From academic icon to object of ridicule

From academic icon to object of ridicule

Elio Antonio de Nebrija: from academic icon to object of ridicule

Statue of Elio Antonio de Nebrija at the University of Seville. Credit: Universidad de Sevilla

Professor Lola Pons, from the Department of Spanish Language, Linguistics and Literature at the University of Seville, has just published a study on a satirical work on marriage written in the 17th century by an anonymous author. There is a long tradition in Western literature of mocking courtship or wedding nights. The distinctive feature of this work, however, is that, to defend many of his arguments, he uses texts by Elio Antonio de Nebrija.

This satire, which can be found in the Old Collection of the Library of the University of Seville, supports the usual subject of women who are not virgins, enchanted wedding nights and regrets about commitment in an academic subject born from scholarly teaching. of Latin grammar. Specifically, Structure for Novicios del Santo Matrimonio sacadas de las Reglas de Docto Maestro Antonio de Nebrija (Instruction for Newly Married People taken from the Rules of the Master of Education Antonio de Nebrija) uses fragments from the Latin Introduction.

Nebrija’s Latin grammar was used in formal contexts but also, because of its reputation, it ceased to be an orthodox discourse that was a candidate for refutation within the system itself.

This piece could be placed in a tradition that arose from the academic life of the university itself. From the second half of the 16th century there is a corpus of writings mocking the character of the Spanish grammarian. This tradition emerged in the 16th century in theoretical works that ridiculed Nebrija as a character and, even beyond this satire, questioned and tried to invalidate the Latin teaching methods advocated by Nebrija.

Although in recent years the importance of Elio Antonio de Nebrija has been emphasized on the basis of his work as a Spanish grammarian, works such as these show that Nebrija, in his own time, saw himself primarily as a Latinist.

Although his Spanish grammar was forgotten and not reprinted until the 18th century, his Latin works, on the other hand, were widely read. And, within Nebrija’s Latin output, the Latin Introduction it was undoubtedly the most widely circulated text.

The witty use of quotations from Nebrija’s Latin manual demonstrates the strong textual competence of the work’s readers. Its character suggests that it was aimed at an initiated student audience, probably seminary students. The text could not be understood or comprehended by an illiterate population that did not read Latin.

In addition, lecturer Lola Pons argues that the text must have been intended for distribution in ecclesiastical circles. This is a clear indication of the use of the concept of ‘guide’ in the title, since there were books relating to the actual teaching of religious novices that had that exact word in the title.

Other details of the text could point to a religious and perhaps Andalusian, or even Sevillian, origin of the author and the people who directly received the text. Thus, the names Seraphim and Cherubim given to the father-in-law and the married man, respectively, go back to Christian archeology. Moreover, the bride becomes the daughter of “don Serapín de Almanza”, a surname that is still clearly southern (from the interior of Andalusia and La Mancha).

The academic field of Seville itself saw the emergence of other discourses of this type, such as the Diálogo ortográfico (Orthographic Dialogue, also from the Old Collection of the University of Seville), in which there was a candidate for a teaching position at the Real Escuela Seminario de San Cáin Telmo, located in Seville, the use of primers and spelling books not made by the Real Academia de la Lengua (Royal Academy of Languages).

The results are published in the journal Reviews of Historia de la Lengua Española.

More information:
Lola Pons Rodríguez, Nebrija burlado and Sevilla: la lengua de la gramática al servicio de la satira, Reviews of Historia de la Lengua Española (2022). DOI: 10.54166/rhle.2022.17.04

Available at the University of Seville

Quote: Elio Antonio de Nebrija: From academic icon to object of ridicule (2023, January 24) retrieved on January 24, 2023 from

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