A FEMINIST INTERPRETATION OF THE GALICIAN-PORTUGUESE CANTIGAS DE AMIGO
|Author: ||Schantz, Maria Lima|
“The Galician-Portuguese cantigas de amigo were love poems written by troubadours (trovadores) who populated the aristocratic circles and royal courts of Portugal and Galicia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. All these poems portrayed a woman who was openly expressing her longing for her beloved and her most intimate desires.
The cantigas were compiled in various cancioneros (or song-books) which also contained very cursory biographical information about the trovadores themselves, the most famous of which was Martin Codax. These poetic compositions are both powerfully alluring and mysteriously remote for the contemporary reader. Despite the fact that these compositions depict amorous encounters in terms that seem very detached from modern conceptions of love and that their style has been regarded as primitive, the cantigas de amigo remain one of the most enthralling corpus of medieval poetry.
Scholars and ordinary poetry lovers are drawn to this type of poetic compositions because of their resemblance to very pervasive and essentially romantic notions of the sincerity and emotion of true poetry. Thus, as we read the stanzas we willingly forget that they are part of a poetic fiction and we transform the “poetic” voice into a real person who is expressing intimate but universal feelings. Every reader becomes a passionate woman in love with her amigo.
The present study eagerly accepts the apparently contradictory challenge of being, at once, a critical scholar who seeks to objectively interpret and study this poetry and a casual reader that identifies with the poetic voice. Thus, Maria Schantz, the scholarly author who studies the context and meaning of the cantigas de amigo also acknowledges that the reason why she chooses to analyze these poems and the tradition in which they were created is because she feels an affinity with those women that expressed their most intimate yearnings about love and about their amigos in their verses. She, however, goes a step further than other readers of the cantigas. In this study, the scholarly pursuit and the personal interest in the ideas expressed in the poetry coalesce in a bold hypothesis: the love laments put in the mouths of women and attributed to male poets were in fact, composed by women. The poetic voice coincides with the authorial voice in the cantigas de amigo. Consequently, Maria Schantz’s monograph becomes a study of women’s texts, and not a study about women in the texts. And this enterprise is not only original and thought-provoking but also timely.
This original and thorough study seeks, on one hand, to connect the Galician-Portuguese cantigas de amigo to the popular tradition of medieval European women’s love songs and, on the other, it attempts to restore an overdue recognition of authorship and, therefore, authority, to their neglected female composers. Maria Schantz undertakes a revision of some feminist theories which claim that these Galician-Portuguese love songs could not have been composed by female authors but that they reflect instead a clear male authorship. Using as evidence the texts extant in the three major Cancioneiros (Cancioneiro da Ajuda, da Vaticana and da Biblioteca Nacional) the author counteracts this position and attempts to demonstrate that it is, indeed, possible to identify a creative and authoritative female voice in these poems.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Montserrat Piera, Temple University
“Dr. Maria Schantz’s work is an intriguing and thought provoking presentation of medieval “friend songs”. The author combines attention to text and medieval context with perspectives of modern feminist literary theory and of ancient literary expressions of women’s voice. This study contrast the Cantigas de Amigo, whose origins are in the Galician-Portuguese region of the Iberian peninsula, with the Cantigas de Amor from the same region as well as with the poetry of “courtly love” and of trabadour and trobairitz in Provence during the medieval period. Comparisons of texts and traditions permits the identification of qualities of women’s voice encountered in the Cantigas de amigo, which Dr. Schantz and others believe have been erroneously attributed to men … The discussion presented by Dr. Schantz suggests that characteristics of women’s voice encountered in the medieval Cantigas de amigo are shared as well, however, with other expressions of women’s voice heard in more modern as well as ancient times. The modern expression of women’s voice that Dr. Schantz examines is that of late 19th and 20th century feminists, including Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, whose concerns mirror those of their medieval counterparts … one of Dr. Schantz’s greatest contributions here may be her underscoring of the symbiotic relationship between oral and written expressions of voice that have empowered women in ancient, medieval and modern times [as well as] her conviction that it is time to discard old assumptions concerning women’s capabilities and achievements.” – Jonathan Carl Holmquist, Temple University
“Dr. Schantz’s methodology is reasonable, scholarly, and consistent, making an original contribution to the field of medieval Iberian studies. Dr. Schantz situates the Galician-Portuguese "cantigas de amigo" within the Western world's popular tradition ofwomen's love songs. She rebukes forcefully and convincingly the widely-held belief that traditional women's love songs are in fact "songs written by men and put in the mouths of women." How Dr. Schantz contests this dominant theory constitutes the majority of her manuscript … Dr. Schantz rejects the flawed premise that some scholars have offered, namely that women were unable to articulate their own sentiments of love. Instead she posits that male writers, particulary those of the cancionero period, aimed to subvert women's unbroken oral lyric tradition in order to appropriate it while robbing women of their voice and authority … Dr. Schantz does convince the reader through her close readings that male appropriation of the "cantigas" --much like the "jarchas"-- is conceived of as a way to attain authority.” –Dawn Bratsch-Prince, Professor of Spanish and Chair of Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Iowa State University
Table of Contents
1. The Galician-Portuguese Cantigas de Amigo and Theories of Origins
2. Authority, Patriarchy, and the Woman Author
3. Feminism and Women’s Language
4. Courtly Love: Misogyny Disguised
5. The Cantigas de Amigo in Sapphic Context