Reviews of Death in Fifteenth-Century Castile

Excerpts from Reviews

  • ‘A very thorough and engaging book. It clarifies these differing - and frequently conflicting - stances in relation to death, present in the Castile of the fifteenth century but which also influenced the region for many years thereafter'. British Bulletin of Publications, 2004. no 111.
  • 'En general, este trabajo destaca por la investigación minuciosa y llena de rigor llevada a cabo y por la intuición de la autora a la hora de definir las causas y las consecuencias de los comportamientos en la élite cuatrocentista. Recomendamos, pues, desde aquí este estudio necesario sobre las actitudes que a las llamadas ahora classes«altas» se les proponía adoptar ante el fenómeno, siempre antropológicamente difícil, de la muerte'. Rebeca Sanmartín Bastida, 2005. Revista de Literatura, vol. 67, no 133: 226-228.
  • 'a beautifully written monograph [...]. She confines her evidence to the subjects of the crown of Castile, to texts written in Castilian or translated from Latin into Castilian, and to works composed in the fifteenth century, with a few exceptions, which she justifies. This restriction of her corpus of materials permits Vivanco to present vivid and detailed examples of the topics and allows for the nuanced argument she makes about the views of the oradores and the defensores. In other words, the reader should not be misled by the seemingly monolithic categories of the two estates. As Vivanco indicates, the two categories provide a way for her to frame her larger arguments and to organize her materials. However, once Vivanco arrives at the main part of her study, she steps back a bit from her frame and allows the examples, in all their interesting variety, to become the focus of her analysis. [...] Although Vivanco's study confines itself to one century and one specific location [...] her study has broad appeal. Vivanco's topics and careful analysis of a variety of texts should be of interest to Hispanists and medievalists in general'. Patricia E. Grieve, 2005. Speculum, 80.4: 1385-1387.
  • 'One suspects that this impressive catalogue of Castilian materials on death could have matured into a book with an articulated thesis and a provocative argument. For now, after an interesting and well-written review of the literature on the topic, Vivanco tells us that the book will not engage with the literary works but merely catalogue authorial attitudes, it will not interpret rhetorical presentation, and it will not analyze genres. However problematic, as it stands, Vivanco's is worth consulting, and it will be a helpful aid to those attempting the path of "death studies." ' Simone Pinet, 2006. Hispanic Review 74.2: 220-222.
  • 'Laura Vivanco's monograph is a valuable contribution to the study of the culture of European elites during the fifteenth century—a period still demanding greater attention by historians. Its main worth lies in the systematic and exhaustive analysis of the relevant Castilian written sources of that century, which the author has carried out with a mastery of textual criticism'. Jon Arrizabalaga, 2006. Medical History, July 1; 50(3): 413–414.
  • 'Laura Vivanco’s book is a remarkable study of the social importance of death in fifteenth-century Castile. In a society obsessed with the macabre, the memento mori, and the significance of the after-life, Vivanco’s analysis is both a continuation of previous scholarship on the matter and a fresh look at the subject. [...] The bibliography on the matter is, thus, extensive, although the novelty of Vivanco’s approach is to be found in the focus on both Castile and the Fifteenth Century [...], and particularly in her analysis of the “ideologies of death as expressed by and for the elites through a range of written sources” (10). The sources used in the book are, indeed, one of its most notable features. The reader will appreciate the many excerpts from, but not limited to, fifteenth-century Castilian literary works. These were, in my opinion, one of the most interesting features of the book'.  David Arbesú Fernández, 2006. Hispanic Journal, 27.1: 170-72.
  • 'How refreshing to read a book on late-medieval Castilian writings on death and dying in which Jorge Manrique's Coplas por la muerte de su padre warrant only a few passing references. Decentering this classic is symptomatic of Vivanco's approach: rather than tackle the subject through the canonical works, and the well-known criticism on them, she offers a compendium of ideas culled from all sorts of often unfamiliar literary, legal, and historical vernacular texts, ranging from the thirteenth to the early sixteenth centuries. Readers will surely find this an invaluable source for both primary and secondary material. The ample bibliography (190-204) and a thorough index contribute to the book's documentary value. [...] Although the connection between power and the rituals of death is occasionally acknowledged (the brief comments on grief and gender [165-67] and the more developed discussion of grief and social status [167-74] are among the best pages in the book), Vivanco's interest in the effects and working of ideology is very limited. But the author herself is quite honest about this, rightly claiming that her originality lies not in methodology, but in the breadth of her sources'.  Julian Weiss, 2006. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 83.1: 114-115.