Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco

title.none: Funes and Tenenbaum, eds., Mocedades de Rodrigo (Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco)

identifier.other: baj9928.0603.008 06.03.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco, University of California Berkeley,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Funes, Leonardo and Felipe Tenenbaum, eds. Mocedades de Rodrigo: Estudio y edicion de los tres estados del texto. Series: Serie B: Textos, vol. 45. Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2004. Pp. lxxii, 206. $85.00 1-85566-101-2. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.03.08

Funes, Leonardo and Felipe Tenenbaum, eds. Mocedades de Rodrigo: Estudio y edicion de los tres estados del texto. Series: Serie B: Textos, vol. 45. Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2004. Pp. lxxii, 206. $85.00 1-85566-101-2. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco
University of California Berkeley

The text known as Mocedades de Rodrigo (hereafter MR) was copied between fols. 188ra-201vb of the Manuscrit Fonds Espagnol 12 from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It is a quite handsome folio-sized codex probably copied in 1400 by a professional and careful scribe. The whole codex is supposed to contain a Chronicle of Castile, although scholars have generally agreed to separate the Crónica de Castilla in the first 187 folios from the MR, which occupies the rest of the manuscript. Nevertheless, scholars have not considered the continuity between the two parts, both copied by the same hand, on the same quires set, and without any kind of different ordinatio, rubrication, etc. The reason why such a separation has been conceived seems to be related to a sort of Menéndez-Pidalian moment of epic recovering that I will explain immediately. The fact is that from 1904, the year in which Archer Huntington chose those last folios of the codex to prepare one of his magnificent facsimiles, to 1999, in which Matthew Bailey published a color photographic reproduction of those folios at 96% of the original size, and thereafter, nothing has been resolved: while this section has been edited, reproduced, and studied over and over again, the full Crónica de Castilla, as contained in the codex, remains, as far as I know, unpublished, and scarcely studied.

The reasons for this descriptive and editorial treatment are, to be sure, complex. One of them, nevertheless, seems to be especially important: the small corpus of epic poems in the Spanish language encompassed both a traditionalist epic-hunting movement and a monumentalization of all the fragments that could be recovered or reconstructed. In the last, say, 120 years, the number of specimens of medieval Spanish epic poetry has increased. At the same time, the chronicles containing those epic fragments, in most cases, remain unpublished.

The MR distinguishes itself among these epic fragments. While the others are more or less plausible hypotheses unearthed from the chronicles in which they used to lie, showing only some assonances and scarce vestiges of verse, the MR, as contained in this codex, is actually a versified text. It is a strange versified text, however. It starts with a prose account, and although it continues in verse, the scribe did not realize that until he had copied up to verse 14 (fol. 188v). Only then did he try to represent the verse-length.

Leonardo Funes has been largely working on this specific set of folios, and now he offers, with the collaboration of Felipe Tenenbaum, his conclusions on this matter. Funes and Tenenbaum, hereafter F8T , offer theses that are somewhat complex and that entail theoretical as well as practical problems that I would like to examine here. The book is, above all, an edition (pages 1-149) of three texts that, according to F8T , exist within the copy of the aforementioned section of the codex. The introductory study (pages vii-lxvii) is a general attempt to set up the tradition of the MR and to demonstrate the means by which they can establish "three states of the text." The final sections of the book include a table of contents of the MR, historic and literary notes to the text, a full bibliography, and the indexes (1153-206).

I will put quotation marks around expressions and metaphors frequently used by F8T . As F8T state at the very beginning of the book, this research is founded on the programmatic distinction between "text" and "manuscript," which involves the somewhat Platonic idea that the text is independent from its eventual representation on the surface of a singular manuscript, and that, therefore, the philologist, with an "appropriated analytical method," can "reveal" what lies underneath those eventual manuscript representations. Applying this uncannily Lachmannian principle to the given text allows F8T to consider the manuscript as an "alluvium-like" material in which diverse processes of transformation (by addition, subtraction, innovation, etc.) have sedimented. The task of the philologist is, then, that of a geologist: to discover the different materials that have come to form the alluvium-like manuscripts, and to decipher the moments, reasons, and programs that led to those transformations. The philologist-geologist needs this process in order to reveal what F8T call the "three states of the text," or, as they alternatively say, the "three states of redaction."

