From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
13.1 (1993): 131-34.
Copyright © 1993, The Cervantes Society of America
Cervantes, Miguel de. Viage del Parnaso. Poesías varias. Critical edition by Elias L. Rivers. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1991. 300 pp.
Lokos, Ellen D. The Solitary Journey: Cervantes's Voyage to
Parnassus. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. 230 pp.
Cervantes scholars were fortunate to greet
the publication of two new books on Viage del Parnaso within the last
year: Ellen Lokos's study, The Solitary Journey, which is the first
volume of the new series edited by Eduardo Urbina, Studies on Cervantes
and His Times; and Elias Rivers's new critical edition, which presents
Viage along with Cervantes's occasional poetry for the Clásicos
Castellanos series. Since a reassessment of Viage del Parnaso, which
concerns both authors to some degree, is predicated on access to the text,
I shall discuss Rivers's edition first.
Elias Rivers brings to his task years of editorial experience; the result is an even-tempered, highly accessible edition of the poem. Rivers compiles and summarizes footnotes from earlier editions rather than simply crossreferencing them. He dismisses as prescindibles (97, n. 32) earlier critical squabbles over precise geographical mapping of the fictional route from Valencia to Genoa. He notes but does not alter verses that have not been understood but that appear clearly in Cervantes's manuscripts. Likewise he simply states, in a few rare cases, when we do not know who the person Cervantes mentioned is. Most importantly, he gears his explications of poetics to students and general readers.
The edition is at its best when Rivers clarifies the poem's burlesque language. He makes intelligible the sparring between Neptune and Venus, as well as Neptune's disgust over clichéd references to his reign. By highlighting neologisms, such as alfileresca (137), and unusual words unique to this Cervantine text, such as trafalmeja (119), Rivers offers evidence for reading Viage as a mock-epic, as he had argued before in his 1973 Suma cervantina essay. Rivers's notes are indeed in proportion to the significance of the passages for an overall appreciation of the text. Cervantes's neologistic opposition garcilasista o timoneda (174), under which rubrics Cervantes groups good or bad poets merits one of the edition's longer notes.
While the modern annotated text of Viage alone would be sufficient reason to recommend Rivers's edition for classroom use, the four-part introduction with a bibliography of critical studies on Viage del Parnaso further recommends the text to a wide range of potential readers. Rivers reviews the conventional issues of genre and influence, aids the general reader with a chapter-by-chapter plot summary, and suggests new avenues of interpretation. The first introductory segment locates Viage within the tradition of Menippean satire while examining theories of influence posited by many other modern Hispanists. (Rivers is not convinced by Lokos's theory of an anonymous Peruvian source, calling it posible and discutible (15]). The second segment further considers Viage's generic classification, as well as the critical interventions that have helped forge this perception, to find the
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Italian links, Caporali and Berni, among others, still most convincing. Rivers
concludes by noting the lack of attention that has been paid to la
presencia de Quevedo en la Adjuncta (22), and suggests
a new possibility for research based on the recent work of Lía Schwartz
Lerner on Menippean satire.
The last two segments address the importance of Viage del Parnaso and how to best read the poem. For Rivers, its importance lies in the autobiographical dimension. This difficult undertaking, an intertextual reading of life and art, is beyond the scope of the introduction. Nonetheless, Rivers does point to Jean Canavaggio's work as a model for the poetics of self-fashioning that he is advocating.
The final section of the introduction explains and justifies the joint publication of Cervantes's occasional poetry in the edition. Rivers argues that the best introduction to Viage del Parnaso may be Cervantes's two famous burlesque sonnets from the latter's crisis years. Once again Rivers focuses on the irreverent tone that Cervantes deploys to present important historical events. If readers can hear and see Cervantes's voice at work, they will have fulfilled Rivers's concluding injunction (30). His balanced and moderate introduction certainly leads in that direction.
Ellen Lokos in The Solitary Journey also chooses to focus on the reader. She begins on a polemical note: The inadequacies so often cited in relation to the Viaje do not pertain to its author, but rather, to its readers (3). She sets out to rescue the poem from the process of critical fossilization to which it has been subjected and restore it to its original vitality and vigor (3). To accomplish this task, she dedicates four chapters and two appendices to literary history, the poetics of the period, and the socio-literary milieu in which Cervantes was writing (5).
Chapter I, Texts and Contexts: Literary Models for the Viaje del Parnaso, gives a selective overview of the sources for the poem. As a model, Lokos first posits the Voyage to Parnassus. Differing significantly from other critics, including Rivers, as to the centrality of Caporali, Lokos dismisses him as an amusing literary antecedent (11). Furthermore, she argues that the allusion to him in Viage functions as a camouflage (12). It diverts the reader from Cervantes's intentions, subverting the generic equation (12) embodied by Caporali's name. One would welcome a sustained discussion of what this subversion means in terms of literary history and of reading. Was the camouflage so successful that no reader until Lokos has seen through the disguise?
