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Pedro M. Cátedra

The authority of the letter. Captive practices of writing and orality in the 16th and 17th century URL: http://www.march.es/conferencias/anteriores/voz.aspx?p1=21927&l=2

At the beginning, without doubt, we have the literary practice, the intelectual practice, in any of its manifestations and media: visual and text-based, spoken or written. But only few intermediations, which we can now perceive, allow us to put individuals or entire collectives in social or cultural situations limiting enough to foster the apparition of common and representative practice and use of texts, which can gain a place in history, and at the same time, gain their own historiographic definition.

We could consider that during the 16th and 17th century, censorship was one of those privileged intermediations, maybe not cultural, but definitively material and executive. Both, the practice of auto-censorship as well as the censorship applied by civil or religious institutions, produce the concentration of agents and patients of the control in the most common aspects of literary writing and reading practices, the use of books, and the relation between spoken and written texts. These aspects, which are the most real and extended ones in regards to the relation and use of texts, are not always the focus of the observations we could do from a literary, more than sociologic, perspective.

The Inquisition applied their attention to promote orthodoxy in all social classes and thanks to the processes we conserve, it is possible to design a history of the reading, or of the relationship with the spoken and written texts, that many times are invisible to the eyes of modern historiography. It is true that today we know that any heterodoxy has high chances of being an artificial and theoretical construction of those in hold of power, and are defined on the basis of a detailed casuistry applied automatically, which is easily recognizable in the collective or individual patients like if it followed some kind of script -the case of most modern heresies or witchcraft-. We also need to add the weight  imposed by a judicial inquiry in line with protocols so strict and perfectly regulated as any other procedural rules, or even more. Nevertheless, in Inquisitorial procedures; not only those directly related to what is read, or those of direct control over texts like the censorships or recommendations from the authority (written or preached); we learn quite some data that allows us to reconstruct a new history of relationships between texts, and to highlight the sociological changes that occurred in that period of typographic acculturation within this period of history to which we refer on the title of the conference. It also allows us to reconstruct the peculiar, and very different, relationships that current readers have with the texts, regardless of the category they would fit into. To do this, the key is the normative authority which is recognized in the text, manuscript, and especially, handouts, to the point that nowadays it may seem unbelievable due to making the frontier delimiting fiction and reality, history and poetry (in the classic sense), blurry. And this happens at all levels.

In this conference we will pose this question and propose lines for the reconstruction of this historiographic reality using unpublished sources or documentation from censorship acts, Inquisition procedures, or educative directives. On one hand, we will study the access and use of written and spoken texts deriving from the environment of emerging social classes, particularly what we know as printed popular literature -a concept we will also review-, either in prose or in verse, as well as the contribution of these texts to a personal culture, not only as a reference for fiction and entertainment, but also for the ruling of social and religious behaviors. On the other hand, we will propose the analysis of these, and others, classes and groups that in parallel amalgamate their history. 

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