contributor.author: James D'Emilio

title.none: Bullón-Fernández, England and Iberia (James D'Emilio)

identifier.other: baj9928.0801.006 08.01.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: James D'Emilio, University of South Florida, demilio@shell.ca.usf.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Bullón-Fernández, María, ed. England and Iberia in the Middle Ages, 12th-15th Century. The New Middle Ages. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Pp. xiv, 250. $69.95 (hb) ISBN-10: 1-4039-7224-9, ISBN-13: 978-1-4039-7224-8 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.01.06

Bullón-Fernández, María, ed. England and Iberia in the Middle Ages, 12th-15th Century. The New Middle Ages. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Pp. xiv, 250. $69.95 (hb) ISBN-10: 1-4039-7224-9, ISBN-13: 978-1-4039-7224-8 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

James D'Emilio
University of South Florida
demilio@shell.ca.usf.edu

This volume presents nine essays and an introduction on Anglo-Iberian exchanges in the Middle Ages. As the editor, María Bullón-Fernández, observes, the subject has received scant attention, despite the abundant bibliography on Anglo-Iberian relations in the age of the Armada and the Atlantic empires. Thus, the collection fills a gap for students of England or Iberia, and it is deliberately transnational in both its scholarship and subject matter. This is particularly welcome, given the persistence of national narratives of Spanish history and the deeply rooted notions of Spanish difference in British and American thought and historical scholarship. In fact, several essays limit themselves to particular Iberian kingdoms, implicitly underscoring their diversity and raising questions about modern--and medieval--notions of Iberia.

The collection has broader relevance for medievalists. Departing from studies of cultural or political centers and their peripheries, the authors examine relationships between regions which, arguably, occupied the margins of medieval Europe, and are more often studied in isolation or in relation to other continental centers. But, as the editor notes, "Not all roads led to Rome", and these articles underscore the complexity of "cultural and political traffic" in the Middle Ages (2). With topics ranging from pilgrimage and translation to commerce and dynastic marriage, the authors chart diverse paths of cultural exchange and highlight the complex political and economic ties among different regions.

The first three essays survey different forms of cultural contact. Jennifer Goodman Wollock ("Medieval England and Iberia: A Chivalric Relationship") presents the crusade as "the central paradigm" for the "chivalric relationship between England and Iberia" (17), and one with a vigorous afterlife in the rhetoric and ceremony surrounding dynastic and religious struggles of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. In spectacle and romance, Iberian crusades and Arthurian legends merged in an "Anglo-Iberian chivalry of the imagination" that cast both frontier regions "as stages for heroic adventures" (22, 25). An intriguing manifestation of this legacy arises in Washington Irving's Conquest of Granada, "a notable artifact in the history of Anglo-Iberian chivalric relations and their extension to the Americas" (15).

For Lluís Cabré ("British Influence in Medieval Catalan Writing: An Overview"), Martorell's invocation of a non-existent English chronicle in the dedication of Tirant lo Blanc sets in motion a fascinating exploration of the cultural and educational context of textual transmission that goes well beyond an inquiry into the English connections of Tirant. Cabré demonstrates the place of Catalonia in "the Latin international circuit" (30), the impact of the British "classicizing friars" (33) and their learned compilations, and the mediating role of French texts in bringing Arthurian legends, Eastern wonders, and tales of St. Patrick's Purgatory to Catalan authors. The article is exemplary in applying a range of sources and methods to recreate the full cultural environment for the transmission and translation of texts in the late Middle Ages.

Ana Echevarría Arsuaga ("The Shrine as Mediator: England, Castile, and the Pilgrimage to Compostela") considers the English pilgrimage to Compostela. Prefaced with a useful review of early English pilgrimages to the shrine, she focuses on the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Through the labyrinthine politics of the Great Schism, the Hundred Years' War, and shifting English alliances in Iberian conflicts, she investigates the impact of war and peace, treaties and embassies, taxes and royal licenses on the pilgrimage. What stands out, however, is the resiliency of the Compostelan pilgrimage despite these changing circumstances.

The next two essays are dedicated to dynastic marriages and court politics. Rose Walker ("Leonor of England and Eleanor of Castile: Anglo-Iberian Marriage and Cultural Exchange in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries") reconstructs the cultural legacy of two royal marriages, that of Leonor Plantagenet and Alfonso VIII (1170), and of Eleanor of Castile and the future Edward I (1254). She skillfully uses the richer evidence for Eleanor's artistic patronage as a starting point for recovering Leonor's role in the transmission of texts and illuminated manuscripts. Building upon the recent work of Rocío Sánchez linking the double tomb of Leonor and Alfonso VIII with the knighting of Alfonso XI at Las Huelgas in 1331, she interprets its retrospective decoration as "a series of quotations from...the marriage of Eleanor of Castile and Edward I and the associated knighting of Edward" (83) at Las Huelgas.

