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Fra Francesc Moner’s Bilingual Poetics of Love and Reason

The «Wisdom Text» by a Catalan Writer of the Early Renaissance


Peter Cocozella

Fra Francesc Moner (1462/3-1491/2) is a Catalan author, who flourished in Barcelona during the second decade subsequent to the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469. Moner’s extant production amounts to seventy-four pieces, a collection of poems and prose works of various genres, written in Catalan and in Castilian. A comprehensive study that profiles the creativity of a whole career is a rare occurrence for a Hispanic author like Moner, whose lifetime straddles the boundaries between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This book highlights the two main aspects of Fra Francesc’s contribution: first, the resourceful bilingualism stemming from Moner’s mastery of not only his native Catalan but also Castilian, the language that in the late 1400s kept gaining the ascendancy and prestige of officialdom throughout the Spanish realm; second, the fashioning of an iconic text of subjectivity in the wake of the landmark innovations brought about by Ausiàs March, the Valencian luminary of the first half of the fifteenth century. Moner develops a love-centered poetics that integrates the distinctive strains of multiple traditions. By probing into Moner’s poetics of love and reason, the reader catches a glimpse of an author engaged in intense soul-searching. Moner, in turn, shares with his readers some extraordinary insights into the compelling moments of the human condition – precisely the condition of the human being torn between the allure of the flesh and the aspiration toward the Divine.


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Introduction 1


1 less than radical. As Gerli points out, Cartagena reveals the divorce between language and reality, artistic expression and experience (“Reading Cartagena: Blindness, Insight and Modernity in a Cancionero Poet”). We may add that in much a similar vein, Moner grapples with the disturbing phenomenology of the lover’s malady. Th e “Coplas hechas a ruegos de Cartagena” gives a glimpse into the low ebb in the lover’s spirit. Th e author’s persona enters what may be called the dark night of the soul. In this context it is appropriate to quote but a few verses, which reveal a state of mind verging on despair: No sé quyén invoco, ni sé qué demando: hazedo le veo estar mi apetito y, en fi n, la razón, perdido su mando. Todo mi ser es llama quemando cyega visión, trabajo infi nito. (Vv. 56–60; 1 OC 242) (‘I do not know whom to invoke nor do I know what to ask for: in my appetite, I fi nd bitter taste, and reason, at last, has lost its control. My whole being is a burning fl ame, a blind vision, an endless toil.’) In Obra en metro Moner adapts the manner of Cartagena to the exploration of one of the greatest paradoxes, which determines the plight of human be- ings: the coexistence of a human being’s free will with God’s omniscience as manifested particularly in the activity of Fortune. In the face of the dilemma, Moner cannot help feeling relegated to a state of...

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