Work on the leading edge of scholarship often becomes surprisingly prescient, for better or worse, even when the material discussed is hundreds of years old. Such is the case for Encarnación Juárez-Almendros's discussion of the arrival, spread, and stigmatization of syphilis in sixteenth- and seventeenth- century Spain in much of Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature: Prostitutes, Aging Women and Saints. For the many students and scholars now enraptured by how we talk about pathogens, contagion, and disease in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, this volume provides much-needed historical background for the impacts of stigma across intersecting categories when built up across centuries.

Although Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature is not only about syphilis, the physiological phenomenon is arguably the star of the monograph. It is more broadly concerned with how disability becomes gendered and how gender becomes disabling, arguing a larger claim through culturally and historically specific analysis of early modern Spain: "In the Western conceptualization, women and the disabled symbolize imperfection, corruption, impurity and, ultimately, human vulnerability" (1). Juárez-Almendros provides much-needed detail to histories of disability in premodern Europe; where much scholarship in disability studies focuses on Anglophone literature, Juárez-Almendros examines Spanish literature, setting up a model for looking at disability in early modern Spain that is "specific to a Spanish society in which the hierarchical creation of identities and exclusion involved a discursive amalgam of gender, religious, economic, and ethnic factors" (9). This culturally specific approach addresses both the general challenge of crafting models for the study of disability in the premodern world and the more specific challenge that much existing work on disability in premodern Europe focuses on England and, to a lesser extent, France. Study of disability in medieval and early modern Spain has largely been restricted to Teresa de Cartagena's fifteenth-century Arboleda de los enfermos [Grove of the Infirm]—which is only Juárez-Almendros's starting place (vii), from which she dramatically increases the coverage of Spanish views on disability in this era.

In addition to intervening on behalf of literary traditions beyond the Anglophone, Juárez-Almendros also bolsters feminist disability studies critiques of the social model being too dismissive of women's embodied experiences, leveraging early modern source materials to historically ground "postulates of current disability feminist theory that consider the fact of being female a lifetime handicap" (8). Particular attention is paid to the intersectionality of sex and gender with other marginalized groups in ways that resonate with disability. What Juárez-Almendros describes as the "master trope of effeminacy" is also recognized as a tool for socially disabling "other groups dismissed in the period, such as the Jews or the Venetians" (18).

Much of the historical context that will be most valuable to readers who are not specialists in early modern Spanish literature may be found in the first chapter, "The Creation of Female Disability: Medical, Prescriptive and Moral Discourses," which surveys Spanish understandings of the female/feminine body in medical and moral discourses from the late fifteenth century through the seventeenth century. Juárez-Almendros offers a thorough reckoning of medical and public health writings that attest to the status of being female functioning as a disability. Women were blamed not only for their own aberrant embodiment, but also for aberrant male embodiments: through giving birth to "monstrosity" and "malformations" (26); through the "corrupted matter" (26) of menstrual fluid; and through assigned responsibility for the spread of sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis, thus becoming "a threat in a society that needs to avert them in order to recover health and purity" (32).

This first chapter resonates strongly with the 'gendered model' for medieval disability articulated by Tory V. Pearman in Women and Disability in Medieval Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Despite naming other models for disability articulated for the Middle Ages (7), Juárez-Almendros chooses not to name Pearman's 'gendered model,' and mentions Pearman's work only in an endnote as a study with which this book "coincides," although the "premise, scope and textual interpretation are very different" (16n15). Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature performs groundbreaking work for the Spanish context and for early modern Europe more broadly. Nonetheless, readers should situate Juárez-Almendros and Pearman's interventions in feminist disability studies alongside one another within the larger "Western conceptualization" (1) of sex, gender, and disability for which Juárez-Almendros claims relevance.

The two medial chapters of Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature move the argument into the realm of the literary, utilizing the prominence of disabled bodies in literature to supplement their absence from the historical record. The literary approach provides insight into the culturally specific experiences of disabled women in early modern Spain by revealing how they were imagined living in the real world. Chapter two, "The Artifice of Syphilitic and Damaged Female Bodies in Literature," unpacks the mounting blame placed on women for transmission of syphilis, with stigma particularly tied to the profession of sex work. The scope of this chapter is broad, covering: Francisco Delicado's 1528 La Lozana andaluza [Portrait of Lozana: The Lusty Andalusian Woman]; Miguel de Cervantes's 1613 novel, Casamiento engañoso [The Deceitful Marriage]; another work attributed to Cervantes, La tía fingida [The Pretended Aunt]; and finally, Francisco de Quevedo's early-seventeenth-century satiric poetry. In addition to tracing the stigma of syphilis, Juárez-Almendros also explores themes of heteronormativity, unequal access to health care, and "the politics of virginity" (66).

