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Ramón Menéndez Pidal after Forty Years: A Reassessment ed. by Juan-Carlos Conde (review)
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Six papers read at a conference held at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 2008 propose to reconsider the work of Menéndez Pidal (MP) at a distance of four decades. The conference organizer and editor of the volume, Juan-Carlos Conde, offers an introduction, “MP and Oxford: Now and Then” (9–30), recalling MP’s two visits to Oxford: in 1922, to receive an honorary degree, and in 1962 as Honorary President of the first congress of the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas.

Alan Deyermond, “MP and the Epic” (31–60), recycles much of the anti-Pidal revisionism that informs his now classic history of medieval Spanish literature (1971). Dissenting sharply from MP’s methods in editing Mio Cid, Deyermond also disagrees with MP’s twelfth-century dating (c. 1140) for the poem as well as his ascribing its authorship to “lay minstrels, not ecclesiastical or learned poets” (40). He ignores the historical arguments advanced by Diego Catalán in La épica española that point to events of the years 1147–48 that might well vindicate a mid-twelfth-century date for Mio Cid. Referring to his own book on Mocedades de Rodrigo, Deyermond makes no reference to S. G. Armistead’s collected studies (2000), which offer a neo-traditionalist approach. Absent as well is any critique–positive or negative–of the “reconstructed” primitive version of the Poema de Fernán González, which MP published in the weighty tome of Reliquias (1951). This edition stands as an exemplary application of MP’s theory and technique to a very defective manuscript. In an appendix of more than three pages, Deyermond reproduces variant readings of two passages of Mio Cid, contrasting MP’s paleographic and critical editions (1911) with five editions that have appeared since 1976. Curiously, this careful juxtaposition does not yield significant differences in one of the two cases. Noting that MP had paid little attention to the “literary” qualities of the poem, Deyermond commends Juan-Carlos Conde for his extensive new introduction to the Colección Austral re-edition of MP’s 1913 Clásicos Castellanos version. Conde apparently deems Don Ramón’s century-old “critical edition” (enhanced by additional footnotes and a pedagogical apparatus) to retain enough validity to stand as a textbook– despite its much more recent “British” competitors. Perhaps diplomatically, Deyermond does not comment on this new post-mortem victory won by MP’s Mio Cid. Deyermond, who died in 2009, was always cordial to adversaries, and open to scholarly debate. However, in this summation, he stresses those aspects of MP’s legacy which he considers unacceptable without considering some recent scholarship that supports neo-traditionalism.

Geraldine Coates, “MP and the Romancero” (63–70), is far less critical of MP than Deyermond. Without commenting on the current value of MP’s sweeping theoretical and historical introduction Romancero Hispánico (1953), she prefers to review in detail the major studies of the last forty years. Coates covers the fieldwork and analytic studies done by neo-traditionalists, chiefly S. G. Armistead and D. Catalán, as well as by individualists such as Paul Bénichou and Daniel Devoto. Colin Smith’s anthology Spanish Ballads (1965) is cited several times, but Coates does not mention the much more extensive and heavily annotated volume by Paloma Díaz Mas (1994), which is prefaced by a substantial essay by Armistead. Generous praise is awarded to the oral ballad collecting done by D. Catalán and his teams of colleagues and students, excursions originally conceived to augment a planned multi-volume Romancero tradicional of the entire Ibero-Romance corpus, a dream project that MP and his wife María Goyri had initiated at the beginning of the twentieth century. Coates overlooks Catalán’s retrospective, the lavishly illustrated two volumes of El Archivo del Romancero (2001)–partly cultural history and often family memoirs–which may explain the academic and personal obstacles that caused the great pan-Hispanic romancero to be discontinued and remain a failed illusion.

David G. Pattison, “MP and Alphonsine Historiography” (83–94) praises MP’s pioneering work in that area, reviewing how his edition of the Estoria de España, which he titled Primera Crónica General...


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