Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Laughter of the Saints: Parodies of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Laughter of the Saints: Parodies of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain

Article excerpt

Ryan D. Giles, The Laughter of the Saints: Parodies of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009). 197 pp.; 12 plates. ISBN 978-0-8020-9952-5. $25.00.

Ryan D. Giles's rich and ambitious Laughter of the Saints traces the humorous use of parodia sacra and 'the development of saints as imbedded counter-examples in Spanish literature written from the fourteenth to the early seventeenth century' (p. 14). Chapter 1, 'Christ and his cross', studies the irreverent use of Passion imagery and 'the "sexuality" of Christ' (p. 32) in the 'Cruz Cruzada panadera' episode of Juan Ruiz's Libro de Buen Amor and the anonymous Carajicomedia. The former personifies the Cross as female, depicting the Moors as rabid dogs who chase it, while the latter mimics the fourteenth-century Cartuxano (the translation of Ludolph of Saxony's Vita Christi by Ambrosio Motensino), transforming the acting out of the Passion into a 'textual altarpiece of obscenities' (p. 3 1) intended for 'the humorous contemplation of readers' (p. 29). Chapter 2, 'Holy men in the wilderness', persuasively examines the use of Saints Emeterius and Hilarión in the Libro and CaraJicomedia as figures of the imitatio Christi, taken as examples of 'popular religious expressions' (p. 36). In the Libro, the Archpriest's journey in the sierra begins on 3 March, the feast of St Emeterius, and this draws a humorous 'link between perambulation and potency' (p. 39), imbuing the text with sexual imagery. The CaraJicomedia reinterprets St Hilarión as a demonic persona, using his legend, which acquires undertones of necrophilia and homoeroticism, in order to mock the 'morbid deviousness of monks and mendicants' (p. 48).

Chapter 3, 'Virgins and harlots', discusses the eroticization of the female saint's body in the Libro and Fernando de Rojas's Celestina. In the Libro, Don Amor's invocation of St Quiteña, a saint both blamed for the maddening of lovers and venerated as the patron saint of rabies sufferers, casts light on his 'diabolical performance in the Libro as a whole' (p. 5 5). In Celestina, the Magdalene cult plays a pivotal role, and 'Celestina 's performative interweaving of whoredom and Marianism' (p. …

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