14.06.12, Beresford, et al., eds., Medieval Hispanic Studies in Memory of Alan Deyermond

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Linde M. Brocato

The Medieval Review 14.06.12

Beresford, Andrew M., Louise M. Haywood, and Julian Weiss. Medieval Hispanic Studies in Memory of Alan Deyermond. Monografías A. Woodbridge: Támesis, 2013. Pp. xviii, 314. ISBN: 9781855662506.

Reviewed by:
Linde M. Brocato
University of Memphis

These studies in memory of Alan Deyermond (1932-2009) begin with a memoir by his daughter, followed by the editors’ overview of Deyermond’s career, thus also offering a view of the recent history of British hispanomedieval studies, but include neither a bibliography nor evaluation of Deyermond’s work. Although the volume’s contents (and this review) are organized alphabetically by contributor, the introduction also provides a thematic overview in relationship to the major strands of Deyermond’s work.

Taking an explicitly theoretical approach, Andrew Beresford, in his “Sanctity and prejudice in medieval Castilian hagiography: the legend of St. Moses the Ethiopian,” applies postcolonial theory to Ystoria del abad Moysén (YAM), six apophthegms about Moses the Ethiopian, a Black desert father (edited in an appendix), which form part of the fifteenth-century Gran flos sanctorum. For Beresford, the story of Moses “offers a unique insight into the complexity not just of fourth-century asceticism, but of the evolution of popular attitudes towards questions of ethnic origin and somatic type in Christian tradition as a whole” (11), using postcolonial theory for its traction vis-à-vis “relations of hegemony and resistance…and…interstices produced by hierarchically uneven cultural contacts” (12), thus apt for analyzing late medieval Iberia, with its heightened ethno-religious awareness and conflict. To trace the oppositions and progressions in YAM, Beresford uses essentially structural(ist) tools, yet flattens the context through which the “words attributed to [Moses are] products of textual and intellectual transmission” (27). In fact, “textual and intellectual transmission” here does not begin with hagiography, but in the oral and written traditions that Christian believers strive to personally embody. Thus what is represented in hagiography is already reinscribing oral and written traditions, Hebrew and Christian scripture as well as early Christian doctrines, which Moses attempts to embody and these particular apophthegms thus necessarily echo, so that the textual segment on which Beresford focuses is somewhat less “undoubtedly…a callous racial taunt” (27). Even so, these broader frames of reference do not fully account for the disjunctions, and Beresford’s analysis is a significant contribution.

Roger Boase follows with “The image of the phoenix in Catalan and Castilian poetry from Ausiàs March to Crespí de Valldaura.” He takes as his point of departure two late articles by Deyermond discussing the phoenix, and then surveys the deployment of that figure in poetry associated with Iberian courts, from Alfonso V in Naples to Isabel I. Although Boase initially invokes the Jungian notion of the phoenix, the argument quickly turns to medieval discourses on it: bestiary lore (in its self-sacrifice and resurrection as a figure of Christ), the associations transmitted via the tradition initiated in Rufinus of Aquileia (in its uniqueness and ability to reproduce without sexual intercourse as a figure of the Virgin Mary), in the alchemical tradition as sublimation (and thus spiritual transformation), and in heraldry (the symbolism and importance of the phoenix’s colors, particularly purple, associated with Alfonso V). It is only late in the essay that its real axis becomes clear, “the different spiritual interpretations of the phoenix legend, denoting uniqueness, chastity, royalty, and the triumph over death…in an original and experimental elegy for Queen Isabel” (57), designated by its rubric, “Otra obra suya [de Crespí de Valldaura] y de Trillas, llamada Sesti, plañendo la muerte de la reyna Doña Ysabel d’España y de las dos Cecilias” (ID6690, from the 1511 edition of the Cancionero general). Indeed, one could consider the considerable erudition deployed in this study a radial reading of precisely this poem, as well as a kind of gloss on Deyermond’s work, and, as work on cancionero poetry must be, essentially rhizomic. Boase begins his readings of the poems with poetry praising Lucrezia d’Alagno, Alfonso V’s mistress in Naples, to trace various deployments of the figure of the phoenix, focusing particularly on poems by Juan de Mena and Joan Roís de Corella, and segueing at various points into discussions of Petrarch and classical sources. The essay closes with a paragraph extending Deyermond’s assertion that the phoenix is used to stress Isabel’s singularity, and suggesting that it is also used to symbolize chastity, royalty, victory, and immortality, applied to either a man or a woman, and capable of expressing either self-immolation in fiery passion or transcendence of lust.

