Monday, 12 September 2011

Review of the XIVth International Congress of the Asociación Hispánica de Literatura Medieval (6-11 September 2011, University of Murcia)

One more time, the I3MS has had one of its members attend the XIVth International Congress of the Asociación Hispánica de Literatura Medieval (AHLM), so that it could offer its followers a first-hand review of the papers that were given there. Similarly to other congresses, the AHLM congress is structured in many simultaneous panels, so that it is impossible to convey a comprehensive review of it with only one correspondent. She has done her best during the four days she stayed there, however, the full programm can be found at the offical website of the AHLM or the congress's site, although there were some major changes related to the absence of certain speakers. In general, all the main topics of Hispanic Medieval Literature were represented, but Cancionero, Libros de Caballerías and Crónicas were the most present, with several papers and plenary sessions.

After the protocolary speeches by the organisers and sponsors of the congress, Dr Paredes Núñez (University of Granada) opened the academic part with the lecture "Estrategias discursivas del relato medieval: las voces del cuento", in which he analysed how secrets and the keeping -or the revealing- of a secret work as narrative resources in Medieval tales. This is a topic Dr Paredes has been studying for a long time by now, and his conclusions can be summarised as follows: secret saves and condemns lives (either the keeping or the revealing of it, and even the making up of a fake secret), secret tests human nature (e.g. integrity) and the stance to secret is essential for characterisation, although it is primarily determined by typology. However, this would not be possible without curiosity, which makes possible the application of secret as a narrative resource and gives its significance to the revealing of the secret.

The first panel was devoted to femenine roles and Elisa Borsari (University of Alcalá) offered a reconstruction of the history of femenine reading in the Middle Ages through iconography. She focused on the figures of St Anne and the Virgin Mary as female readers, as well as certain women saints that are represented with a book (e.g. St Catharine). According to Borsari, all of these can be interpreted as role models for women, because of the readings of these figures being exclusively devotional and edifying, so that there could exist a redirection of the reading habits of women. Moreover, St Anne teaching the Virgin to read could explain why it was recommended that women taught other women, as well as that they taught the first letters to young men. The following paper by Karla Xiomara Luna Mariscal (El Colegio de México) offered an in-depth typology of women roles in chivalry romances that clearly exceeded the most accepted division in four or five types, including some frequently overlooked female characters. However, the typology that Luna presented being so extensive, it will be necessary to wait until the conference proceedings are published to be able to analyse her proposal.

Exemplary literature was the topic of the next panel I attended, with Sarah Finci (University of Geneva) talking about "El tema del servidor fiel: tres textos". She analysed the topic of the loyal servant and its relation to the topic of the two friends as it appears in three different texts: la historia de las tres manzanas, die Jakobsbrüder and Oliveros y Artús. In all of these, both topics entwine and reveal a common background ("Septem sapientibus"), which was later confirmed by Dr Carlos Alvar in the plenary session of the afternoon. In turn, Victoria Prilutsky (University of Alcalá) talked about "Lo ideal y lo real: modelos de conducta en la obra de Sem Tob de Carrión", and highlighted the moral relativity implied in "Los proverbios morales". Obviously, she linked this ambiguous attitude to the polemics around Maimonides, but her main interest relied on the contrast between the typical "espejo de príncipes", static and idealist, and Sem Tob's proposal, dinamic and realist. In fact, Sem Tob's point of view is pragmatic and practical, based on experience and being able to value the needs of every single situation, as there is no universal application of moral values. This is a frequent attitude in Jewish moral writings (above all, talmudic texts), which reflects in the mainly Jewish sources and auctoritas of the "Proverbios Morales". However, Sem Tob does not mention explicitely his sources, but talks generically about "the wise men", maybe because of his audience not being able to recognise the Jewish background of most of his proposals. Finally, Prilutsky tried to insert the Proverbios in the historical context of the court of Pedro I and his conflict with his brother Enrique. She determined that Sem Tob's proposal was the response to the political situation of his time.

The last panel before the plenary session touched many different topics, starting with "El hermetismo en los textos de Alfonso X" by Mª del Rosario Delgado (University of Alcalá). In spite of Hermetism being one of the main concerns of Humanists and the Renaissance, this is only possible after many years of evolution from the interest on magic/alchemic Hermetism to the philosophical Hermetism of the XVth and XVIth centuries, of which the works of Alfonso X are representative. Those of his writings that approach Hermetism, such as the "Lapidario", show a critical stance towards alchemic Hermetism and a growing interest on philosophical Hermetism, which is more evident at the final stages of his production. On the other hand, Enric Dolz Ferrer (Generalitat Valenciana) tried to identify the "epístola de compás" found in a catalogue of the works by Juan Rodríguez de Padrón, included in "Remedio de Perdidos" (frequently ascribed to Diego de Valera). Although Alberto Blecua has considered it to be "Siervo libre de amor", Dolz is not so convinced by this interpretation but is sure that the title "Siervo libre de amor", taken from the prologue -which could not have been written by Juan Rodríguez de Padrón-, must be an invention of the XIXth century. The last speaker, Sara Molpeceres (University of Murcia) adopted a totally different approach to its topic, as her academic background is not Hispanic literature, but Theory of Literature and Theroy of Ideas. She spoke about "La literatura mística medieval como desafío retórico al pensamiento filosófico" and confronted Theology (rational, analitic, logical, objective) with Mysticism (rhetorical, simbolic, synthetic, subjective).

