Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Languages, Literatures and Cultures



First Advisor

Francisco J. Sánchez


The picaresque genre and character appeared in what is considered the first modern novel, Lazarillo de Tormes, which was published anonymously in 1554, when Spain was on the cusp of a slow transition out of feudalism. The pícaro has continued to appear in literature across regions and epochs. This thesis looks at the socio-ideological factors that give birth to picaresque identity and behavior, as well as the verisimilitude of fiction in relation to reality. The first part of this study is dedicated to the Spanish picaresque tradition and focuses on the universal qualities of the literary figure and genre, as well as the pícaros socially-specific nature. The introductory chapter shows how Picaresque literature responds to the social conditions of Early Modern Spain, and in doing so, introduces new ways of defining value, in relation to money, culture and the individual. Drawing from Maravall's interpretation of Baroque culture, the second chapter connects large- scale crisis to human behavior and identity. A comparative study of Lazarillo De Tormes and El Buscón examines the paradoxical traits of the pícaro and how his behavior both connects and excludes him from traditional seigniorial society as well as that of an emerging bourgeois state.

The second half of the thesis identifies picaresque tendencies in literature produced in early twentieth century Argentina by Leopoldo Lugones and Roberto Arlt. The introductory chapter outlines the social tensions that arise as a result of rapid economic development that occurs between 1880 and 1930, and considers the influence of these changes on human behavior. The third and fourth chapters explore the relationship between language and national identity, as well as the ways in which gender representations influence cultural values and solidify social hierarchies. The modern picaresque studies of Malkmus, as well as the gender theories of Mosse and Masiello, trace a connection between picaresque behavior and social countertypes. The third chapter examines the ways in which Lugones employs modernista techniques to respond to modernity. In his poem, "á Histeria" and his short story, "La lluvia de fuego", paradoxical representations, reminiscent of the early picaresque literature, connect the construction of social value and identity to the period of crisis and transformation in which the works were published. In the fourth chapter, I argue that the protagonist of Arlt's novel, Los siete locos, is deficient in those qualities recognized as constructing the masculine ideal, and therefore reflects the cultural incongruency of the state.