Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Gonzalo De Berceo: The Poet and His Verses

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Gonzalo De Berceo: The Poet and His Verses

Article excerpt

Anthony John Lappin, Gonzalo de Berceo: The Poet and his Verses (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2008). xii + 266 pp. ISBN 978-1-85 566-173-8. £75.00.

Anything written on the thirteenth-century Spanish poet Gonzalo de Berceo by Anthony John Lappin is worth reading and this book is no exception. Lappin's purpose, economically expressed in the preface, is twofold: first, to examine the 'biographical and intellectual landscape' in which Berceo moved and wrote, and second, to re-examine the manuscript tradition and editorial criteria which to date have informed the published editions. This monograph presents a refreshing and challenging re-examination of both the life and works of Berceo.

The book is broadly divided into two parts, the first dealing with Berceo as author, the second with the works themselves. Lappin begins immediately in the first part to dismande accepted assumptions, taking aim especially at the biographical claims of Brian Dutton. The Berceo that emerges from Lappin's analysis is quite different from the poet-priest that Dutton tied so closely to the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. Lappin sees the poet as a day-student rather than an oblate of the monastery, and later as a secular priest caught up in the post-Lateran IV movement for reform whose allegiance is not confined to the monastery but to the wider Church. Lappin examines the possibilities of Berceo's education and experience within the historical and social context of the period. He then moves to an examination of the Bercean manuscript tradition itself, detailing all the known manuscripts, discussing the possibility of multiple scribes and of audiorial involvement in the copying (and thus the ordering of verses within given works). With carefully constructed arguments Lappin offers new insights into the problematic ordering of verses within the various attributed works.

A major point of Lappin's work is the question of the authenticity of individual works, and he sees an incontrovertible determinant of authenticity in the fact that four of these identify Berceo as author (Vida de Santo Domingo, Vida de San Millan, Vida de Santa Oria, and the Milagros de Nuestra Señora). …

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