Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Melancholic Masks: Loss, Love and the Poetic Word in the Libro de buen amor

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2013), 90, (8), 897–920.

Abstract

Among the many topics of the fourteenth-century Spanish masterpiece Libro de buen amor, loss is a central if submerged thread. An exploration of the ostensibly negative pole of the opposition between spiritual and mundane, earthly, love, the poem presents the losses inherent in amorous experience. By highlighting the unsolved conflict between desire and social and ideological constraints, the Libro de buen amor brings unsanctioned modes of love and being into representation. As a vehicle of fleeting presence and death, of mourning and joy, human love brings together laughter and sadness, the comic and the melancholy. Irreducible love and desire become manifest as melancholic resistance to closure, illuminating a place of memory and imagination where what appears as ‘lost’ becomes a mask for fore-stalled selves and experiences, for modes of being that evade the real. This ‘phantasmatic place’ of freedom and creativity emerges through the link created between desire, melancholia and the poetic word.

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Müller, E.