From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
19.1 (1999): 134-38.
Copyright © 1999, The Cervantes Society of America
Redondo, Augustin. Otra manera de leer el Quijote: Historia,
tradiciones culturales y literatura. Nueva Biblioteca de Erudición
y Crítica. Madrid: Castalia, 1998. 517 pp.
In a recent study on cervantismo in Spain, Pablo Jauralde Pou laments the dearth of criticism on Don Quixote that has marked that country's scholarship (Cervantes and the Spanish Philological School Cervantes and His Postmodern
Constituencies, ed. A. J. Cruz and C. B. Johnson, Hispanic Issues,
Garland, 1998). The same cannot be said of French Hispanism: numerous French
critics have written extensively on Cervantes and his most famous narrative,
among them, Jean Canavaggio, Louis Combet, Maurice Molho, Michel Moner, and
Augustin Redondo. The latter scholar has never failed to enlighten us on
Don Quixote and seventeenth-century Spain. Certainly, few
cervantistas know more about the mentalité of the period;
in all his essays, Redondo situates the linguistic and literary complexities
of the text's tangled episodes and its multifaceted protagonists firmly within
the immediate historical context.
Until this collection, however, Redondo's essays have been dispersed in many different venues, some difficult to obtain. It was indeed an inspired thought made more propitious by the fact that Redondo retires this year from the Sorbonne Nouvelle for Jauralde Pou, as the editor of Castalia's new series, Nueva Biblioteca de Erudición y Crítica, to publish twenty-six essays on Don Quixote that have appeared, in French and Spanish, over the past twenty years. Their inclusion in one volume deservedly honors Redondo's impressive contributions to Golden Age studies. Despite the directorship of the Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III's prestigious Centre de Recherche sur l'Espagne des XVIe et XVIIe Siècles, where he has tirelessly organized symposia and edited over twenty volumes of collected essays by others, Augustin Redondo has managed to carry on his own research at a prodigious pace.
The book's brief subtitle, Historia, tradiciones culturales y literatura, gives a deceptively limited description of its contents. Redondo's is an other way of reading Don Quixote in his contention that the novel partakes of far more than the elite conventions of its cultured, literary legacy, and that it was meant to be read by a broader public than the educated minority. If the Quixote prevailed as a funny book, it nevertheless at once depends on and is mediated by the preoccupations of the historical moment as well as by the popular and oral traditions specific to early modern culture. Readers who decontextualize the novel, therefore, do so at their own risk. In order to buttress these points, Redondo makes ample use of anthropological, sociological, historical, and folklore studies. While he would perhaps resist aligning himself with any critical movement, and asserts his eclectic methodology, his essays come closest to what we might call a materialist exegesis.
In the main, Redondo profitably employs various critical methods influenced by the French annales school. He does not restrict contemporary citations to canonical literary texts, but refers widely and exhaustively to such extraliterary sources as arbitristas, refraneros, Inquisition documents, and (now) marginalized popular collections such as the Poesía erótica del Siglo de Oro, edited by Pierre Alzieu, Robert Jammes, and Yvan Lissorgues. Given the socio-historical bent of the essays, it is not surprising to find social historians Julio Caro Baroja, Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, and José Antonio Maravall, along with Marcel Bataillon, Bartolomé Bennassar, and Noël Salomon, cited often in the footnotes. The transcultural reach of Redondo's scholarship is further substantiated by his familiarity with cultural theorists Mircea Eliade, Michel Foucault, Marcel Mauss, and Raymond Williams. The most conspicuous influence throughout
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the text Redondo's abiding interest in popular culture actually anteceded
the Spanish 1974 translation is Mikhail Bakhtin's La cultura popular
en la Edad Media y el Renacimiento.
The composite nature of the text disallows the unfolding argumentation expected of a monograph. (One criticism I have of the book's formal organization is the lack of a bibliography, made even more necessary by the extensive critical apparatus and the distracting repetition of bibliographical entries in the footnotes.) Instead, the essays have been loosely grouped by themes into four general sections, whose titles adumbrate their revisionary character: Problemas de intertextualidad, Personajes cervantinos a nueva luz, Episodios cervantinos: un replanteamiento, and A modo de conclusión. The first section aims to explicate the complex intertextual disposition of the Quixote: its historical (but no less literary) origins, its profound grounding in Spain's economic and cultural geography, and its many incursions into local folklore and popular culture.