Next is “On the frontiers of Juan Rodríguez del Padrón’s Siervo libre de amor,” Louise Haywood’s contribution, which examines the formerly unitary codex, manuscript *Q-224, from which two MSS (MS 6052 and MS 21549) of the Biblioteca Nacional (Madrid) were dismembered. Her purpose is to foreground “the material frontiers of [Siervo] within its manuscript context as a participant text in a particular scriptum, ‘the unique presence that is the individual concrete manuscript’” (71, citing John Dagenais The Ethics of Reading in Manuscript Culture, 1994, 129). Haywood’s analysis is attends to “the interplay of texts and paratexts in *Q-224 and in related manuscript witnesses” for greater “understanding of the generic borderlands of sentimental romance, and the larger cultural frontiers of vernacular humanism” (86). Previous work has suggested that the collection is coherent and purposeful, and that the contents have commonalities (authorship, status as translations, and the theme of satire/parody), [1] which LH combines with other evidence to suggest that Siervo may be a translation from Old French. She explores the implications of the idea that *Q-224 was compiled on the basis of authorship and suggests that Padrón’s role may have been well enough known to not require explicit mention, and that both Bursario and the Siervo were far more widely distributed and read than indicated by surviving manuscripts. The selection criteria for *Q-224 may well have been complex, and the compilatio and dispositio may support a connection between sentimental romance and allegorical dream vision, as she has argued elsewhere, and may also indicate that the fifteenth-century Siervo is in fact complete. Another specific feature shared among the texts in *Q-224 is the use of the term novella, which appears several times in the compilation, and is connected with other MSS, perhaps indicating that novella may mean “short translated texts that deal with the theme of intergenerational conflict about love and desire” (85).

In “Memory as mester in the Libro de Alexandre and the Libro de Apolonio,” Geraldine Hazbun moves the ars memoria to the central meaning of mester for clerecía. She first reviews the scholarly literature on the significance of mester de clerecía, taking as her point of departure Deyermond’s contestation of privileging the second stanza of the Libro de Alexandre, which opposes juglaría and clerecía. With Deyermond, Hazbun suggests that a broader frame is necessary, which she asserts is the ars memorativa, relying principally on Janet Coleman’s Ancient and Medieval Memories (1992) and Mary Carruthers’ The Craft of Thought (1998). Hazbun suggests that mester occupies two semantic fields: duty, obligation, necessity; employment or occupation. Reworking the classical tales in itself embodies the “obligation to remember” via collective memory (95). In the two poems, Hazbun analyzes memory in the ekphrases and the thematization of written texts, and clereçía as a group. Regarding the latter, she considers contemporary intellectual and reform movements, suggesting that the “flexible textual identity of clerecía constantly sheds light on the creative role of the entire art form” and on the “bookish and clerkly dimension associated with each protagonist” (103), connecting clereçía with cortesía, and with Cluniac intellectual reform, as well as with displacement particularly between the secular and spiritual worlds. Finally, Hazbun considers the instability of memory, one part of her analysis that would have greatly benefited from Carruthers’ earlier The Book of Memory (1990, 2nd ed. 2008). Memory, then, has two dimensions: the dutiful (clerecía) and the spontaneous and fragmentary (juglaría). In both, memory is mester which takes on “‘craft’, and skill in that craft” (114) as well as the two semantic fields adduced above.

Like many chapters herein responding to Deyermond’s published work, David Hook’s “Advancing on ‘Álora’” also takes up conversations held while commuting, as well as more recent articles attributing various kinds of symbolism to the poem. His essay is a straightforward corrective to recent symbolic readings of “Álora, la bien cercada” (Smith 1964, n. 34), and examines historical texts from fifteenth-century chronicles relating similar circumstances and actions in similar ways, to assert that there is no need to suppose any non-literal intention or reception. Yet Hook undercuts his own argument in adducing King Fernando’s description of Zamora on his deathbed in the ballad “Morir os queredes, padre” (Smith 1964, n. 15), as Hook down-plays both the relation of town to the river Duero, as well as Urraca’s threat (or observation of the potential necessity) to give herself “a los moros por dinero / y a los cristianos de gracia” since she’ll be disinherited by her father’s current will. While the former relationship may be merely factual, the latter is certainly not, and may be (and may well have been) read as symbolic of Christian venality, and Muslim pollution and wealth.

