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KHARJAS AND VILLANCICOS

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Scholarship surrounding the kharjas, concluding qufls in the Hispano-Romance Mozarabic dialect, appended to muwashshahāt written in Arabic or Hebrew by 11th- to 14th-century Muslim and Jewish authors in al-Andalus, has been characterized by bitterly acrimonious polemics, sometimes involving even personal ad hominem criticism. While the kharjas are indubitably an integral part of the Hispano-Semitic poems in which they have survived, and can and should be legitimately studied within that context, some recent attempts have been put forward to deny that there is any relationship between the Romance kharjas and other manifestations of primitive lyric poetry in Castilian and Galician-Portuguese that are well documented in Medieval Iberia. The present article reviews the available evidence, which undeniably points to an intimate relationship between the Mozarabic verses and Castilian villancicos ("peasant songs") and Old Portuguese cantigas de amigo ("songs about lovers"). Consistent and abundant parallels between the three forms are discussed and exemplified in terms of themes, motifs, metrics, formulaic diction, and traditional "intuitive" style. The kharjas turn out to be crucially important as the earliest known documents of the oral-traditional Romance lyric poetry sung in Medieval Iberia and throughout the Mediterranean world during the Middle Ages and even before. The kharjas are, then, best viewed as essentially amphibious poems that should be productively and collaboratively studied by Arabists, Hebraists, and Hispanists.

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