An Interstitial History of Medieval Iberian Poetry

Authored by: David A. Wacks

The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415722834
eBook ISBN: 9781315709895
Adobe ISBN:


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The Iberian Peninsula during the period ca. 1000–1500 was home to a poetic culture that was not defined by a national agenda. Poetry emanated from the monastery, the synagogue, the court, and the literary salon. Poets composed and performed in a variety of Ibero-Romance and classical languages, often more than one. The nationalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has produced a literary historical legacy emphasizing the individual, national language – in some cases (Galician, Catalan) a language striving for political recognition. The works of medieval Iberian poets who wrote in more than one of these vernaculars – and there were many – were divided, edited, and studied as parts of separate traditions, the distinct patrimonies of Spain, Catalonia, Galicia, or Portugal. Hebrew and Arabic poets came to be identified with the national literary histories of other countries and linguistic groups who likewise divided their works according to national language and cast off those poems written in other tongues. Latin, the liturgical, administrative, and creative language of Christian Iberian kingdoms and to a lesser extent the Christian communities of al-Andalus, suffered tremendous marginalization in the modern era, and to this day there is a vast corpus of Iberian Latin belles lettres that has evaded the gaze of the modern literary critic. The resulting literary history is a series of silos, each containing a rich corpus and interpretive tradition of a single language, with little exception prior to the 1980s.

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