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Reviews307 Joseph E O'Callaghan. Alfonso X and the Cantigas de Santa Maria. A Poetic Biography. The Medieval Mediterranean Series, 16. Leiden-BostonCologne : Brill, 1998. xviii + 251 pp. Illustrated. ISBN 9004-1102-32 I have seen very few monographs that knit together as well as this one does the fabric of Alfonso X's historical moment with his literary production. Once having read this volume (conceived as a supplement to the author's greatly admired The Learned King), the reader will only wonder why this union has not been attempted on this scale before. An easy answer might be that, until now, no one person possessed the balance and expertise to attempt it. O'Callaghan has not only attempted it, but has brought it off expertly and scholars and students of the Cantigas de Santa Maria (CSM) will long be in debt to him. The volume consists of three useful maps, thirteen black and white fullpage photographic reproductions of Cantigas' miniature folios, a brief preface, eleven chapters, twelve tightly-packed pages of relevant bibliography -which, given the nature of the challenge, includes narrative, literary, legal and documentary sources, as well as the expected secondary works- and a solid index. The flow of the work follows a roughly chronological progression through Alfonso's biography, and in particular his reign (1252-1284), which gives the book a primarily historical organization and draws into the discussion at the appropriate points all the relevant Cantigas, and they are many. What we have, then, is exactly what we have so long desired: a focus on the full corpus of the CSM "as a significant source for the history of thirteenthcentury Castile" (xvii). If this is true for historians, then something has also been achieved that many literary scholars of the CSM ("os cantigueiros") have suspected all along: that this signal literary monument contains, within its miracles and praisesongs commissioned by Alfonso to honor the Virgen Mary, a clear and unquestioned link to the intimate facts of Alfonso's life and Alfonso's thinking. This link achieves its full significance when we are faced with the notion of authorship in the context of the Cantigas. Since Alfonso did not personally write all of these more than 420 compositions -and no one now believes he did- then O'Callaghan has proffered heavy evidence for seeing in the collection the sure hand ofAlfonso's tastes and preferences as he went along guiding it, massaging it, choosing content and directing the writing in it (and maybe, to a lesser extent, even the music and the miniatures) and, too, overseeing its expansion from an original, more modest collection ofjust one hundred core compositions. La corónica 30.1 (Fall, 2001): 307-309 308ReviewsLa corónica 30.1, 2001 Appropriately, then, the opening chapter is titled "A Poetic Biography" (also the subtitle of the monograph) which furnishes a solid beginning perspective for the datable cantigas that span most of the reign (events from 1264-1282). Alfonso as troubadour of Mary (Chapter 2) continues the discussion already initiated: it focuses on Prologue B and cantiga 10 as pediments of the case for a personal role in the CSM for Alfonso's literary self but also reminds us of what we learn of Alfonso's gifts to Mary and of Mary's gifts to Alfonso, establishing a relationship ofmutual trust that reappears as a leit motif throughout. From Alfonso, we move to Alfonso's family tree (Chapter 3): Alfonso VII (cantigas 69, 122), Alfonso VIII (cantigas 361, 229, 221), Alfonso IX (cantiga 229), his parents, Fernando III and Beatriz of Suabia (cantigas 221, 122, 256, 292), his brothers, especially Manuel, father to Donjuán Manuel (cantigas 382, 366, 376). O'Callaghan brings all these and other cantigas to life as he reviews the events and the emotions that shape and form Alfonso's poetic remembrances and, reciprocally, help illuminate the surviving historical documents. Chapter 4, on the idea ofkingship, explores not only the CSM in its search for interlaced materials but also the Partidas, monastic and church sculptures and stained glass windows, for ways in which Alfonso wished to see himself portrayed. He also traces the symbols of kingship and, in cantiga 321...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 307-309
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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