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Reviews Franchini, Enzo. Los debates literarios en la Edad Media. Colección Arcadia de las Letras, 9. Madrid: Laberinto, 2001. 319 pp. ISBN 84-8483-019-5 Despite the fact that the literary debate represented one of the most popular and enduring branches of medieval cultural production, the extent to which hispano-medieval scholars have overlooked the allure of its subtle charms is rather alarming. This book, which attempts for the first time to provide an authoritative and long overdue introduction to the subject, goes a considerable way towards releasing it from the obscurity into which it has fallen and returning it to its rightful place within the mainstream of literary appreciation. Franchini's study is introduced by a twelve-page section in which attention is afforded to some of the principal underlying factors that have affected our interpretation and understanding ofthe literary debate. The section is brief but packed with insight and erudition. We are told, for instance, that debates composed in Spain in the Middle Ages should be seen not strictly as national products, bi.t as part of a pan-European continuum, influenced as much by the classics as by vernacular debates in other languages. Our attention is alerted to the variety of debate forms and to the way in which the basic structures imposed by framing devices came at a relatively early stage of evolution to augment the scope for thematic and intellectual exploration. Equally important, according to the author, is an appreciation of range, and of the establishment of a basic method of classification in which contrasting opponents such as the rose, the violet, or the lily (or wine, water, and beer) can be set against disputants that are, by definition, antithetical (perhaps the most familiar examples being body and soul or Christian and Jew). Attention is also devoted to the conclusion to the debates and to die distinction between those that end with a formally arbitrated sentence and those that do not (the majority of body and soul debates, for instance, are in fact characterized by irresolution rather than resolution). Finally, after a brief definition of the scope of the hispano-medieval corpus, links are established at a socio-cultural level between the medieval fascination for theoretical and rhetorical disputation (most notably as reflected by the trivium and die quadrimum) and the popularity of the debate form itself. Ea corónica 32.2 (Spring, 2004): 227-31 228ReviewsLa corónica 32.2, 2004 As a platform for the ten self-contained chapters that follow, the introduction to Franchini's book is compromised not by what is said, but by what is not. Surprising though it be in a book of this nature (one that attempts for the first time to outline the scope and development of a much misunderstood corpus) there is no clear definition of what the debate actually represents , or indeed, of the various ways in which it should be distinguished from related genres such as drama or dialogue. Franchini rightly concentrates on works that were composed as independent compositions, rejecting aspects of disputation intercalated within the context of more substantial works. Vet, as the generic conventions of the debate have been so frequently challenged by critics attempting to incorporate individual examples into Spain's rather paltry corpus of early dramatic works, the absence of comment on these rather all too common acts of misappropriation is conspicuous by its absence. The author could, quite simply, have spelled out in detail that while Spain's tradition of dramatic works is (for reasons unknown) rather stunted, the corpus of debates is actually much larger, more widely copied and diffused, and at least in the majority of extant examples, as aesthetically accomplished as it is thematically diverse. Yet, by offering no clear definition of the distinction between the two, Franchini creates something of a problem - one that is exacerbated further in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by the appearance of poems composed purely as dialogue. These works, which cannot be categorized satisfactorily either as debate or drama, cannot by the same token be unyoked from them (at least in terms of the horizon of expectation generated by outwardly similar generic conventions) without formal discussion. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 227-231
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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