The Spanish Connection (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a late-spring 2007 seminar.

This seminar examined the place of Spain in early modern English culture. The premise of the seminar was that to make sense of England’s strategies of self-definition and self-representation in the sixteenth and early-seventeenth century we must, paradoxically, turn to Spain. For despite the differences created by the Reformation, English incursions in the New World, and the conflicts in Ireland and the Netherlands, England remained, both culturally and politically, in Spain’s debt. In a period that begins with the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, and that briefly rehearses the dynastic allegiance at mid-century, when Mary Tudor marries Philip II (and, again, as farce, with the attempted “Spanish marriage” of Charles I), the two nations remained closely linked by literary and imperial preoccupations and by England’s insistent imitation of Spain’s primacy. Topics included the role of Spain as imperial and cultural model, the production and dissemination of the Black Legend, and the creation of an English literary canon from Spanish materials. The goal was to move beyond the Armada moment, with its emphasis on conflict, to the multiple and productive connections that characterize the period, particularly in terms of English literary nationalism. Readings ranged from pamphlets and travel narratives to translations of Spanish originals to Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and such other materials as were relevant to participants’ research.

Director: Barbara Fuchs is Professor of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Mimesis and Empire: The New World, Islam, and European Identities (2001), Passing for Spain: Cervantes and the Fictions of Identity (2003), and Romance (2004).