The late Stephen Reckert, in “Time is of the essence: essence, existence and reminiscence in two Portuguese poets,” sets out to analyze notions of time in Francisco Sá de Miranda’s Sonnet 122 on autumn and in various lyric poems of Luis de Camões, eventually developing what he calls toward the end “the Horatian antithesis” (144), that is, “the Horatian tragic antithesis between Nature, constantly self-renewing, and humankind” (142), mortal rather than “self-renewing.” Reckert begins with Sá de Miranda’s sonnet, which traces the linearity and mutability of time as well as Nature’s cyclical renewal, denied to mortal flesh, to then trace its intertextuality with Camões’ Eclogue of Umbrano and Frondélio, in which mutability takes on a more Heraclitean turn. Thereafter, Reckert focuses almost exclusively on Camões, ranging from the sonnets (90, 119, 201) to the redondillas on Babylon and Zion in which Camões attempts to solve the problem of time. The linearity and mutability of time are played out in sonnets 90 and 119, in which Camões’ explicitly privileges entropy, and will eventually become a contrast between past and present, in a series of oppositions: Zion = past happiness = love; Babylon = present misery = lack/loss of love. The solution expressed in the redondillas rests in Augustinian Platonism; Camões characterizes his memory of the past as a reminiscence (ll. 204-5) of the ideal realm of the forms, and Grace changes his vice into virtue, the desire for the eternal spurred on by Beauty glimpsed in and sought in beauty, as Plato/Socrates articulates.

In “Gómez Manrique’s Exclamación e querella de la governación: poem and commentary,” Nicholas Round contextualizes Gómez Manrique’s Exclamación y querella (EeQ) as well as Pero Díaz’s commentary on it, within the historical currents of the 1460s, to date the texts more precisely, suggesting that it was composed in 1465, sometime after June 5, the date of the Farsa de ávila. Round also hypothesizes that stanzas 1-4 and 16-18 might have been composed before the Farsa and the explicit shift of his faction’s allegiance from Enrique IV to Alfonso, with the distinct anaphoric style of the middle stanzas (5-13) finished in the pressure and haste entailed by this change in political dynamic. Then circulated, the poem was received with puzzlement, since it does not clearly support the Alfonsine band. Pero Díaz de Toledo’s commentary, responding to precisely this ambiguity, then, is dated by Round to a period from late 1465 to late 1466. Round also analyzes the form and the content of EeQ, and the content of Díaz de Toledo’s commentary, both of which emphasize good governance and good counsel, as well as the solidarity of nobles and monarch in ruling, all severely lacking. Important for the study of fifteenth-century literary history is the intellectual and political context outlined by Pero Díaz de Toledo for Gómez Manrique as poet and for his poetry, in contrast to the purely poetic context outlined in Santillana’s Prohemio y carta.

Dorothy Sherman Severin describes her chapter, “The misa de amor in the Spanish cancioneros and the sentimental romance,” as “an additional footnote” to her 2005 Religious Parody and the Spanish Sentimental Romance, inspired by Deyermond. She first explores the misa de amor in the poetry of Diego de San Pedro; the next and largest part of her argument deals with direct parodies of the mass, beginning with San Pedro and then turning to cancionero poetry of the Aragonese school with “misa de amor” in the title. Severin briefly analyzes the Awful Last Supper in Grisel y Mirabella as well as in San Pedro’s Arnalte, and the sung Mass in the Heaven of Lovers in the Triste deleytación. As in her 2005 book, Severin ends with Celestina, suggesting that there are various moments consonant with sentimental romance’s parody of the religion of love, here analyzing the moments of “the Lady in Church” and a Last Supper (all in auto IX), and the final words of Pleberio’s lament and thus of the text, “in hac lachrimarum valle,” from the Salve Regina (also in the misas of Ribera and Dueñas). In sum, these additions support Severin’s view of sentimental romance as a parody of the religion of love, and as a cautionary tale against its seduction, with Celestina further literalizing cancionero abstractions.

