Because “writing” is not only the final output or product, but also a process or activity, both the expe­rience of writing and the final object of that expe­rience requires close scrutiny in order to identify how a woman writer might even con­sider approaching the process of writing. It should also be men­tioned that the act of writing involves both the devel­opment of a voice made up of ele­ments such as tone, style, rhythm, and stance, as well as content (which invariably cannot be sep­a­rated clearly from the rest). Those choices reflect the indi­vidual psy­cho­logical and social cir­cum­stances in which the women lived.

​Likewise, first iden­ti­fying, and then choosing which ele­ments to analyze in the final product is inevitably the decision of the editor of the spe­cific text, and is therefore, a reflection of the editor’s con­tem­porary identity and value system, whether uncon­scious or con­scious. The mul­tiple layers of meaning (both the editors’ choices and the texts of the study) create the final trans­mission of the message and shape the effects the utterance has on its audience in the present time. However, it is pos­sible to identify char­ac­ter­istics in each voice that respond to and expressthe par­ticular self-awareness (not to say self-consciousness) of the author and how they believe their lan­guage is received by their read­ership. It is probably true that all writing expresses some level of inse­curity, however, it is also true that writers who do not fit the para­meters of what is gen­erally accepted to be an authority, have further con­cerns in that they lack the legacy of role models to whom to con­sider when devel­oping their own writing. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar address this subject in their ground­breaking analysis of Vic­torian era lit­er­ature. They ask: “What does it mean to be a woman writer in a culture whose fun­da­mental def­i­n­i­tions of lit­erary authority are, as we have seen, both overtly and covertly patri­archal? […] Does the Queen try to sound like the King, imi­tating his tone, his inflec­tions, his phrasing, his point of view? Or does she “talk back” to him in her own vocab­ulary, her own timbre, insisting on her own view­point? (45–46)” Either way, a woman writer inevitably responds from the place of the “other” to a nor­mative male voice, ever present in the equation.


​Female writers may also feel a tension between what they would like to express and how they antic­ipate their voice will be received, not because of what they say, per se, but because of their pre­scribed identity in society. Addi­tionally, these authors often feel a need to express them­selves pre­cisely because the image they have of them­selves is con­trary in some way to the label they are assigned by the outside world. The dialectic of the inner self and the façade is aug­mented because the façade is not even self-created, rather, it is a per­ceived impo­sition and often at odds with how the author them­selves would like to be seen. The tension between a “self-fashioned” persona that they actively project into society and the identity that outside forces assign them is also reflected in the authors’ writing. In the case of Leonor, for example, her family’s rep­u­tation had been tar­nished by having fallen out of favor with Queen Catalina of Lancaster,so her writing demon­strates the intention to reclaim a persona free from this political stain. Teresa de Cartagena’s con­ver­soidentity would have likewise sig­nified alterity. Isabel de Villena’s pre­carious position of power in the convent as head abbess was as much political as spir­itual, her authority having been chal­lenged due to her cat­e­go­rization as an ille­git­imate child.

​Each of these three authors expe­ri­enced dif­ferent impetus to write con­trary to the estab­lished status quo for women’s acceptable behavior, and each approached this par­ticular problem of identity dif­fer­ently. However, there are sim­i­lar­ities in their tech­niques that, when com­pared to each other, provide a wider view of their process of writing as a product of their gender, as well as their efforts to influence future gen­er­a­tions.  It is the intention of this project to amplify (in the sense to make louder) evi­dence of the trans­for­mative and trans­gressive aspect of these women’s writing in such a way as to deposit their work firmly within the legacy of the struggle for women’s self-determination Struc­turing this argument, therefore, depends on a two-pronged approach to the analysis of the writing. A dig­i­tal­t­agging system can identify chosen ele­ments in the writing, their fre­quency and placement in the texts as well as the com­mon­al­ities between the three works. In recog­nition of the sub­jec­tivity of the editing process, the work of iden­ti­fi­cation of the shared ele­ments will be pre­sented in a way so that the evo­lution of the doc­ument (digital image) into the text with analysis and com­mentary will be a trans­parent devel­opment.  Hans Walter Gabler sug­gests that a digital scholarly edition is in fact a pro­duction of its editor and, therefore, the editor is an important agent of the edition, not only (as we would imagine) the author. He pro­poses that we view a scholarly edition as a “web of discourses…interrelated and of equal standing.” (Gabler 44) The scholarly edition of Memorias, Arboleda de los enfermos, and the Vita Christi should likewise propose “a solution to [the] edi­torial problem” of how exactly one is to read these three texts as a cohesive group. (47)

