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The Mester de Clerecía: Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile

The Mester de Clerecía: Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile

Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    The Mester de Clerecía: Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile
    Book Description:

    In the thirteenth century, profound changes in Spanish society drove the invention of fresh poetic forms by the new clerical class. The term mester de clerecía (clerical ministry or service) applies to a group of narrative poems (epics, hagiography, romances) composed by university-trained clerics for the edification and entertainment of the predominantly illiterate laity. These clerics, like Gonzalo de Berceo, understood themselves as cultural intermediaries, transmitting wisdom and values from the past; at the same time, they were deeply involved in some of the most contentious and far-reaching changes in lay piety, and in economic and social structures. The author challenges the predominantly didactic approach to the verse, in an attempt to historicize the category of the intellectual, as someone caught in the duality of the worlds of contingency and absolute values. The book will have a broad appeal to medievalists, in part because of the topics covered (feudalism, gender, nationhood, and religion), in part because many poems are either adaptations from French and Latin or have counterparts in other literatures (e.g., the romances or Alexander and Apollonius, the miracles of the Virgin Mary). JULIAN WEISS is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Spanish at King's College London.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-493-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    The Spanishmester de clerecíawas a literary mode that would produce about thirty vernacular poems over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and thus become one of the most significant bodies of clerical narrative verse in Western Europe. Though its roots were in Castile, it was inextricably bound up in the profound social, religious, and political changes of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Europe. According to many scholars, it is these changes that provide the earlier works of themester– those written between, say, 1210 and 1280 – with a certain unity. The newly formed University of Palencia...

  6. 1 Pollution and Perception in Gonzalo de Berceo’s Milagros de Nuestra Señora
    (pp. 26-66)

    As Berceo goes along his pilgrimage of life, he stumbles across a meadow: ‘caecí en un prado’ (2a). Although modern editors unanimously remind us that the verb is an apocopated form of ‘acaecer’, ‘to happen (upon)’, which derives from the Latincadere, ‘to fall’, in this context Berceo’s word choice is surely telling. As an allegory of the Virgin, this meadow is the space of redemption, and as such there is always an implied fall. Indeed, the fact of original sin underlies the entire allegorical introduction, which, as Michael Gerli has shown, plots ‘la Historia Universal del Hombre [y] traza...

  7. 2 Female Associations: Three Encounters with Holy Women
    (pp. 67-108)

    The ideological complexities of the cleric as intermediary between institutional authority and the world at large are particularly acute when it comes to the representation of female religious experience. The reformist Church placed increasing emphasis on clerics’ celibacy as a sign of their social and spiritual superiority, and this, in tandem with inherited discourses of misogyny, unleashed a host of unresolved anxieties over the pollution caused by Woman. As Dyan Elliott puts it:

    even though free of personal sin, [Woman] nevertheless becomes a compelling image for original sin and the fallen condition of the human body […]; biologically and hence...

  8. 3 Dreaming of Empire in El libro de Alexandre
    (pp. 109-142)

    In 1310, Henry VII, the newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, crossed the Alps into Lombardy in order to enforce his sovereign rights within Italy. Henry’s arrival was fervently welcomed by Dante, who hoped that this ruler would fulfil his messianic hopes for the creation of a supranational State, with political powers and authority that were completely separate from the Church. Dante’s philosophical justification for the political views that underpinned his support for Henry were elaborated in his treatiseDe monarchia, probably written sometime between Henry’s arrival in Italy and his unexpected death in 1313, while laying siege to Naples. Early...

  9. 4 The Birth of a Nation: Feudal Fictions in El poema de Fernán González
    (pp. 143-178)

    With the exception of María Eugenia Lacarra’s important analysis of the political antagonism between Castile and Navarre (1979), the politics ofEl poema de Fernán Gonzálezhave been discussed only on the most general level. That this epic promotes a nationalist agenda is accepted by all: Castile is the true inheritor of the Visigothic legacy, and as such leads the way in the fight against Islam.¹ This reading, while broadly accurate, needs to be fleshed out by more detailed textual analysis and a wider frame of reference. For in the process of promoting Castilian hegemony, the poem reveals much more....

  10. 5 The Cleric, in Between
    (pp. 179-225)

    Story-telling implies a narrator with a point of view. The problems that this statement poses are immediate and well known: the story may be told from multiple perspectives, and by an unreliable narrator who acts as a counterpoint to, or even to obscure, the author’s position. Formulated thus, we think of voice and perspective as the result of a conscious decision on the part of the creator. But they are obviously shaped by more than this. The stories of themester de clerecíawere not invented but adapted by their authors. Rewriting introduced changes that can be identified through comparative...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 226-230)

    Those readers who have followed me this far may have two reasons to be disappointed. First, because they will not find here a thoroughgoing summary of the conclusions that could be reached through the various case studies that make up this book. Since one of my principal goals has been to offer models of ideological interpretation of the poetry of themester, readers will have to draw their own conclusions, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether or not I have been successful. Nonetheless, in a book that has been so concerned with boundaries, it is appropriate that I try...

  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 231-250)
  13. Index
    (pp. 251-258)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)