At the end of the day, Dr Carlos Alvar (University of Geneva) reviewed the genetic relations of medieval works all over Europe and proposed a pan-european model of literature of the Middle Ages. His main point was that discontuinity is not a possibility, so that the absence of witnesses of certain well-known texts in Spain, or their being late, implies the existence of a huge number of lost manuscripts.

On Wednesday morning, Elena González-Blanco (UNED) opened the panel with "Berceo, Benvesin y el Juicio Final: dos significativas manifestaciones de una larga tradición mediolatina". Her purpose was to trace the common source of Gonzalo de Berceo and Benvesin, despite the differences between both texts, which she considered to be a Latin text written in goliardic stanzas that appears in the "Hohes Lied" of the XIIIth century. Rafael Alemany Ferrer (University of Alicante) followed with an analysis of the human and divine details present in Isabel de Villena's "Vita Christi", which, contrarily to other lives of Christ, shows the interaction of the supernatural and the domestic reality. This entwinement is possible thanks to the double nature, divine and human, of the Virgin Mary, so that her life is full of situations in which the supernatural interferes with human activities.

The next panel was devoted to "Celestina" and Eva Lara Alberola (Catholic University of Valencia) was in charge of opening it with her paper "Celestina, hechicera, y Maestro Guillermo y Maestre Pasquín, nigromantes; cara a cara. Duelo de titanes mágicos: de la Edad Media al Renacimiento". Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this session, but arrived on time for Santiago López-Ríos Moreno's (Complutense University) "El culto a las reliquias en la Celestina y en el pensamiento de Fray Hernando de Talavera". In this paper, López-Ríos expanded some aspects of his essay "Ver la grandeza de Dios en la Celestina: más allá del tópico de la hipérbole sagrada", appeared in the recently published homage to Joseph Snow, and put special emphasis on the critical attitude of Fray Hernando de Talavera towards relics and how it could contribute to an heteredox reading of "Celestina". Eloísa Palafox (Washington University in St Louis) introduced a very interesting perspective on the philosophical and ideological interpretation of "Celestina", joining the ranks of José Luis Canet and supporting the hypothesis that the world of University plays an essential role for the correct understanding of this work. She proposed that "Celestina" is the result of the conflict between two different university schools and their respective intellectual programmes, so that the old bawd would represent Scholasticism and Rhetoric, because of her methods of argumentation and deceptive language. Scholasticism and Rhetoric being linked to black magic and deceit would in turn represent an open attack to both schools and their methodology. Unfortunately, the first paper having been excessively long, there was no time for the questions and answers turn, but I am sure that both topics would have been highly polemic.

Wednesday's plenary session was devoted to "La iconografía del poder en el códice miniado de los Castigos de Sancho IV", by Marta Haro (University of Valencia). It was a lecture full of technical problems but of which we could extract the main ideas: this manuscript of the "Libro de los Castigos" could have been a "espejo de príncipes" for the future Juan II, copied during his years of political formation and commissioned by his -undecover- tutor Sancho de Rojas to try to keep his influence over the future king from his age of majority onwards. For that reason, the images focus on the figure of the king and the royal attributes and only appear in those contexts where royal majesty is involved. Therefore, exempla in which a king is not involved are not illustrated.

Animals inaugurated the sessions of the following day, and Luca Sacchi (University of Pavia) gave a paper intitled "Antibestiario: discurso enciclopédico y mundo animal en la Edad Media castellana". In this paper Sacchi contrasted bestiaries and animal encyclopedias, the former being interested in the symbolic interpretation of animals while the latter focuses on the biological aspect. Encyclopedias are better represented in Castilian literature than bestiaries, of which only few witnesses are known, so that this can be felt as a characteristic Castilian interest for the natural world. However, some of these encyclopedic writing include some details takes from bestiaries just for the pleasure of telling, that is, because of a literary choice. By contrast, Irene Rodríguez Cachón (University of Valladolid) talked about the "Libro de cetrería" of Luis de Zapata, which is supposed to be a tratise on falconry but reveals itself as a compendium of courtly anecdotes and happenings. This is justified to a certain extent by the metrical form it adopts, falconry being the excuse for a rhetorical artifice and the own interests of its author.

