Reading, Performing and Imagining the Libro del Arcipreste

Reading, Performing and Imagining the Libro del Arcipreste

Reading, Performing and Imagining the Libro del Arcipreste

Reading, Performing and Imagining the Libro del Arcipreste

Synopsis

Reading, Performing, and Imagining the Libro del Arcipreste examines how reading, writing, and interpretation reside at the core of the cultural history of the Castilian Libro del Arcipreste (often called the Libro de buen amor) from the moment of its creation in the first part of the fourteenth century. The study comprises three sections. In the first, the author situates the Libro within the tradition of Augustinian hermeneutics and exegetics, relating the work to the schools at Toledo and Salamanca. The detailed argument makes notable connections between contemporary reception theory and medieval reading and scholarly practices. The second part develops hypotheses concerning the performative cues in the Libro, emphasizing the audible/visible aspect of medieval reading and performance. Here Gerli focuses on the orthodoxy of the Libro, revealing how by presenting heretical content in accordance with Augustinian/ethical reading strategies, the work advances the novel and convincing hypothesis that the Libro provides its audience an opportunity to recognize heterodoxy rather than espouse it. The final section deals with the rewriting and reimagining of the Libro on into modernity. Significantly, Gerli demonstrates the manner in which the work served as a poetic manifesto for fifteenth-century cancionero poets, especially in relation to the Cancioneros de Baena, Estuniga, and Palacio, and how it formed part of the horizon of expectations of courtly audiences. The last chapter of this section presents a troubling case study of the modern American reception of the book and the figure of its putative author, Juan Ruiz, as it tells a gripping tale about a Libro scholar and translator of the work, Elisha Kent Kane. But it is not just a great story--it is a profound one--that constitutes another ethical parable of interpretation generated by the Libro itself and raises two abiding questions: Was the great scholar in question an innocent and mischievous wit--a carefree bon vivant--or was he a philandering, callous murderer?

Excerpt

This book represents nearly thirty five years of engagement with, and reflection upon, the Libro del Arcipreste, often referred to in Spanish literary history as the Libro de buen amor. From the moment in the spring of 1980 when I was asked to offer my thoughts on the work while serving as Visiting Professor at ucla, until the day I finished Chapter 8 in November of 2014, the Libro has remained a constant academic preoccupation and an outsized presence on my research agenda. Compelled by circumstance to say something reasonably coherent on it, I prepared my remarks at ucla first by taking a bibliographical bath in the subject; one that, when finished, did little other than mark my dissatisfaction with just about all that I had read. It was clear that the prevailing ideas regarding the Libro revolved around larger issues than those being discussed in the current scholarship, and that much of the latter failed to address what the Libro was actually about.

In general, I felt that everything that I had perused gravitated around some interesting questions (sources, manuscripts, language, folklore, and cultural coordinates) but rarely engaged these issues in any substantive fashion, and often missed the larger point of what the Libro might actually seek to do. As a result, I sought to focus on what the work was attempting to accomplish, and how it went about accomplishing it. I began a program of several close readings of the text, and a search for answers regarding the problems it began to pose, all of which clearly lay beyond the bounds of Hispanic Studies as they were being practiced then. More fertile . . .

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