F8T , then, differentiate these three texts, which they edit in the central part of the book. First, they treat the Crónica (Chronicle) which would be the equivalent to representing exactly the text contained in the mentioned folios of the codex; the edition of this "state of text" has been, in fact, undertaken with paleographical or semi-paleographical criteria (as in the even pages of the 2-116 page range). The second "state of the text" is the Refundición (reworking or recasting), which, although it is materially identical to the manuscript text (and, thus, to the Crónica itself), it must be considered not as a historical piece, but as the result of transforming and recasting a primitive chanson de geste, poured into another chanson de geste which is now a part of the Crónica; this Refundición is, then--and contrarily to the Chronicle, which is a historical text--a poetic text. That's why F8T have produced a critical edition of this text, correcting the manuscript mistakes, and, all in all, actually recasting the whole text as an epic poem: lines, rhymes, supposedly lost parts, etc., are either set up or simply marked by the editors, in order to recover the "extant" epic poem that reworks the primitive one (see odd pages of the 3-117 page range). So, consequently, the third "state of the text" would be the primitive poem, or what they call the "conjectured reconstruction" of the primitive chanson de geste. This reconstruction is a "purified" or "refined" critical version, in which the editors have either taken out (literally, one would say, chopped off) or added in what they consider, respectively, scribal interpolations or suppressions. In order to do that, they follow their aesthetical presuppositions about the epic song, as, for instance, when they say (page 123, note 5) "I suppress lines 139-141 because the genealogical digression is unnecessary according to the epic plot, and it is manifestly anti-poetic;" in other moments, their philological-surgical task is based upon their own conjectures or upon hypotheses from scholars like Samuel Armistead, Benjamin Bourland, Thomas Montgomery, Ruth Webber, Raymond Willis, or Juan Victorio. None of them is liable for F8T 's "conjectured reconstruction," which remains the responsibility of their editorial politics. Whereas other scholars have hypothesized about the possible features of the old epic poem dealing with Rodrigo's youth, no one had before dared to, literally, make an edition of it. It simply does not exist, there is no text to edit.

But how did F8T arrive at those conclusions? Coinciding with the most traditionalist positions, which seemed superseded after Alan Deyermond's book (1968), F8T assume that what they have to look for is a jongleur's voice, not the literate author claimed by Deyermond. They can even locate the jongleur's voice in a moment of crisis datable at the end of the 13th century. We shall remember that the manuscript most probably dates to 1400, and that all the codicological evidence situates it at the end of the 14th century. Alan Deyermond (1968) first thought that the text could be dated to around 1360, and later on, in a study published in 1999, he expressed some doubts arising from Georges Martin's research on the judges of Castile myth (1992), who preferred to date the text to around 1300. Martin's reasons are, nevertheless, merely circumstantial, and there is no textual evidence that the text can be dated to before 1340 or so. But now F8T date the primitive chanson de geste, the jongleresque one, to a moment of crisis around 1300. This is, according to F8T , a threefold crisis. First, it is a crisis of epic narrative, as long as this song needs to be considered a late poem, and "maybe the last chanson de geste of the whole european epic tradition" (xvii), although I fail to understand the true meaning of such a statement. It is a crisis, also, of jongleresque voice, insofar as manuscript culture challenges the pertinence of the oral epic poem (although, as we know, oral and written cultures do not conflict with each other, and they co-mingle for centuries). They posit, finally, a socio-political crisis that would have shaped the text, "generating the conditions of possibility for some discursive strategies to be efficient and tolerable simultaneously" (xxi) (although F8T 's thesis on this account gives to the abstract concept of crisis sort of a providential role in their historicist considerations, which would require not only that a crisis exist, but also that the jongleur be aware of the concept of the critical moment in which he's living, something like a mal du siècle).

Between pages xxi-lxii, F8T present their central arguments to support their thesis, establishing, first, what they deem to be the "compositive process" of the MR, and, subsequently, a "historical-literary analysis" of the MR. These are the parts in which F8T describe the different text strata, and the "fragmented ideologies" (lii-lx) that cohabit within the text and that, therefore, are unequivocal signs of the composite character of the MR. This ideological fragmentation cannot be, according to F8T , the product of a single project; the primitive project would, thus, show an ideological coherence and compactness. This is also the part in which F8T try to find a coherent structure for the MR, minimizing the structural importance of the "Oath of the Five Battles" (Voto de las Cinco Lides Campales) and stressing the importance of an action-reaction-action narrative structure; for them, the structure does not lie in a certain element of the plot, but in an abstract narrative process that they can fill in with concrete realizations of what they consider either action or reaction, forcing thus narrative coherence.

All these compositional, historical, literary, and ideological problems would lead, for F8T , to both a general hypothesis of the text's main thematic content, and a general editorial proposal. The first hypothesis would be centered on the characterization of young Rodrigo as a rebellious vassal. The second one, as we already know, is the support for the aforementioned triple edition of a single text.

Inasmuch as the theoretical editorial proposal is concerned, they range with neo-Lachmannian positions, which is, certainly, a very strong and important editorial politic. Although I surely think that neo-Lachmannian editorial theories are extremely productive and prove themselves a very important tool for determining literary traditions, variant systems, etc., it would be disingenuous to discard the conclusions arising from Cerquiglini's research or from Dagenais' points, as F8T do, when they recommend them, in page lxx, note 46, to read the handbooks of textual editing. No further commentary on this strange attitude is necessary.

