Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric

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She crosses the boundaries, both temporal and geographical, of to recover the "original" medieval culture, with its Mediterranean mix of European, Arabic, and Hebrew poetics. The result is a form of literary history more lyrical than narrative and, Menocal persuasively demonstrates, more appropriate to the Middle Ages than to the revisionary legacy of the Renaissance. In discussions ranging from Eric Clapton's adaption of Nizami's Layla and Majnun , to the uncanny ties between Jim Morrison and Petrarch, Shards of Love deepens our sense of how the Middle Ages is tied to our own age as it expands the history and meaning of what we call Romance philology.

Table of Contents Prelude ix 1. The Horse Latitudes 1 II.

Scandal 55 1. Love and Mercy 57 2. The Inventions of Philology 91 3. Chasing the Wind III. Desire IV. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Usually ships within 1 week. Overview With the Spanish conquest of Islamic Granada and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the year marks the exile from Europe of crucial strands of medieval culture. Readings and Sources Works Cited Index She crosses the boundaries, both temporal and geographical, of to recover the "original" medieval culture, with its Mediterranean mix of European, Arabic, and Hebrew poetics.

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The result is a form of literary history more lyrical than narrative and, Menocal persuasively demonstrates, more appropriate to the Middle Ages than to the revisionary legacy of the Renaissance. In discussions ranging from Eric Clapton's adaption of Nizami'sLayla and Majnun, to the uncanny ties between Jim Morrison and Petrarch,Shards of Lovedeepens our sense of how the Middle Ages is tied to our own age as it expands the history and meaning of what we call Romance philology.

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To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Stephen G Nichols. Nichols MLN, Vol. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. Durham: Duke University Press, I would have coineda song likea spear piercingthe trees,thestones,thesky a song supplelikewater untamable as bewildered as conquest -Adonis, Mihyar of Damascus I.

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The Desert What was it like to live in ages when the power of poetry could pierce stones, while flowing supple like water, elusive, ineffable? Maria Rosa Menocal's unabashedly gutsy book takes the readers back to the lyric origins of a good deal of Western history-Columbus's voyage of dis- MLN, : ? It proposes a philosophy of history that is also a philosophy of lyric poetry. Indeed, one suspects that the whole thrust of the book, its genesis as well as its passion, arises from Menocal's sardonic conviction that modernity's substitution of prose for the power of poetry is of a piece with modernism's belief in technology as progress and periodization as a necessary segmentation of history.

This book takes enormous risks without even seeming to be aware of steaming full-bore through mine- fields of every sort. Shardsof Loveunwinds and weaves its skeins coolly just a hair's breadth above, but sometimes on the knife-edge of con- tradiction. Aggressively contemporary in attitude, the book positively invites characterization as a reprise of a certain romantic celebration of pop- ular language, of "the poetry of the people" that motivated nine- teenth-century concepts of medieval poetry, and a whole school of me- dievalizing imitation. Like the romantics, Menocal believes that passion, gut feelings, run deep and raw in true song.

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She does not hes- itate to say that ". She also takes as a matter of course that distinctions of high and low culture simply perpetuate a kind of exile on lyric poetry. For the poetry of high culture, beginning with Petrarch, was a poetry of fear, lyric exiled from its roots in natural language, from the change and variation of popular song.

The poetry of high culture in this scenario bespeaks fear of change, fear of dis- continuities, fear of contamination, fear ultimately, of anonymity. To construe Shardsof Loveas in any sense conservative, as pleading for a return to some golden age of lyric, would be to mistake grossly every syllable of its plea.

On at least two counts. First, any notion, all notions of golden ages, of nostalgia for the past, belong to the history of periodization, to that prosaic history responsible for the putative "death of lyric,"or at least for its cultural subordination. Secondly, she emphasizes the extent to which lyric is viscerallypart of those moments of great social transition and change.

It is not so much historiography as memory, as personal history lived and suffered and sung in vernac- ulars, by observers usually out of tune with the grand schemes, the new narratives sweeping across their world. NICHOLS tory is a collective enterprise, whereas lyric arises from personal mem- ory, personal loss, individual subjectivity seeking reintegration with an altered world, a world that has no place for a fractured self.

