Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Luis Martín-Estudillo

Second Advisor

Ana M. Rodríguez-Rodríguez


The significant cultural impact of HIV/AIDS has led to the production of an impressive amount of scholarship in the US and Northern Europe since the outbreak of the epidemic in 1980. In contrast, the study of the cultural representations of HIV/AIDS has been largely overlooked in the realm of Spanish literary criticism. The purpose of my dissertation is to address that void through the analysis of a representative corpus of texts and artistic works from different periods and genres that acknowledge the impact of the epidemic in Spain. More particularly, this dissertation analyzes Spanish literary and artistic representations of HIV/AIDS through a critical comparison with other written materials produced in the 16th and 17th centuries as a reaction to the syphilis epidemic that hit Europe at the time, also known as the Great Pox.

The corpus of texts used in this dissertation includes Francisco Delicado’s La Lozana andaluza (1528); two short novels by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616); individual poems and collections of poetry by authors such as Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645), Anastasio Pantaleón de Ribera (1600-1629), Aníbal Núñez (1944-1987), or Galician-language poet Lois Pereiro (1958-1996); as well as artistic works and performances by AIDS activist Pepe Espaliú (1955-1993). I explore this corpus through an interdisciplinary approach bringing into play, among others, historical and medical discourses, biopolitics, sociology of literature, semiology, as well as theories about violence and empathy.

In my comparative examination of these authors’ representations of disease, I argue that contemporary writers approached HIV/AIDS using a framework inspired on the aesthetic and epistemic strategies developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in the context of the emergence of the Baroque. This framework allowed modern authors to confront the uncertainties caused by Post-Modernity and HIV/AIDS, and inspired them to depict the pandemic by means of metaphor and indirectness.

The ultimate goal of my research is to uncover variables that will help to enlighten the well-documented historical trend to stigmatize sexual transmitted and infectious diseases. My work also sheds light on the reasons behind the slow emergence of epidemic diseases as objects of cultural debate in Spain, as well as on the social, political and ethical consequences of this slowness. Finally, I argue that there are some specifically artistic and literary responses to the Great Pox and HIV/AIDS that can help to understand the nature of these diseases and to distinguish discriminatory usages of these phenomena.


Contemporary, Early Modern, French Pox, HIV/AIDS, Spanish Literature, Visual Arts


ix, 303 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 291-303).


Copyright © 2017 Jose Pablo Barragan Nieto