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The image of Spanish convent life in the age of colonial expansion often overlooks the social consequences of convents being the sole alternative to marriage for women of good birth and good reputation. That meant that a lot of the nuns were educated, sophisticated, and relatively lacking in religious vocation. Convent rules tried to find a middle gound between the ideals of exclusive devotion to God and the recognition that they were dealing with a lot of young women who were lonely and desperate for affection.

The blog comes around again to Catalina de Erauso, who kicked off the current thematic grouping. It's an odd trio: Catalina the cross-dressing soldier of fortune in the New World, Eleno de Cespedes the transgender doctor who began life as a slave, and Queen Christina of Sweden who became the darling of the Spanish aristocracy (at long distance) when she decided to convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism--a decision that made them willing to overlook her long-rumored romantic relationships with women. And I am now imagining a buddy movie...

Today the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast interviews author Catherine Lundoff about her historical and historically-inspired fiction featuring women-loving-women. Catherine also writes some great science fiction and fantasy and has started a new publishing house: Queen of Swords Press. Find out more about her projects in the interview!

Starting this month, the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast is expanding from monthly to weekly! Originally I was hesitant to try an expanded schedule because I didn't think I could produce enough new material to match that demand. The key was trying some new episode types. And it all ties in with promoting the general idea of lesbian historical fiction. Basically, I'll be adding author interviews, and people talking about their favorite lesbian historical fiction.

This month's historic podcast as about 17th century Spanish gender outlaw Catalina de Erauso. If you've been reading the LHMP entries recently, you'll know why Catalina's life is so fascinating. The podcast includes autobiography excerpts and a discussion of how Catalina became a fictionalized figure across the Spanish-speaking world.

Using the records of court cases to research lesbian lives in history is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, they often present a wealth of detail not found in any other type of record unless--by miraculous luck--a personal diary or set of candid correspondence is unearthed. But conversely, court cases, by their nature, present a skewed view of people's lives. They show people in conflict and distress. They arise when relationships go bad, or were never particularly good in the first place.

The full picture of what life was like comes not just from individual details nor from the "official" opinions of professionals, but from an interaction between the two. The legal theories of what constitutes "sodomy" for a woman won't tell you what women were actually doing, but it will help us understand what the potential consequences were for them, depending on the nature of their activities. Similarly, a learned physician's opinion about whether lesbianism was a moral or a medical matter could inform what arguments could be brought to bear on how such women should be treated.

One of the regular challenges to understanding the history of lesbians, even in as defined a scope as Europe, is the accessibility of the literature--not just the languages of the primary sources, but the languages in which research is published. I will freely confess that my own access is largely limited to material published in English, though I can work my way through a German article if need be.

Velasco takes a deep look at how the historical facts of a specific individual are interpreted and rearranged to suit the entertainment and didactic purposes of later ages. From that angle, this book is strongly aligned with the underlying purpose of the LHMP: to consider how history can be used as a basis for fiction, without the fiction being constrained entirely by the history.

In 16-17th century Spain, a fictional genre emerged called the "picaresque novel". It features the adventures of a roguish protagonist, generally of low social class, who lives by his wits in the midst of a corrupt or dystopian scoiety. These works are generally written in the form of an autobiographical narrative and are episodic in nature, featuring neither an over-arching plot nor significant change or development of the protagonist as a character.


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