From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
18.1 (1997): 24-45.
Copyright © 1998, The Cervantes Society of America
The Absence of the Absence of Women:
Cervantes's Don Quixote and the Explosion of the Pastoral Tradition
rom its origins in Theocritus and Virgil the pastoral mode, in its many and varied manifestations, has as a predominant element lost, unrequited, or impossible love. The objects of love in the pastoral space are, in most cases, dead, reluctant, or otherwise prevented by societal forces (marriage or parental prohibition) from engaging in fruitful relationships. Golden Age Spanish pastoral literature, influenced by the Virgilian eclogues and Sannazaro's Arcadia, works from and through this premise as demonstrated in Garcilaso's Eclogues, the pastoral romances from Montemayor's Diana to Lope's Arcadia, and Góngora's Polifemo and Soledades. Whether attributed to the manipulations of fate or to personal failure, the impossibility of love becomes the pastoral mode's incipient force, and mourning and lamentation its literary axis. The pastoral space, conceptualized as an idyllic zone in which Nature and Society exist in harmony and peace, is paradoxically manifested through the tears and sorrowful words of its inhabitants. It is not surprising that Cervantes, in his
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quest to surpass the limitations of the genres available to him, did not
miss the opportunity to explore and explode the pastoral mode in Don
The aim of this paper is to examine Cervantes's negotiations with the pastoral mode in Don Quixote as an evident manipulation of the genre's ideological and gendered constructions. I will link Don Quixote's Golden Age speech, and the idealized feminine communal space that I will argue it constructs, to three pastoral instances in which women play a central role in the text: the Marcela interlude, the Leandra episode, and Don Quixote's and Sancho's failed pastoral endeavor at the end of part II. Following and furthering Don Quixote's lead, I will examine, through a psychoanalytic lens, the male narcissistic subjectivity in these pastoral episodes and how the presence of these three females, as subjects with manifest desires, denies their objectification and disrupts the possibility of what Stephen Rupp and other critics have called a true pastoral.
In his assessment of the pastoral interludes in Don Quixote, Stephen Rupp defines the true pastoral as follows:
Poetry gives form and meaning to the suffering that has driven the lover to abandon settled society for the pastoral world; poetic achievement offers expression and compensation for grief. This pattern, as central to Garcilaso as to Sannazaro, offers the resolution of the pastoral paradox of the frustrated lover who turns to the harmonious world of nature in order to lament his loss. (6-7)
Rupp continues to define the true pastoral as the transcendence of amorous loss through poetry (6). Yet this definition is structured upon the notion that the pastoral space can only be realized through the inaccessibility, absence, or rejection of the object of love the female object. Poetry can only be produced as a result of such absence or rejection. This transcendence (of absence or rejection) through poetic achievement can only be achieved through the negation, the erasure, of that which is presumably loved, the idealized Lady. Otherwise the pastoral structure would lose its central impetus: to produce a space in which the poetic production and the continuity of the poetic tradition are secured (6). The pastoral space permits the male subject to construct his self through poetic language as a grieving subject and thus to find a bond in a pastoral community with others like him. In brief, the purpose of the pastoral for Rupp seems to be double: 1) to provide a space for the elaboration and continuation of poetic tradition, and 2) to open a channel for the self-construction of the male members of this community through lyrical
grieving. In both cases, poetic construction is a mode of self expression
that typically is self-laudatory both in content and in form by way of highly
cultured poetic technique and language.
Other critics support this general structure by placing the pastoral genre, and specifically its Italian / Spanish manifestations, under a rubric of unrequited love, melancholy, and poetic production. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce, in his pivotal study La novela pastoril española (1974), characterizes Jorge de Montemayor's Los siete libros de la Diana as the preponderant model for subsequent Spanish pastoral novels and singles out melancholy as a determining factor:
La melancolía de la Diana, por ser obra renacentista y bucólica, representa un doble dispararse hacia una perfección ideal inalcanzable y el consecuente y melancólico desilusionarse. (73)
Nature accompanies this melancholic response through neo-Platonic correspondence
and serves as stage and audience to the lover's laments. Similarly, Barbara
Mujica considers melancholy the axis of the pastoral space and views its
lyrical manifestations as characterized by convention and artifice, qualities
which she identifies as the essence of Arcadia (39). Renato Poggioli locates
this dynamic between the poet's melancholy and poetic purpose within the
realm of the pastoral of love where the male lover unites with
others of his kind. Within this exclusively male space, frustrated love,
and poetic achievement make evident the impossibility of absolute erotic
anarchism or the unchecked and unhindered satisfaction of sexual desire
which, for Poggioli, is the root of the desire for an alternative space
outside of the polis. This is not to say that the pastoral space is
devoid of women, but that women within this locus are objects, created
through their counterparts' poetic representations. The women are always
young and beautiful, mostly docile, sometimes cruel, always ambiguous, and
never as completely portrayed or psychologically complex as their suitors.
Thus, Poggioli concludes that the pastoral is a private, masculine
world, where woman is not a person but a sexual archetype, the eternal Eve
(16). Hence, Poggioli, Mujica, and Avalle-Arce's descriptions of the pastoral
world fully support Rupp's insistence on the complete absence of Woman from
the locus amoenus.
