Naturalistic philosophy in the Spanish Golden Age picaresque novel

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My dissertation analyzes three canonical Spanish Golden Age picaresque novels through the lens of naturalistic philosophy. The works selected for my study are the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), Guzmán de Alfarache (Part I - 1599, Part II - 1604) by Mateo Alemán and El Buscón (1626) by Francisco de Quevedo. While critics have acknowledged a basic kinship between the picaresque novels and nineteenth century naturalist novels in terms of subject matter and a willingness to portray the sordid lives of society's marginalized, few have examined these works from the perspective of naturalistic philosophy. The purpose of this dissertation is to fill that gap in picaresque criticism by analyzing the specifically naturalistic elements of these works. By examining the role of hereditary and environmental determinism, the motives for sex and marriage, and the role of God and religion in each novel, this study will demonstrate that the narrators of these works paint a surprisingly naturalistic picture of the workings of human society. A secondary purpose of this dissertation is to examine several intriguing points of contact between these Golden Age picaresque novels and the naturalistic novels of nineteenth century Spain.

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