Cynthia Chamberlain ("A Castilian in King Edward's Court: the Career of Giles Despagne, 1313-27") meticulously traces the career of Giles Despagne in the household of King Edward II from his earliest appearance through the ascendancy of the Despensers, Giles's diplomatic missions to Iberia, and the king's forced abdication. The yeoman's loyal service explains his designation by Edward III as an emissary to Castile to seek the extradition of the accused murderers of Edward II. It is questionable, however, whether his career can bear the weight of the author's larger claims for the importance of Edward II's maternal Castilian heritage and his use of these dynastic ties.

The last four articles center on the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, the period in Anglo-Iberian relations that has won the most attention from medievalists, due to the English intervention in the dynastic struggles in Castile and the marriage alliances with Castile and the new Portuguese royal house of Avis. Three of the articles focus upon Portugal, a privileged site for Anglo-Iberian relations in the wake of the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 and the marriage of Joo I to Philippa of Lancaster the following year. Together, these pieces enrich conventional narratives of diplomatic intrigue, changing alliances, and military adventures. Instead, we are introduced to the dense texture of cultural exchange and the forging of national traditions and identities in the literary and cultural imagination.

Jennifer C. Geouge ("Anglo-Portuguese Trade during the Reign of Joo I of Portugal, 1385-1433") details the troubles facing Portuguese and English merchants despite the Anglo-Portuguese alliance and royal efforts to protect merchants and foster trade. More could be done, though, to explain how "turbulent trade relations" (121), political and dynastic alliances, royal policies, and the difficulties--in both kingdoms--of local enforcement are linked together. The cases the author describes invite more reflection on the political economy of the two kingdoms, and the different relationships between royal power and local officials and corporations.

Joyce Coleman ("Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal--and Patron of the Gower Translations?") rescues from oblivion the story of Queen Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt and wife of King Joo I, and it is a rich tale indeed. Describing her life at court and demonstrating her continuing involvement in English affairs, Coleman argues persuasively for her protagonism in a "two-pronged policy...of promoting Portugal's national identity and its contacts with England" (149), programs which converged in affirming Portugal's cultural and political independence from Castile. Cultural patronage was crucial to this effort, and Coleman credits the queen with sponsoring the translation of Gower's Confessio Amantis into Portuguese and Castilian. This excellent and wide-ranging study joins the rapidly growing bibliography on medieval queens, and deserves a place in many a syllabus. Contemplating Philippa's excision from the modern historical record, one can only second Coleman's indictment of "the armor-plated machismo that has characterized much scholarship since the mid-twentieth century" (157).

Amélia P. Hutchinson ("'Os Doze de Inglaterra': A Romance of Anglo-Portuguese Relations in the Later Middle Ages?") examines the story of the Twelve of England, as "an icon of the close Anglo-Portuguese relations at the end of the fourteenth century" (167). Reviewing the textual tradition of a story best known from the Lusiads, she accepts the Cavalarias de Alguns Fidalgos Portugueses as the earliest extant version, and relates its complex narrative to historical circumstance, chivalric activity, and Arthurian tradition. What emerges is a "a collage of different events and traditions with different chronologies" (178), a "pseudo-history derived from the combination of different oral traditions subjected to considerable literary treatment" (182). Her analysis offers a fascinating case study of the fashioning of national traditions from history, legend, and romance.

R. F. Yeager ("Chaucer Translates the Matter of Spain") sets out to investigate Chaucer's contacts with Spain and Spanish culture, and assess their impact on his work. He concedes that "Chaucer's involvement with Spanish literature...must remain speculative" (201), and that is largely true of his reconstruction of Chaucer's Spanish journey and contacts with Spain as well. Nonetheless, he provides a gamut of suggestive possibilities and an ample bibliography to invite further exploration of such encounters, and to test his intriguing hypothesis that Chaucer's "Italian ventures of the 1370s" had, in part, "encouraged trends traceable to Spain" (202).

The diversity of topics has led me to treat the individual contributions separately. Collectively, however, they introduce a multifaceted world of artistic, intellectual, political, and economic exchange. The articles are uniformly well-documented, and the ample bibliography and thorough notes are especially useful in an interdisciplinary collection serving readers with varying degrees of familiarity with its topics. Furthermore, this well-produced volume is more than the sum of its parts, for numerous threads link the articles together, encouraging future researchers to grapple with the central question of how cross-cultural contacts of diverse kinds contributed to the formation of national identities and traditions, and the definition of cultural differences. One can only hope for more such collections that invite and challenge readers in the well-developed sub-fields of medieval studies to look beyond their geographic and disciplinary boundaries.