Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Heterotextual Body of the 'Mora Morilla'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Heterotextual Body of the 'Mora Morilla'

Article excerpt

Louise 0. Vasvari, The Heterotextual Body of the `Mora Morilla' (London: Department of Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary and Westfield College, 1999). 115 pp. ISBN 0-904 18 88-42-6. L (English pound)9.00.

The Spanish ballad 'Moraima' runs as follows: `Yo me era mora Morayma, morilla de un bel catar. Christiano vino a mi puerta, cuytada, por me enganar; hablome en algaravia, como aquel que la bien sabe: "Abras me las puertas, mora, si Ala te guarde de mal." "?Como te abrir mezquina, que no se quien te sera's?" "Yo soy el moro Magote, hermano de la tu madre, que un christiano dexo muerto; tras mi venia el alcalde; si no me abres tu, mi vida, aqui me veras matar." Quando esto oi, cuytada, comenceme a levantar, vistierame un almexia, no hallando mi brial, fuerame para la puerta y abrila de par en par.' A Christian inveigles his way into Moraima's house by pretending to be an uncle running from the law. There is no doubt about what happened next: opening wide (`de par en par is almost explicit, and the adjective 'cuytada' is usually taken as showing her distress. Several fifteenth-century ballads show sympathy to Muslims, and the Christian could well have been presented as a villain, who tricks Moraima by falsely claiming ties of family, religious, and social solidarity; although maybe we are not meant to sympathize with Moraima, since she shelters a fugitive from justice.

Louise Vasvari, however, cannot accept this straightforward reading. Since it can be performed in such a way as to imply that Moraima eagerly initiated and enjoyed the encounter, she argues that this must be the right way to interpret it. There are indeed close analogues in the contemporary erudite genre, since many poems by the 700 fifteenth-century Castilian court poets seemed bland or pointless until recently, when erotic interpretations were elaborated. …

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