From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
13.2 (1993): 127-30.
Copyright © 1993, The Cervantes Society of America
Hutchinson, Steven. Cervantine Journeys. Madison: The University
of Wisconsin Press, 1992. xv + 271 pp.
Like merchants, thieves, and others who use
the roads, Steven Hutchinson claims the cunning messenger Hermes as his guide
during his scholarly endeavor. Like them, Professor Hutchinson embarks upon
paths not yet trodden in Cervantine studies, focusing on the metaphorical
and literal centrality of movement in the novels. As messenger of the greater
gods, it was incumbent upon Hermes to speak clearly and to plead causes well.
Oratory was his domain, and in addition he is credited with the invention
of the lyre. God of travelers and patron of literature, Hermes conflates
actual movement with its textual recreation.
Movement as traveling is the subject of the third and central chapter of the book. The Quixote and the Persiles are located within the literary genre fundamental to the epic beginnings of both East and West: the journey. The Novelas ejemplares, too, include tales of wandering lovers, gypsies, waifs, and their canine counterparts, Cipión and Berganza. As Hutchinson points out, the journey narrative abounds in Golden Age literature, sometimes as mere wandering (Don Quixote follows the lead of his horse; the pícaro that of his stomach), sometimes as a purposeful tale of spiritual progress (El Criticón, and, of course the Persiles). Saints (Santa Teresa) and sinners (Guzmán de Alfarache) alike travel, whether within the inner recesses of the soul or across land and sea. Traveling is liberating for men; but wandering women are problematic (103), and even the most adventurous females travel only in relation to men: away from them, toward them, or with them, or any combination of these (107-08). The sedentary life associated with marriage acquires negative connotations (when espoused, for example, by the ecclesiastic in the ducal palace in the Quixote ), and disintegrates into pathological enclosure in such tales as the Curioso impertinente or El celoso extremeño (106).
The two initial chapters explore the topic of movement at the linguistic level, more generally as the basis of language itself, more specifically as the dominant metaphor of Cervantine prose to express both thought and desire. In the final chapter, the analysis of verbal figures extends to a consideration of narrative movement, where Hutchinson sees analogies to techniques of improvisation in music. One section (Chapter 4) is devoted to
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Bakhtine's chronotope, wherein the varied worlds of Cervantes's
literary imagination are classified and discussed.
Hutchinson identifies his methodological enemy: structuralism. According to the author, its thinking has invaded the field of literary study, and has brought about a spatialization and detemporalization of process (5). An analogy is drawn between structuralist thinking and the Parmenidean concept of reality as absolute and eternal, in contrast to the Heraclitean concept of eternal change. Like the prologuist of Part I of the Quixote, whose intent is to destroy the authority and influence which books of chivalry have in the world and with the public, so does Hutchinson periodically reiterate his vow to undo the authority of structuralism: My intention here has been to develop an awareness of discursive movement in view of the fact that, with few exceptions, mainstream literary criticism from Aristotle to the present has dulled our senses with regard to motion and its correlates including process, change, intensity, and dynamism (51); As we know all too well, dynamism, movement, and becoming are rarely put on the agenda of literary criticism (83). The difficulty Hutchinson faces is the lack of a critical discourse not rooted in structuralism and its aftermath. His basic strategy is to borrow discourse from adjacent fields, music in particular, but also dance. For example, he employs the term cross-rhythms to describe the multiplicity of simultaneous experiences evoked in Cervantine prose, and explains in a note: The adaptation loses the term's musical specificity, but is meant to fill a terminological void concerning what I see as an integral and usually ignored aspect of experience (240, n.17); when he addresses the topic of improvised action, he states that As far as I'm aware, literary criticism has scarcely dealt with this issue as such though it is touched upon indirectly in much textual analysis. For reasons readily apparent, certain branches of musicology have expressed strongest interest in improvisation (140). Certain principles and practices of improvised music are then transferred to the sphere of psychological motivation how Cervantes's characters behave, and later to his style of writing, his escritura desatada (215). Cervantes's assiduous attention to movement and gesture is likened to a choreography (130). One wonders if this cannibalization of adjacent arts is, in fact, necessary, when postmodernist literary criticism has emphasized precisely such qualities as fluidity, heterogeneity, multiplicity, play as salient narrative features.
