Arms and Letters: Military Life Writing in Early Modern Spain
Published: November 2020© 2020
200 Pages, 6.00 x 9.10 x 0.80 in
Arms and Letters analyses the unprecedented number of autobiographical accounts written by Spanish soldiers during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These first-person retrospective works recount a range of experiences throughout the sprawling domain of the Hispanic monarchy. Reading a selection of autobiographies in contemporary historical context – including the coalescing of the first modern armies, which were partially populated by forced recruits and the urban poor – Faith S. Harden explains how soldiers adapted the concept of honour and contributed to the burgeoning autobiographical form. Harden argues that Spanish military life writing took two broad forms: the first as a petition, wherein the soldier’s service was presented as a debt of honour, and second, as a series of misadventures, staging honour as a spectacle that captivated an audience.
Honour was inevitably gendered and performative, and as such, it functioned as one of the overarching metrics of value that early modern men and women applied to themselves and others. In charting how non-elite subjects rendered their lives legitimate through autobiography, Arms and Letters contributes both to a critical genealogy of honour and to the history of life writing.
Introduction: Arms and Letters
1. Virtue, Honour, and Exemplarity
2. Professional Honour and the Production of Knowledge
3. Spiritual Honour and Religious Authority
4. Playing the Pícaro
"Harden’s study focuses on specific texts, but her in-depth analysis and conclusions provide new insights into the social, historical, military, religious, cultural, and literary implications of soldier writing in early modern Spain."Iana Konstantinova, Southern Virginia University, Journal of Military History
"Convincing and relevant, Arms and Letters breaks new ground and presents fresh interpretations of gender constructions of the period, including how Spanish soldiers adapted existing genres in order to portray themselves as worthy to write and deserving of reward and honour."Thomas Devaney, Department of History, University of Rochester
"Excellently written, Arms and Letters contributes significantly to numerous fields of study including military history, the evolution of autobiographical writing, Spanish early modern society and the role of the military within it, gender roles, and the application of Stephen Greenblatt’s concept of self-fashioning to early modern Spain."Laura Delbrugge, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Clarion University of Pennsylvania