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The Laughter of the Saints

Parodies of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain

The Laughter of the Saints examines this rich carnivalesque tradition of parodied holy men and women and traces their influence to the anti-heroes and picaresque roots of early modern novels such as Don Quixote.

Author Information

GilesRyan D. :

Ryan D. Giles is an assistant professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago.


Ronald E. Surtz, Speculum: a Journal of Medieval Studies; vol 86: 04: 2011:
‘This volume taught me a lot and had me smiling while I was learning. What more could a reader ask for? ’

Andrea Weisl-Shaw, Medium Aevum; vol 80(1) (16):
‘Giles’s study offers an imaginative and well-researched exploration of ‘the kind of humour that was being suppressed and exploited by authorities at the dawn of the modern age’, arguing convincingly that the parodic use of saints and religious imagery provided ‘a carnivalsque model for the lives of picaros and other modernizing anti-heroes.’

Jonathan Bradbury; The Modern language Review: vol 106:04:2011:
‘This is an invaluable work of scholarship which sheds significant new light on the literary uses of saints and their learned and festive connotations in medieval and Golden Age texts… It will allow scholars to appreciate and recreate a prism of reading that was once commonplace but has been eroded by the desuetude of hagiography and the eradication of popular sacred parody. ’

Steve Stanzak: Journal of Folklore Research; June 23, 2011:
‘The Laughter of the Saints offers a compelling examination of medieval and early- modern parodies of saints… Giles' book is valuable to folklorists in its cultural and textual contextualization of Spanish religious parodies, many of which draw upon rich folklore traditions.’

Jane E. Connolly; Bulletin of Spanish Studies; vol88:04:2011:
‘;A provocative study…Through interesting analyses, The Laughter of the Saints documents how humour and sanctity coincided in medieval and early modern texts without provoking scandal but rather causing audiences, well familiar with the cults of the saints, to reflect upon the link between the sacred and the profane, the saint and the sinner.’

Michael Gerli, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia:
'A notable, original work of scholarship, The Laughter of the Saints explores the relationship between humor and sanctity. Ryan D. Giles' broad ranging and interdisciplinary work convincingly demonstrates how the sacred and the profane could coexist in secular literary works without provoking scandal, offense, or repudiation. For medieval and early modern readers, the lives of the saints provided crucial points of reference, serving as both critical lens and fun house mirror, through which they could meditate upon and laugh at the intrinsic kinship between sin and virtue. I have no doubt but that this book will mark a milestone in Hispanic Medieval and Early Modern Studies.'

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