Islands of Castile: Artistic, Literary, and Legal Perception of the Sea in Castile-Leon, 1248-1450

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Title: Islands of Castile: Artistic, Literary, and Legal Perception of the Sea in Castile-Leon, 1248-1450
Author: Furtado, Michael Anthony, 1958-
Abstract: Before Spain encountered the Americas, it first encountered the sea. This dissertation explores the roots of that encounter by examining perceptions of the sea in late medieval Castile-Leon reflected in art, literature, and law. It analyzes the changing attitudes of the Castilians towards the sea through an examination of its perceived place in their world, underscoring the complexity of Castilian attitudes toward the dangers and opportunities presented by the marine environment. Conceptual separation and union serve as the two foundational concepts employed for the analysis of evidence from each of the three genres under examination. Each genre highlights in various ways either the strong contrast drawn between land and sea or their seeming union conceptually. These complexities are manifest in a broad variety of sources, from collections of miracle tales to fifteenth century romances. Analysis of legal distinctions between land and sea reveal significant differences in perception regarding the nature of each environment and the rights and responsibilities of Castilians acting in either. Findings include that artistic sources reveal that a fearful attitude toward the sea accentuated by helplessness before its power dominated thirteenth century imagery, contrasting with the greater unity of land and sea reflected in miniatures from fifteenth century sources. A similar pattern of separation and union emerges in the literary evidence, where fear of the loss of agency when traveling at sea in early sources gives way to fifteenth century examples that praise its value. A comparison of the laws contained in the Siete Partidas with the late medieval records of the Cortes of Castile-Leon reveals that while the Castilian monarchs tended to consider the sea as firmly outside of their realm throughout the majority of the period of this study, strategic necessity led to an inexorable growth in the importance of the sea in the affairs of the kingdom generally. Together, the evidence supports the conclusion that by the mid-fourteenth century the view of the sea as other, typical of all early Castilian sources, gave way to a fifteenth century perspective that welcomed it in many respects, laying the foundation for the development of a great maritime empire.
Description: xiii, 322 p. : col. ill.
Date: 2011-09

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