feelings of shame based on gender, and the societal institutions of honor and virtue. In his Crónica Sarracina, Castilian writer Pedro de Corral constructs a shame experience around the figure of Florinda La Cava and the 711 Fall of Spain that echoes that of Lucretia and the fall of the Roman Kingdom. Additionally, as fifteenth-century historiographers seek to reckon with that Fall, they use literary texts and representations of the port city of Ceuta as a means of finding redemption for national shame. During the period of imperial expansion, however, when European understandings of emotions came face to face with those of indigenous communities of West Africa and the New World, cultural differences as they pertain to emotion led to the othering of indigenous and black bodies as “shameless,” as is the case the chronicles of Gomes Eanes de Zurara and Pero Vaz de Caminha. Finally, I turn to representations of public shaming as a punishment used in the Spanish Inquisition, and I examine the connections between emotion and power structures in paintings from Pedro Berruguete to Francisco de Goya. As a whole, this dissertation seeks to expand Medieval and Early Modern paradigms of gender, race, and historiography in order to include emotional factors. That is to say, shame defines, and is defined by, the medieval sex/gender system, ethnographic observations in the colonial contact zone, and late-medieval modes of transmitting history.