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Speculum Spotlight: “Ai flores, ai flores do verde pino": The Ecopoetics of the Galician-Portuguese Pine Forest (Mahler, Jansen, & Quigley)

Updated: 6 days ago

Denis of Portugal’s “Ai flores, ai flores do verde pino” [Oh flowers, oh flowers of the green pine] is the medieval monarch’s most famous cantiga de amigo and one of the best-known songs of the Galician-Portuguese tradition. Many have read Denis’s “pine song” as an allusion to the Pinhal de Leiria, the pine forest that he planted—or so the story went. Though Portuguese historians and paleobotanists have debunked the Leiria forest’s origin story, a preponderance of documentary evidence from Denis’s reign suggests that the monarch recognized forests as poetically generative sites of political and social tension. In this article, featured in Speculum 99.3, Adam Mahler charts ecocritical and new materialist paths through the “pine songs” of Denis and other Galician-Portuguese troubadours by examining the medieval forest in its cultural, commercial, and poetic dimensions. Mahler contends that Denis’s pines and his poems are affectively and acoustically co-constituted, concluding that the Galician-Portuguese troubadour tradition, particularly in its woman’s-voice compositions, encodes important ecological knowledge.

Author information:

Adam Mahler is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University writing on the poetic traditions of medieval/early modern Portugal and Spain. Mahler’s dissertation traces the impact of ecological exploration and exploitation on poetic form and ethnorepresentative literature in deep time. Mahler’s annotated translation and edition of Shem Tov Ardutiel's Moral Proverbs and Other Old Castilian Poems Written by Jews is forthcoming with Harvard University Press's Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Mahler's articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Journal of Medieval Studies, La corónica, Hispanic Review, and, of course, Speculum.

Katherine L. Jansen is a historian at the Catholic University of America whose work specializes in the history of medieval Italy, religious culture, and women and gender. Her most recent book is Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018). She currently serves as the Editor of Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies.

Logan Quigley completed his PhD at the University of Notre Dame in 2022 and serves as a series producer and host for The Multicultural Middle Ages podcast. His academic research explores late medieval understandings and representations of space and time, especially through pilgrimage and travel literature.

Additional resources:

Mahler, Adam. “Descriptive poetics and the Arte de trovar in the Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional.” In Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 15.1 (2023), 82–105.

Pinhal de Leiria.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 June 2024. Accessed 29 June 2024.

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