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Kinship and Polity in the Poema de Mio Cid

Michael Harney

For decades, studies in the Poema de Mio Cid have concentrated on the oralist/individualist controversy, emphasizing such stylistic questions as formulaic technique, the relationship between the epic and history, narrative structure, and the influence of other national literatures, particularly the French epic exemplified by the Chanson de Roland.

Exploration of social mentalities facilitates a better understanding of the Spanish epic’s authorship and any audience, without prior commitment to any previous theoretical school of thought. The analysis of kinship and polity, in their intricately related manifestations, reveals the emergence not of a particular social class, but rather of class sensibility and the contradictions deriving from it. Exalting personal honor and achievement, while paradoxically glorifying collective endeavor and aspirations, the poet and his hero live in denial of encroaching modernity. From this we may deduce an audience willful in its primitivism and nostalgic, even reactionary, in its sympathies.

This study of the social content of the only Spanish epic surviving in more or less complete form provides a means of assessing the motives and intentions of the protagonist and of other characters. Chapters are devoted to such themes as the significance of kinship and lineage, with special attention to the role of fathers, uncles, and cousins in the world of clan loyalties; amity as a system of fictive kinship, personal honor, and public organization; the importance of women, and the meaning and function of marriage, dowry, and related practices; the emergence of polity as the result of a rivalry of social, legal, and economic systems, paying particular notice to the conflicts of obligation resulting from coexisting clans and feudal networks; and the implications, within an essentially kin-ordered world, of the poem’s notions of shame, honor, status, and social inequality.

"...brilliant, incisive, interdisciplinary, vastly erudite, and consistently well written..." —Samuel Armistead, University of California, Davis

"Put simply, this is a brilliant book--one of the most significant contributions to Spanish epic studies in a very long time.... Quite aside from its splendid anthropological interpretations..., [it] underscores the benefits of exploring social topics in medieval literature in general and should serve as a model to all Hispanists for this type of scholarship." —E.Michael Gerli, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos. For the complete review, see Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 28.2 (May 1994): 311-13.

"There is little doubt that Harney's book is a very important addition to PMC scholarship, opening new horizons in our perceptions of the poem's multifaceted aspects." —Milija N. Pavlovic, Modern Language Review. For the complete review, see Modern Language Review 90.4 (Oct. 1995): 1023-27.

"Because family honor is at the core of the meaning of the Poema del Cid, it is surprising that this book is the first systematic study ever devoted to the issue of the family unit and its implications within the Poema.… [Harney] offers rch insights and tantalizing possibilities in an articulately written and very handsomeily produced book. Cid specialists will want to see for themselves." —Steven D. Kirby, Romance Quarterly. For the complete review, see Romance Quarterly 42.4 (Fall 1995): 244-45.

For more reviews, see
Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie
112.4 (1996): 812-13.
Forum for Modern Language Studies 32.1 (Jan. 1996): 88.
Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 73 (1996): 106-07.
Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature (May 1994): 95-96.
Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 43 (1993?): 486-92.
Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 55 (1993): 343.
La Corónica 22.2 (1993-94): 133-38.
Book News Nov. 1993.

Michael Harney, University of Texas at Austin, has published articles and book chapters on Spanish medieval literature.

ISBN: 978-1-55753-039-4
1993. PSRL 2. x, 285 pp. Cloth $29.95 PRICE REDUCED

Information last updated June 24, 2015

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