The next paper I attended was "Hacia Juan del Encina: pastores y pastoras en la literatura de los siglos XIV y XV", by Álvaro Alonso Miguel (Complutense University). After having gathered all the examples of Hispanic lyrical poetry previous to Encina'sworks, in which shepherds are mentioned in an amorous context, Alonso suggested that they were not enough evidence to justify Encina's production, as many of the topics touched by the poet were absent of these examples. By contrast, he found in French sources antecedents of most of the characteristics of Encina's shepherds that could explain better his writings. In a parallel panel, Barry Taylor (British Library) spoke about "Estoria y viesso en el manuscrito S de El conde Lucanor: una cuestión de mise en texte" and tried to find the most likely models for the layout of "El conde Lucanor". The structure exemplum-miniature-verse can be found in the "Dialogus miraculorum", too, but further research is needed to confirm this as the inspiration for Don Juan Manuel. The last speaker was Carina Zubillaga (University of Buenos Aires), who talked about "Los alcances de la santidad en el contexto codicológico del Ms. Esc. K-III-4". After an analysis of the structure of the manuscript, she concluded that it had been conceived to provide the reader with a progression of saints' lives and anecdotes that could be felt as an edifying process. Topics and stories would have been put together by afinity and responded to this purpose, so that the reader was progressively introduced to saints' lives and saintly behaviour, until he was able to appreciate it fully.

I will avoid talking about the presentation of a book that followed and I will start directly with the first panel of Friday, my last day at the congress. It started with the paper "Rimado de Palacio, cc. E 694-705: un problema textual", by Hugo Bizarri (University of Fribourg), who asked himself if the stanzas 694-705 of manuscript E of "Rimado de Palacio" belonged to the composition by López de Ayala. In his opinion, they result from revision and rewriting of the original text, which fit well with the authorial attitude of López de Ayala, and his omission in other manuscripts can either be justified because of them belonging to other stages of composition, or due to a lack of pages. However, further research is needed and he hopes to be able to present his results soon. Simone Marcerano (University of Santiago de Compostela) followed with a review of the manuscript tradition of the cantigas by Pero García Burgalés, and concluded that the differences among the three main witnesses can be explained from the point of view of a double tradition, that is, that they belong to two different branches of the stemma, which distinguish themselves because of the order of the stanzas, above all. The last paper was due to Rafael Ramos Nogales (University of Gerona), who presented to us two fragments of the book "Ce nous dit" preserved in an old book binding, glued to the blank pages of the end of the book. Both apparently come from the same copy, which is related to manuscrits M, J and Y; all of which derive from the sub-archetype p. The conservation of theses pieces of "Ce nous dit" in the binding of a Spanish book could be significant of this text having been better known in the Iberian Peninsula as it has been believed until now; circumstance that is confirmed by the use of "Ce nous dit" in many Spanish texts.

My last panel started with the presentation by Lucía Mosquera Novoa (University of La Coruña) of her project for editing the works of Juan de Torres, one of the best represented poets on the "Cancionero de Palacio". He must have been an important poet, according to the biographical review that Mosquera did, quoted by authors such as Torroellas, who only referred to well known poets. Her main argument is that the works of Juan de Torres must have been more widely distributed than it is currently known, and thinks that the section of the manuscript SA7 devoted to him could be in fact part of a "cancionero" of the poet. María Morrás Ruiz-Falcó (Pompeu Fabra University) in turn talked about her project of editing the "Proverbios Morales" of the Marqués de Santillana. She highlighted the problems such an edition conveys and focused a little bit on the double lecture of this work as a moral wirting and as a poetical writing. In her opinion, this could have affected the transmission of the text and, above all, the reception of it. Therefore, witnesses in which the lyrical aspect is emphasised will differ from other witnesses in which the moral purpose of them is favoured. From my perspective, the best paper of the day -and of the whole congress- was Jane Whetnall's (Queen Mary University of London). She analysed the textual story of "El triste que más morir" of the Bachiller de la Torre, and was able to offer a convincing explanation for the different order of the stanzas in the three main groups in which she has divided the texts that transmit this poem. In fact, it can be reduced to a problem in the page order inside the quires, which has been perpetuated by numerous copies.

In general, the level of the papers at the congress was high, although the distribution of the panels could have been better. I missed very much not having been able to attend José Antonio Torregrosa Díaz's paper "Cita subversiva y problemas textuales en La Celestina" on Saturday and I was slightly disappointed by the amount of papers that had been cancelled in the last minute. Some of them seemd quite interesting and I hope even absent speakers are allowed to include the written version of their papers in the congress proceedings, to be published soon. The next congress of the AHLM will take place in 2013, so that we will have enough time to prepare ourselves and submit a good proposal. Let's start thinking working for it!
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