(Mis)representations of female slaves in Golden Age Spain: Mariana de Carvajal's recovery of the black female slave in La industria vence desdenes

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Despite the number of recent Golden Age studies that examine feminine figures, the majority of research has been dedicated to analyzing the bourgeois woman and her function as a counterpart to the male figure. However, the lavish lifestyle characteristic of this time period is not sustained through the efforts of bourgeois characters, but rather, through the labor and collaboration of ancillary characters, such as female slaves, that tend to go unperceived by critics. The present article explores the inadequacies existent in Spanish Golden Age representations of black female slaves illustrated by several male authors, and proposes that works written by female authors of the same time period provide a more complete vision of the domestic and social importance of slave women. In order to investigate this proposal more fully, this article explores Mariana de Carvajal's novella La industria vence desdenes (1637), and suggests that Carvajal's detailed representations of the black female slave's contributions to domestic affairs distinguish her work from other novellas of the same time period. In this text, the female slave's multifaceted role unfolds as she acts as a caregiver, domestic servant, cultural ambassador, and intermediary between bourgeois figures. In order to form a base from which readers can fully appreciate Carvajal's contributions to the representations of the domestic slave, the first part of this study provides preliminary information concerning the historical and literary presence of the black female slave in Golden Age Spain as well as illustrations of this figure in works written by Carvajal's contemporaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-122
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Golden Age
  • Mariana de Carvajal
  • Slaves
  • Spain
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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