Authoring the Past
History, Autobiography, and Politics in Medieval Catalonia
Authoring the Past surveys medieval Catalan historiography, shedding light on the emergence and evolution of historical writing and autobiography in the Middle Ages, on questions of authority and authorship, and on the links between history and politics during the period. Jaume Aurell examines texts from the late twelfth to the late fourteenth century—including the Latin Gesta comitum Barcinonensium and four texts in medieval Catalan: James I’s Llibre dels fets, the Crònica of Bernat Desclot, the Crònica of Ramon Muntaner, and the Crònica of Peter the Ceremonious—and outlines the different motivations for the writing of each.
For Aurell, these chronicles are not mere archaeological artifacts but rather documents that speak to their writers’ specific contemporary social and political purposes. He argues that these Catalonian counts and Aragonese kings were attempting to use their role as authors to legitimize their monarchical status, their growing political and economic power, and their aggressive expansionist policies in the Mediterranean. By analyzing these texts alongside one another, Aurell demonstrates the shifting contexts in which chronicles were conceived, written, and read throughout the Middle Ages.
The first study of its kind to make medieval Catalonian writings available to English-speaking audiences, Authoring the Past will be of interest to scholars of history and comparative literature, students of Hispanic and Romance medieval studies, and medievalists who study the chronicle tradition in other languages.
“Jaume Aurell has provided the English-speaking world with a vivid and authoritative introduction to the grand tradition of medieval Catalan histories. He demonstrates their varied rhetorical styles and strategies. This is a brilliant and suggestive book about how the past has been reported and enshrined.”
“Combining a mastery of Catalonia’s medieval chronicle tradition with sophisticated insight into recent theoretical and methodological innovations, Aurell’s Authoring the Past provides a compelling vision of how Catalan late medieval writers—and by implication other Western medieval authors—constructed the past. This is a thoughtful and engaging book.”
“This is a very important and indispensable book, one in which the author opens new ways of research not only for historians but also for literary critics and art historians. . . . Beyond the innovations that this book provides to understand the history of medieval Catalonia, the book will be also used broadly because of its ability to enlighten the emergence and evolution of the medieval historical writing, the practice of the royal autobiography, the idea of authorship, and the relationships between history and politics.”