The Stand-Up Archpriest

Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In this chapter, I shall examine the ontological status of the Archpriest as narrator in relation to abjection and humor. In order to achieve this end, I study the ideological contours of the amorous affairs that provide a thread of continuity through the diverse materials that comprise the Libro to explicate how the former expose the narrator as a compromised Everyman character whose lustful activities and performative public confession call into question the very structures of the Law, in the Lacanian sense of those institutions and ideologies that should guarantee the place of the individual within social order. Although Juan Ruiz individualizes the Archpriest to present a seemingly empirical I, he elides the particularities of priestly identity, an issue to which I shall return later, and is at pains “to present his ‘poetic I’ as representative of humanity”: “E yo como soy omne commo otro pecador” (76a; And I, as I am man like any other sinner).1 I shall argue that the Archpriest is an abject character engaged in a continual méconnaissance, expressed through amatory failure and proximity to sickness and death. In this analysis, the advice of Don Amor and Doña Venus do not lead to a reversal in the Archpriest’s fortunes in love. Consequently Félix Lecoy’s suggestion in the conclusion of his Recherches sur le “Libro de buen amor” that the Libro is an ars amatoria cannot be borne out since, crucially, it does not show how to succeed in love but rather presents a series of indirect, failed approaches to the object.2


Love Object Opening Narrative Male Protagonist Courtly Love Sexual Love 
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© Louise M. Haywood 2008

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