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A critical edition of Enrique de Villena’s Tratado de la lepra Sauvage, Mariá Esther

Abstract

This thesis presents the first critical edition of the Tratado de la lepra by Enrique de Villena, and proposes to determine its relationship with the biblical exegesis of the Middle Ages. The study connects the treatise firmly with the exegetical tradition represented by Nicholas of Lyra. Enrique de Villena (1384? -1434) is a controversial figure of the late Castilian Middle Ages. Of noble birth, his quest for knowledge set him apart from his social class who traditionally pursued military careers at a time when Spain was still engaged in the Reconquista with the Moors. Villena's neglect of his role, together with the antagonism between his grandfather and the Castilian Court, deprived Don Enrique of the wealth and property that was rightfully his and forced him to lead a life not befitting a man of his social status. Villena was a self-educated 'humanist'. His pursuit of knowledge took him to the most varied disciplines, as is amply shown in the themes of his many writings. They range from lessons on how to become a 'royal carver' to rules for writing poetry, from superstitions to mythological and biblical exegesis. He supports his points of view with great agility, quoting renowned authorities of the Middle Ages and the Antiquity. Because of his vast knowledge and his attraction to unusual and obscure matters, Villena developed an unjustified and enduring reputation as a sorcerer. This reputation was specially reinforced after his death, when most of his books were sent to destruction by a royal edict. The Tratado de la lepra is a treatise on the interpretation of several passages of the biblical book of Leviticus, related to the occurrence of leprosy in walls, furniture, and garments. Villena tries to demonstrate 'scientifically' the feasibility of such an event, conferring absolute authority on the Bible. This work has been relatively overlooked by modern scholars, partly because the biblical passages it refers to are not ambiguous enough to justify the need for interpretation.

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