The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (2 June 2023) | Viewed by 7951

Special Issue Editor

Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, University College Cork, College Road, T12 K8AF Cork, Ireland
Interests: scientific allegories; the body as depicted in both literature and science; monstrosity; gender

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The topics of sight and visual deceit in the Spanish Golden Age have received considerable critical attention, primarily in the fields of science, art, and theater. These studies illuminate the cultural connections between innovative early modern astronomical observations, perspectival and tromp l’oeil techniques, Counter-Reformation revalorization of images, and philosophical-literary preoccupations regarding phenomenology and the quest for truth in a world governed by appearances. Fewer studies have been conducted on the eye as a bodily organ from a synchronous medical perspective, including its structure and function, pathologies, and overall physiology. Considering that Benito Daza de Valdés’ seminal work Uso de los antojos para todo género de vistas (the first treatise on physiological optics) was published in 1623, the scarcity of studies devoted to ophthalmology contrasts with the centrality of the eye in Spanish Golden Age literature as a symbol of inquiry, of beauty, and sometimes of aggression.

We invite article submissions that focus on the eye from an interdisciplinary perspective: the eye as a bodily organ, the sense of sight, theories of vision and (with them) the agency of the eye, the interplay of the eye and the brain in imagination, real and metaphorical vision problems (such as blindness and myopia), therapeutic treatments, and prosthetics, as represented in Spanish (medical and/or literary) discourses.

The Abstract submission deadline of this manuscript shall be 23 January 2023, and Full manuscript deadline 15 May 2023.

Dr. Silvia Arroyo
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information 

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

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Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

