The Medieval Review 14.09.25


Barletta, Vincent, Mark L. Bajus, and Cici Malik. Dreams of Waking: An Anthology of Iberian Lyric Poetry, 1400-1700. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Pp. 423. $25.00 (paperback). ISBN: 9780226011332 (paperback).



Reviewed by:


Jean Dangler
Tulane University
jdangler@tulane.edu

This well-conceived anthology appears on the heels of other recent efforts to disseminate the vast, multilingual corpus of non-modern Iberian lyric to a wide variety of students and scholars, such as the bilingual volume, Locus amoenus: antología de la lírica medieval de la península ibérica (latín, árabe, hebreo, mozárabe, provenzal, galaico-portugués, castellano y catalán), edited by Carlos Alvar and Jenaro Talens (Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores 2009). Whereas Alvar and Talens directed their project to readers of Spanish in Spain and abroad, Dreams of Waking aims its sights on largely Anglophone audiences, such as undergraduate students of Iberian Studies in the U.S. However, this book's merit extends far beyond the undergraduate classroom, since the editors showcase a wide variety of both canonical and lesser known authors, some of whom may be new to many scholars of non-modern periods, such as the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Portuguese poet, Bernardim Ribeiro, or perhaps the sixteenth-century humanist, Luisa Sigea de Velasco of Portugal and Burgos. It is notable that Sigea de Velasco does not yet appear in the inclusive, monumental online database, PhiloBiblon, although she may be included in its forthcoming Bibliografía de la Poesía Aurea (BIPA), or Bibliography of Spanish Golden Age Poetry, which is currently under construction.

Dreams of Waking consists of an introduction, original texts and translations of the works of thirty-five poets, notes, selected bibliography for further reading, and an index of first verse lines.

In the cogent introduction, the editors examine a variety of issues related to the poets and their different milieus, formal poetics, and questions about the polemics of translation. They discuss the ways in which many poets crossed what may be considered today as linguistic and cultural limits, such as Catalan poets who chose to write in Castilian, and they problematize the study of lyric through a series of provocative questions about how to come to terms with doubts about individual authorship, editors' hands in lyric production, and the relation between empire and poetic invention. The editors' sometimes witty presentation of otherwise arcane details about formal poetics, as in the discussion of synalepha (10), goes a long way toward drawing the attention of the audience they have in mind, though I wonder if a bibliographical suggestion or two on the topic might also have aided students and non-specialists. I found the discussion of translation particularly useful as a way to frame the project, and the use of Benjamin, Levinas, and others a suitable challenge for students. The editors describe their translations as paratexts that complement and gloss the original work, while also compelling readers to read back and forth comparing and contrasting them (16-17). The parallel layout of poems and their translations further invites readers to contemplate the translators' decisions and choices, which the editors claim allows readers a deeper understanding of the original poems and their cultural settings. Based on the work of the abovementioned theorists and others, Barletta, Bajus, and Malek argue for an openness to the book's translations that derives from the texts' relation to the original poems as echoes or reverberations, and to the reader's particular captio or grasp of that connection. Although the editors clearly state their interest in the idea of faithful translation, which they explain could be understood in different ways, they prefer a more open, relational understanding of their work, whose value is ultimately generated by readers. These are complex questions at the heart of translation itself, which the editors admirably engage head on. Given the proclaimed openness of the translations and the inevitable questions they produce, I wonder if a fluid presentation in some form on the Internet would also lend itself to the kind of inquiry and debate the editors refer to about translation possibilities and choices.

Barletta, Bajus, and Malek divide the poets into three largely chronological groups that span the book's three-hundred-year period, although they open each section with a god of Greek and Roman mythology: Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, leads part one; Venus, the goddess of erotic love, guides part two; and Bacchus, the god of wine, heads part three. The editors offer captivating biographical studies that precede each poet's compositions and place the writers in their cultural and political settings. The editors chose a compelling selection of poetic themes, which reflect both fashionable topics of certain periods, such as the fifteenth-century gender debates known as the querella de las mujeres, and other themes with a broad cultural and historical reach, as in Fray Luis de León's rendering of the well-known legend of the last Visigothic king, Rodrigo, and his rape of the young woman, Cava.

Barletta, Bajus, and Malek do an excellent job of making connections not only between the Iberian poets themselves when appropriate, but also with writers and literary innovations in other parts of Europe. They further underscore the poets' influences on later writers, as evidenced by the case of the Valencian poet, Ausiàs March, who wrote in Catalan during the fifteenth century, but whose work had a notable impact on sixteenth-century Castilian poets, such as Garcilaso de la Vega. The selection on Cristóbal de Castillejo, who wrote in the first part of the sixteenth century, stands out for its presentation of Iberian poets in dialogue and debate not only with each other, but also with Italian writers and styles. And Tomás de Noronha was a seventeenth-century Portuguese satirist renowned for his biting reproach of the opaque compositions and poetic style of the prominent Luis de Góngora. The selected poets and works further highlight the transatlantic routes of Iberian lyric, showing its scope in seventeenth-century colonial Latin American writers, such as Gregório de Matos, who was born in Brazil and educated in Portugal, the venerable Juana Inés de la Cruz, who was born in Mexico and engaged in political and literary debates at the viceroys' colonial court, and Juan del Valle y Caviedes, an Iberian born in Jaén, Spain who lived in Perú. One of Caviedes's most well-known compositions is a scathing rebuke of physicians and their practices, a poetic theme firmly rooted in the sociopolitical milieu of the professionalization of medicine. This innovative, engaging volume highlights a series of cultural and literary circuits that will likely be of great interest to a diverse audience of specialists, non-specialists, and students alike.



Copyright (c) 2014 Jean Dangler



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