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‘Scattered Genealogies’: Melancholia and the Libro de buen amor

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As an emblematic text that brings into focus the losses inherent in human love, the Libro de buen amor is permeated by melancholy undertones. While the Libro's accounts of amorous distress have often been interpreted in the light of the protagonist's unscrupulous behaviour, their presence in the text in fact produces essential discoveries about the nexus of traditions coalescing around melancholia at the close of the Middle Ages. Weaving together insights from previus analyses, this study places the Libro within the broad history of melancholia by examining its treatment of melancholia, lovesickness, and acedia within the web of relationships emerging around the concepts of love and sexuality in the medical, religious as well as literary discourses. Arising in the wake of the troubadours’ attempts to revaluate the concept of love and contemporary with the secularization of acedia that brought the Patristic view of tristitia into popular discourse, the Libro's polymorphic representation of melancholia is filtered through the widely disseminated tradition of lovesickness and the humoral doctrine of temperaments. The poem thus synthesizes the intellectual shifts and new directions that, toward the end of the Middle Ages, prepared the terrain for a new understanding of human experience.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Maplewood, New Jersey,

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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