Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages


Lia Schwartz

Committee Members

Jose del Valle

John O'Neill

Nuria Morgado

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Comparative Literature | European Languages and Societies | Medieval Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Other Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Spanish Literature


Catalan, Lazarillo, Picaresque, Picaresca


The Spill is a literary work written in the Catalan dialect of Valencia in 1460 by Jaume Roig, a prestigious doctor whose personal and public life is well known. The book presents numerous parallels with Lazarillo de Tormes, the 1554 novel written in Spanish (or “Castilian”) that has traditionally been considered the start of the picaresque genre in Spain. These similarities are so striking that it makes critics wonder if Spill may be a precedent of Lazarillo de Tormes. This dissertation studies the possible relations between those two books. The similarities are mostly thematic, for which the lens used to analyze them is semiotics, a school in the line of Saussurean structuralism, Russian formalism, Hjemslev and Cesare Segre that studies the net of relations created by structures and thematic motives.

The first chapter is a presentation of Spill to a public that may not be familiar with it: its author, argument, structure, autobiographical technique, meaning of the title (mirror), moral intention, and misogyny. There is also a list of editions and translations, and the question is studied of the book’s circulation and whether picaresque Castilian-speaking authors of the time could have read this Catalan text. The second chapter shows the opinions of Spill critics regarding its possible connections with Castilian picaresque. The third chapter focuses on structures of Spill that can relate it to picaresque: autobiography, epistolary style, moralizing intention, “watchtower” structure (adult narrator describing his own life as a wretched child), itinerant protagonist, episodic composition, anticlericalism and antifeminism. The last chapter describes thematic picaresque motives that are already found in Spill, like the similar introduction and self-presentation of the narrator-protagonist, or clear parallels in the development of Lazarillo’s childhood.

The dissertation shows how the same medieval structures and motives were used differently by the authors of medieval Spill, Renaissance Lazarillo or even later Baroque picaresque novels such as Guzman de Alfarache or Buscón. The conclusion is that the possibility of Spill being a precedent of Lazarillo is unlikely but the similarities are not coincidental: both books use –in different ways- literary materials that were commonly available and popular at the time. The fact that all of them are combined in Spill 94 years before Lazarillo’s publication makes us think that the originality of this latter novel was not the narrative structure but the new use of old materials.