​Imag­ining the steps involved in the process of writing is essential to deciding upon the cat­e­gories of labels applicable to each text indi­vid­ually and all three as a cohesive group. Ques­tions to guide a close reading of the works, while sub­jective, can be sup­ported and val­i­dated by the system of tags. Essen­tially the tags may provide the reader with evi­dence that could approach the text with the fol­lowing ques­tions about the writing process: When a person sits down to write, what space do they occupy and how chal­lenging has it been to secure that space? In other words, what is the value (to them) of the space and time to write? Are they truly alone? Do they write without concern or con­sid­er­ation for the eyes that will scan the page after the words are done? Or do they pause to think about the words that will flow from hand to paper and the effect they will have on their audience? What outside forces, intended or oth­erwise exert influence on the words chosen for the text? Since these ques­tions are being asked today of texts pro­duced in the far past, one would need to clarify if the process is manual or machinal, and how that might change the final product. Finally, did the author have the knowledge when they wrote that their words would be first copied or revised according to a par­ticular con­vention before meeting a reader?  These are ques­tions that quite clearly may be answered in dif­fering ways depending on the cir­cum­stances of the act of writing, the author and their par­ticular con­scious or sub­con­scious incli­na­tions in approaching the writing process. These are also pre­cisely the ques­tions that a digital scholarly edition could attempt to engage.

Tagging System

​The devel­opment of iden­ti­fi­cation tags embedded in the coding of the XML tran­scription of the three texts of this edition responds to these ques­tions by extracting values pre­de­ter­mined by the editor from the content and allowing for their pre­sen­tation in a non-hierarchical, simul­ta­neous, and visually demon­strative way. The reader of the Digital Edition should be able to access these values by searching for the tags which will, in turn, produce a visual “web” of relating values either in one text in par­ticular, or across all three texts. “The Bib­li­og­raphy of Spanish Women Writers” (or BIESES) is one of the more important digital resources related to this research. As a col­lab­o­rative digital archive, the digital tran­scrip­tions it con­tains allow researchers to search based on estab­lished terms and sub­cat­e­gories of attributes and their values. Sim­i­larly, this project will incor­porate iden­ti­fying labels that should com­plement pre-existing work on the authors already tran­scribed, as well as con­tribute further infor­mation to ongoing and future projects. 

​Perhaps the most easily iden­ti­fiable of the tags, deals with the marking of textual problems (e.g. incon­sis­tencies, era­sures, uniden­ti­fiable text, or par­tic­u­lar­ities of the man­u­script or print edition). These tags may be grouped under the clas­si­fi­cation of “textual inter­pre­tation.”  The remaining cat­e­gories of tags require the more extensive expla­nation that follows because they are more sub­jective in their assig­nation to the text. The­fol­lowing cat­e­gories of tags are the editor’s inter­pre­tation of genre, rhetoric, lexis (which were chosen because they loosely follow the medieval arts of the trivium- dialectic, rhetoric, and grammar), and inter­tex­tu­ality. The fol­lowing is an expla­nation of the rea­soning behind the choice of the cat­e­gories of tags.


​Just as Gabler pro­posed in his def­i­n­ition of a digital scholarly edition, and Green­blatt sug­gested in his analysis of the self-fashioning 16th century author, the tax­onomy of tagging chosen for this research is as much a con­struct or pro­duction as the three texts it seeks to place in con­ver­sation. Gabler’s concept of “mul­tiple dis­courses” therefore, is rel­evant in that the dis­courses high­lighted in this edition reflect the par­ticular inter­pretive stance of the editor. The word “dis­course,” as in con­ver­sation or exchange, speaks to the mul­ti­di­rec­tional rela­tionship between the author, the reader and the editor. Therefore, the digital tagging of “genre” is an attempt to classify dif­fering types of dis­course according to the intent of the work as per­ceived by the editor.  The subset of tags under the label of genre identify both the most common of the lit­erary genres from the 15th century and the clearest presence of their influence in the writing of Leonor, Teresa and Isabel. The non-exhaustive cat­e­gories as a subset of genre have been estab­lished thus: “Clerical,” as in sermon, vision, con­so­latory treatise, vita; and “Laic,” which are exemplum, epistle, per­for­mance, poetry, music, tes­tament, and auto­bi­og­raphy (this last genre is prob­lematic for Memorias  because it is con­sidered one of the first ‑if not the first- auto­bi­og­raphy in Castilian and as such its exis­tence estab­lished the genre and not vice versa).

