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The Archpriest of Hita and the Imitators of Ovid: A Study in the Ovidian Background of the 'Libro de buen amor'.

The Archpriest of Hita and the Imitators of Ovid: A Study in the Ovidian Background of the 'Libro de buen amor'. By RICHARD BURKARD. (Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs) Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta. 1999. 200 pp. $16.50.

This detailed study of the possible influence of certain Latin texts upon Juan Ruiz's Libro de buen amor is timely and welcome. Over the course of six chapters, Richard Burkard considers specific Latin works in the Ovidian tradition which may have served as models for sections of the Archpriest of Hita's poem. His aim is to establish the extent to which Juan Ruiz knew and used either the works of Ovid himself, or those written in imitation of Ovid.

In his preface, Burkard notes that little has been written on the relationship between the Libro de buen amor and Ovid's Ars amatoria, quoting only Felix Lecoy in 1938 and Schevill before him in 1913, but refuting Lecoy's claim that Juan Ruiz knew the work of Ovid directly. Burkard posits instead the strong influence of Ovidiana, imitative Ovidian literature which, as he points out, was clerical literature 'par excellence' since the study of Ovid in ecclesiastical schools was commonplace from the eleventh century onwards. Ovid was indeed ranked by the eleventh-century French grammarian Aimeric as one of the nine authors considered authoritative in their respective topics.

In Chapter 1, the influence of the Ars amatoria upon the Latin literature of the Middle Ages is assessed (focusing on the Pamphilus, an anonymous twelfth-century elegiac comedy often attributed to Ovid in the later Middle Ages), on the twelfth-century Pseudo-ars amatoria, Andreas Capellanus's De amore, and also the mid-thirteenth-century pseudo-Ovidian work De vetula, all of which have parallels with Juan Ruiz's work. The author claims that 'the presence of medieval Ovidiana extends then for the length of the Libro' (p. 43), and his previous identification of the six major recurrent compositional and thematic traits in the Latin works, namely, the juxtaposition of sacred and profane, the promotion of sexual promiscuity, satire of society and Church, presentation of themes in line with rhetorical premises, the use of parody and farce and the depiction of pseudo-autobiographical experience, seem to bear this out. However, these arguments are weakened by footnote 21 on page 25, which states that Ovid could not have satirized church matters nor did he adhere vigorously to rhetorical norms, which seems to conflict with the central analysis of Ovidian traits in medieval texts. Chapter 2 also contains confusing statements in a somewhat fragmented discussion of the Libro de buen amor in relation to Capellanus's De amore. Burkard compares what he believes to be analogous passages, but the analysis of similarity of form fails to convince. Further comments on the Endrina episode in the Libro in relation to the Pamphilus text, namely that 'much of the "Endrina" may rightly be described as a puffed-up translation (amplificatio) of the Pamphilus' (p. 53) is a poorly expressed reiteration of Lecoy's deductions sixty years earlier. The conclusion of this chapter is that Juan Ruiz did not in fact make direct use of the De amore, whose only similarity with the Libro is the juxtaposition of an extensive 'pro-anti' love development.

Chapter 3 addresses the issue of possible direct knowledge of the Pseudo-ars amatoria by the Spanish poet. Burkard dismantles both Schevill's hypothesis of links between Ovid's Ars amatoria and the Libro and also Lecoy's comparisons of these two works, and instead lists a number of very similar lines in the twelfth-century Latin Pseudo-ars and the Castilian poem, plus ten parallel ideas in the lecture on love in the Libro. Yet the discussion of the Pamphilus text in Chapter 4 is again an unconvincing summary of previous criticism and reworking of old ground and, similarly, the comparison of the Spanish with De vetula in Chapter 5 largely reiterates the now familiar argument over the genre of the Libro de buen amor. More persuasive is the refutation of previous critics' 'Arabizing and Judaizing contentions' (p. 138) which allows the De vetula to be set among those texts predominantly from the Western Latin legacy which contributed to the formation of the Spanish work.

The brief final chapter restates the claim that the nature and extent of Juan Ruiz's knowledge of Ovid has never been fully discussed and draws the conclusion that the Archpriest is most likely to have made use of pieces of imitative Ovidiana rather than having any direct knowledge of the Roman poet. Burkard has usefully appended his own lively contemporary American versions of the Latin Pamphilus and Pseudo-ars amatoria texts as well as Verses 202-728 in Book Two of De vetula. There is also a bibliography and index.

The need for new investigation into Ovidian texts which were influential on vernacular writing of the Spanish Middle Ages is amply demonstrated in Burkard's bibliography, where Schevill's renowned work on Ovid and the Renaissance dates from 1913. Little has been written in this area since. The discussion undertaken in this book is therefore welcome, yet it is marred by an analysis which at times fails to take account of the subtlety of the Spanish poet. In the discussion of Juan Ruiz's use of the Pamphilus, Burkard states that 'he often omits things, or adds things or simply makes changes' (p. 53, n. 10), a simplistic comment which discounts the careful crafting of the Endrina episode to fit into its social and literary context. Similarly, the idea that the venality satire in the Libro is 'not wholly suited to its surrounding context' (p. 94) fails to notice the sophisticated reworking of images and vocabulary which establishes links with other parts of the Spanish text. Burkard's book is written in an easy-going style, yet phrases such as 'The "Garoca" is chuckfull of exempla' (p. 99, n. 33) or 'Her interpretation [...] does nothing less than rip the guts out of the plot' (p. 116, n. 15) are hardly scholarly and reinforce the impression that the undoubted interest of the overall project is foiled by a lack of clarity and cogency in its presentation.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Drayson, Elizabeth
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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