The pattern established by these critics is firmly grounded on the absence (as subject) of the desired other. The requirement for the male subject's self-construction through poetry is that the other, Woman, be lacking. Yet this absence of Woman as subject is not as apparent in the Spanish pastoral novels as it is in Garcilaso de la
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Vega's eclogues or the Petrarchan and courtly models that inform them. Galatea
has fled from Garcilaso's locus amoenus, and Elisa dies in childbirth
in the Egloga I, Camila defiantly runs away from her suitor in the
Egloga II, and Elisa is beheaded in the Egloga III. Their absence
opens up the space for Salicio's, Nemoroso's and Albanio's laments. Without
such feminine absence, laments as inspired as, ¡Ay, quánto
m'engañaba! / ¡Ay, quán diferente era! / y quán
de otra manera / lo que en tu falso pecho se escondía! in the
Egloga I could not have been realized (lines 105-08; 72). Though
rooted in convention, Salicio's poignant words clearly point towards the
shepherd's high poetic skill and, through him, to Garcilaso's mastery of
the convention. Salicio's lament and Garcilaso's poetic achievement are,
therefore, direct results of Galatea's, the female subject's, absence from
the pastoral space. Galatea's absence is a necessary pre-condition for Salicio's
lament and Garcilaso's pastoral eclogue.
Galatea's, Elisa's, and Camila's absence in Garcilaso's pastoral eclogues, as in Petrarch's Canzoniere, are required by a poetic structure that depends on memory and melancholy. The beloved is remembered as fragmented parts that never add up to one unity, one concrete and present body. As Nancy Vickers points out concerning Petrarch's love object, Laura is always presented as a part or parts of a woman. When more than one part figures in a single poem, a sequential, inclusive ordering is never stressed (266). Because the female body is never visualized as a complete and unified entity, the presence of the female subject is never a possibility. The female object is always scattered and dislocated, constructed by a male subject who is unable or unwilling to recognize one cohesive female subjectivity. Nemoroso's search for his dead Elisa exemplifies this operation as he calls out:
Dó están agora aquellos claros ojos
que llevaban tras sí, como colgada,
mi alma, doquier que ellos se bolvían?
¿Dó está la blanca mano delicada,
llena de vencimientos y despojos
que de mí mis sentidos l'offrecían?
Los cabellos que vían
con gran desprecio al oro
como a menor tesoro
¿adónde 'stan, ádonde el blanco pecho?
¿Dó la columna que'l dorado techo
con la presunción graciosa sostenía?
Aquesto todo agora ya s'encierra, por desventura mía en la fría, desierta, y dura tierra (lines 267-81)
Thus, within the model established by Garcilaso's eclogues for the Spanish pastoral, the possibility of a full feminine presence in body or spirit is always negated by dismemberment.
In the mode's development in Spain, the pastoral novels appropriate the dismemberment and objectification of the female body as a convention. Yet, contrary to Garcilaso's eclogues, the Spanish pastoral novel is characterized by abundant numbers of female characters who inhabit the pastoral space in the company of their male suitors. From Montemayor's Diana to Cervantes's own Galatea, female pastoral characters are assigned pivotal parts in the novels' plot developments and are frequently endowed with a voice. Their inclusion within the locus amoenus would thus seem to posit some type of unity, singularity, and subjectivity for females. But as we have seen in Garcilaso's eclogues, the case is far from this. In Jorge de Montemayor's Los siete libros de la Diana, Diana and her female companions are, as Mujica puts it, goddess-like, women who represent the model of virginity and extreme beauty that their male counterparts desire (219). Even more telling is Diana's complete absence from the text until Book V. Diana is (re)presented solely as an image, constructed by the words of her suitors Sireno and Sylvano. When she does appear, her image confirms the abstract physical attributes that characterize the pastoral's conventional female protagonist. Sylvano sings to Diana in Book VI:
Pastora mía, más blanca y colorada
que ambas rosas por Abril cogidas,
y más resplandeciente
que el sol que de oriente
por la mañana assoma a tu majada
¿cómo podré vivir si tú me olvidas?
no seas, mi pastora, rigurosa,
que no está bien crueldad a una hermosa.
(Lines 5-12; 277)
The case of Cervantes's La Galatea is not much different. The female characters are not as complex, either psychologically or in the roles they play, as the shepherds that surround them. For example, Galatea usually is silent when she comes in contact with male
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characters and allows circumstance to dictate her movements. Even as a mujer esquiva (an early prototype for Marcela in Don Quixote), Galatea is never fully psychologically or thematically articulated. She is never permitted to present her case or argue reasons for denying her suitors' requests. She is mostly docile and complacent with their insistent requests for company, and ends up soliciting Elicio's protection. Ruth El Saffar sees this element of female representation as the key to Cervantes's pastoral novel:
The absence of women as other than attractive young ladies may be, in fact, the key to the whole work: Cervantes appears unable at this point truly to represent women in their variegated individuality as he is able, to some extent, to present men. Instead he casts them all in a single mold, which must be understood as signalling the archetype of the lovely, inaccessible virgin the Diana figure . . . Even when they are not passive, as Teolinda, Rosaura, and Gelasia are not, the ladies of Cervantes' pastoral novel act only in the context of the network of amorous desire in which they are caught and have no other novelistic role to play. Their effort is to sustain the image of inaccessibility and desirability in which they are cast. (Beyond Fiction 45)
In line with critics' assessments, the resolution
of the pastoral paradox lies, accordingly, in the space of lack, in the absence
of the fully articulated female subject that Woman's inaccessibility opens.
One need only recall the insistent absence, through death or rejection, of
the objects of love in Garcilaso's eclogues to highlight the necessity of
this element in the pastoral mode and its development in Spanish literature.
