Redeeming the Morisco: Linguistic Parody and Masculine Spirituality in Quevedo's Confesión de Los Moriscos

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The Confesion de los Moriscos is a surprisingly remarkable text. It was composed during the first years of the seventeenth century, around the time, 1609, when the Moriscos were expelled from Spain. It is found in one extant Manuscript copy, dating from the second decade of the century, in a volume of Quevedo's works that once belonged to Salazar y Castro. Astrana believed that the manuscript is autograph, thus positively attributing the Confesion to Quevedo. Crosby, on his part, questioned the paleographic ascription, consequently doubting Quevedo's paternity of the short work. In Crosby's words "[estas obras] son tan cortas y tan difíciles de clasificar según criterios literarios, que resulta casi imposible fundar la atribución en dichos criterios." It is not my intent to authenticate or refute the authority of this text. Nonetheless, I hope in the next 20 minutes to show you that Confesion de los Moriscos, in spite of its brevity, is a complex text whose multi-layered readings amply make up for such conciseness. Here –an in your handouts-- it is:

Yo picador, macho errado, macho galopeado, me con¬fieso a Dios bardadero y a soneta María tampoco, y al bien trobado san Miguelelajo y al bien trobado san Sán¬chez Batista, y a los sonetos apóstatas san Perro y san Palo, y a vos padre espertual, daca la culpa, toma la culpa. Vuélvome a confesiar a todos estos que quedan aquí de¬trás y a vos padre espertual, que estás en lugar de Dios, me deis pestilencia de mis pescados y sorbáis dellos, amén Jesús

I, face worker, wronged male, kicked male, confess to God the fencer and neither to sonnet Mary, and to the well found Saint Michael garlic and to the well found saint Sanchez fine fabric, and to the apostate sonnets Saint Dog and Saint Club, and to you father of experience, give me guilt, take guilt. I confess again to all those that remain behind, and to you father of experience, who are in place of God. Give pestilence of my fishes and suck from them, amen Jesus. At first glance, this short fragment is just a boutade, a silly parody permitted by clever alliterative transposition. Too short to be catalogued or to deserve literary analysis, as Crosby implies in his edition. My English translation, necessarily barren of all the metaphorical punning, underscores the apparent triviality of the joke. A keener look at both form and content of the paragraph, however, brings forth unexpected construes. I propose to you now my textual interpretation of the brief work, which I have broken down in three steps: typologization, conceptization and confession. From these, as a conclusion to my paper, I will extrapolate some observations on the image of the morisco in XVII Spain. I call typologization the exploitation of certain cultural biases to construct a typecast character, a literary type. Composed in the format of a traditional prayer of exculpation or confession, the text playfully foregrounds several of the stereotypical features that identified the Morisco population in seventeenth century Spain's literary imagination: their low social status, their dishonest nature, their lack of hygiene, their inability to speak Castilian with proper morpho-synctactical concordance, their illiterate and sui-generis understanding of the Christian doctrine and of course their cripto-muslim habits. With these traits, the Morisco occupied a comic role –what Chevalier called "el tipo comico"—in many comedias, entremeses and short stories from Timoneda to Lope. Needless to say the comic morisco, like the rest of the types, the lazy student, the unfaithful wife, the butcher doctor, take shape around a folkloric model rooted in oral tradition. But whereas for these characters the tradition can be traced to the middle-ages, the literary protagonism of the morisco is short lived, not surprisingly concentrated in works of the second half of the sixteenth and first two decades of the seventeenth centuries. I would say that the literary...
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