In chapter three, "The Disabling of Aging Female Bodies: Midwives, Procuresses, Witches and the Monstrous Mother," Juárez-Almendros's attention turns from the profession of sex work to the phenomenon of aging. This chapter, like chapter two, surveys texts across the early modern period: Fernando de Rojas's 1499/1502 La Celestina; Miguel de Cervantes's 1613 Diálogo de los perros [Dialogue of the Dogs]; Mateo Alemán's 1599/1604 Guzmán de Alfarache; and Francisco de Quevedo's 1626 El Buscón [The Swindler], as well as further examples from Quevedo's satiric poetry. Examples from these texts illustrate how old women were presented "as corrupted social agents that harm both the individual body and the body politic with their distorted knowledge and evil powers" (83). The devaluation of older women's knowledge as 'distorted' affords Juárez-Almendros an opportunity to discuss the removal of women from medical professions in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries. As universities increasingly institutionalized medicine and limited access to authorized medical knowledge, women "lost control of their own health" (86) and the (often older) women who had historically been keepers of gynecological, obstetric, and pediatric knowledge were increasingly dismissed as false and deceitful.

The fourth and final chapter, "Historical Testimony of Female Disability: The Neurological Impairments of Teresa de Ávila," turns from the fictional portrayal of female figures as disabled to Teresa de Ávila's autobiographical writing of neurological impairment, with symptoms including chronic pain, convulsions, visions and "strong emotional fluctuations" (117). In contrast to the stigmatizing of sex workers and old women, Teresa de Ávila provides an example of how disability could be configured positively—though not without challenges—in a Catholic moral context, resulting in major institutional changes. For Teresa, "[L]iving with frequent epileptic episodes with visible somatic effects proved in the end to be an unbearable situation. Teresa's decision to reform the Carmelite order and to found new convents may have partly originated in her need to create alternative spaces and lifestyles" (140). Disability thus incites change, both to ways of being in the world and to institutional structures for the exercise of faith.

Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature is particularly valuable for its articulation of gender—both its expression and its perception—as an experience of the body that may be disabling. Juárez-Almendros repeatedly affirms the medical and philosophical interpretation of female bodies in early modern Spain that: "Women, like the disabled, have incomplete, uncontainable, deformed and excessive bodies that threaten mainstream order and solidarity" (20). While this study remains almost exclusively within the realm of binary cisgender identities—that is, identifying as male or female in alignment with one's sex assigned at birth—it lays crucial groundwork for future studies exploring nuances of sex and gender, including intersex embodiments and transgender or non-binary gender identities. Following Juárez-Almendros's example, these experiences of the body in early modern Europe (whether named or not) also contributed to experiences of disability and would benefit from consideration through the lens of critical disability studies.

With a refreshingly direct writing style, Disabled Bodies in Early Modern Spanish Literature offers a discussion of women and disability from which readers may learn much, even without being experts in the primary texts or historical period under discussion. This book is generally accessible without any knowledge of the Spanish language, though such readers should take note when Juárez-Almendros provides terms in Spanish (e.g. partera for midwife), as these are used interchangeably with their English counterparts. Readers should also be advised that discussion of the profession historically known as "prostitution" typically relies on language that directly translates Spanish sources into English terms, some of which are increasingly viewed as dehumanizing or disrespectful, rather than now-preferred terms such as "sex work" and "sex worker" (though Juárez-Almendros does make use of this formula, see 111n31). There are some typographical errors, particularly in chapter endnotes (e.g., 47n21, 82n63, 115n61; but see also 150, 168). However, as this review's numerous citations to chapter endnotes reveal, Juárez-Almendros's notes are often illuminating and provide invaluable guidance to readers who are non-experts in this content area. This book should be a strongly recommended reading for students of feminist disability studies, alongside work by authors such as Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Margrit Shildrick, as it provides crucial context for the deep linkages between female/feminine embodiments and disability in early modern Spain, and consequently, in the vast scope of the world today that has been influenced—through colonization, but also through trade and cultural exchange—by early modern Spanish culture.

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