So Meno- cal does not postulate nor still less mourn for a period when poetry defined a world-the view espoused by many philologists who cele- brated the origins and power of medieval poetry. Subscribing in part to a Vichean concept of historical cycles-Vico, like Dante, and their modern interpreters, e. It is not the lyric that is destroyed, but the conditions that shape its poets. There is a dif- ference, however, between the conditions for the poetry of the Middle Ages and that of later times.

Lyric, anti-lyric, and political poetry.

Medieval civilization could not manage so efficiently as later periods to install and police boundaries of high cul- ture-indeed, there is not a lot of evidence that it wanted to do so. Shardsof Loveargues powerfully that the conditions for true lyric po- etry, the lyric of the solipsistic self seeking to express and ultimately heal through music the fragmented memories of a lost moment, a lost world, these conditions abound unseen all around us. Unseen, be- cause consigned to a cultural exile, overlooked under the convenient category of low culture.

Cultural exile, it turns out, is not knowing how to hear, how to appreciate the love song. It is that discovery, and the ability to write it for all to see in De VulgariEloquentia-not the Com- media, most emphatically not the Commedia-that enabled Dante to emerge from the desert of his exile, at least the metaphorical part of it, the exile of the mind. The book begins in Au- gust on the edge of the sea, in Spain, at the beginning of exile, and it ends on the edge of the desert, in an indeterminate time, both earlier and later than the beginning, a time one could describe as the real time of poetic genesis, where poets try to write themselves out of exile.

The ones we hear about succeed.

Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric | Performing Trobar

Desire in Menocal's account drives both moments: Desireis the struggleto not alwayslook behind, at whatis gone, at whatwill be gone. But desireis memory,the memoryof firstlove, gone. Desireis po- etry,the firstlanguage,starkand pained, coming out from the desert. Andyou,you can startall overagain,you can writethe storyfromthe beginning. Lyric and Memory Menocal is neither faint of heart nor finger-food for the fastidious: she lays out most of her precepts with the gusto of Martin Luther ham- mering his ninety-five theses to the doors of All Saints in Wittenberg, at the feast of All Souls, And one of her principal precepts is that historiography and history function very much like lyric poetry, or, rather, with analogous strategies.

Another, equally audacious precept insists on the survival of a certain strain of medieval lyric in classical rock. Or even bruits rock and the troubadour lyric as asymmetrical doppelganger. This filiation seems less puzzling once one grasps her connection between history and lyric, both of which must be uncoupled from a ra- tionalizing hermeneutics, the exegetical counterpart of an historical master narrative. Menocal does this in the first of the two major sec- tions of Shardsthat she calls "The Horse Latitudes" from a poem by the rock starJim Morrison.

Her title, "The Horse Latitudes" comes from a poem of the same name by, not the troubled rock singerJim Morrison, but his alter-ego and would-be serious poet, James Douglas Morrison-the name he used when he wrote "serious"poetry, and that, for Menocal, is part of the tragic irony of his art and his death in Paris. A key line from "The Horse Latitudes" runs "True sailing is dead. For "true sailing" refers not only most obviously to Columbus, but more crucially to the historical watershed his "sailing"has come to represent.

A new conception of what "Spanish"meant motivated the master narratives of history and liter- ature, and, ominously, the "official" narrative of Columbus's voyage, driving them so far astray in the horse latitudes, as never to let them get back on course. And the gaze of history has followed suit seeing what "Columbus," the mythical construct of the "medieval man" in a "newworld" he could not inhabit chose to see. Or chose not to see; that's Menocal's point about the horse latitudes. In the course, not of the sailing itself, but in its historiographical re- plays presented by the voyage chronicles over the last five centuries- most emphatically not excluding our own-some important cultural components went by the board,jettisoned when the ships sailing to the new world were becalmed in the horse latitudes, figuratively speaking.

The Spain of the period prior to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, she ar- gues, sheltered a vibrantly pluralistic society in which different reli- gions and races did not so much co-exist, as truly interact in a devas- tatingly brilliant cultural matrix.

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This was a world where identity politics had yet to poison the tree of knowledge. The Other was much like the self, or so it would appear from literary re- mains.

