Robert Folger

Iberian Literatures and Cultures, Heidelberg
Fellowship: 01.04.–30.09.2019



Robert Folger, Mag. Art. (Medieval History, Modern History, Spanish Literature), University of Munich (LMU 1993); Dr. phil. (Medieval and Modern History), University of Rostock (1999); PhD Spanish Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2000); Habilitation (Iberian Literatures and Cultural History), University of Munich (LMU 2007). He was a Researcher at the Center for Collaborative Research 573 at the University of Munich (LMU), Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the University of London, Royal Holloway, and chair of Hispanic Literatures at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Since 2013 he holds a chair for Ibero-American and Iberian Literatures and Cultures at the University of Heidelberg (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität).

Fields of Research

Medieval Iberian historiography and literature, sentimental romance, the Spanish picaresque novel, colonial historiography, Spanish Golden Age theater, premodern literature and science, Latin American narrative since 1800, literature and subjectivity, literature and ideology

Project outline

Soldierly Self-Portraiture and the Economy of Reputation in Early Modern Spain

A topos of literary historiography labels the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (the first extant edition dates from 1554) as a hallmark of modern literature because in this first picaresque novel of world literature, the “infamous man” (Foucault) enters the stage of world literature, telling the story of his life. With the Spanish pícaro, the subaltern subject makes his voice heard, presents himself in a positive light, and assumes authorship. Scholarship has related this pseudo-autobiography to a general Renaissance interest in the individual, identifying a plethora of possible precursors. The most substantial body of autobiography has been ignored: the many thousands of “service records” (relaciones de méritos y servicios) produced by the Spanish imperial bureaucracy. This apparatus forced state officials, and particularly soldiers, to write the story of their life and project a favorable self-image. The allocation of resources and distributive justice was one of the most important functions of Early Modern sovereigns, particularly in Spain, where military conquests, in Europe and even more so in the Americas, required distribution of the spoils in the form of mercedes (privileges, titles, offices, grants of land and labor) among the most deserving subjects of the crown. Recent scholarship has focused on the Early Modern “soldierly republic of letters” (M. Martínez): texts authored by veterans of war and conquest. These texts have been related to a so-called “economy of reputation” (Martínez), in which the reputation of individual soldiers was tied to testimonies of comrades and a favorable self-presentation. My project associates this wider field of barely studied biographical and autobiographical writing by soldiers with the bureaucratically produced CVs of the economy of mercedes, focusing on how it oscillated between subjection to a state dispositive and an emphatic attempt at subject-centered self-determination.

Publications (Selection)

  • »La escritura ›semiculta‹ y la producción de la subjetividad literaria.« Studi Ispanici 53 (2018): 155–170.
  • »El régimen visual, el cuerpo femenino, y la nación imposibilitada en el Ecuador del siglo XIX: La Emancipada (1863) de Miguel Riofrío.« La mirada del otro en la literatura hispánica. Ed. Robert Folger y J. Elías Gutiérrez Meza. Wien: LIT, 2017: 137–153.
  • »Interpersonal and commodity fetishism in Cárcel de amor and Lazarillo de Tormes.« Special Issue: Nuevas aproximaciones al canon español de la temprana edad moderna. Ed. Raquel Trillia and Ranka Minic-Vidovic. Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos 41.1 (2016): 169–191.
  • »The Absent Cause of World Literature.« European Review 21, 2 (2013): 252–262.
  • Writing as Poaching: Interpellation and Self-Fashioning in Colonial relaciones de méritos y servicios. The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World 44. Boston; Brill: Leiden, 2011.
  • Escape from the Prison of Love: Caloric Identities and Writing Subjects in Fifteenth-Century Spain. North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures 292. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  • Picaresque and Bureaucracy: Lazarillo de Tormes. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 2009.
  • ›Generaciones y semblanzas‹: Memory and Genealogy in Medieval Iberian Historiography. Romanica Monacensia 68. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 2003.
  • Images in Mind: Lovesickness, Spanish Sentimental Fiction and Don Quijote. North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures 274. Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.