09.02.04, Renedo and Guixeras, eds., Francesc Eiximenis: An Anthology

Main Article Content

Donna M. Rogers

The Medieval Review baj9928.0902.004

09.02.04

Renedo, Xavier and David Guixeras (eds.) Translated by Robert D. Hughes. Francesc Eiximenis: An Anthology. Barcelona: Barcina Tamesis, 2008. Pp. 165. ISBN: 978-1855-66162-2.

Reviewed by:
Donna M. Rogers
Dalhousie University
rogersdm@dal.ca

2009 marks the 600th anniversary of the death of the 14th-century Catalan friar Francesc Eiximenis (1330?-1409?), a writer whose works have deservedly received increased attention recently. Renedo, Guixeras, and Hughes have set out to anthologize Eiximenis' writings on culture and education, drawing from his vast corpus. Renedo's introduction seeks to provide a general background and context for the selections, while Guixeras provides a brief vita for the prolific Franciscan author. The texts themselves have been translated by Hughes.

In the introduction, Renedo describes the importance of the Franciscans to medieval education, and notes their importance as writers of books on theology, philosophy, and science (7). Eiximenis is cited as such a writer, whose principal goal was to educate and explain, primarily in the vernacular. Although Renedo notes that Eiximenis did not write explicitly educational texts, it is impossible to deny that his approach and style were didactic to a very great extent. He frequently used first-person verbs, both the personal singular and the inclusive plural; he appealed directly to his readers in the second person; he glossed virtually all Latin quotations into Catalan; he spoke of his own travels and experiences; he included many stories and exempla to illustrate his points. All of these are the devices of an erudite man who set out to instruct others clearly and straightforwardly.

The introduction describes the organization of the selected texts into chapters according to broad topics: the "civilising rle of the towns," "education in the home," "reading and writing in the late Middle Ages," and "between school and university." In presenting the first chapter, Renedo argues that the Franciscans "built their convents in the very heart of the towns and were in daily contact with the inhabitants" (8). Urban centres were thus "the ideal venue" for formal and informal education (9), and indeed Eiximenis wrote at length in his various works about present and past cities and towns where people read and learned and bettered themselves. The texts included in the second chapter treat the education of both boys and girls at home, first by the parents (especially the father) and then, in the case of women married young, by the husband. The introduction to the third chapter, on reading and writing, provides an orientation for the curriculum suggested by Eiximenis in the selected texts. Particular attention is paid to the education of princes, the subject matter of the Dotzè del Crestià ("Twelfth Book of the Christian," also known as the Regiment de prínceps e comunitats or "Rule of Princes and Communities"), a text excerpted widely in this anthology. The fourth chapter is presented in the introduction as an overview of medieval ideas about teachers and teaching. Finally, we are told that the last few selected texts in the anthology are about daily routine as it applied to education: "a routine whose most important aspects were moderation in eating habits, hours of rest and style of dress" (16-17).

On page 25, there is a list of abbreviations of a number of Eiximenis' works: the four extant books of the Llibre del crestià ("Book of the Christian"): the Primer, Segon, Terç, and Dotzè ("First," "Second," "Third" and "Twelfth" books); Llibre dels àngels ("Book of Angels"); Llibre de les dones ("Book of Women"); Scala Dei ("Ladder of God"); Vita Christi ("Life of Christ"); and the Regiment de la cosa pblica ("Rule of the State"). Not all of these are represented by the texts included in this volume, however. None of the selections anthologized here are from the Primer, the Regiment de la cosa pblica or the Scala Dei, leading one to wonder why their abbreviations are given in this list. There is one selection each from the Segon and the Vita Christi, two from the Llibre dels àngels, and six from the Llibre de les dones. The bulk of the anthology, then comes from the Terç (23 selections) and the Dotzè (53 selections). The latter text is, indeed, the source for almost two-thirds of this anthology.

It is unsurprising that the Dotzè should be so prominent in an anthology devoted to Eiximenian writings on education; it belongs to the tradition of "mirror of princes" treatises intended to instruct a prince in order to prepare him to rule. In a broader sense, too, the Franciscans' approach to preaching corresponds to their approach to education in general, and is well exemplified in the Dotzè. Both Renedo and Guixeras have participated in editorial projects based on the Dotzè and they know it well. They are ideally suited to cull selections from the Eiximenis corpus on the topic of education. While relatively small in number, the selections are well chosen and provide an authentic sense of Eiximenis' interests and his writing style.

The translations from Catalan to English by Robert D. Hughes are very well done. In the translator's preface (23-24), Hughes sets out his criteria and explains the adjustments he has had to make in order to render Eiximenis' writings into a style of English accessible to the modern reader. This has involved introducing some lexical variation to the somewhat repetitive style of the original texts, as well as recasting jokes and proverbs into English equivalents. Nothing at all is lost in the translation.

It is a welcome contribution to the field of Eiximenis studies to have this anthology, however brief, in English. Many of his writings remain unpublished even in Catalan, although progress is being made. This volume offers a window onto Eiximenis' world and, more broadly, insights into the Franciscans' views on education in the 14th century.

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Donna M. Rogers

Dalhousie University