16 pages, 341 KiB  
Article
Alma, si ciega vas tras tus antojos”: Going Blindly through Seventeenth-Century Literature
Humanities 2023, 12(6), 133; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12060133 - 08 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1044
Abstract
Faced with the exaltation of sight as a perfect divine creation, so evident in the Uso de los antojos (1623) by Daza de Valdés, and faced with the satirical–burlesque tone of popular literature, dogmatic theology considered it inappropriate to praise a sense that [...] Read more.
Faced with the exaltation of sight as a perfect divine creation, so evident in the Uso de los antojos (1623) by Daza de Valdés, and faced with the satirical–burlesque tone of popular literature, dogmatic theology considered it inappropriate to praise a sense that deviated human understanding and made it difficult to comprehend the sacramental mysteries in depth. Through different fragments of literature produced in seventeenth-century Seville, we will see how the Church constructed, parallel to the scientific and popular discourses, a catechetical rhetoric that sought to deny physical sight and any device intended to enhance or restore it. The idea was to promote a knowledge of God guided by faith, allegorized as a blindfolded woman. Thus, we will see how the glasses and the blindfold capitalized two discourses that could feed back on each other and at the same time evidence the porosity of baroque literature towards the new advances in physics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
13 pages, 328 KiB  
Article
The Vagina, the Ear, and the Eye: Bodily Orifices and Sight in Miguel de Cervantes’s “El Celoso Extremeño”
Humanities 2023, 12(5), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12050119 - 16 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1074
Abstract
The complex mythological web of Miguel de Cervantes’s novella “El celoso extremeño” has been extensively explored by scholars. However, despite the fact that most conducting myths referenced in the novel revolve around themes of vigilance, clandestine gaze, and visual deceit, these topics have [...] Read more.
The complex mythological web of Miguel de Cervantes’s novella “El celoso extremeño” has been extensively explored by scholars. However, despite the fact that most conducting myths referenced in the novel revolve around themes of vigilance, clandestine gaze, and visual deceit, these topics have not been systematically addressed yet. This present essay intends to bridge this analytical gap by exploring the ways in which mythological parables in “El celoso extremeño” connect with contemporary scientific preoccupations regarding perception, optical illusions, the nature of images and sounds and the ways the human eye and ear perceive them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
17 pages, 361 KiB  
Article
The Scholarship behind the Eyes in La pícara Justina (1605)
Humanities 2023, 12(5), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12050102 - 18 Sep 2023
Viewed by 903
Abstract
This article studies the fictionalisation of the eyes and their potential in La pícara Justina (The Spanish Jilt) (1605), a picaresque novel by the licentiate López de Úbeda. To this end, a collection of passages is discussed in the light of physiognomic and [...] Read more.
This article studies the fictionalisation of the eyes and their potential in La pícara Justina (The Spanish Jilt) (1605), a picaresque novel by the licentiate López de Úbeda. To this end, a collection of passages is discussed in the light of physiognomic and medical–humanistic sources close to the author’s context, which makes it clear that he was at least familiar with the technical literature as well as with the learned circles next to the court. The article also attempts to explain certain elusive passages concerning (or having suggested any connection to) the eyes, with an emphasis on the turn of phrase ‘ojos médicos’ and its assumed link to the Menippean ‘sight from afar’ and the phenomenon of the so-called ‘médicos chocarreros’. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
15 pages, 315 KiB  
Article
“Me Has Visto el Alma en los Ojos”: Hidden Passions in Spanish Golden Age Tragedy
Humanities 2023, 12(5), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12050101 - 18 Sep 2023
Viewed by 977
Abstract
The Spanish Golden Age tragedy is assembled around the conflict of passions, which does not find an adequate channel of expression in words because there are feelings that cannot be confessed if one wants to preserve life. However, such intense emotions cannot be [...] Read more.
The Spanish Golden Age tragedy is assembled around the conflict of passions, which does not find an adequate channel of expression in words because there are feelings that cannot be confessed if one wants to preserve life. However, such intense emotions cannot be hidden for a long time, either. The characters discover that the eyes speak in silence and cannot lie, so they appeal to their sincerity at crucial moments. Such examples can be found in the declarations of love addressed to inaccessible or forbidden women or in the narratives of women who report sexual assault or husbands who believe they have been dishonored. In this article, we will analyze all these circumstances to demonstrate that, if they contradict the lips, the eyes are the windows of the soul, and they speak a language that is as expressive as it is eloquent. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
21 pages, 380 KiB  
Article
Bawds, Midwifery, and the Evil Eye in Golden Age Spanish Literature and Medicine
Humanities 2023, 12(4), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12040078 - 07 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1054
Abstract
This article explores the relationship between the alcahueta or bawd, the evil eye, and midwifery in the early modern Spanish cultural imaginary. The evil eye, though an ancient belief, received renewed attention in theological and medical texts, including midwifery manuals, from the late [...] Read more.
This article explores the relationship between the alcahueta or bawd, the evil eye, and midwifery in the early modern Spanish cultural imaginary. The evil eye, though an ancient belief, received renewed attention in theological and medical texts, including midwifery manuals, from the late fifteenth until the mid-sixteenth century, coinciding with the popularity of texts such as La Celestina featuring bawds. This article explores cultural debates regarding whether the evil eye was a natural phenomenon caused by corrupted bodily fluids emanating from post-menopausal women, or a result of witchcraft. Midwifery manuals list the evil eye as one of the principal dangers to newborns and give advice regarding how to prevent it, perhaps implicitly providing another justification for women’s gradual exclusion from midwifery in the early modern period. Fictional texts portray the bawd as engaging in women’s healing practices such as midwifery and newborn care, and as casting and curing the evil eye. I argue that the literary archetype of the bawd-midwife reflects academic disagreements that alternatively portray the evil eye as a physical illness, superstitious nonsense, or the result of witchcraft. As such, the bawd becomes a focal point for expressing anxiety over perceived decadence and decline, often tied to witchcraft. By tracing the evil eye through the characterization of bawds, we can perceive subtle indications of ambiguity regarding women’s magical and medical practices that question whether their influence comes from the devil or from women’s inherently malevolent nature. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
10 pages, 309 KiB  
Article
The Eye as a Symbol of Ill-Fatedness in Two Canonical Picaresque Works: Lazarillo de Tormes and Guzmán de Alfarache
Humanities 2023, 12(4), 77; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12040077 - 04 Aug 2023
Viewed by 719
Abstract
It seemed unimaginable that the eye, denoting visuality and deemed accurate and reliable in accordance with Aristotelian theories in circulation during the Spanish Golden Age could be considered as anything other than a revered hallmark of guidance and intellect. Nevertheless, the literary phenomenon) [...] Read more.
It seemed unimaginable that the eye, denoting visuality and deemed accurate and reliable in accordance with Aristotelian theories in circulation during the Spanish Golden Age could be considered as anything other than a revered hallmark of guidance and intellect. Nevertheless, the literary phenomenon) of the picaresque emerged at the onset of the seventeenth century to defy the chivalric and pastoral fantasies that were masking the real anxieties faced by an era of decline. The picaresque genre brought warning that turning a blind eye to Spain’s already-waning fortunes could not last forever. Yet, by doing so, it lent favour to such blindness, underlining how the eye, both symbolically and substantially, actually evoked a sense of ill-fatedness and misfortune. This paper calls for an exploration of how an ominous utilisation of the eye is presented in the most canonical picaresque works: Lazarillo de Tormes and Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfarache. From the imperative role of the blind man in opening the eyes of the young protagonist, to the doomed interpolated cosplay of seeing and unseeing throughout Lazarillo’s trajectory, and from Guzmán’s receptivity to appearances and Alemán’s lending of visual lexicon to his picaro protagonist, one must ask: how and why does the bodily organ of the eye, through both notion and function, serve as a depiction of hardship and disaster within these picaresque texts, and how does it reflect the overarching societal views towards intellect and religion during this epoch of “ocularcentrism”? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
14 pages, 406 KiB  
Article
¿Por qué los Hombres tienen diversas Maneras de Ojos? Curiosities about the Eyes in Juan de Jarava’s Problemas o Preguntas problemáticas (1544)
Humanities 2023, 12(4), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/h12040068 - 21 Jul 2023
Viewed by 877
Abstract
The so-called ‘problem books’ of the 15th and 16th centuries originate from the pseudo-Aristotelian Problemata, which were rediscovered around 1300. Their authors were often physicians who prepared medical information for a broad public and combined it with highly heterogeneous pools of knowledge. [...] Read more.
The so-called ‘problem books’ of the 15th and 16th centuries originate from the pseudo-Aristotelian Problemata, which were rediscovered around 1300. Their authors were often physicians who prepared medical information for a broad public and combined it with highly heterogeneous pools of knowledge. This article deals with different questions in regards to the eye and the sense of sight in Juan de Jarava’s Problemas o Preguntas Problemáticas, published in 1544. The physician, a man with Erasmist inclinations whose existence remains a mystery, divides his work into three parts, with each relating to love, natural phenomena, and wine. In all three parts, questions related to the eyes are raised. These issues are contextualized in the scholarly discourse of the time in order to determine to what extent Jarava is representative of knowledge about the eyes in the early modern period. The example of vision and the eyes can be used to show how early modern medical writers such as Juan de Jarava and Agustín de Ruescas tackled the complexity of the world in their problem books. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Eye in Spanish Golden Age Medicine, Anatomy, and Literature)
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