Early modern editors of Iberian popular ballads, known in Spanish as romances, excluded the poems’ musical notation from their publications. They also catered to contemporary audiences’ tastes by focusing on poems that represented battles among Christian and Muslim nobles. These publications in this way confused the romance’s oral origins at the intersection of medieval Castilian and Arabic cultural practices, one the one hand, and the early modern reception and revival of the genre, on the other hand. This essay examines how and why debate about this complex history of the romance has long served as a test case for Iberian history as a whole. Putting early modern literary theorists and musicians into conversation with late modern scholars influenced by Milman Parry and Albert Lord, the broad argument that emerges from this particular account of the romance is that the printed record better captures oral culture than either Parry and Lord or their successors thought possible.

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