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Reviewed by:
Deyermond, Alan and Martin J. Ryan, eds. Early Medieval Spain: A Symposium. Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63. London: Department of Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary, University of London, 2010. Pp. 152. ISBN 0 902238 56 6.

This collection includes seven articles on diverse aspects of –mainly Christian– Iberia from the Visigothic period through the eleventh century. All but one were read at the colloquium of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar at Queen Mary, University of London, on January 25, 2008. At Alan Deyermond’s request, the publication was dedicated to the memory of Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz (1924–2008) and it is prefaced by Andrew Fear’s warmly informative appraisal of his remarkable scholarship and illustrious career (13–16). As one of the last publications with which Alan Deyermond was associated before his death in 2009, the volume is a testimony to the extraordinary breadth of his interests as well.

Two short articles by Janet Nelson (“‘As ithers see us’: Some Thoughts on Spain and Francia in the Early Middle Ages”; 17–23) and Ralph Penny (“Early Medieval Iberia: How Many Languages?” 25–35) introduce the book. Nelson surveys three episodes in the relationships between “the Franks and people in Al-Andalus” (18): Charlemagne’s involvement in the Adoptionist controversy, the journey of 857 by Usuard and another monk of St. Germain-des-Près on a quest for relics, and the embassy of Abbot John of Gorze to Caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III as an envoy of Otto I. Each illustrates how cultural, religious and regional boundaries filter and distort the perceptions and observations that color our sources.

Penny expertly charts the linguistic diversity of early medieval Iberia and outlines its origins and consequences. He considers various forms of diglossia (the coexistence of languages used for separate functions) and bilingualism, particularly for the early centuries of Muslim rule, and he traces the evolution of languages down to the separation of Latin and Romance in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Readers across disciplines will no doubt find this complex and dynamic linguistic landscape fascinating, though more ample references would have been helpful. Points of particular note include the lack of vernacular status for Hebrew among Jewish communities; the convergence –not fragmentation– of Latin in Roman times and the accompanying critique of the “tree-model” for the genesis of the varieties of peninsular Romance; and the transformation of the Latin/Romance-speaking world into “a two-language world” (33), following–in [End Page 260] accord with Roger Wright’s work– the reform of Latin orthography and pronunciation from the late eleventh century, the resulting development of a phonological script for Romance, and, finally, the standardization of the Iberian Romance languages.

Five longer studies anchor the collection. For the Visigothic period, Jamie Wood (“Brevitas in the Writings of Isidore of Seville”; 37–53) and Andrew Fear (“Moaning to Some Purpose: The Laments of Eugenius II”; 55–77) discuss the writings of Isidore of Seville and Eugenius of Toledo. Two articles address social, economic and political issues in territories occupied by Christians in the tenth century: Wendy Davies (“Countergift in Tenth-Century Northern Iberia”; 79–96) analyzes countergifts, mainly in the Leonese kingdom and county of Castile; Jonathan Jarrett (“Centurions, Alcalas, and Christiani Perversi: Organisation of Society in the pre-Catalan ‘Terra de Ningú’”; 97–127) explores the diverse communities of the Catalan frontier. Finally, Rose Walker (“Beatus by the Waters of Babylon: Lament in Exile from Hispania”; 129–46) sees evidence in the tenth-century Beatus manuscripts of the longing of Christian emigrants from al-Andalus for an imagined past.

By examining why Isidore and other seventh-century Iberian writers valued brevity, Jamie Wood tackles a feature of Isidore’s writing which, he admits, “has irritated generations of scholars” (37). He argues that brevity –a well-established topos among ancient and late antique writers– was a tool through which Isidore accomplished two of his primary goals in writing history: to serve a moral purpose and to do so usefully with a style that facilitated easy recollection and wide dissemination –as in the parallel use of the sermo humilis by Christian writers. Isidore...


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