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No one claims that life was easy, only that intellectual tolerance and exchange somehow happened. At least at the beginning, Columbus signified in his person the multicultural, polyglot, and "polygenetic" imprint of me- dieval Spain. For there are at least two Columbus's in Shards. They were the ones responsible for expelling the Jews and denying the Arabic foundations of pre-fourteenth century Spain. Then there was the other Columbus, the more plausible master mariner, Genoese by birth, pan-Mediterranean by virtue of his calling, in fine, the "medieval" man whom Menocal seeks to recuperate for the authentic Spanish Middle Ages.

That is the period referred to as the golden age of al-Andalus, which was also the golden age of the Sephardim. Menocal defines "medieval"as: the MiddleAges the Reconquistawasbattling. The Reconquista,as the ide- ologicalconstructthatpitsitselfagainstal-Andalus,is not only notmedieval, it is as anti-medievalas theycome The truly "medieval"Columbus, then, is the polyglotJewish converso, so accustomed to a Mediterranean world peopled with Moslem races that he shipped a Jewish interpreter fluent in Arabic-the lingua franca of the civilized world-with him on the voyage so as to be able to converse fluently with the inhabitants when they reached the Indies Columbus was not disappointed, in a way,for the first diplomatic exchange to occur in the New World-a meeting Menocal describes as a "bit of great and fitting lyricism left out of most of our narra- tions"-took place somewhat surreally in Cuba between Columbus's Jewish interpreter of Arabic, Luis de Torres, and a Taino chief.

Luis de Torres spoke in Arabic. And the Taino chief? One could hardly find a more telling, because insignificant in a sense, index of the untrammeled cultural variety of the "medieval" Mediterranean that had formed Columbus. Menocal undertakes to describe its Spanish manifestation "resonating in and its children in the New World": Here [in "medieval"Spain], mosques are around every corner, and the Other livesnext door, and all mannerof unwrittenlanguagesare heardin the marketplacein the earlymorning.

Here, literaturestrugglesand dances aroundwithall mannerof culturalalternatives,sometimesin difficultcon- flict. NICHOLS ternaltongue in order to savethe mother'shistory-until then oral-is to know and to hear again hundreds of details of the universe of the muwashshahat, where the scatteredand vulgarsongs of Christiangirls are saved,made into writtentexts,becausetheymarrythe Poets,thatmale clas- sical Arabictraditionthat has writtenHistory.

This, however,is a History that has carvedMemoryitself, the lover'slove song, into its heart. What he discovered, and what he brought to the New World, in Menocal's revisionist account, was the possibility of recreating in the New World the lyric culture of al-Andalus, the siren song by which al- Andalus had charmed Europe in a gesture of cultural colonization em- braced by the troubadours in Provence, Frederick II in Sicily, half- recognized by Dante, and then, driven by fears of heresy, threats of domination of one sort or another, progressively denied.

The principles of that lyric beat were particularly apposite to what would become the mestizo and Creole cultures of the New World. Menocal does not stop to enumerate these vernacular principles, but we can readily recognize them as the "cross-over"pulses at work when- ever the vernacular spawns new art forms, be it a Provencal canso, a negro spiritual, jazz, blues, rap, or rock.

They are: improvisation, vari- ation, assimilation, and above all, vocal rhythm-that is, song based on the voice speaking not one, but two or more languages: strange lan- guages, exotic languages, other languages. The paradox of the Horse Latitudes in Menocal's work is profound: the New World authorized the imposition of identity politics on the Old, fracturing a centuries-old tradition of open cultural accommo- dation whose fruits had created the learning-and though Menocal doesn't say it-the narratives of navigationesor sea voyages of explo- ration that made Columbus's enterprise conceivable.

From her per- spective, medieval Spain-al-Andalus in Arabic, Sefarad in Hebrew was any other European country called by its inhabitants by so many names in languages that qualify as "local"? It was a model for what the New World had the potential to be, but could only become slowly, painfully. Indeed, medieval Spain appears as a beacon for the multi- cultural aspirations of the American 's.

Of course. This book was originally planned to appear in as part of the Columbus cele- bration. Cancer intervened, delaying the planned book, and shaping a very different one, with a graver, profounder sense of the value of life, and with a very different sense of the nature of lyric. Here one finds a the- ory of lyric to ponder.