- The Eve of Spain: Myths of Origins in the History of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Conflict by Patricia E Grieve (review)
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 15, Number 2, 2009
- pp. 105-109
- View Citation
- Additional Information
! ! ! ! ! RESEÑAS 105 greater glory of God is telling of his inability and the inability of his descendants to see past their own self-aggrandizing fictions. Laguna documents Charles’s desire to see himself immortalized, his life transformed into a work of art, with Leoni’s bronze sculpture, Charles V and the Fury, whose reference is the miles Christi, or perfect soldier of God. Cast in Italy and shipped to Spain, this sculpture is in dramatic contrast to the locally produced painted wood sculpture Duke of Alba Overcoming Philip II’s Enemies with which she closes the chapter. Laguna presents both artworks as parallel expressions in the arts and not influences on Cervantes’s pictorial imagination. The chapter is an elegant conclusion to a thought-provoking book. Mindy Nancarrow University of Alabama Grieve, Patricia E. The Eve of Spain: Myths of Origins in the History of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Conflict. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2009. HB. xii + 308 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8018-9036-9. In her ambitious, deeply researched study The Eve of Spain, Patricia Grieve examines retellings of the story of Rey don Rodrigo, Conde Julian, Florinda La Cava, Pelayo, and the Islamic invasion of 711 over the course of more than a millennium. Referred to in Christian Spain as the “fall,” invoking the expulsion from Eden, this foundational tale of rape, trespassed fealty, and revenge was propagated to justify the conquest of the Gothic kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula by the powerful Muslim empire whose presence there lasted to 1492. Fundamental to the myth’s staying power was the promise of restoration in Pelayo’s successful uprising against the Islamic empire at the Battle of Covadonga (718). Here began both the Reconquest and a symbolic reversal of Spain’s loss that would fuel eight centuries of Christian-Islamic conflict, early modern imperial ambitions, and national ideologies with providential fervor. Not to be overlooked, Grieve insists, is the primary role of gender in the development of the discourse of national origins, particularly the place of La Cava, who comes to be seen as the Eve of Spain. As the author explains, her purpose is to examine “how Spain created itself through fiction and 106 Reviews ! ! ! ! ! narrative history” (12), an unconventional history, in Grieve’s term, told through the reception and reinvention of an originary myth. Impressively, she considers the loss of Spain from its first versions soon after the Muslim conquest to the present with an appropriate emphasis on the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries around the time of political unification. “Fall and Redemption (711-1492)” outlines the basic tenets of the myth in general terms, taking Pedro de Corral’s seminal fifteenthcentury version of Spain’s loss as paradigmatic. Visigoth king Rodrigo breakes into the House of Hercules, seeking treasure and defying convention, to find an ark with a prophecy stating that he who reads it would lose his kingdom to the bearded, turbaned men depicted in the parchment. His vassal, Conde Julian, entrusts his daughter to the court of Rodrigo, and the king rapes (or seduces) her. La Cava tells her father about her lost honor, and he revenges the affront by conspiring with North African invaders. Led by Tarik and with Julian’s help, they conquer the Visigothic kingdoms of the Peninsula in short order. Only a few years later, Pelayo, a Gothic nobleman, rises up against the conquerors, defeating them with his small army in Asturias. “Granada is the Bride” details the importance of gender in late medieval narratives of Christian Spain, especially how male-female relationships serve as metaphors for Christian-Muslim struggles. Thirteenth- and fourteenth-century histories that narrate the fall story, El Toledano’s De Rebus Hispaniae, Alfonso X’s Estoria de España, and the Crónica de 1344, include the rape of Julian’s daughter not present in the earliest Christian versions, taking their cue from Arabic sources. In the same period, related foundational stories draw on recurring figures of the “helpful Muslim princess,” such as Zaida, wife to Alfonso VI, and the “seductive Jewess,” exemplified by Fermosa, lover to Alfonso VIII, suggesting, on one hand, sexual authority as a stand in for military dominance and, on the other...