The essay Las tradiciones hispánicas de la estantigua (cacería salvaje or mesnie hellequin) y su resurgencia en el Quijote (101-19) illustrates Redondo's investigative scope and intricate interpretive technique. Calling on European mythography to link numerous episodes and their signification to the novel's broader concerns, he explains the phantasmatic armies evoked in the cuerpo muerto episode (I.19) and the demonic element in the auto de la muerte (II.11) as versions of the wild hunt tradition. He then traces the apparitions from the milites Herlewini to their later European manifestations, the carnivalesque charivari and infernal hosts (the huestes antiguas) led by the Harlequin figure (Renaud, Arnau, or the romance's Conde Arnaldos) as a devilish black hunter, to uncover the legend devalued semantically to estantigua, or phantom. The analysis extends beyond conventional source and etymological studies by associating these mythical armies to the ducal hunting party (II.34). Thus darkened by fiendish, otherworldly tones, the enchanted world of the Duke and Duchess's chivalresque hunt prepares Don Quixote (and the reader) to decipher a later episode's ominous yet oft-missed sign (II.73). If the huestes stand for the intrusion of the diabolical in everyday life, then the appearance of a hare hounded by a host of hunters symbolizes the fate of the bewitched Dulcinea caught, like her enamored knight, in the symbolic snare of an archaic, magical universe. Throughout the essay, Redondo ties together the various episodes' violent moments of din and darkness to trace the inescapable parameters of the mad knight's fictional world.
The second section of the book links the carnivalesque with contemporary history to re-examine the characteristics of several of the narrative's protagonists. The author's extensive knowledge of cultural anthropology and folklore is nowhere more evident than when he unearths the popular tradition embedded in the epithets of Sancho, Don Quixote, Aldonza Lorenzo, Ginés de Pasamonte, and the Knight of the Green Coat. I would be tempted to question whether Cervantes was as cognizant as Redondo of the onomastics of his characters' names, if the essays had not convinced me that the writer fully commanded the breadth of European high and low cultures. Redondo reminds us,
therefore, that the rich medieval iconographic tradition behind Sancho and
Don Quixote's names identifies the pair with the physiological and psychological
oppositions of Carnival and Lent, as well as with the Commedia
dell'Arte's buffoons Ganassa and Bottarga, both well known to Cervantes.
Similarly, the multiple variants of Quixote evoke notions on
madness from contemporary science and folklore. As with the intertextual
studies, these essays demonstrate besides that the manifold meanings of the
protagonists' names were meant to thematically structure and connect different
In revisiting several of the classic episodes of the two parts, section three aims to explicate the main protagonists' behavior in light of the Quixote's literary legacy and of the historical present. The essay on Don Quixote's knighting, Don Quijote es armado caballero (I, 2-3) (293-305), emphasizes that by degrading the chivalresque tradition, the episode satirizes the literary roots of Don Quixote's madness and also denounces contemporary military orders' exigencies on cleanliness of blood. Analogously, by exploring the devaluation of ethnic differences in Dorotea's fabled kingdom, the essay La princesa Micomicona y Sancho Negrero (I.29) (363-80) shows how Sancho's desire to enrich himself through the slave trade serves to register Cervantes's condemnation of the historical practice.
Unlike the previous three, section four contains only one essay, Parodia, lenguaje y verdad en el Quijote. El episodio del yelmo de Mambrino (I, 21 y I, 44-45). For Redondo, the knight's ludicrous crowning with a basin emblematizes his mad state; the episodes on the appropriation and naming of the baciyelmo, moreover, disclose Cervantes's philosophy on language and truth. Again, the scholar calls on folklore to reveal the plurivalence of the linguistic sign: recalling that the barber traditionally stood for madness, he tells us that the barber's basin resonates, like the knight's hollow head, with unreason. But Redondo notes that Don Quixote's irrationality creates new couplings between appearance and essence, between words and things. This essay stresses Redondo's determined critique of Don Quixote's madness, since it is Sancho, he claims, who normalizes the knight's sinrazón by conflating the bacín and the yelmo (483). While I believe this too strong an insistence on the don's deranged mental state, I am persuaded by Redondo's Foucauldian conclusion that the knight's propensity for changing names and naming changes simultaneously reflects and deflects seventeenth-century Spain's anxieties about the arbitrary nature of language.
Although at first I doubted whether the essay justified a separate section in the book (its replanteamiento fits easily under section three), Redondo convinced me of the baciyelmo episode's uncommon significance as an aventura de la palabra (483). The episode assuredly functions as a paradigm for the entire novel's concerns with the epochal philosophical rupture between the old and the new. And as I closed my reviewer's copy on this last essay, I remembered Marthe Robert. There are other names and other critical approaches not included in the essays; readers will find no allusions to psychoanalytical, narratological, or feminist analyses, and but slight mention of the Quixote's interest in New World matters. Rather than constituting a rejection of methodological
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difference, however, Redondo's cultural and historical mappings serve as indispensable points of reference for retaking and initiating other critical excursions. The collection focuses instead on the scholar's professed design to elucidate his own distinctly interdisciplinary approach. This Redondo does, y con brío. In effect, the book offers us much more than merely another reading. As a brilliant commentary on the cultural and literary formation of early modern Spain, it will long remain a requisite companion piece to Don Quixote.
|Anne J. Cruz|
|University of Illinois, Chicago|
|Fred Jehle email@example.com||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|