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Tracing Lives: The Spanish Inquisition And The Act Of Autobiography

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Chapter Summary

This chapter draws attention to an exceptional form of early modern autobiography, what is called in Spanish a traza, which means 'outline', 'sketch', or 'pattern' in reference to design. Also known as a discurso de la vida - literally, the 'discourse of one's life' - these were autobiographical statements from prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition delivered toward the end of their first, formal interrogation as potential heretics. Suspects deposing before the Holy Office held no monopoly on the use of this expression. What is more, such 'ego-speeches' came in all sizes and shapes. Some fill up numerous folios, while others barely reach a paragraph. They possess several characteristics in common, not least of which is their interest for present-day historians of early modern autobiographical expression. These two issues: the characteristics of these texts and their uses for historians -will be the focus of the chapter.

Keywords: autobiography; discurso de la vida; ego-speeches; Spanish inquisition; traza



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