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A perfect match? A semiotic analysis of the wife figure in four early picaresque novels

Authors
  • Gussago, Luigi
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Literary Semantics
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Mar 29, 2023
Volume
52
Issue
1
Pages
79–97
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/jls-2023-2006
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Article
License
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Abstract

Picaresque fiction, or the so-called tale of roguery, focuses mainly on the adventures of a male protagonist. Although women characters rarely take the lead, they mark significant transitions in the narrative syntax. Mothers, wives, and lovers reject stereotypical role models and are invested with the potential of initiating the picaro to his life stages. This study will concentrate on the wife as a catalyst of semiotic value beyond her appointed role, exploring a corpus of four works published between 1554 and 1626: Lazarillo de Tormes, The Unfortunate Traveller, Guzmán de Alfarache, and El Buscón. In these narratives, wives oppose their fate of pure Objects in a conjugal contract, and become Subjects, Antagonists or Destinators, assertive “actants” (Greimas) in the semiotic grammar of narrative. My purpose is to re-evaluate, in deep-structure narrative terms, the significance of women characters in the largely male-centred, misogynist picaresque.

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