The shepherds' lovesick laments, and through them their self-definition as
worthy lovers, can only be imagined under the objectification, absence, and
erasure of the female subject.
My reading of this paradoxical simultaneity between erasure, absence, and narcissistic self-identification through poetic language is based on the Freudian and Lacanian concepts of sublimation. For Freud, sublimation is a process which apparently has no connection with sexuality but which is motivated by the force of sexual instinct. First introduced in The Three Essays on Sexuality, the main activities connected to the process are artistic creation or intellectual inquiry (Laplanche and Pontalis 431). It is through the diversion of libidinal energy to an aim that is not sexual that sublimation contributes to both individual development and cultural progress.1 Yet in order for
The Three Essays on Sexuality Freud states: Historians of
civilization appear to be at one in assuming that powerful components are
acquired for every [p. 30] kind of cultural
achievement by this diversion of sexual instinctual forces from sexual aims
and their direction to new ones we would add, accordingly, that the
same process plays a part in the development of the individual and we would
place its beginning in the period of sexual latency of childhood.
libidinal energy to be desexualized, or to exchange a sexual aim for a non-sexual
one, the libido must withdraw into the ego, or engage in a narcissistic
process.2 For Freud, therefore, the narcissistic
process transforms libidinal energy into sublimated energy, redirecting the
sexual charge from an external object to the ego which then again redirects
this energy, but now as a reflection of the self.
Sublimation is, for Lacan as for Freud, an operation which is connected to artistic and intellectual activity and which possesses social value through the re-direction of energy from sexual objects to non-sexual objects. Yet the Lacanian concept offers a much more detailed analysis of the effects of sublimation on object-relations. For Lacan the relation of the subject with the sublimated object is a specular one in which the subject sees reflected in the mirror of the other an idealized form of the I (moi / speaking ego) or an Ideal-ich. In other words, the ego establishes a highly idealized and desexualized narcissistic relation with the sublimated object. Lacan writes:
You can in fact see it [the problem of object relations in sublimation] emerge in a narcissistic relation, an imaginary relation. At this level, the object introduces itself only insofar as it is perpetually interchangeable with the love that the subject has for its own image. Ichlibido and Objektlibido are introduced by Freud in relation to the difference between Ich-Ideal and Idea-Ich, between the mirage of the ego and the formation of an ideal. This ideal makes room for itself alone . . . The problem of identification is linked to this psychological splitting, which places the subject in a state of dependence relative to an idealized, forced image of itself. (98; emphasis mine)
To exemplify this specular relation between the subject and an idealized, forced image of itself as reflected upon a sublimated object, Lacan uses the case of courtly love and the construction of the
and Pontalis explain this intermediate process in Freud's concept of
sublimated energy as follows: The transformation of a sexual
activity into a sublimated one (assuming both are directed towards external,
independent objects) is now said to require an intermediate period during
which the libido is withdrawn on to the ego so that desexualization may become
possible. It is in this sense Freud speaks in The Ego and the Id (1923)
of the ego's energy as a desexualized and sublimated one capable
of being displaced on to non-sexual activities (433). Non-sexual activities
are artistic or intellectual ones (as literature) that are valuable to the
individual and society as a whole.
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courtly Lady as mirror of the ideal ego. In the Lacanian reading of the mechanics of courtly love the Lady, an idealized other who serves as the inspiration for poetic achievement, must be absent from the scene as a desiring subject. This absence is effectuated through the erasure of the female subject by means of sublimation and the specular relation that the male subject establishes with the residue lack from the erasure of the female subject. As Lacan explains:
The object involved, the feminine object, is introduced oddly enough through the door of privation or of inaccessibility. Whatever the social position of him who functions in the role, the inaccessibility of the object is posited as a point of departure . . . It is impossible to serenade one's Lady in her poetic role in the absence of the given that she is surrounded and isolated by a barrier. (149)
Because the inaccessibility of the object is the point
of departure, the Lady becomes a representation whose presence as a
desiring subject is radically erased by the mechanics of sublimation. Lacan
concludes, In this poetic field [courtly love] the feminine object
is emptied of all real substance (149). In other words, Woman ceases
to be a real object and becomes merely a refractory device.
The erasure by which the female subject is transformed into a sublimated object necessarily excludes her from the economy of narcissistic self-fulfillment in which the lover immerses himself, or what Lacan designates as the narcissistic function. The lover, after effectively obliterating the female's subjectivity, reconstructs her as a narcissistic projection of his own ideal ego, which has no connection to the female subject from which it arose. The Lady becomes a speculum upon which the lover's ideal ego is reflected. Therefore, when the lover praises and adores the figure of the Lady as that which has no comparison, he is really talking about an idealization of his own self, of his own ideal ego.3
The mechanics of courtly love as read through psychoanalysis are relevant to the pastoral convention. Historically the connections between the courtly love convention and the pastoral tradition are
is another aspect to this process which relates to the simultaneous vilification
of the idealized object. Most courtly lovers, as many pastoral ones, portray
their objects of admiration as cruel, inconstant, and even evil. This paradoxical
operation is viewed by Slavoj
as a marker for
what is un-representable in Woman, the Lacanian Thing. See his chapter
Courtly love, or, Woman as Thing in The Metastases of
Enjoyment (London: Verso. 1994).
well documented.4 The overall structure which
frames the female subject as an inaccessible object is very similar in both
conventions. Either the female is barred by some external social constraint,
such as parental or marital commitments, or by internalized social
considerations, such as personal honor or pledges of chastity. The response
from the lover in the courtly and pastoral modes is also similar in that
the shepherd, like the courtly knight, engages in a lyrical lament on his
hapless fate in love. And finally in both cases the poetic function is
intensified by a constant lyrical recalling of the Lady's beauty and magnificence
and the narcissistic self-aggrandizement of the pastoral or courtly lover's
ideal ego that such a linguistic exercise generates.
