This book is about the love poems written by troubadours (trovadores) who populated the aristocratic circles and royal courts of Portugal and Galicia during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Preface; 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. Research on the role of women in Iberian medieval literature has increased considerably in the last two decades, although it is still not comparable to what has been done in other world literatures. In recent years scholars of Iberian studies have become increasingly aware of the need to study and reevaluate the role of women not only as literary characters but also as authors and readers of literature. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done on texts in which the female voice coincides with a female author.
This goal is often unattainable in medieval literature because it is difficult to ascertain the identity and gender of an author, and the social context in which he/she writes. Furthermore, some of the few extant women's texts might have been unjustly attributed to male authors, as Maria Schantz persuasively contends in the case of the cantigas de amigo. 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.
Martin Codax continues to be considered one of the most excellent poets of the Galician-Portuguese troubadour school. Many critics have studied his poems and included them in their anthologies. After reading Maria Schantz's study, we might have to reconsider Codax's role in the creation of the cantigas de amigo or, at the very least, we might have to admit that not all the credit belongs to him alone. Inside the pages of this book the reader is about to begin, the silenced voices of the once active and creative jograresas permeate noisily and clearly, and the vision of a world different from the one we always believed in emerges before our eyes. Montserrat Piera April 14, 2004