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The Problem of Woman in Late-Medieval Hispanic Literature

The Problem of Woman in Late-Medieval Hispanic Literature

Robert Archer
Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 235
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt9qdmv3
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  • Book Info
    The Problem of Woman in Late-Medieval Hispanic Literature
    Book Description:

    What is a woman? This book questions the persistent assumption that the large corpus of medieval Hispanic texts that discuss the nature of women can be defined in terms of the clichéd discourses of misogynism and defence of women, arguing instead that the problem of gender identity is vital to them all. The texts, some well-known, others which have received scant critical attention, are each discussed in their specific contexts and in relation to the ostensible reasons for their composition, such as a political, literary, religious, or didactic 'agenda'. They are also related to the literary traditions in which they are written (misogynistic denunciation, satire, humour, defence, narrative debate, among others), and the particular theoretical problems arising from them are discussed. But it is also argued that the full meaning of the texts lies at the less immediately accessible level at which they address this very problem of definition, one which arises directly from the self-perpetuating contradictions of authoritative wisdom on the nature of women. ROBERT ARCHER holds the Cervantes Chair of Spanish, King's College London.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-422-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-20)

    ‘What is a woman?’ When two early Hispanic texts describe the traditional scene in which this stark question is put to an oracular sage, substantially different, if equally peremptory, answers are given. The question circulated widely as the last of three included in a didactic catechism to which Secundus the Philosopher gives the responses. The following version is copied into thePrimera Crónica Generalof Alfonso X:

    ‘¿Qué es mugier?’

    ‘Confondimiento del homne, bestia que nunca se harta, cuidado que no a fin, guerra que nunca queda, periglo del homne que no ha en sí mesura.’¹

    Secundus caps the bleak...

  5. 1 NOTIONS OF WOMEN IN HISPANIC DIDACTIC LITERATURE
    (pp. 21-63)

    Some of the texts written in Hispanic languages in the medieval period about women are specifically intended for female readers. Their didactic concerns are not directed primarily at males as is the case with texts likeArcipreste de Talaveraor Jaume Roig’sSpill, but largely at women themselves. Such texts declare themselves to have the practical function of preparing real women for real life in a range of social contexts such as marriage or queenship or, more generally, for moral life. They are especially important since they describe or indirectly reveal a ‘notion of woman’ based in what their authors...

  6. 2 UNSTABLE SEX, UNSTABLE VOICES: ALFONSO MARTÍNEZ DE TOLEDO’S ARCIPRESTE DE TALAVERA
    (pp. 64-89)

    One of the major casualties of the entrenched critical assumption that there was a Hispanic medieval debate on women is Alfonso Martínez de Toledo’sArcipreste de TalaveraorCorbacho. Implicit in this assumption is the idea that in those works concerning women produced during the fifteenth century which are deemed to fall on the negative side of the divide in this debate, the subject is treated from a consistent ideological basis, so that it is taken to be unproblematic to discuss the concept of misogyny with reference toArcipreste de Talavera, Pere Torroella’s notorious poem ‘Quien bien amando persigue’, Juan...

  7. 3 PRESENT LAUGHTER: BERNAT METGE’S LO SOMNI AND JAUME ROIG’S SPILL
    (pp. 90-122)

    In her discussion with Lady Reason inLe Livre de la cité des damesabout the misogynistic commonplaces that constantly undermine the position of women, Christine de Pizan refers to the allegation made by some that when Christ chose to appear after the Resurrection to Mary Magdalene rather than to one of the disciples, he did so because he knew that a woman’s tongue was the best guarantee that the news would spread quickly:

    ‘I smile at the folly which some men have expressed and I even remember that I heard some foolish preachers teach that God first appeared to...

  8. 4 THE DEFENCES
    (pp. 123-169)

    Works written specifically in defence of women do not appear in Spain until the fourth decade of the fifteenth century, a considerable time after the literature of defence began to be produced in France in relation to theRoman de la Rosein the last decades of the fourteenth. There is no evidence that any texts of the French debate, even the extraordinary writings of Christine de Pizan, filtered into the courts of the Spanish kingdoms.¹ However, both before and after the better-known Castilian defences of the 1440s by Juan Rodríguez del Padrón, Diego de Valera and Álvaro de Luna,...

  9. 5 TORROELLA’S MALDEZIR DE MUGERES AND ITS LEGACY
    (pp. 170-202)

    The poem by Pere Torroella, or Pedro Torrellas, variously known as ‘Maldezir de mugeres’ and ‘Coplas de las calidades de las donas’ is one of the most successful in the wholecancionerotradition, copied in no fewer than seventeen manuscripts between the 1460s and 1541, as well as in theCancionero generalof Hernando del Castillo (1511, enlarged in 1514, and with several reprintings during the sixteenth century).¹ A quotation from it by Juan Luis Vives in hisDe institutione feminae christianaeattests to the breadth of its impact in the first decades of the sixteenth century, while Barbara Matulka’s...

  10. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 203-206)

    Even a brief review of some of the more substantial Hispanic texts I have examined here suggests a very wide range of ostensible reasons for writing about women. Eiximenis attempts to define the more negative aspects of female nature precisely so that through knowledge of them women may overcome their inherent defects and live as better Christian women. Córdoba, for his part, following Egidius Romanus and supported by García de Castrojeriz, has similar moral aims, but he also is conscious of the need to persuade other male readers, whose assumptions about women he echoes, that his programme of moral reform...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 207-222)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 223-227)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 228-228)