It is in part this operation of narcissistic self-fulfillment through pastoral escape and lyrical production that Cervantes explores, parodies, and explodes from within many of the pastoral episodes in Don Quixote. As Leandra's Anselmo demonstrates: Teniendo tantas cosas de que quejarse, sólo se queja de ausencia; y al son de un rabel, . . . cantando se queja (595; vol. 1, chp. 51). But if this is evident in Cervantes's text it is also true that the critique of pastoral convention and the tension between the humorous and the pathetic are further problematized by Don Quixote's pivotal Golden Age speech (vol. I, chp. 11). To the contrary of what might be expected by any reader anticipating the pastoral patterns mentioned above, the speech sets up a pastoral paradise populated not by poetry-loving shepherds, but by simples y hermosas zagalejas, free from la amorosa pestilencia (156-57; vol. 1, chp. 11); an idealized space that serves as an antidote to the pastoral convention as traditionally formulated.
In her discussion of the mythological precedents that ground Don Quixote's Golden Age speech, Ruth Anthony El Saffar comments on the reference to nuestra primera madre:
There Don Quixote delivers his Golden Age speech, which reveals him as enveloped in a fantasy of the all-good mother. Although he clearly yearns for a time before the era of father dominance, Don Quixote strips the Great Mother whom he evokes of her dark side. She is all-giving but not all powerful . . . she retains only those qualities that are described and attractive to men. (Quixotic Desire 163)
a discussion on the influence of poesía cancioneril on the
Spanish pastoral, refer to Francisco López Estrada, Los libros
de pastores en la literatura española (Madrid: Gredos. 1974).
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El Saffar's exploration of the Golden Age speech points out the erasure of
the Great Mother's dark side or irrepresentability and her convenient
re-construction as an all-good mother. However, as I will
demonstrate, this representation can also be interpreted as an alternative
conception of the pastoral by the knight errant as a feminine space, as opposed
to the traditional male world that had been conventionally demarcated for
Even more importantly, the speech provides a space against which to measure the presence of women as subjects in the constructions of true male pastoral spaces: a subjectivity, we might add, that includes a re-sexualization of the locus amoenus. As Poggioli has pointed out, the pastoral insists on the preliminaries of love, rather than its final consummation and often reduces passion to the level of courtship (54).5 Avalle-Arce, along with many others, reads this characteristic of the genre under the rubric of neoplatonism and this ideology's emphasis on spiritual, rather than material, consummation.6 Yet as we will see in the cases of Leandra and Sanchica, female sexuality poses an active threat to the conventional pastoral structure by assaulting the sublimating process that depends on the de-sexualization of the female object in order to enable the subject's engagement with his ideal ego.
Don Quixote's Golden Age speech rejects any direct reference to male presence and its traditional constitutive function as producer and composer of poetry. Other than a vague allusion to the members of the edenic pastoral locus as los que en ella vivían and los hijos que entonces la poseían, there is no direct mention of male subjects within it (155-56; vol. I, chp. 11). All specific naming in the speech concerns only feminine elements: either Nature and its elements or the zagalejas and their way of life. Although other conventional characteristics of the pastoral genre are manifest in the speech, this lack of emphasis on male presence serves as an alluring contrast to the traditional male pastoral space and its sublimation of the female
sees this characteristic as a recourse that wards off the physical,
psychological, and economic jeopardy that realities such as child-rearing
would impose on this idyllic and leisure based space. See his chapter
Pastoral Love in The Oaten Flute.
6 The neo-Platonic emphasis on spiritual union as an intentional de-sexualization of the relationship between the lovers is evident in the pastoral mode. And in turn it fits nicely under the structure of sublimation as the re-direction of libidinal energy towards a non-sexual object the female object that has been de-sexualized and left in the vacuousness of the spirit.
subject.7 If the traditional pastoral depends
on the inaccessibility of women, on their absence through sublimation, Don
Quixote's Golden Age speech constructs a space that directly challenges this
paradigm. Instead, what Don Quixote envisions is a space in which the female
element seems to be constitutive and even
The zagalejas of the Golden Age were, in dress and demeanor, simple and honest, unlike their Iron Age courtesan sisters. And as they dressed they also loved, sin buscar artificioso rodeo de palabras para encarecerlos [los concetos amorosos] (156; vol. 1, chp. 11; emphasis mine). Clearly, the artificioso rodeo de palabras is a direct reference to the high poetic practice that served as the most important activity of the male subject in the pastoral tradition and which Don Quixote wishes to replace in his Golden Age speech by verdad y llaneza (156; vol. 1, chp. 11). Such linguistic artifice deteriorates progressively in the Marcela and Leandra episodes until it is finally rendered ineffectual in Don Quijote's pastoral fantasy at the end of part II.
