Academic journal article Hispanic Review

RHETORICAL AND NARRATIVE PARADIGMS IN FERNANDO DEL PULGAR'S Crónica De Los Reyes Católicos

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

RHETORICAL AND NARRATIVE PARADIGMS IN FERNANDO DEL PULGAR'S Crónica De Los Reyes Católicos

Article excerpt

The persistent composition of chronicles in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Spain, long after the form had been rejected in favor of modern narrative history by Italian humanist historians, could be seen as another instance of Spain's cultural belatedness. In The Content of the Form, Hayden White identifies modern historiography with the decline of the chronicle as the dominant form of historical writing, and its substitution by discursive narrative history; in this he echoes a judgement already expressed by Benedetto Croce early in the twentieth century. Yet what is formally a chronicle may contain the essential elements of a humanist history, such as a tripartite structure, the persuasive use of rhetoric, etc. Fernando de Pulgar's Crónica de los Reyes Católicos in fact exhibits these features in its first half, which narrates retrospectively the end of the reign of Henry IV and the subsequent civil war fought by Isabel and Ferdinand to impose their control over Castile. The second half of Pulgar's work-mostly devoted to the Granada war-is, however, a true chronicle because he narrates contemporary events, and because the nature of the Granada war calls for an emphasis on brute superiority of power rather than on persuasion through debate. Yet, paradoxically, this more "medieval" section of the chronicle is itself more modern; it is characterized by greater realism, and the decreased use of rhetorical stylization allows the dialogistic presentation of a variety of dissenting voices. The persistence of the Spanish chronicle thus can be seen not just as an anomaly, but also as a response to competing paradigms of modernity.

The time of Ferdinand and Isabel, roughly 1469-1516, was a transitional period in a number of well-known ways: the consolidation of a powerful monarchy after a half-century of civil strife; the definitive combination of the kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Navarre resulting in more-or-less Spain as we know it today; the extension of Spanish rule through southern Italy; and the beginnings of the overseas empire. Yet another transitional aspect of these years has to do with literary culture, for the protohumanist currents that had been present on the Iberian peninsula for nearly a century became dominant during this period, as Ángel Gómez Moreno's España y la Italia de los humanistas shows. The humanists rejected history as a listing of events; to them, the task of the historian was to seek an explanation for human actions, requiring history to have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end, told in such a way as to justify the causal interpretation of the events. Even when telling and analyzing a particular story, however, the medieval historian could write confident in the knowledge that his story was a small part of universal history, to which he could refer through framing techniques such as genealogies, lists of rulers, and so on. While the political fragmentation of Italy contributed to the interest of micro-narratives, national consolidation offered Spanish historians a master narrative whose protagonists to this day retain their epithets: the Great Gardinal, the Great Captain, or the Catholic King, for example. The unstable but ultimately definitive union of Castile and Aragon, the failed attempt at union with Portugal, the conquest of Granada, and the expulsion of the Jews completed a project of nation-building that radically altered what it meant to rule, the scope of political action, and thus the writing of history. Moreover, if this period saw the dissemination, across a number of fields, of Italian and Spanish humanist models, it also experienced the newly widespread availability of both old and new material. The invention of printing made possible the widespread distribution of a deep archaeology of narratives, brought to the surface, so to speak, by their publication. Contemporary narratives were not the only bestsellers: this was also the time when well-known ballads were first collected and published, while new ballads attained widespread distribution as well. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.