​The writers’ incor­po­ration of rec­og­nizable medieval genres in each work serves the dual purpose of reit­er­ating the indi­vidual com­mu­nicative inten­tions of each genre, while at the same time pre­dis­poses the reader to feel a famil­iarity with the text and, therefore, aids in its com­pre­hension. This concept is most fully explained through the branch of lin­guistics iden­tified as “Rel­e­vance Theory” which Dan Sperber and Deidre Wilson pro­posed as an expansion of tra­di­tional prag­matic approaches to the analysis of lan­guage. They suggest that “an input (a sight, a sound, an utterance, a memory) is rel­evant to an indi­vidual when it con­nects with background-information he has available, to yield con­clu­sions that matter to him” (3) and that furthermore,

​“Intu­itively, the greater the effort of per­ception, memory and inference required, the ​less rewarding the input will be to process, and hence the less deserving of our ​attention. In relevance-theoretic terms, other things being equal, the greater the ​Pro­cessing Effort required, the less rel­evant the input will be. Thus, Rel­e­vance may ​be assessed in terms of cog­nitive effects and pro­cessing effort.” (4)

By couching their words in frame­works of genre and (as we will see) rhetoric, the authors assure that their read­ership both would absorb their message more easily and be more likely to accept the “truth” of what they read. On a cog­nitive level, this strategy is effective. As Rel­e­vance Theory suggests: 

​The uni­versal cog­nitive ten­dency to max­imize rel­e­vance makes it possible…to predict ​and manip­ulate the mental states of others. Knowing of your ten­dency to pick out the ​most rel­evant stimuli in your envi­ronment and process them so as to max­imize their ​rel­e­vance, I may be able to produce a stimulus which is likely to attract your attention, ​to prompt the retrieval of certain con­textual assump­tions and to point you towards an ​intended con­clusion.” (Wilson and Sperber, 254)

Essen­tially, the writer’s concern with genre is a way to rec­ognize and value the dialectal attributes of com­mu­ni­cation, that is the value of dis­cussion and thought as well as the art of opposing interests, ideas, and identity. As editor, iden­ti­fying the ele­ments of genre in the works reit­erates the medieval author’s inten­tions within the context of their time both indi­vid­ually as well as illu­mi­nates the con­nec­tions between the works.


​The cat­egory of tags under the umbrella heading of “Rhetoric” (taken to be the art of per­suasion) is of par­ticular interest because rhetorical devices are employed to varying degrees in every genre of lit­er­ature. Since the basic level of dis­course is expressed in an exchange of lan­guage, the writers’ use of effective rhetorical struc­tures scaf­folds the lan­guage in such a way as to facil­itate both under­standing and com­plicity in the reader. The rhetorical tags chosen for this study, therefore, are strategies of per­suasion common in rec­og­nized author­ities of 15th century Iberia. Most medieval male authors based their rhetorical usage on texts such as St. Augustine’s Art of Christian Doc­trine and Saint Isidore of Seville’s Ety­mologies and they are: Allegory, Cap­tatio Benev­o­lentiae, Ekphrasis, Metaphor (and its mul­tiple man­i­fes­ta­tions), Exe­gesis, Dis­pu­tation, and Didactics. Instead of orga­nizing rhetoric into its classic cat­e­gories of ars praed­i­candis, ars dic­t­a­minis, and ars poe­triae, the tagging system will allow indi­vidual rhetorical tags to overlap as well as cross the bound­aries of genre so that, for example the dis­pu­tation may be used as much in an auto­bi­o­graphical capacity (Teresa) as a per­for­mance (as it is in the case of Isabel’s Vita Christi.


