12.09.06, Ferreiro, The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia (Update)

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Rachel Stocking

The Medieval Review 12.09.06

Ferreiro, Alberto. The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia (Update): A Supplemental Bibliography, 2007-2009. The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Pp. xxxv, 411. ISBN: 978-90-04-21222-0.

Reviewed by:
Rachel Stocking
Southern Illinois University

Over the last 30 years, Professor Ferreiro has made important contributions to late antique Iberian studies, particularly in his series of four bibliographies published by Brill. The first of these, The Visigoths in Gaul and Spain, AD 418-711, was published in 1988, covering modern works from the nineteenth century to 1984. The first supplement was published in 2006, and covered works from 1984 to 2003. This update reflected significant changes in how the field was conceived: Ferreiro re-titled the work The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia, representing historians' step away from Spanish national concerns in the intervening years, and expanded the period covered to include the fourth century--an acknowledgement of the increasing focus on Roman continuities in late antique studies generally, and Iberian studies specifically. The field's growth over the previous eighteen years generated a volume even longer than the original, inspiring an agreement between Ferreiro and Brill to publish subsequent updates tri-annually. The first of these was published in 2008, covering 2004-2006.

The current volume brings the coverage up through 2009. Like its predecessors, it is organized by topics, with each entry given a number in sequence; these are in turn used as cross-references in subject and author indices. The topical organization has remained mostly the same since the original volume, including such categories as "Invasions," "Literary Culture," "Ecclesiastical," "Liturgy," "Patristics," "Archeology," "Sueves," and "Other Peoples." "Collected Essays" and "Congresses" are gathered in their own sections for further cross-reference to individual articles. Ferreiro's organization is relatively user-friendly for experienced researchers, and does an excellent job of bringing a wide array of (mostly Spanish) works to their attention. The Archeology section is particularly helpful to non-Iberian researchers; it is extensive and reflects a vibrant and fast-developing field--as Ferreiro says, "a new find of material culture from Germanic Iberia comes to light almost annually" (xii).

The work presents a number of obstacles to beginners and non- specialists, however. There is no separate section for new editions and translations, which are mixed in without comment amongst the works on individual writers. As in the previous volumes, Ferreiro does not annotate, citing the prohibitive size that annotations would create, and declining to make "presumptuous" judgments about the relevance of individual works. The enormous job of annotating every entry would indeed be overwhelming. Yet Ferreiro's exhaustive inclusivity leaves the user with little more than the works' titles and authors to distinguish between the ground-breaking studies, minor conference papers, and re-titled, previously-published articles gathered into broad topic categories.

Nor does the brief introduction provide any substantive explanation of Ferreiro's categorization scheme. While he points out, for instance, that the works on the fourth-century theologian Priscillian have been moved from the "Heresy" sub-category of the "Ecclesiastical" section to the "Sueves" section, the rationale he gives is geographical-- Priscillian and "his heresy flourished mainly in Late Antique Gallaecia" (xii)--leaving the ethnic and chronological implications of a "Sueves" section unexamined. Most of Ferreiro's general topics are broken into sub-categories, but these do not provide consistent guidance, either. For example, the category "Social-Political- Economic" contains no sub-categories, while the "Ecclesiastical" section has six very traditional ones: "General Studies, "Canon Law," "Councils," "Heresy," "Monasticism," and "Organization." Meanwhile, "Patristics" boasts twenty-two, all but three of which are individual writers. Thus, while someone working specifically on the bishop Taio of Saragossa, perhaps, need only consult the table of contents, another researcher investigating identity construction(s) is left to search by title through most of the book (neither "ethnicity," "identity," nor "anti-Judaism," appear in the subject index, which consists primarily of proper nouns). Without sub-categories (or at least subject index entries) on topics of broad concern among current late antique and early medieval scholars and students--such as demography, conversion, anti-Judaism, identity, ethnicity, or political culture--newcomers may be left with the impression of a forbiddingly traditionalist, ecclesiastically focused field.

To be sure, the ecclesiastical slant may reflect the current inclinations of scholarship on late antique Iberia. Despite the bibliography's title, the works explicitly on the Church and its leaders (rather than the "Visigoths") take up 149 pages, while those dealing with "Invasions," "Social-Political-Economic," "Civil Law," and "Other Peoples" are contained on forty-three. Ferreiro cannot be held responsible for this scholarly imbalance. Yet while he demurs the judgments of annotation in deference to the individual researcher's agenda, it is important to remember that categorization is itself analytical and constitutive. Rethinking and clearly explaining the criteria applied to that process not only would help guide current or would-be scholars to the key works on their topics, but also could further the salutary changes that have been reshaping the field since 1988.

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Rachel Stocking

Southern Illinois University