Lesley Twomey’s “Manus mee distillaverunt mirram: the essense of the Virgin and an interpretation of myrrh in the Vita Christi of Isabel de Villena” is an extended commentary on a passage in Isabel de Villena’s Catalan Vita Christi (VC), the Virgin’s use of the verse from Song of Songs 5:5 “manus mee distillaverunt mirram,” reflecting on the gift of myrrh by one of the Magi (only specified in Matthew 2:11), which Villena interprets as a reference to Christ as “passible e mortal e sotsmés a infinides dolors” particularly in myrrh’s bitterness, symbolizing this bitter knowledge for the Virgin (191, citing Villena 1916: I, 295). Myrrh is a bitter and aromatic herb with curative properties for the living and preservative properties for the dead, properties used materially and symbolically since antiquity. This theme for Villena throughout VC is Twomey’s focus. Twomey fleshes out the associations of myrrh in patristic commentaries on scripture, other Vitae Christi, fifteenth-century Marian liturgies, and in medical handbooks and bestiaries, in a wide-ranging gathering of sources and analogues. The bestiary section focuses largely on the phoenix (see also Boase above), whose aromatic nest or “chrysalis” of immolation, is in some bestiaries constructed of myrrh. Twomey concludes that Villena was exceedingly selective and original in deploying other sources to associate myrrh with both Christ and the Virgin in the Vita Christi, with “sacred anointing, death, and memory” as well as with marriage, healing, and salvation (208-9).

In ‘Nos soli sumus christiani’: conversos in the texts of the Toledo Rebellion of 1449,” Rosa Vidal Doval first offers a brief history of the “most thorough-going and best documented” of the attempts to ban New Christian participation in urban municipal administration, that of Toledo which began in January of 1449 (ending over two years later), and undertakes analysis of its main documents. The initial “legislation” is the Sentencia-Estatuto de Pero Sarmiento (SE) of early June 1449, which prompted later pro-converso polemics as well as a Papal Bull, to which Marcos García de Mora responded with his Memorial contra los conversos. These texts articulated a converso identity (as Other) in a local context, which was eventually abstracted from the local, to permeate official political discourses leading to realm-wide implementation (e. g. the Inquisition). SE is the primary focus here, complementing current studies with rhetorical analysis and a more local contextualization. Her goal is “to highlight how anti-converso discourse is the product of the interaction of a variety of elements” beyond genealogy, particularly the interaction of urban dynamics of internal struggles for power and the relationship of the city to royal authority (218). An important shift in the SE, which Vidal Doval emphasizes, subsequently developed more fully into the estatutos de limpieza de sangre, is to establish absolute continuity of Jewish and conversoidentity, and to make genealogical confessional purity the essential political value.

Julian Weiss’ “Vernacular commentaries and glosses in late medieval Castile, II: a checklist of classical texts in translation” is the second section of a larger project, which will consist of checklists “documenting the scope of vernacular commentaries and glosses on Castilian literary and religious texts during the later Middle Ages” (237), ca. 1350 to 1520. Its segments are: A) commentaries and glosses on Castilian authors (in the homage volume for David Hook Text, Manuscript, and Print in Medieval and Modern Iberia, 2013); B) manuscripts and printed editions of the classics in Castilian translation (the present checklist); C) “modern classics” in translation (Aegidius Romanus, Maimonides, Dante, Petrarch, et al.); D) commentaries on patristic and religious works; E) “auxiliary works” (Villena’s Doze de trabajos de Hércules, Castilian translations of Ovide moralisé, Boccacio’s De genealogia deorum), “models of allegorical exegesis and fundamental mythographic tools for the lay reader” (237). While Weiss eschews definitions and taxonomies, he explicitly establishes criteria for inclusion: a minimum of six marginal glosses fundamentally keyed to the text, even if circulating separately. These checklists serve to supplement and correct BETA, trace routes of transmission, and offer evidence for study of reception of the classics, of translation, and of the history of the relationship(s) among author, book, and reader. This checklist includes 24 entries, each with a header identifying the “target” work, followed as appropriate by sections for: Author of the commentary; Date; Dedicatee; Witnesses (with full bibliographical identification keyed to BETA); Notes; Edition; Bibliography; References. The “Notes” provide brief characterizations of each commentary as well as responding to critical assessments and situating the text within the present corpus. A further area of inquiry for which the checklists will provide much evidence is study of how late medieval vernacular literary culture was disseminated in the post-medieval era (presuming we have entered such). Weiss’ bibliography for the chapter is a very useful handlist of reference works necessary for the study of both literary and book history for the period.

