chapter  5
21 Pages

The past and future margins of Catalonia

Language politics and Catalan imperial ambitions in Guillem de Torroella’s La Faula
WithNahir I. Otaño Gracia

Arthurian texts, for the most part, advocate for imperial expansion by imagining the European margins in peril – often presenting this peril in the form of imaginary enemies and then claiming the lands of those opponents. In this way, the margins become central to the depiction of an idealized, European chivalric system. The textual production of Aragón/Catalonia often uses Arthuriana in this way in order to present Catalonia as the further point of the margin that is defending and conquering the borders against Islam. This self-representation works for the benefit of the Crown of Aragón, which uses Arthuriana to compete against often European courts for European supremacy. The fourteenth-century La faula by Guillem de Torroella embodies these tendencies. The text claims Catalan chivalric superiority over that of France and England, in essence making space for Catalonia within European politics. Written in novas rimadas (1370–74) following the style of troubadour poetry, La faula is a fantastical autobiographical poem written in Catalan and a Catalan-French dialect. The narrator, a narrative version of the author, speaks Catalan, and King Arthur and Morgan le Fey respond to the narrator in French. The diglossia, as well as the poem’s Mediterranean setting (the narrator travels from Mallorca east to Sicily), creates a liminal space within the poem for Arthur to claim Catalan chivalry as the future of European supremacy.