Throughout this chapter, the author puts a great deal of emphasis on the last word of the poem, jornada, arguing that it makes it clear that Cervantes is defining the Viaje as a journey, in terms of its overall structure (21). The contemporary use of the dream vision/allegorical journey is not adequately treated. Lokos only discusses Suárez de Figueroa's El Passagero (1617) in her footnotes, and no mention is made of Quevedo's Sueños, which were circulating in manuscript form at that time. Although no one can doubt the pervasive influence of Dante on Renaissance culture, Lokos correlates the use of the journey to their respective physical and spiritual
exiles (13). I assume her title echoes this relation. The scale of this
comparison is somewhat disturbing. Is Cervantes's lack of recognition, the
Argensola snub, the equivalent of exile? I am far more convinced by Rivers's
assessment of Cervantes's ambiguous relation to the literary traditions of
his age: Tanto en el Viage del Parnaso como en el
Quijote, vemos que para nuestro autor la literatura era una morada
vital y al mismo tiempo una máquina absurda (29).
Drawing primarily on Curtius's work, Lokos closes her chapter on influences with a discussion of another popular genre, the Panegyrico por la poesía, or Praise of Poetry, noting that Cervantes diverges from the more theological interpretation of art found in this text. Although it is indeed a tempting (48) connection, for our more feminist and multi-cultural times, to find a Peruvian poetess as a source for Cervantes's text, Lokos's discussion of the military language, the application of the word preciosa to poetry, the necessity of study, and the use of entendimiento all seem more plausibly linked to the Zeitgeist than to that tempting direct influence. Despite her disclaimers, the book reads as a positivistic source-hunt (146).
From its very title, The Importance of Being Ironic: The Satiric Dimension of the Viaje del Parnaso, traces of the dissertation style mark the second chapter. (Lokos's Ph.D. thesis was Models, Genres, and Meanings of Cervantes's Viaje del Parnaso, Harvard, 1988.) The author takes a rather formulaic, academic approach to the topic of satire. After carefully outlining R. C. Elliot's Power of Satire, she clearly deals with the paradox of Viage announcing itself as satire, and then with Cervantes's disavowal of ever having written satire, in distinguishing between scurrilous comments (also termed personal satire) and the proper satirical mode. When she turns to the object of Cervantes's satirical attack, that is, Poetry, she returns again to the issue of lists, now asserting that the choice of this form was ironic (75). Her constant recourse to this kind of displacement makes her argument unconvincing, especially when one is dealing with formulaic elements. Recall that the much praised premática uses another listing format. Is it ironic?
In this chapter and the next, Lokos discusses the academies. The satiric correction that Lokos sees Cervantes as advocating is a thoughtful, academic type of literature that flourished in Italy in the sixteenth century (89). She traces his motivation for writing Viage to his negative experience in the Academia Parnaso, or variously, Selvaje. To view Cervantes's work as a product of discussions held in academic sessions (115) is an appealing theory of historical consequence, even though it is hard to prove, since there are no academic minutes to which to refer, only minimal letters and documents of academies' ordinances. What Lokos does with this contextualization is, however, questionable. Once again she uses it to displace criticism of Cervantes as poet: Cervantes's Viaje, which has often been criticized for the informality of its verses, reflects the characteristic informality and extemporaneous quality of these academic eulogies (123, n. 49).
Noting that Cervantes never mentioned the word academy in his poem, nor did . . . he ever characterize the poem as academic (116), Lokos recurs to what she calls the genre of fictional academies (116) to bolster
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her argument. While her brief concluding citation of Francisco de Andrés's
Aganipe, recognizing it [Viage] as an academic work
(125), is a persuasive, contemporaneous allusion, her primary choice for
postulating a genre of fictional academies, a nineteenth-century
costumbrista text by Julio Monreal is too far removed to make a convincing
historical argument. Moreover, Lokos here overuses the proof by genre; she
has so far identified three the Journey to Parnassus, the Praise of
Poetry, and now the Fictional Academy. Proportionally the book becomes more
of an essay on the existence of these genres than a new reading of Viage
The fourth and final chapter, The Emblematic Language of the Viaje del Parnaso, intends to instruct the reader in the coded language(132) of the text and in the reading context of the period (132). Later Lokos considers the influence of the emblems as a mental habit which provides an alternative to the traditional mechanical reading of the poem (142). Beyond a brief citation of Jonathan Culler, there is little acknowledgement here of the considerable critical discussions of reader-response or reception theories, which are the logical correlatives of this reader-centered approach.
Outlining the historical context, Lokos stresses the primacy of the word over the visual element in Spain, and she emphasizes the connections of the emblem makers with the academies. Her most significant interpretation has been published previously in Cervantes 9 (1989): 63-74. In her admiration of Cervantes, Lokos comes down too heavily on Lope, and her reading appears arbitrary. Lokos also explores Fortune as an emblem. The list of related texts in this section is predictably long and sheds little light upon the reading of Viage.
In sum, Lokos's study is a very useful summary that will remind scholars anew of all the traditions that converge in Cervantes's poem. The recuperation that Ruth El Saffar did for Persiles, in reasserting its centrality to Cervantes's corpus, remains an illusive goal here.
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