Ignacio López Alemany

Position title: Biruté Ciplijauskaité Fellow (2019-2020)

Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Closely-cropped portrait image of Ignacio Lopez wearing a tan suit jacket and glasses

Vihuelists and Courtly Performance of Poetry in Early Modern Spain

My project aims to provide a comprehensive explanation of the cultural success of Italian meters in Spanish Renaissance poetry within the broader context of court performances. The study of this “new poetry,” as contemporaries labeled it, cannot be approached merely as a change of meters, but as part of a more significant phenomenon. A paradigmatic shift that resulted from the emergence of the early modern court society in Spain, the particularities of the political context of the Habsburg empire, and the renovation and repurposing (not substitution) of traditional Spanish poetry. The early modern vihuelists—musicians who played the vihuela, a Spanish stringed instrument––and other musicians who selected, modified, musicalized, and wrote instructions on how to perform old and new verses in social gatherings, served as active catalysts in the definition of the modern courtier and the role of poetry in the early modern period.

Understanding the distance between poetry composed for silent reading––or even public declamation––and poetry intended for literary and musical entertainment is crucial to distinguish the difference between humanistic and courtly creative impulses in early modern Spain. Most studies of sixteenth-century Italianate Spanish poetry have traditionally focused on humanistic works while neglecting those set to music as minor or occasional compositions. By contrast, my examination of contemporary vihuela books and other examples shows that current critical studies tend to give an asymmetrical view of how poetry was consumed at court.

Ignacio López Alemany is associate professor of Spanish at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and editor of Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry. He has edited the libretti of two operas by José de Cañizares and Giacomo Facco, Las amazonas de España (1720) and La hazaña mayor de Alcides (1723) (Iberoamericana, 2018). He is the author of the monograph Ilusión áulica e imaginación caballeresca en El cortesano de Luis Milán (UNC Press, 2013). Along with Jason McCloskey, he co-edited the volume Signs of Power in Habsburg Spain and the New World (Bucknell UP, 2013). He is also co-author, with J. E. Varey, of El teatro palaciego en Madrid: 1707–1724. Estudio y documentos (Tamesis, 2006). He is a member of two international research groups: IULCE (Instituto Universitario “La Corte en Europa,” at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain) and CELES XVII-XVIII (Centro de Estudios de Literatura de Entre Siglos XVII-XVII, Université de Poitiers, France).