But before I move on to these episodes it is important to note how Don Quixote finalizes his description of the Golden Age. The speech ends with a final praise of the zagalejas:
Las doncellas y la honestidad andaban, como tengo dicho, por dondequiera, sola y señora, sin temor que la ajena desenvoltura y lascivo intento le menoscabasen, y su perdición nacía de su gusto y propia voluntad. (157; vol.1, chp. 11)
This final description, with its emphasis on independence and self-chosen chastity, re-creates woman as a subject with presence and Symbolic substance in the pastoral space and again stands in sharp
the speech Don Quixote presents the lack of material interest or competition
(los que en ella vivían ignoraban estas dos palabras de
tuyo y mío ) and the giving nature of Nature
(a nadie le era necesario para alcanzar su ordinario sustento tomar
otro trabajo que alzar la mano y alcanzarle de las robustas encinas
) as markers of his imagined Arcadia. These elements are traditionally
present in the pastoral locus, Los siete libros de la Diana being
a model of this economic conception in Spanish pastoral literature.
8 That it is Don Quixote, a male subject, who envisions the Golden Age as a feminine space is potentially paradoxical. It is in moments like this that one could say Don Quixote's feminine side surfaces. This psycho-sexual ambiguity in the character is postulated by Anne J. Cruz as Don Quixote's vacillations between the Imaginary and the Symbolic orders: Oscillating by degrees between the Imaginary and the Symbolic in parts I and II, Don Quixote never fully separates from, or integrates with, the chivalric narratives (96). These chivalric narratives are, as I have proposed for the pastoral, male centered.
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contrast to the exigencies of sublimation and narcissistic self-idealization
in the male pastoral world. In Don Quixote's imagination these
doncellas reveled in a state of innocence that was theirs to
pervert (y su perdición nacía de su gusto y propia
voluntad).9 In contrast, the traditional
pastoral poetic function, through sublimation, effectively erases any possibility
of self-determination for women. Regardless of the apparent tameness and
docility ascribed to the doncellas, no reader can disregard Don
Quixote's subversion of the pastoral genre which permits his imaginary Golden
Age to be constituted by the presence of women and not their absence.
As we advance to a reading of the Marcela, Leandra, and Sanchica interludes, I must emphasize the importance that the Golden Age speech has in setting a problematic and subversive stage for the pastoral interludes in the rest of the text. For Marcela, Leandra, and Sanchica, this speech opens the door within Don Quixote that makes it possible for them to establish their subjectivity beyond male opinion or the absence that they are supposed to constitute.
In an illuminating feminist reading of the Marcela episode Yvonne Jehenson explains how Marcela's own speech near the end of the interlude subverts the male pastoral fantasy:
What Marcela has done is taken the intellectual tools of patriarchy, used them to her cause, and turned them against their inventors . . . Marcela is encoded within a system, a genre where the female has been silenced: she has either departed, has never existed, or is centralized as object of the males' desire or laments. It is this tradition that Cervantes explodes and he does this through Marcela's act of speech. (27)
Jehenson's basic premise is that the marginalization of women in the pastoral is subverted by endowing Marcela with a voice (and admittedly
there is any possibility for perdición within Don Quixote's
imagined Golden Age poses yet another paradox within the speech. As Barbara
Mujica has indicated: What is evident in Witness and in Renaissance
pastoral as well, is the inevitable collapse of the utopian vision. Unfailingly,
outside forces or internal passions interfere and destroy the image of harmony.
In no pastoral romance is the projection of perfection actually achieved
and maintained. Arcadia is an illusion. (6)
With this paradox lying at the core of every pastoral (there cannot be Arcadia without its opposite, be it the polis or personal desire), I maintain that Don Quixote's speech is still a liberating one for the female subject. Since a kernel of instability or perversion is always at the heart of the locus amoenus, the female's capacity to deal with it as a coherent unified subject rather than an erased and scattered object / mirror is most significant for a reading of the Golden Age speech as a subversion of the traditional pastoral genre.
Marcela is quite eloquent). Thus for Jehenson the interlude portrays a strictly
male pastoral space that is only partially subverted by Marcela's act
of speech. Yet, it is my opinion that, beyond a partially subverted
conventional pastoral project, the Marcela interlude should be recognized
as a pastoral world that corresponds to the knight errant's imaginary recreation
of the Golden past where beautiful, young females roamed freely through valleys
unencumbered by a sublimating male presence: andaban las hermosas y
simples zagalejas de valle en valle y de otero en otero en trenza y en
cabello (156; vol. 1, chp. 11) . From this perspective Marcela's defiant
presence in the pastoral space is a return to the Golden Age as prescribed
by Don Quixote and would preclude the possibility of a traditional male
Pedro, one of the shepherds accompanying Grisóstomo (Marcela's main suitor), relates Marcela's story, telling how she first goes to the countryside against the wishes of those who would want to keep her constrained in her deceased father's town:
Pero hételo aquí, cuando no me cato, que remanece un día la melindrosa Marcela hecha pastora; y, sin ser parte su tío ni todos los del pueblo, que se lo desaconsejaban, dio en irse al campo con las demás zagalas del lugar y dio en guardar su mesmo ganado. (165; vol. 1, chp. 11)
It is significant that until Marcela's speech other exclusively male voices
retell her life and her seemingly inexplicable behavior. This narrative condition
is part and parcel of the male pastoral where the female protagonist's story
is mostly retold through the words of her male suitors. But in Marcela's
case the story these male voices tell is one clouded by bewilderment and
annoyance at her unpredictable and disruptive behavior. It is this initial
act of subversion the unauthorized departure from her uncle's house
that propels Marcela into a space very similar to the Golden Age imagined
by Don Quixote, which she defends and maintains against the incursion of
the courtly shepherds who follow her into it. Marcela joins the
zagalejas of Don Quixote's Golden Age speech, en aquella
libertad y vida tan suelta y de tan poco o de ningún recogimiento
(165; vol. 1, chp. 12) to tend her own goats. Therefore, her escape
is not into the pastoral locus limited by male narcissistic self-identification
but into one that symbolically and effectively separates her from unwelcome
male influence and control.
