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94 Reviews ! ! ! ! ! Bayliss, Robert. The Discourse of Courtly Love in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Theater. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 2008. HB. 208 pp. Robert Bayliss’s informative book analyzes how seventeenthcentury male playwrights and female dramaturgas differed in their negotiation of the centuries-old courtly love paradigm. Tracing the roots of the courtly love tradition from its medieval beginnings in Provence, Bayliss argues that, despite nineteenth- and twentiethcentury critics’ attempts to view this poetic form as an idealized concept of love (most notably C. S. Lewis’s The Allegory of Love), the language originated as ludic performance between rival troubadours. As such, the twelfth-century love ballads were entirely self-centered and designed to demonstrate the bards’ linguistic prowess and ability to outperform his competitor. They had little or nothing to do with the donma, or object of desire. Applying Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of narrative language to love poetry, Bayliss suggests that troubadour ballads form a monologic tradition that represents women as distant objects of desire who never speak or interact with the love-stricken poet. By definition, then, courtly love poetry is entirely male-centered. The female voice is even further isolated when, centuries later, Dante and Petrarch placed their donnas (Beatrice and Laura, respectively) in Heaven as spiritual inspirations. By rendering the women’s voices completely absent, their monologic verses became a site of self-affirmation rather than devotion to their beloveds. This, of course, became problematic when seventeenthcentury playwrights adapted Petrarchan language to the stage, as female characters not only interacted with their male suitors who used the elevated language of the troubadours, but often engaged in reciprocal rhetoric by spouting ornate sonnets to their love interests. In addressing this problem, Bayliss looks at how the comedias of capa y espada and enredo of Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca, despite presenting embellished language as artificial, nonetheless conclude by reinforcing the male-centered ideology that courtly love promotes. For each play that marginalizes the female voice, however, Bayliss also offers a study on how the women playwrights María de Zayas, Leonor de la Cueva y Silva, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz ISBN: 978-0-8387-5714-7. ! ! ! ! ! RESEÑAS 95 challenge courtly love language by introducing dialogic perspectives that give women a distinct voice, while at the same time maintaining the linguistic codes of the paradigm. This, according to Bayliss, provided women writers with a platform from which to launch “a discursive subversion [that] is achieved from within the conventions of the male code” (17). Because both men and women writers used the same Petrarchan language for different ends, their bodies of work can be considered a dialogue that he calls a tenso, or troubadour competition, in which dramaturgas respond to their male counterparts by undermining their reinforcement of the love language’s patriarchal ideology. Mirroring the premise that women writers directly engaged the male canon, each of the three chapters presents a major theme in courtly love (self-absorption, conflicts between desire and duty, and discursive interplay) and gives a close reading of its representation in specific medieval romance and ballad “exchanges” between male troubadours and a competing female trobairix. Bayliss then argues that the tenso strategy was adopted by seventeenth-century dramaturgas in response to the male playwrights’ propagation of the same male-centered language code. By inserting themselves into an otherwise monologic discourse, women writers manipulated courtly codes to undermine the male-centered language and thus give themselves a voice. Chapter one traces the courtly conventions from medieval Provence to the Italian Renaissance poets, most notably Petrarch, who wielded great influence over early-modern Spanish literary styles. When turned into a dramatic form, Petrarchan language as a convention became a major theme in many comedias. Because of its superficiality, playwrights could utilize love language as a means for commenting on rhetoric and speech acts. Lope de Vega’s La dama boba offers insight into Lope’s treatment of courtly love when Nise rejects ornate speech altogether and the nitwitted Finea takes everything her suitors say quite literally. Her inability to participate in courtly rhetoric exposes the lofty language as excessive and even comical. Despite these apparent criticisms...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2377-9551
Print ISSN
1084-1490
Pages
pp. 94-97
Launched on MUSE
2017-11-06
Open Access
No
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