From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
15.2 (1995): 99-101.
Copyright © 1995, The Cervantes Society of America
Dominick Finello* has written a descriptive book on the pastoral in which he selects well-known authors and themes of pastoral in order to show the pastoral dimensions of Cervantes's work. His book is divided into four parts: I. Cervantes and the Pastoral Tradition; II. Pastoral and the Creative Act in Don Quijote; III. Pastoral Dialogue, Diversion, Drama, and the Works of Cervantes; and IV. Cervantes Looks at the Pastoral. Part III is interesting in its description of the kind of cultural milieux and aristocratic juegos de salón that favored the bucolic ideal in Cervantes's time. Finello focuses throughout the book on conventional patterns which he considers pastoral and pertinent to his study of Cervantes's work. The book's premise is that Cervantes has rung major changes on the themes which Finello describes as integral to the pastoral tradition.
The book fails to be convincing, however, both in its premise and in its argument. It lacks precision in its categories of analysis and uses as a hermeneutic grid a red herring of sixteenth and seventeenth-century literary theory (see below) while virtually ignoring its polemical context. Finello's study blurs the boundaries between pastoral with its shepherds, goatherds and rustic landscapes, and pastoril as a literary /courtly genre. It is not to Virgil's Eclogues that Finello turns for his antecedents of the pastoral genre. Instead, the classical configuration of bucolic verse and narrative are Virgil's didactic poems, the Georgics . . . (17). As a result of this confusion, the idealized Dulcinea and the peasant Sancho become indistinguishable: Sancho and Dulcinea of course can be counted among the novel's most significant rustic personages (83; emphasis mine). What Finello calls Arcadian figures become a mixed bag: Grisóstomo, Marcela, Cardenio, Basilio, the Gentleman in the Green Suit (102). The mad Cardenio becomes the shepherd-like Cardenio. Don Quijote's chivalric imitation of Ariosto in the Sierra Morena becomes a uniquely pastoral segment in the Quijote replete with a variety of bucolic motifs (114). Pastoral itself, in Cervantes's hands, seen as regional and rustic: Cervantes's shepherd is a more traditional character whose folk mores and idiom move him . . . to a peasant style of speech replete with its naturalness and even its linguistic errors (83).
Although none of this is discussed in Finello's book, it is true that Castelvetro had allowed some pastoral characters to speak like rustics in his theoretical
Finello's reply to this review,
Finello Replies to Jehenson,
may be found in Cervantes 16.1 (1996),
together with Yvonne Jehenson's reply,
Poetics of 1570. So would Michael Drayton in the preface to his collection
of Pastorals (1619), for the subject of pastorals, as the language
of it ought to be poor. . . . In practice, however,
this was far from acceptable. We recall Sir Philip Sidney's reproach of Spenser
in An Apology for Poetry for the use of rough meter and rustic dialect
in the Shepheardes Calendar because neither Theocritus in Greek,
Virgil in Latin, nor Sanazzaro in Italian did affect it. Dr. Johnson
echoes Sidney's reproach. Spenser's pastoral fails precisely because it has
not respected the boundaries between pastoral and pastoril,
for its joining elegance of thought with coarseness of diction.
Even when a critic like Norbert Elias, who has much to offer in this regard,
is cited, Finello misses one of Elias's most important arguments. That is,
that the pastoral (Honoré d' Urfé's L'Astreé
in this case) produces the very realities the seventeenth century
courtly society wanted the classes beneath them to take for granted as
reality. Klaus Theweleit pursues Elias's thesis in his brilliant
work on Male Fantasies where pastoral is seen for what it has always
been, a leisurely game that constructs social realities, readers, and mores
in a literary / courtly milieu.
Since there is a basic conflation and confusion in the book as to what constitutes pastoral, the latter becomes all-encompassing. Themes, narrative strategies, and topoi which can be predicated of other genres are described as integral: masquerades, disguises, friendship, leisurely conversations, interrelated stories, mimetic plays, Renaissance academic colloquia all become essential to the imaginative pastoral. Pastoral, for Finello, ultimately becomes a cultural attitude, an expression of a way of living that accommodates . . . topics which are those Finello has constructed for it. The vagueness of these contrived categories should be apparent from the following examples, inter alia: Within the Quijote's profound awareness of Spain's geography, pastoral culture lurks and then becomes part of the principal action (70). Because in Pt. I, 43-44 Don Luis's and Doña Clara's story possesses the substance of an idyll, Luis is pursued against his will, and pastoral freedom looms in his words (112). In the Sierra Morena, Don Quijote is said to perform pastoral exercises (25), Sancho's declaration that he'd rather be a farmer than a governor is an escape, which brings another pastoral theme (the beatus ille) into the novel (96), and, as Sancho leaves the Insula Barataria and temporarily sheds the squires garments, his status rises and his pastoral origins fulfill their literary potential (96).
The supposed contrast between previous literary Arcadias and Cervantes's work is also contrived to accommodate Finello's premise that Cervantes has rung major changes on the pastoral convention. In his analysis of Theocritus, Virgil and Longus, Finello finds the classical characters to be innocent in contrast to the Renaissance pastoral for [u]nlike his ancient counterpart, the Renaissance shepherd is not . . . innocent (23). They are also divorced from the outside world, whereas in Cervantes's world, characters must ultimately face the world at hand: they must interact with people along the way. Such is not the rule for those who inhabit previous literary Arcadias, . . . where all beings live in fraternity (78). Characters in previous literary Arcadias, however, do face the world at hand and in ways harsher than anything depicted in Cervantes's
Galatea or Don Quijote. Theorists of Arcadia have consistently
pointed out that the idyllic worlds of Theocritus and Virgil are
stylized, but not divorced from the vicissitudes of everyday life.
Michael Squires in The Pastoral Novel (24) and Erwin Panofsky in
Meaning in the Visual Arts (300), to name but two critics, show how
Theocritus's Idylls portray real human personalities, in an actual
locality, Sicily, and enduring suffering in a real world. Virgil goes further
in the Eclogues than Theocritus. He pinpoints the illusive distance
between the Arcadian milieu and the political realities of the Rome which
shapes them. In the very first eclogue the poignant address of the herdsman
Meliboeus to Tityrus (fortunate senex) says it all. Unlike the
politically-savvy Tityrus who can keep his own lands because of his friendship
with the powerful in Rome, Meliboeus has to leave Arcadia. The premonition
implicit in Meliboeus's bitter-sweet farewell, these lands are
still your own (I, 46; emphasis mine), becomes explicit in
Eclogue IX when another once-happy old man laments the loss of his
Arcadian lands (1-5). Even the Messianic fourth Eclogue reminds the
reader that Arcadia is not a care-free pleasance. Iniquity always lurks in
Arcadian bowers: pauca tamen suberunt priscae vestigia fraudis
/ nevertheless some taint of old iniquity shall stay (35).
Perhaps it is because a fundamental conflation and confusion exists between pastoral and pastoril in the book that Finello's analysis either tends to take on a tone of apologia whereby words like certain (142), prove (15, 74,104, 164), demonstrate (17, 240), confirm (55), bear evidence (107,129) belabor the study, or an old-fashioned tone that promises satisfaction. Finello will sort out some of the questions about Cervantes's intention (191). He explains doubtful passages by attributing them to the author's anxiety (49 and 50.) He posits rhetorical dilemmas which will certainly be satisfied by a careful reading of the pastoral episodes of the Quijote (46; emphasis mine). Ultimately, the reader is not convinced because the book's basic premise has not been examined critically enough by its author.
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