The converso dialogue: Anton de Montoro

Lisa Mazansky Zashin, University of Pennsylvania


Marjorie Garber, in her writings on transvestism and cross-dressing, has coined the term "category crisis," which describes the liminal position occupied by a person allowing him to traverse borders. (Vested Interests, Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993. (16)) This notion of "category crisis" is applicable to medieval Spain's conversos, or converts from Judaism to Christianity, who fluctuated between different social classes and discourses and who were also perceived in various lights. These facets of converso existence are exemplified by the life and works of Anton de Montoro, a fifteenth-century New Christian who spent most of his years in Cordoba. Montoro, like other New Christian authors, has been stereotypically typecast. However, Montoro is the paradigm of a life in dialogue, manipulating his position as "Other" to promote himself. He depicts himself as a New Christian tailor in the grips of poverty. In reality, as his will and poetic corpus show, he was a well-respected poet and member of fifteenth-century Castilian-Andalusian court society. By anticipating his opponents' thoughts and by portraying himself as he imagined he would be seen by others, Anton de Montoro successfully managed to amass a small fortune, a loyal group of patrons, and a solid reputation. This dissertation is divided into an Introduction, four chapters, and a Conclusion. Chapter One develops the importance of category crisis and dialogue as they relate to the details of Montoro's life. Chapter Two investigates Montoro's literary portrayal of himself as an economic, sartorial, and religious "Other," Chapter Three concentrates on Montoro's use of humor as a method of self-promotion. Finally, Chapter Four explores Montoro's inclusion of court discourses, his use of rhetoric to establish power, and the power denied to him by the vicissitudes of medieval text reproduction. In sum, when investigating the converts, broad generalizations will no longer suffice. Instead of concentrating on one element, one must realize that the converso, as a border writer without a fixed category, can be said to participate to varying degrees in a dialogue.

Subject Area

Romance literature|Literature|Middle Ages

Recommended Citation

Zashin, Lisa Mazansky, "The converso dialogue: Anton de Montoro" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9628036.