Sunday, 1 May 2011

Review of the VIII ALEPH Congress (27-29th April, University of Gerona)

From 27th to 29th of April has taken place in Gerona (Spain) the 8th congress of the Spanish association for young hispanists ALEPH that, with more than seventy speakers from about forty European and American universities, can be considered the most important meeting of predoctoral researchers in Iberian and Latin American literatures at the current time (a copy of the programme can be found here). Despite the underrepresentation of Medieval Studies, the topic of the congress "Fuentes, historia y tradición en la literatura hispánica" (Sources, history and tradition in Hispanic literature) has allowed one of our fellows to infiltrate and to provide us with the following first-hand review of the event.

The University of Gerona is a rather small one, but it has demonstrated that it can take in a huge event such as the VIII ALEPH Congress. Located in the old convent of Sant Domènec, at the very top of the old town, the Faculty of Letters has been during three days the picturesque stage for twenty-four sessions on different areas of research related to Hispanic literature. After a warm welcome by the dean Dr Joan Ferrer, Henry Ettinghausen (University of Southampton, but former Oxonian graduate) opened the congress with an inspiring talk about his own experience working with literary sources and the current possibilities of research in that direction, after which he gave way to the central part of the congress, that is, the papers by DPhil candidates of the most different universities and research centres in Europe and America.

Not having the gift for being everywhere at once, I decided to attend only the sessions related to Renaissance and Golden Age literature, which this first day covered a significant range of genres and historical moments, including the fifteenth century author Juan del Encina, the final establishment of the literay topic of the court being a "mare malorum" in the sixteenth century, the "Cancionero de López Maldonado" of 1586 and a comprehensive review of the seventeenth century picaresque, scientific literature, historical prose, theatre and translation. The methodological approaches were also varied, ranging from genetic criticism in "Un manuscrito inédito de La jornada del Brasil de Juan de Valencia y Guzmán" (Daniel García Vicens, University of Gerona) to source criticism in "El legado de la Arcadia virgiliana en en la obra de Juan del Encina" (Blanca Ballester Morell, University of Barcelona) and "La Corte como mare malorum: tradición y fuentes para un tópico renacentista" (Mª del Rosario Martínez Navarro, University of Sevilla), as well as dealing with the historical truth of literary texts in "La batalla de Fuenterrabía en No hay cosa como callar de Calderón de la Barca" (Karine Delmondes, University of Navarra) and "Estrategias de legitimación tras el elogio: Herrera Maldonado y su Apología en favor de Fernán Méndez Pinto" (Iván Teruel Cáceres, University Autonoma of Barcelona) or the characteristics of picaresque novel in "Rinconete y Cortadillo: novela de pícaros" (Paula Renata de Ataujo, University of Sao Paulo) and "Un pícaro virtuoso: paradigma del pícaro cervantino en La ilustre fregona en contraposición con el Guzmán Alfarache" (Alejandro de Jesús Loeza Zaldívar, University of Navarra). From an ideological perspective the first day of the congress counted with the papers "Saavedra Fajardo y la revolución astronómica del XVII: Tradición vs. Innovación" (Sonia Boadas Cabarrocas, University of Gerona) and, to a certain extent and in a more poetical sense, "El prólogo del Cancionero de López Maldonado" (Ana Mª Maldonado Cuns, University of Santiago de Compostela). The average quality of the papers was very high and showed good research abilities, but I would highlight especially the talks by Sonia Boadas and Daniel García, not only because of being the hosts of the congress, but because of their interesting conclusions and amazingly clear expositions.

The first day finished with a comprehensive visit to the old town that tested how fit the participants were and their balance, as climbing stairs is a constant in Gerona and the streets are rather designed for mountain boots than for heels. Disadvantages of Medieval layouts. Unfortunately, the rain forced us to look for shelter earlier than expected, however, it had been a long day and the following one started early, so going back to accommodation was welcomed by all.

At 09:30 "La ocasión histórica en los poemas gongorinos: a propósito de las décimas sobre la toma de Larache" (Sara Pezzini, University of Pisa) opened the morning sessions on Renaissance and Golden Age literature, a topic familiar to the attendants of the Golden Age Reading Group at Exeter College, followed by "La repercusión en la poesía española de la visita a España del príncipe de Gales, Carlos Estuardo, en 1623" (Zaida Vila Carnero, University of Santiago de Compostela). The remaining papers focused exclusively on theatre, with some predilection for Lope de Vega in three of the four remaining talks, that is, "El viaje del exilio de un morisco de ficción: memoria literaria del desarraigo hispano musulmásn en la novela La desdicha por la honra de Lope de Vega" (Benedetta Belloni, University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), "La doma de la boba: de fuentes y tradiciones en Shakespeare y Lope de Vega" (Guillermo Gómez, ITEM and Complutense University) and "Il novellino de Masuccio Salernitano en algunas comedias de Lope y Calderón" (Diana Berruezo, University of Barcelona). The latter shared with "De Barclay a Calderón: algunas claves para la determinación de la fuente inmediata de Argenis y Poliarco" (Alicia Vara López, University of Santiago de Compostela) the topic of Calderón de la Barca, but once again the methodological approaches were completely diverse. This time, my favourites were those that traced carefully the sources, including the papers by Guillermo Gómez, Diana Berruezo and Alicia Vara, but I must admit that the historical approach to the other topics was very satisfactory too.

A panel of specialists in fin-de-siècle literature (Isabel Clúa, University of Barcelona; Jordi Luengo, University Pablo de Olavide; and Begoña Sáez, University of Alicante) closed the morning session with some reflections on the disdainful attitude of scholars towards decadent and bohemian literature and gave an overview of the open research paths in this field. The afternoon was again devoted to DPhil candidates, but this time no Renaissance or Golden Age topics were handled, so I must admit that I only attended the general meeting of the association afterwards, in which the new representatives were elected, the venue for the next congress was voted and the book "Del verbo al espejo. Reflejos y miradas de la literatura hispánica", containing the proceedings of the previous ALEPH Congress, was presented. Free digital copies of the latter were given to the participants and an on-line version will be available soon here, as well as physical copies have been made available for those who participated and prefer paper to pdf. On the other hand, the election of Cádiz beyond the other candidates (Sevilla, Oviedo) as the venue of the coming congress was almost unanimous due to its coincidence with the bicentenary of the Constitution of 1812, a.k.a. La Pepa, so that ALEPH can join the celebrations that will take place in the city during the whole year. In addition, I can advance that the topic for the next year will be related to subversive writing and freedom, but it is highly advisable to keep track of the congress at its website. Finally, the new board of directors will be published soon there, too.

The last day, only one session was devoted to Renaissance and Golden Age literature in which Amaranta Saguar García (University of Oxford) and Sofía Cantalapiedra Delgado (University of Barcelona) spoke about biblical and classical tradition respectively. Unfortunately, the third speaker (Diego Fabián Arévalo) could not attend the congress, but this circumstance favoured the expositions of Amaranta Saguar and Sofía Cantalapiedra, which were able to talk at lenght about their topics "Influencia de la hipérbole sacroprofana bíblica sobre la interpretación y la estructura de Celestina" and "La tradición clásica en El Eneas de Dios de Agustín Moreto". Both were praised and congratulated by their listeners afterwards, who highlighted above all the convincing evidences they supplied for supporting their respective arguments.

The reputed scholar Jorge García López (University of Gerona) closed the congress with a talk intiled "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote" in which he approached to Borges' short story from a very inspiring perspective that analysed the history of the criticism about Cervantes and its evolution until its current state. Farewell followed, but I am sure that there will be several familiar faces and names at the next ALPEH congress. See you there!
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