Concerning the general hypothesis of Rodrigo as a rebellious vassal, I think there are still many questions to be asked. If we do a close reading of the MR text, I would certainly doubt that there is a single moment in which Rodrigo rebels against his king, as does Raoul de Cambrai (the very model of the rebellious vassal), or as in the fight against Carlomagno by Isembart in Gormont et Isembart, or in the clear military position of Girart de Roussillon in the eponymous chanson de geste against Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer). On the contrary, Rodrigo stays by the king, although he accepts neither knighthood nor the vassalic act of kissing the king's hand. What Rodrigo demonstrates in this double act of staying by the king but not accepting the king's vassalic rituals, is not rebelliousness, but rather political independence. Understanding the MR from the viewpoint of the independent vassal would certainly produce very different perspectives on the supposed incoherences (although I think it's inappropriate to simply use this notion of coherence/incoherence in the case of the medieval chansons de geste) of the MR. What Rodrigo shows is the means to preserve independence in the face of the other possible discourses of power, here represented by the king. In this sense, it can be considered as a sort of educational text, in moments in which the king's independence (as in Alfonso XI's minority) is under severe attack. Much other textual evidence point very clearly to this moment, as some scholars have tried to show (Cacho Blecua, Montaner Frutos, and Rodrí guez-Velasco).

To conclude this already long review, I would simply like to make some general statements that arose from the reading, editorial politics, and thesis held by F8T .

--Ideology is not a given, but rather a theoretical assumption. Somehow, nevertheless, it became one of the main and more stable criteria for studying and cataloguing literary works, and epics in particular. But perhaps there is an enormous gap between ideology as a historical and critical theoretical construct and the ideas, themes, and problems contained in a text; this gap could probably be perceived by understanding the difference, pointed by Alain Badiou (1998), between political philosophies and what he calls the metapolitics. Maybe it would be a good time to rethink the theoretical appropriateness of the concept of ideology, since it seems to be an obstacle to allowing the text to express what we would probably consider "ideological incoherences".

--A text is a text. Its phenomenic presence can be the object of a profound study, and it is quite clear, as well, that a text points to other texts: it refers to them, it contains them, it discusses them, narrates them, fulminates against them. But a text is not another text, is not a different text from the one that it is. From a given text, you cannot derive, as a positive fact arising from this text, another text, a different text. Since a text is always equivalent to itself, the only possible "state" of a text would be another text, a different one. To postulate a state of a text or a state of a redaction is equivalent to postulating a text.

--A text can or cannot indicate previous treatments of the subject it deals with. This does not mean that one can argue that the redaction of a text presupposes prior redactions of the same text (which would be a contradiction) nor prior redactions of a text with a similar main subject. Many texts can treat a subject in different ways, but it does not mean that each of them is a different redaction.

--A redaction presupposes a conscious and willing act of writing (for instance, an oral performance does not necessarily presuppose a redaction, and it's likely that most of the times it has not been so), constituting itself as a finished textual product, whose phenomenic manifestation is its own literal form, and not a different one.

--The concepts and relationships of coherence/incoherence, unity/fragmentation, and others, are, at their time, philological, scientific, and most of the time structuralistic analytical proposals, derived from a judgment indicating that coherence and unity are better than their contraries, and hence should be sought after. This is by no means a necessary judgment, but perfectly contingent. We could imagine an aesthetics and a politics founded on what we would consider irregularity, incoherence, or fragmentation. Good evidence is the "irregular versification" long perceived in many chanson de gestes (MR among them), a problem that disappears once Antoni Rossell's musicological research is taken into consideration.

Although I openly disagree with F8T both in methods and in conclusions, I still think that this is a very important book. Their paleographic edition of the text is better than the previous ones and solves some of the reading mistakes of prior editors. We still lack the necessary information to understand the place of the MR in the codex that contains it, both codicologically, and from the viewpoint of the complete text of the chronicle, and I wonder why the scholars still neglect to pursue this analysis. But what is more important is that this book is also asking us to make a thorough reflection on the way we study medieval texts, and, particularly, Spanish epic and historiography.


Badiou, Alain, Abrégé de Metapolitique, Paris, éditions du Seuil, 1998.

Bailey, Matthew, ed., Las "Mocedades de Rodrigo": estudios crí ticos, manuscrito y edición, London, King's College Medieval Studies (XV), 1999.

Deyermond, Alan, Epic poetry and the clergy: studies on the "Mocedades de Rodrigo," London, Tamesis, 1968.

Deyermond, Alan, "La autorí a de las Mocedades de Rodrigo: un replanteamiento," in Bailey, 1999, 1-15.

Huntington, Archer M., Crónica Rimada. Reproduced in facsimile from the Manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, New York, 1904.

Martin, Georges, Les juges de Castille: mentalités et discours historique dans l'Espagne médiévale, Paris, Klincksieck, 1992.

Rossell, Antoni, "Canción de gesta y mú sica. Hipótesis para una interpretación prá ctica: Cantar épica romá nica hoy," Cultura Neolatina LI, Fasc. 3-4, 207-221.

Rossell, Antoni, "Anisosilabismo: Regularidad, irregularidad o punto de vista?" Literatura Medieval. Actas do IV Congreso de la Associaç ã o Hispâ nica de Literatura Medieval, Lisboa 1991, Lisbone, Cosmos, 1993, vol. II, 131-137.

Rossell, Antoni, "La épica romá nica era cantada: Reconsideraciones sobre el género épico a partir de su realidad oral-musical (palimpsesto de una investigación)," Retórica Medieval: Continuidad o ruptura? Homenaje a Aurora Juá rez Blanquer. Grenade (Spain), Universidad de Granada, 1997, 1367-1381.