​“Lexis” as its name denotes, is the group of tags that will organize indi­vidual words into semantic cat­e­gories. This grouping of tags comes closest to tra­di­tional prag­matics, “…an infer­ential process which takes as input the pro­duction of an utterance by a speaker, together with con­textual infor­mation, and yields as output an inter­pre­tation of the speaker’s intended meaning.” (Preface X, Wilson and Sperber 2012) In other words, cat­e­go­rizing and col­lating vocab­ulary can be used to draw con­clu­sions about the intention or purpose of the nar­rative on the whole. A researcher will be able to search, for example, the “utterance” of “infor­mative verbs,” to make infer­ences about the purpose or intent of the women’s writing, namely, if there are an abun­dance of infor­mative verbs com­pared to other types, the con­clusion could be drawn that the primary purpose of the doc­ument was simply to inform. Nouns of place, material objects, and symbols, for instance, would all fit under the “Lexis” heading. Verbs will be labeled as well, based on their function (infor­mative or appellative in this case).

Web of Discourse

Finally, it is nec­essary to include a set of tags to address the unique nature of inter­textual ref­er­ences in the three texts. In all three works, Leonor, Teresa and Isabel used outside sources to but­tress their own writing and it is important to address this aspect of their writing because it denotes what work the authors may have been familiar with, the pos­sible influ­ences on their writing, and whose words (for these women) carried the weight of authorial value. The tags will identify both Bib­lical or peripheral reli­gious texts men­tioned in the writing whether they were pro­duced pre­vious to the author’s time period or are con­tem­po­ra­neous. Addi­tionally, tags will rec­ognize ref­er­ences to other types of secular prose, such as exempla, specula, and notably nar­rative from the corpus of texts known as the “Querella de mujeres” or the Woman Question. The iden­ti­fi­cation of the presence of sources that lie outside the spir­itual world is an important step in under­standing to what extent the writing women expe­ri­enced and were influ­enced by lit­er­ature “for literature’s sake.” This is rel­evant because reading and writing outside of reli­gious pur­poses was res­olutely pro­hibited for women pre­cisely in those trea­tises that they may have read.

​The rel­e­vance of the tagging system for this research is to identify

  1. how(if?) women writing in the 15th century were able to exert the influence of their own beliefs counter to the accepted culture and
  2. which ele­ments of their writing are present pre­cisely because of their mar­gin­alized position. The sub­versive and self-reflective/ self-defining nature of their words were cer­tainly meant for a dual audience: the primary, sym­pa­thetic, female inter­locutors, and the sec­ondary, yet often hostile, official male authority (not to be con­fused with male reception or general male opinion).

XML Tagging Taxonomy

Notes Textual Interpretation-Omitions, etc.… based on the Estoria de espanna digital tran­scription guide. notes- “hkbtext”

Notes Per­sonal Observations- notes- “hkbobs”


Clerical- seg “clerical”

(to dis­tin­guish between what was taught more explicitly and con­doned specif­i­cally in the convent)

  1. Sermon
  2. Vision
  3. Con­so­latory treatise
  4. Vita
  5. Con­fession

Laic- seg “laic”

  1. Auto­bi­og­raphy (theory of auto­bi­og­raphy? Rhetoric)
  2. Exemplum
  3. Epistle
  4. The­atrical Per­for­mance (Clerical too- this is an inter­esting problem for the digital tran­scription to resolve)
  5. Poetry
  6. Music
  7. Testament/ will
  8. Speculum
  9. Relación

Inter­pre­tation of Rhetoric– seg “rhetoric”

  1. Cap­tatio Benevolentiae
  2. Allegory
  3. Ekphrasis
  4. Metaphor
  5. Exe­gesis
  6. Par­al­lelism
  7. Dis­pu­tation (genre?)
  8. Didactics
  9. Ampli­fi­cation? Polish/ beauty?
  10. Anaphora
  11. Antithesis
  12. Polypteton

Lexis (developed from Hinger, Barbara. “En torno a las Memorias de Leonor López de Córdoba: Una aprox­i­mación lingüística.” Uni­ver­sitat de Barcelona. 2002. Web. 29 Feb. 2012.


  1. Place
  2. Person
  3. Object
  4. Body
  5. Material
  6. Time
  7. Sign/ symbol


Infor­mative function

  • Affir­mation
  • Descrip­tionc. Explanation
  • Pre­dic­tione. Diagnostic

Appellative Function

  • Pro­posal
  • Plea
  • Sug­gestion
  • Rec­om­men­dation

Inter­pre­tation of Inter­tex­tu­ality • seg “intertext” seg “lang”

1. Clas­sical authorities

2. Bib­lical authorities

  • The Virgin Mary
  • Other bib­lical figures

3. Con­tem­porary authorities