With Grisóstomo as their representative, the desiring male subjects who follow her into Cervantes's pastoral try to engage in the
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usual mechanics of female objectification, idealization, and ultimate sublimation by invading Marcela's chosen space and imposing their literary conventions. This is an exercise that, as we have seen, engages itself much more in the construction of an ideal ego as a narcissistic function than in ever truly recognizing the possibilities of the female subject. But the problem is not that Marcela rejects their proposals, for rejection is one of the typical modes of inaccessibility that is built into the courtly and pastoral machinery. Garcilaso's Galatea and her rejection of Salicio is a case in point.10 Rather, Marcela's presence as subject in this space denies, through its constancy, the successful construction of pure male fantasy. As Poggioli has pointed out, Marcela enters the bucolic space only to display more decisively her rejection of the rule of love (170). Because Marcela is consistently willing to come into contact with the males that inhabit the locus and offer equitable friendship, their efforts at male bonding are continuously interrupted:
Que, puesto que no huye ni se esquiva de la compañía y conversación de los pastores, y los trata cortés y amigablemente, en llegando a descubrirle su intención cualquiera dellos, aunque sea tan justa y santa como la del matrimonio, los arroja de sí como un trabuco. (166; vol. 1, chp. 11; emphasis mine)
Although her rejection could serve as the proper impulse for the shepherds' true desire to achieve narcissistic self-identification through poetic practice, her interaction with them confuses their endeavor. Marcela's behavior cannot be easily absorbed into any of the pre-established roles written for women within pastoral convention. A woman who enjoys male company (los trata cortés y amigablemente) but who simultaneously rejects their amorous propositions cannot be controlled by the normative erasure performed by male sublimation. Marcela is not inaccessible. She is not a docile and malleable virginal figure or a cruel harpy. She does not avoid male company, unlike many of her pastoral predecessors. She expects the unexpected: male companionship without male objectification. Due to the inability of the male fantasy to realize itself under such conditions, Grisóstomo has no other choice but to compose trite verse and ultimately to commit suicide, actions that break with the genre's
Cervantes' Gelasia in La Galatea as an extreme case of mujer
esquiva is another example. Although she, like Cervantes's own Galatea,
is an early prototype for Marcela, her extreme behavior is much more easily
appropriated by the male pastoral community. She stands for the cruel nature
which is also traditionally attached to female representations in the pastoral
commitment to high poetic creation and with the idealized space which depends on male bonding and the community that ensues from it. Although muerte de amor is a convention of the genre, its effective occurrence threatens to deplete the male community and introduces self-violence that does not fit in the idealized and eternal springtime of the locus amoenus.11 Marcela's speech is, therefore, only a reiteration of what she had already articulated: a refusal to sacrifice her pastoral sojourn, her fantasy, in order to promote its male counterpart.12 In Marcela's words,
Yo nací libre, y para poder vivir libre escogí la soledad de los campos. Los árboles destas montañas son mi compañía, y las claras aguas destos arroyos mis espejos; con los árboles y con las aguas comunico mis pensamientos y hermosura. Fuego soy apartado y espada puesta de lejos. (186; vol. 1, chp. 14)
She is one with Nature, one with herself, and not accessible to the rule
of love dictated by the pastoral convention.
Although Don Quixote's reaction at the end of Marcela's speech has been read similarly to Grisóstomo's epitaph as a further objectification of Marcela I believe that its connection to the Golden Age speech is relevant.13 The shepherds attempt to inscribe Marcela as the conventional esquiva hermosa ingrata. But, because they have to admit that la mesma envidia ni debe ni puede ponerle falta alguna, that classification is continuously slipping (185; vol. 1, chp. 14). In other words, the shepherds fail either to idealize or demonize Marcela, as her presence as subject continuously subverts her erasure. Marcela impedes her intended role as Lacanian mirror and thwarts the usually smooth machinery of poetic achievement and ideal ego construction. If we then examine Don Quixote's reaction
other words, if all the shepherd lovers who contemplated suicide or claimed
to be dying of love actually did, the pastoral space would be desolate and
unimaginable. Referring to Grisóstomo's suicide, Poggioli states:
Yet, besides being a Christian, Grisóstomo was a shepherd too,
and any reader well acquainted with the pastoral tradition will immediately
realize that his suicide is a literary transgression as well as a mortal
sin . . . . In brief, within the economy of the bucolic
genre, Grisóstomo's suicide is no less arbitrary and unique than Marcela's
decision to become a shepherdess in order to deny even more fully the rule
of love. (170)
12 Thus, in Lacanian terms, Marcela is an ethical subject who does not cede her desire to an external Symbolic construct.
