The Challenge to Spanish Nobility in the Fourteenth Century: The Struggle for Power in Don Juan Manuel's Conde Lucanor, 1335

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This study of rhetoric and power identifies and analyzes the ideological foundations of exemplary tales and proverbs in order to describe the evolution of power – its maintenance, transformation, shifts, use and abuse in Don Juan Manuel’s well-known text, El Conde Lucanor. Contemporary and medieval history and rhetorical theories are employed in the process of decoding the text, its structure and meaning. This historical and contemporary approach re-situates Juan Manuel studies in a European context and proves that the work was not produced in isolation, but influenced by theories that were debated and discussed in the universities all over the continent. Attention to the entire text as an articulation of a rhetoric of power relocates the text in the Spanish canon, not just as a collection of exemplary tales and proverbs, but as a tightly constructed and reasoned rhetoric of power. The investigations into the historical context of author and text expand scholarship on ideological notions as held by Juan Manuel about the role of nobility in society, the secularization of power, the clergy (especially the mendicant orders) in general and the Church specifically. Models are provided for readings of medieval texts as products of a concern with memory, expanding the ramifications of the ‘didactic’ label that is so often hung on medieval texts. Likewise, the study provides models of analysis for the production of authority, and the relation between form and meaning in the construction of a medieval text.


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