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An Edition and Study of the Secular Ballads in the Sephardic Ballad Notebook of Halia Isaac Cohen

Pomeroy, H; (2005) An Edition and Study of the Secular Ballads in the Sephardic Ballad Notebook of Halia Isaac Cohen. [Book]. Estudios judeoespanoles 'Samuel G. Armistead y Joseph H. Silverman'. Juan de la Cuesta- Hispanic Monographs: Newark, Delaware.

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A chance encounter with a retired Moroccan lawyer led Hilary Pomeroy to a notebook containing a unique collection of Sephardic ballads belonging to the lawyer’s grandmother, Halia Isaac Cohen († Tangier, 1948). Like others of her generation—for it was a popular practice among the Sephardic women of late 19th and early 20th century Morocco to write down a family’s ballad repertoires—Halia Cohen had set out a series of ballads. Some of these collections were made because their scribes were aware that ballad singing was fast dying out in the Sephardic communities of Tetuán, Tangier, Alcazarquivir and Larache. An analysis of the individual ballads suggests that the collection dates from the late nineteenth century and that it may be a copy of an earlier manuscript. In her introduction, Pomeroy sets the ballads in their social and historical context, discusses previous studies of the Moroccan Sephardic ballad, and explains her method of transcription. There then follow studies of the fortyfi ve secular ballads in the notebook. Some ballads are extremely rare; some have survived only in the Moroccan Sephardic tradition and not the Eastern Sephardic. Others, such as La expulsión de los judíos de Portugal and La princesa rescatada, are rare Sephardic compositions. Of particular interest are El sueño de doña Alda in which archaic forms of the future have survived, and El rey Fernando en Francia with its accurate identifi cation of King Fernando’s sons; both point to direct links between the Hispanic ballad and early chronicles. It is not only the fi delity of the Sephardic ballad to its peninsular antecedents that interests the author. She puts into context the manner in which traditional ballads have been transformed and adapted by the Sephardic singers who kept them alive for more than fi ve centuries. The ballads are presented as unique testimony to a literary genre in which human passions and foibles are ultimately of greater interest than power struggles and armed confrontation. This book is not confi ned to a study of the deeds and emotions of the kings and queens, knights, adulterous wives, Christian captives, and thwarted suitors who populated these highly dramatic poems. The book examines the changes that generations of Sephardic singers made to these texts, demonstrating that, despite their setting in Christian Spain and their Christian protagonists, the ballads have frequently been adapted to accommodate Sephardic religious beliefs and superstitions. Hilary Pomeroy’s edition and study of Halia Isaac Cohen’s ballad collection makes a valuable contribution to ballad studies and to studies of the Sephardic ballad in particular.

Type: Book
Title: An Edition and Study of the Secular Ballads in the Sephardic Ballad Notebook of Halia Isaac Cohen
ISBN: 1-58871-025-4
Keywords: ballads, Sephardic
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/39047
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