The rejection of the structuralist imperative animates indeed obsesses Steven Hutchinson's own discourse. The fluidity of his style is refreshing, yet can become diffuse. His tracing of a semantics of movement in etymology (15) infuses his own thinking, and he obviously derives pleasure from indicating the roots of words to prove a particular point: at the heart of episode is hodos, road, pathway, demonstrating that journey narrative already has the road inscribed in its episodic itinerary (201), to cite but one example of an etymological excursus. The radicals of certain Arabic verbs superbly illustrate the integral relationship between experience and telling (207). This linguistic fascination also invades his
own writing pattern, with less felicitous results. Throughout the book words
are deconstructed into their component parts (con-ditions ;
pro-cess ; di-gressions ;
dis-placing ; e-motions ;
extra-vagance ; The un-fore-seen allows them to
im-pro-vise, and they are willing to accept the outcome, the e-vent, whether
favorable or not ; e-ducation . Dissatisfied
with the segmentation of language into verbs and nouns and the valorization
of things and states over movement, Hutchinson seems determined to dissect
nouns, and in so doing, to verbalize them, to show the verb concealed within.
Linguistic structures are thus shown to correspond closely to a perception
of the world as temporal, as a system in movement rather than as a system
of structures in place. The metaphysical notion is interesting and basic
to the theoretical premise of his study, yet its insistent visual representation
in word hyphenation disrupts the narrative flow, distracting instead of
convincing the reader.
Cervantine Worlds, the chapter devoted primarily to space rather than time within the concept of the chronotope, is a thoroughly developed discussion and classification of the myriad places experienced by Cervantes's characters in his novels and short stories. I use the verb experienced instead of inhabited deliberately, in order to convey Hutchinson's focus on the experiential as opposed to ideological significance of a particular realm. Some statements are not quite accurate. For example, his assertion is incorrect that [s]eldom in Cervantine criticism has there been any reflective acknowledgement or discussion of a quite extraordinary aspect of Cervantes' novelistic writings: the tendency of the narrative and its traveling protagonists to be drawn into world-like vortices (160). The work of Félix Martínez-Bonati on the Quixote, which first began appearing in the late 1970s and recently culminated in his book Don Quixote and the Poetics of the Novel (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992), deals with the spaces in the Quixote within a theoretical exploration of the concept of realism and representation in literature. Discussed as regions of the imagination, he stresses that these imaginary worlds are not merely artifices of a world but programs for life (168). Martínez-Bonati analyzes the ironization of the different fictive realms (and eventually of literature itself) that results from their juxtaposition and hybridization, with a resulting ambiguity that belies any systematic ideological certainty; Hutchinson discusses the numerous scenarios in the Quixote, the Persiles, and the Novelas ejemplares (from the exotic and fantastic to the communal and domestic) in terms of their individual incompleteness that permits indeed fosters interaction among the various worlds. Furthermore, Hutchinson's discussion of communities (175-84) goes beyond the notion of shared space to include a consideration of social relationships. Peopled largely by those marginalized by society, such as thieves, gypsies, witches, these spaces pertain less to the institutionalized realm of literature than to the discourse of social anthropologists. Victor Turner's concepts of liminality and communitas could be applied with ease to these Cervantine worlds (The Ritual Process [Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1977]).
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Cervantes's journeys take us from dreamy places of felicity (pastoral abodes, dream islands, or other utopias) to the demonic underworld of the witch Cañizares in El coloquio de los perros, through the more quotidian places of hearth and home, market and country inn. Hermes, messenger of Zeus, conductor of dead souls to the underworld, friend of merchants and protector of flocks, is accustomed to traversing such divergent terrain. For readers of Cervantes, the winged god is an ideal traveling companion.
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