AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN THE LIBRO DE BVEN
AMOR IN THE LIGHT OF SOME LITERARY
" Creemos que en este punto es imitil la indagaci6n de origenes ". With
these words Menendez y Pelayo dismissed all speculation concerning the
sources of the autobiographical form of the Libro de buen amor iObras
completes, XVII, 302). Whether or not it was the effect of these words,
no thorough investigation has in fact been made of possible literary
sources. Inevitably, all critics dealing with the Libra de buen amor in a
general way, such as compilers of manuals of literature, have had to
discuss the significance of the "autobiographical" aspect of the work.
But none have sought to do more than offer some explanation of it in the
light of mediaeval psychology or didactic techniques. This is true even
of those who have made special studies of the Libra, notably Leo Spitzer,
Felix Lecoy and Maria Rosa Lida. 1 These three critics approached the
problem in different ways, and took different attitudes, but all were equally
concerned to discredit the idea that there might be any genuine autobiography in the Libro, None, however, sought or suggested a literary
source for Juan Ruiz's use of the first person as a narrative method.
The only critic, in fact, to suggest any kind of a literary source has
been Americo Castro. In his brilliant essay in imaginative thinking,
Espana en su historia, Castro devoted a long chapter to the Libra de buen
amor," with the object of showing that there was a profound influence of
Arabic ways of thought and literary concepts on the Libra as a whole, and
that the autobiografismo of the Libra was due, not merely to general
tendencies in Arabic literature, but to the specific influence of the treatise
by Ibn Hazm of C6rdoba called The Dove's Neck-Ring, a work in which
there is a strong subjective element, and in which the author relates
several incidents from his own erotic experience. The great impression
made by Castro's book at its first appearance had a delaying effect on
critical appraisal, but second thoughts and a closer examination revealed
flaws in the details of Castro's arguments. Concerning the relationship
L. Spitzer, Zur Auffassung der Kunst des Erzpriesters von Hita ", ZRP, LIV (1934).
239-70. F. Lecoy, Recherches sur le Libro de buen arnot' (Paris 193 8), c. Conclusion )l, 35 0 - 60 .
M. R. Lida, " Netas para la interpretaci6n ... del Libra de buen amor "', RFH, II (1940),
see especially p. 109.
I A. Castro, Espana en su historia (Buenos Aires 1948), Chapter X.
In the revised
version of this work, La realidad hist drica de Espana (Mexico 195-1., XII), Castro repeats
basically the same arguments, while omitting sorne of the more extreme statements made
in the earlier version.
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