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MEDIEVAL WOMEN'S WRITING IN CATALAN: TEXTUAL INSCRIPTIONS OF FEMININE AUTHORITY Montserrat Cabré Universidad de Cantabria "[Y]o-n cree attènyer no poc merit davant Déu en publicar Io nom de tant singular mare, de immortal memoria digna: Sor Ysabel de Billena lo ha fet; Sor Ysabel de Billena l'a compost; Sor Ysabel de Billena ab elegant y dolç stil l'a ordenat, no solament per a les devotes sors y filles de hobedièneia que en la tancada casa de aquest monestir habiten, mas encara per a tots los qui en aquesta breu, enugosa e transitoria vida viuen". (Miquel y Planas 1936, I: 6.47-55) Aldonça de Montsoriu wrote, in Catalan, this forceful affirmation of feminine authorship and of her own honorable role as editor in the dedicatory letter to the queen Isabel la Católica that opens the Vita Christi in its first printing in 1497, seven years after Isabel de Villena's death.1 Aldonça explains that Isabel, considering the perils of wordly praise, was so humble as to refuse to sign the book with her name.2 We can only guess whether they knew about the controversy over the authorship of Teresa de Cartagena's first work, Arboleda de los enfermos, which took place in Castilla in previous decades (Rivera 1992; 1 An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Colloquium Hispanic Women Writers: Legacies ofour Ancestors, organized by Rafael Mérida-Jiménez at Rice University, February 15, 2001. My thanks to him for inviting me to participate in that interesting gathering, as well as to Dawn Bratsch-Prince for her suggestions and commitment to bring my work into this cluster. I am indebted to Monica Green and Fernando Salmón for their wise advice and encouragement at critical moments of my own authorizing this article. 2 "la virtuosa e digníssima mare Abbadessa, predecessora mia, ab la Hum del seu ciar enteniment mirant los perills que la mundana laor porta, en tan baix centre de humilitat era devallada, que no volgué scriure lo seu nom en alguna part de aquest libre". Miquel y Planas 1916, 1: 5.21-26. La corónica 32.1 (Fall, 2003): 23-41 24Montserrat CabréLa coránica 32.1, 2003 Seidenspinner-Núñez 1998), but Aldonça showed no shyness at asserting Isabel as author by echoing a significant passage of the Holy Scripture . Isabel's successor as abbess of the Trinitat nunnery in Valencia, Aldonça had been her companion there since her early days. She was her inheritor and appropriate witness and would not fall into the Apostle Peter's weakness. Three times her authorship was asserted: Aldonça knew that denial led to sadness and death.3 Isabel's word, like that ofJesus, was for the world, not just for her fellow sisters. According to Aldonça, in God's eyes her action deserves "no little merit": however, her positive re-enactment of Christian history is a commitment to empower herself by authorizing Isabel. As in the sacred texts, it is the acknowledgement of authority that creates authorship itself, in a process where the source of knowledge may be completely absent from the actual production of the text. In this essay I am concerned with reflecting on medieval women's authorship by questioning the ways feminine authority was inscribed in Catalan texts.4 It is my belief that by privileging the notion of feminine authority over that of female individual authors, our ability to identify women's relationships with the production oftexts is enhanced, as well as our understanding of medieval texts themselves. In light of the complex problems of authorial ascription and lack of evidence that so many medieval texts present, Aldonça's statement is a powerful presentation of how authorship was created by the act of textualizing an acknowledgement of authority previously made, in this case, regardless of the author or the source of knowledge herself. If we believe Aldonça's explanation of Isabel not signing her text, it is likely that a contemporary manuscript of the Vita Christi would have not presented any authorship ascription, and yet, Aldonça and those related...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 23-41
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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