13 For example, Yvonne Jehenson interprets Don Quixote's reaction strictly within an objectifying mechanism. According to Jehenson, Marcela has subverted the male view of her as a textual object, but she remains a sexual object. Everyone, including Don Quixote, wants to go after this beautiful object. (30-1)
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through what in the Golden Age speech he had deemed the raison d'etre of the caballeros andantes the demise of the Golden Age, his protective attitude toward Marcela and her desire to follow her go beyond simple sexual objectification. At the end of his Golden Age speech Don Quixote contrasts the Golden and the Iron Age:
Las doncellas y la honestidad andaban, como tengo dicho, por dondequiera, sola y señora, sin temor que la ajena desenvoltura y lascivo intento le menoscabasen . . . Y agora, en estos nuestros detestables siglos, no está segura ninguna . . . Para cuya seguridad, andando más los tiempos y creciendo más la malicia, se instituyó la orden de los caballeros andantes, para defender las doncellas, amparar las viudas y socorrer a los huérfanos y a los menesterosos. (157; vol. 1, chp. 11)
Don Quixote sees the purpose of the knighthood as protecting from the ajena desenvoltura y lascivo intento that which in the Iron Age is constantly threatened: women and their chastity safeguarded in a state of freedom. Within this paradigm, Marcela embodies for Don Quixote the seemingly lost Golden Age of a female subjectivity unperturbed by the corrupting effects of male desire, free to roam the valleys with their hair flowing in the wind. Therefore, what Don Quixote seems to be defending is not the further objectification of Marcela but her right to remain a subject, alone, in unity and freedom with Nature and with the other zagalejas of the female pastoral:
Ninguna persona, de cualquier estado y condición que sea, se atreva a seguir a la hermosa Marcela, so pena de caer en la furiosa indignación mía . . . en lugar de ser seguida y perseguida, sea honrada y estimada de todos los buenos del mundo, pues muestra que en él ella es sola la que con honesta intención vive. (188; vol. 1, chp. 11)
Don Quixote's position as knight errant, however, precludes his entering this space. His defense seems paradoxical given the conditions that Don Quixote had established for his role as knight errant: to protect women from el lascivo intento characteristic of the Iron Age and from women's own weak nature. Yet Marcela (and, we assume, her companions) is not characterized by such a weakness and does not need Don Quixote's protection. She has defended her choices successfully through her demeanor and in her speech. Consequently, Don Quixote's defense of the zagalejas' freedom and lifestyle hampers his role as defender of their honor, jeopardizing the necessity of his knight errancy and the sustenance of his own ideal ego. In my opinion, this paradox is not resolved and contributes to
making the episode contradictory and elusive. But as any reader can acknowledge,
this characteristic is constitutive of most of the elements in Don
As in Marcela's episode, part I's second and last pastoral interlude has at its center a female protagonist who contributes to the undoing of the traditional bucolic space. Leandra, an overwhelmingly beautiful city girl, has, like Marcela, an impressive number of suitors. Many pursue her favors and most are unsuccessful, including Eugenio, the shepherd who recounts the case. Like Marcela, Leandra is supervised by a wavering father figure and no mother. But, in contrast to her predecessor, Leandra does not choose an escape to the bucolic space. Instead, she opts to reject chastity and runs away with Vicente de la Rosa, a charming and adventurous soldier. Therefore, in Leandra's case the conditions are, as far as her actions are concerned, radically different. Leandra, a doncella firmly grounded in the Iron Age, chooses the amorosa pestilencia and [da] con todo su recogimiento al traste in her love affair with Vicente (157; vol. 1, chp. 11). Consequently she is betrayed by the soldier and, with her virginity still intact, is sent to a monastery. Predictably Leandra's inaccessibility promotes, as in any conventional pastoral, a mass exodus of the lovers to the countryside, where they lament her absence and compose verse in her honor. In other words the male pastoral as a fantasy space is opened by the Lady's inaccessibility. She has run away with another suitor and has subsequently been placed in an institution more prohibitive than marriage. Now even more inaccessible, Leandra becomes a perfect object for sublimation; her absence facilitates the further objectification, idealization, and erasure that the process requires.
Yet in Leandra's case the feminine subject is not sufficiently erased for the pastoral lovers to install themselves in poetic lament in perfect unison. It is evident that the shepherds intend to sublimate Leandra's subjectivity in their laments. The traits of erasure and narcissistic ideal ego projections that constitute male sublimation are evident in the episode. For example, the shepherds mourn their own loss and not Leandra's denigration by the soldier and the personal and societal embarrassment that follows. But the shepherds drastically
the most salient are Don Quixote's questionable locura, the priest's
love-hate relationship with literature, and Sancho's contradictory wavering
between his master's imaginary construction and his own views of
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disagree as to how to treat her decision to flee with Vicente. After all, Leandra had exercised her own will and desire. She has, in fact, followed Don Quixote's Golden Age speech, su perdición nacía de su gusto y propia voluntad (157; vol.1, chp. 11). This manifestation of desire, sexuality, and subjectivity was never available to the traditional female protagonists of the pastoral genre. We can recall Montemayor's Diana or Cervantes's own Galatea, female pastoral protagonists whose marriages were dictated by parental mandate (usually by the father) and not by self-motivation. In Leandra's case, Eugenio voices his concern with her active participation in the event:
Y como en los casos de amor no hay ninguno que con más facilidad se cumpla que aquel que tiene de su parte el deseo de la dama, con facilidad se concertaron Leandra y Vicente, y primero que alguno de sus muchos pretendientes cayesen en la cuenta de su deseo, ya ella le tenía cumplido, habiendo dejado la casa de su querido y amado padre, que madre no la tiene, y ausentándose de la aldea con el soldado . . . . (593; vol. 1, chp. 51; emphasis mine)
Despite the mechanics of the traditional male pastoral, Leandra's manifest
sexual desire serves as evidence of a subjectivity that cannot be easily
assumed under the pressures of sublimation.
