Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The 'Mester De Clerecía': Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The 'Mester De Clerecía': Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile

Article excerpt

Julian Weiss, The 'Mester de clerecía': Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile, Coleccion T´mesis, Serie A: Monografias 231 (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2006). ? + 238 pp. ISBN 1-85566-135-7. £55.00.

In this book Julian Weiss offers a reinterpretation of the corpus of thirteenthcentury poems composed in Spanish known most commonly as the mester de clerecia. An innovative and refreshing feature of his approach is that in addition to works composed as quatrains of monorhymed alexandrines (the form that has most commonly been used to define the mester de clerecía), he also includes octosyllabic compositions, often thought of as belonging to an entirely different tradition, the mester dejuglaria. The book falls into six parts: an introduction in which the author proposes a series of new approaches to his modified corpus, followed by five largely self-contained chapters offering detailed readings of sample texts. The introduction, which rejects a number of earlier approaches to the canon, is extremely well written and highly thought provoking, interpreting the mester de clerecta not as a single element in a hegemonic process, but as a palimpsest. In this respect he argues that the poems 'are not written out, so to speak, upon a blank page, but over an erasure' (p. 14). In the chapters that follow Weiss attempts to restore these erased meanings, focusing on the beliefs, values, contradictions, and anxieties of the clerics who constructed their narratives in an ever changing world. Chapter 1 looks at Gonzalo de Berceo, the first named poet to write in Spanish, and analyses six tales drawn from his Milagros de Nuestra Señora: 'El sacristán fornicario', 'El clérigo y la flor', 'El labrador ávaro', 'El pleito de Teófilo', 'El judezno', and 'Los judios de Toledo'. …

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