S̨izen Yiacoup’s “Games of love and war in the Castilian frontier ballads: El romance del juego de ajedrez and El romance de la conquista de Antequera” is the volume’s final homage. Yiacoup focuses on two frontier ballads: El romance del juego de ajedrez (RJA) or El romance de Fajardo (mid-fifteenth century?; in some 17 collections between 1550 and 1588, with two main variants) and El romance de la conquista de Antequera (RCA; three variants; no information on publication history provided). First attending to RCA, Yiacoup interweaves analysis of the history and significance of chess in Castile “as inextricably bound up in the exercise of power and the manipulation of the processes of transculturation” (278), both in its Alfonsine introduction (emulating Arabic adab) and its remodeling of the queen in the late fifteenth century (figuring Isabel’s “outward rejection” of all things Islamic). Yiacoup suggests that, rather than simply encoding Christian superiority and triumph, RJA also encodes nostalgia for the lost transcultural relationship with the Muslims of Granada, essential to their “common Spanish identity,” even if provoking a certain anxiety. Like chess a marker of elite courtly transculturation, a juego de cañas on St. John’s day (also a shared festivity, Islamic Ansara) opens RCA. The juego de cañas situates the knights within a shared culture of chivalry and courtly love, shared dynamics of military and political conflict both within their own ranks and with each other, as well as shared “Hispano-Islamic military sophistication and aesthetic finery” (285), “the beauty and material refinement of syncretic Castilian-Granadan culture at its peak” (289), further testimony (in the reviewer’s) judgment of the elaborate “Fort-Da” relationship of castiza Castilian culture to its confessional other(s) expressed in the interplay of selective rejection and integration of cultural practices.

The final text “‘Esta tan triste partida’ (Conde Dirlos, v. 28a): maridos y padres ausentes,” is an edition of Deyermond’s mamotreto(reused scrap paper with typed and manuscript notes, one section per page) of his keynote for the 2003 University of Oviedo Jornadas del Homenaje Universitario a Isabel Uria Maqua (ed. David Hook, Deyermond’s literary executor). This document must indeed have “function[ed] as an aide-mémoire” or even as a memory place in the classical or medieval sense, with the notes on each page prompting from Deyermond’s capacious “wet-ware” the medieval texts of his theme. The text serves as homage to Deyermond and his work, reveals (encouragingly) his “late modus operandi” (per Hook), and provides a starting place for finding the materials to continue work on this tema odiseico (per Deyermond), for which Hook has also reconstructed Deyermond’s bibliography.

The work in the volume is not surprisingly of uniformly high quality, providing not only critical insights into the works and themes considered, but tremendously useful information and suggestive ideas for future work, and will be a most valuable collection of essays in both medieval and in sixteenth-century Iberian literature and culture. In that, it follows Deyermond’s example, and opens up even further scholarly and theoretical frameworks, and is a fitting homage to his memory as well as response to his scholarship.



1. Contents of the BNE MSS (texts only): MS 6052 – Scala çeli, trans. Diego de Cañizares, c. 1450?; letter of Diego Enríquez de Castillo to Isabel I, 1474-1504; Epístola de consolación to Diego López de Madrid, with response, trans. Diego de Cañizares, original Latin composed c. 1469; Juan de Mena, Sumas de la ‘Ilíada’ de Omero, ded. 1442; Epístolas de Ovidio, trans. Juan Rodríguez del Padrón [Bursario]; Siervo libre de amor, Juan Rodríguez del Padrón, c. 1440. BNE MS 21549--Godoy, Letra de Juan Fernández Callejón, c. 1450?; Libro de çetrería que hizo Evangelista, Profeçía of Evangelista

Article Details

Author Biography

Linde M. Brocato

University of Memphis