As a result Ambrosio and Eugenio's laments are unable to create the conditions required for male bonding. Their versions of Leandra as object clash at their most basic levels. While Ambrosio chooses to ignore Leandra's sexuality, Eugenio fixates on the weaknesses of the female condition. Even though both versions are ultimately objectifications that erase Leandra as an individual subject, Anselmo and Eugenio are never able to reconcile them. As Eugenio points out:
Entre estos disparatados, el que muestra que menos y más juicio tiene es mi competidor Anselmo, el cual teniendo tantas cosas de que quejarse, sólo se queja de su ausencia; . . . Yo sigo otro camino más fácil, y a mi parecer el más acertado, que es decir mal de la ligereza de las mujeres, de su inconstancia, de su doble trato, de sus promesas muertas, de su fe rompida, y, finalmente, del poco discurso que tienen en saber colocar sus pensamientos e intenciones que tienen. (595; vol. 1, chp. 51)
Ultimately Leandra's will situates her within the pastoral space as a desiring subject that cannot be easily absorbed into a mechanics of idealization. Her sexual desire acts as a residue that cannot be recycled within the world view of the pastoral. Even in her role as
sublimated object Leandra looms as a presence, as a desiring subject, that
forecloses the possibility of a true pastoral. In brief, Anselmo
and Eugenio cannot form an idyllic male community because they cannot accompany
each other in their diverging laments.15
Consequently the episode marks the impossibility of male fantasy to succeed
fully in the pastoral world when faced with active feminine desire.
The male pastoral's ideal aim is to satisfy the ego through the narcissistic construction of the self by way of sublimating the female subject. Yet the inability of this process to successfully assimilate the presence of a desiring female subject is again confirmed in Don Quixote and Sancho's effort to imagine a pastoral space in which to bond, once the fantasy of the caballería andante disintegrates (vol. 2, chp. 73). Don Quixote proposes an escape to the countryside with the rest of the male protagonists, the priest, the barber, and Sansón Carrasco, where they would all change their demeanor, adopt new names and sing poems in honor of their absent ladies. Although this pending pastoral endeavor has multiple causes underlying its frustrated inception, one of the elements that can be directly related to the themes we have mentioned is Sanchica and her potential incursion into the pastoral space as imagined by Don Quixote and his escudero. As Sancho savors the delights offered by a pastoral sojourn (Qué de migas, qué de natas, qué de guirnaldas y qué de zarandajas pastoriles [550; vol. 2, chp. 73]), he poses the necessity, due to his practicality, of Sanchica's bringing them food. After all, poetry alone cannot satisfy Sancho's needs. But immediately after offering his daughter's service, he retracts stating:
is not to say that there are not many cases in the pastoral genre where the
male protagonists have diverging view-points. Again, Montemayor's Los
siete libros de la Diana is exemplary, with Sylvano's view throughout
the last five books corresponding to that of el desamorado
vis-à-vis Sireno's dedication to love. Yet, even within this split,
the characters remain tightly united in the pastoral space, listening to
each other's canto amebeo and building upon the male bond that
they had established from the inception of the text. To the contrary, Anselmo
and Eugenio are not capable of such unity. Instead, Eugenio mocks Anselmo
and does not feel he can share a tight bond with his competitor: Entre
estos disparatados, el que muestra que menos y más juicio tiene es
mi competidor Anselmo . . . Yo sigo otro camino, más
fácil, y a mi parecer más acertado . . .
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Pero, ¡guarda!, que es de buen parecer, y hay pastores más maliciosos que simples, y no querría que fuese por lana y volviese trasquilada; y por los campos como por las ciudades, y por las pastorales chozas como por los reales palacios, y quitada la causa se quita el pecado; y ojos que no veen, corazón que no quiebra; y más vale salto de mata que ruego de hombres buenos. (550; vol. 2, chp. 73)
Sancho wavers in the possibility of Sanchica's becoming a desiring and desirable
sexual presence. Sancho is not able to sublimate his own daughter's desire
and therefore is unable to adjust his own understanding of the world to the
pastoral convention. According to his assessment of the pastoral world, his
daughter would become an active sexual presence in the locus amoenus.
As a presence Sanchica would negate a pastoral space in which the female
protagonists only serve as an excuse for lyrical production, as mirrors for
male narcissistic projections. Her pastoral role would be disruptive in their
efforts to bond through lyrical lament. In Lacanian terms, Sanchica's presence,
as in the case of Marcela and Leandra, would annul a narcissistic
self-fulfillment in which the female subject, with her desire erased by the
machinery of sublimation, becomes a mirror for the male's ideal ego.
In Don Quixote Woman as presence, as desiring subject, nullifies the possibility of the traditional pastoral. In my opinion, Cervantes was primarily interested in the pathetic and comic ironies of the male pastoral fantasy, in taking to its limit the pastoral paradox of love as impossibility in an idealized space and hyperbolizing its effects. Nevertheless, Cervantes opens by opposition a space where Woman, as irreducible presence, is crucial. In the absence of the absence of Marcela, Leandra, and Sanchica, the male pastoral fantasy folds under the weight of their irreducibility as present and active subjects. Considering the most salient models for the Spanish pastoral Garcilaso and Montemayor, this is a subversion that cannot be ignored. It marks both the progressive undoing of the pastoral tradition during the Baroque and Cervantes's unwillingness to be subdued by the formal, thematic, or ideological limits of any genre. Even more meaningfully, it exemplifies the disruptive power that psychologically complex female characters represent in Golden Age literature. Finally, it opens up the possibility of a multiplicity of true pastoral spaces within the critical apparatus of Golden Age literature.
|CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY,|
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Vega, Garcilaso de la. Obras Completas. Ed. Elias L. Rivers. Columbus: Ohio State UP. 1964.
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|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|