Lazarillo de Tormes and the Medieval frametale tradition
Pyeatt, Anna Coons
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Sixteenth-century Spain witnessed with the anonymous publication of Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) the birth of the picaresque novel. Yet the origins of this pseudo-autobiographical narrative of an itinerant rogue remain somewhat enigmatic to this day. The purpose of my research is to demonstrate the manner in which the Lazarillo adapts and, in some cases, subverts conventional features of one of its literary antecedents: the medieval frametale. The particular emphasis of my study is on the structural and organizational devices that serve to unify diverse material within a single work. The internal structure of frametale collections, or the affiliation of enclosed tales, may be understood in terms of a tale-within-a-tale arrangement (boxing technique), and linking devices that balance or group tales on the basis of theme or motif, gradation and climax, setting, plot elements, imagery, characters, and situations, words, and phrases. External organizing devices, those that tie together the framing story and constituent tales, include the theme of wisdom, the storyteller, and the frame. The last of these structural devices entails the participants and the pretext for storytelling, both of which construct the context in which the enclosed tales are to be understood. Lastly I examine the flexibility and open-endedness of frametales, despite the degree to which the works are otherwise unified. The frametales that I study in terms of these features include the Panchatantra, Kalila and Dimna (also know as the Fables of Bidpai), Book of Sindbad (called Seven Sages of Rome in the Western tradition), Disciplina clericalis, Conde Lucanor, Libro de buen amor, Decameron, and Canterbury Tales. In my assessment of Lazarillo de Tormes with respect to these frametale characteristics, I highlight the ways in which the picaresque novel utilizes them to similar effect in the pursuit of comparable goals, or subverts them towards unique objectives. My aim is that by drawing such connections between the two genres I will illustrate both the manner in which the frametale helped lay the groundwork for the emergence of the Lazarillo, and the Lazarillo’s role in the continuity and manipulation of the medieval frametale tradition.