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CHIVALRIC IDENTITY IN ENRIQUE DE VILLENA'SARTE CISORIA Sol Miguel-Prendes Wake Forest University Introduction Enrique de Villena is the author of a handbook on carving for the table, the Arte cisoria, written in 1423 at the request of Sancho de Jarava, cortador, or official carver-at-table, for KingJuan II of Castilla. The Arte cisoria. is a manual on courtly manners and an account of Villena's own experience as carver-at-table, an office he must have performed frequendy, since Jarava considers him an authority. The treatise receivesjuridical support from Alfonso X's second Partida, which is also the source for the sections on the virtues, rights and duties of the royal carver, as Felipe Benicio Navarro (lxxix) and Russell V Brown point out (Villena, Arte cisoria, 15-16). The Arte cisoria's seeming lack of connection to Villena's literary production perplexes some critics, who focus on its linguistic role in the development of Spanish literary style. Brown, for example, discourages any attempt at literary interpretation by stating that "to assess the import of the Arte cisoria from a strictly literary vantage point will lead ultimately to a dead end" (80).' He considers it merely a "curious oddity", although he recognizes its significant role within the cultural life of the peninsula and adds, following Huizinga's influential The Waning ofthe Middle Ages, diat it is also "a manifestation of die need universally felt in late medieval times, for ceremony as part of high culture" (76). Taking Brown's lead, Elena Gascón-Vera recognizes 1 The latest dissertation onAite cisoria still concentrates on its language: MauriceJames Westmoreland, "The Language ofEnrique de Villena's 'Arte cisoria". La corónica 32.1 (Fall, 2003): 307-42 308Sol Miguel-PrendesLa corónica 32.1, 2003 Arte cisoria's cultural importance and proposes that it is also, in part, a scientific treatise on medical practices. Recent scholarship argues against Huizinga's perception of latemedieval courtly behavior as just "illusion and dream" and stresses instead the significance ofcourtly attire, ceremonial practices, and the whole system of self-representation -heraldry, chivalric orders— in the constitution of chivalric identity.2 Furthermore, this study proposes to relate Arte cisoria closely to the rest of Villena's literary production. The work is part of a comprehensive program to educate an aristocratic elite that will function as the arms of the social body, headed by an enlightened ruler. Reading Arte cisoria, against the backdrop of Villena's other writings, particularly the translation of, and commentary on, Virgil's Aeneid (known as Glosas a la Eneida) and, to a lesser extent, theArte de trovar (Villena's now-incomplete treatise on the rules ofpoetry), elucidates his view of the role ofaristocracy in a monarchic society. It also helps us to place his educational program within the changing cultural context of Castilla at the beginning of the fifteenth century. As Rodriguez Velasco explains for this period, "one of the chiefdiscoveries ofmonarchy is the acceptance ofcourtly chivalresque ideology and its transformation by way of adapting it to the political needs ofa growing sacralized absolutism" ("The Chivalresque Worlds" 6). As die old courtly values were reconceived as civic virtues, Villena focused on the constitution ofaristocratic identity modeled on an "ideology of Roman chivalry", according to which medieval knights descended directly from the Roman équités, and their functions were juridically linked to the nobility ("The Chivalresque Worlds" I).3 Villena's program follows monastic practice; that is, continuously reading and meditating on die scriptures, conceived as the rhetorical craft ofbuilding superstructures, or mental constructions, on the foundation of biblical texts, as Mary Carruthers explains in her important study, The Craft of Thought. Monastic craft, Carrudiers argues, develops a "knowledge" that can only be learned by ritualized behavior (1). Ritual and die social performance of chivalric identity are strongly connected, and diis study attempts to show that in Villena's program, a key attribute of chivalric self is the public performance of its social 2 For the Castilian case, seeJesús D. Rodríguez Velasco El debate and "The Chivalresque Worlds in Tirant lo Blanc"; José Manuel Nieto Soria, Ceremonias de la realeza; and Alvaro Fernández de Cordova Miralles, La corte de...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 307-342
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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