During the early 15th century, many Spanish Jews converted to Christianity to escape persecution in the wake of widespread anti-Jewish violence in the 1390s. The extent to which the literature written by these conversos accurately reflects their social and legal alienation from the Old Christian (non-converso) population has long been debated. This book is the first comprehensive examination of this literature, setting its parameters and providing illustrations from a broad range of converso texts. Kaplan analyzes representative literary works from three stages of the socio-religious disenfranchisement of the conversos, from the initiation of legal discrimination in 1474, through Isabel's early years as queen, to the decades immediately after the establishment of the Inquisition. He identifies a number of parallels between the historical evolution of the plight of the conversos and the course of their literature.
From early admonitory responses to a two-tier Christianity, to a general deification of Queen Isabel when she appeared to be working to close the schism between Christians, to allegorical reactions to the arbitrary persecution of the Inquisition, Kaplan describes a "converso code" or discourse of alienation. For students of literature, Kaplan identifies a distinct converso sensibility in many texts and shows how it focuses on certain metaphors and evolves in response to certain historical events and pressures. For historians, he identifies a body of literature that reflects and testifies to the turbulent social and religious currents of Spain in the 15th century.