From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
8 special issue (1988): 1-5.
Copyright © 1988, The Cervantes Society of America
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AS THE QUADRICENTENNIAL of the publication
of La Galatea (1585) approached, the
Cervantes Society of America, though still
a newcomer on the scholarly scene, decided the time was ripe for contributing
through a symposium to the deeper and broader understanding of Cervantes
and his works which its founders had envisaged in the Society's
constitution of 1979. The resultant
Celebration of Cervantes on the Fourth Centenary of La Galatea,
1585-1985 was held on October 25-26, 1985 at the Library of Congress
in Washington. The Society is grateful for the active collaboration on that
occasion of the Library through its distinguished Librarian, Daniel J. Boorstin,
and in particular through the cooperation of the Library's Hispanic Division
and its Chief, Sara Castro-Klarén. We likewise acknowledge with
appreciation the sponsorship of the Embassy of Spain, the Programa de
Cooperación Cultural, the Real Academia de la Lengua, Duke University,
Georgetown University, and the Johns Hopkins University.
Though La Galatea had enjoyed a modest succès d'estime when it appeared, a chief distinction of the pastoral romance in the eyes of posterity lay in its foreshadowings of the art of Don Quixote. It seemed appropriate, therefore, not only to examine La Galatea in its own right but to take the opportunity the occasion offered for examining other works of Cervantes in the light of their nearly four centuries of afterlife. What follows is a sampling of the papers presented on that occasion. The Society regrets that for technical reasons it was not possible to reproduce those dealing directly with others arts than the verbal, most especially Cervantes' Sensitivity to the Music of His Epoch: Dances, Songs, Instruments by Professor Robert M. Stevenson of the University of California at Los Angeles. Several papers in
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the present selection do touch, however, on the relation between pictorial
art and Cervantes' verbal mastery in Don Quixote.
The first three papers, which reexamine the circumstances of the publication of La Galatea, its distinctiveness within the tradition of the pastoral, and the artistic principles on which it is built, exemplify the fruitfulness of the reassessment of this early work prompted by the quadricentennial. In La Galatea: the Novelistic Crucible, Juan-Bautista Avalle-Arce's unrivaled understanding of both Cervantes and the pastoral mode in Spain leaves us in no doubt that the trailblazing originality of Cervantes' art characterizes it from the outset. Both Professor Avalle-Arce and Elizabeth Rhodes in La Galatea and Cervantes' Tercia Realidad see the work as marking a stage of gestation in Cervantes' career. For Professor Rhodes the broad pendular swings between extremes of history and poetry in both the inner and the outer lives of the characters, which contribute to the unusual dynamism of La Galatea, do not as yet allow for that settling at a mid-point which will later individualize the inhabitants of Cervantes' fictional worlds. On the other hands, the thematic reading of Robert M. Johnston in Cervantes' La Galatea: Structural Unity and the Pastoral Convention, finds La Galatea a fully achieved work in consequence of the exemplary pattern of moral development present throughout. This is possible, he tells us, because, exceptionally for the pastoral, we are here in a postlapsarian world and the whole work is built upon a reconciliation of opposites.
Though, as the reader will find, different perspectives in these studies bring views in some respects at variance with one another, the total result of these penetrating inquiries is to shed new light into recesses of the surprisingly complex cosmos of Cervantes' earliest work.
Coming to Don Quixote, which was a subject of two sessions on Cervantes in European culture, we find three papers which view the work in historical contexts those of its age or of our own. A fourth paper approaches the masterpiece as a test case for the efficacy of current theories of narrative fiction.
Professor Antonio Vilanova of the University of Barcelona applies his expertise as a student of Erasmus to Erasmo, Sancho Panza y su amigo Don Quijote. The result is an illumination of the twilight zones separating different gradations of Erasmus' Folly. It provides further evidence of the formative rôle of Erasmism in Cervantes' world-view.
Dealing, in Metamorphosis and Don Quixote, with what he calls
the Third Part of the novel the critical corpus which has
accumulated about it over the centuries Randolph D. Pope offers a
challenging lesson in the historical relativism of all literary criticism.
His focus is the widely influential reading of Salvador de Madariaga dating
from the 1920s, the misreading which he sees as underlying it, the unconscious
revaluation subsequent criticism has made of Madariaga's basic premise, and
the need for a new critical understanding more in accord with the common
temper of Cervantes' age and our own.
In Don Quixote: from Text to Icon Edward C. Riley surveys a profusion of visual material lying scattered about today's world of mass media, Madison Avenue (and its British equivalent), and Star Wars (as yet fought only in fiction, fortunately) material which had been begging for a critic skilled and sharp-eyed enough to see its interconnections and grasp its import. One could not ask for a more lively one is tempted to say Cervantine demonstration of the capacity of Don Quixote and Sancho to keep in step with evolving mass culture, a process to which there is happily no end in sight. While Professor Riley candidly acknowledges his perplexity as to precisely what happens at the interchange of verbal and visual codes, he takes us a long way toward an answer.
In The Archeology of Fiction in Don Quixote Inés Azar seizes the superior opportunity provided by the Quixote for inquiring into the nature of all literary fiction. Long before modern theoreticians of language, she tells us, Cervantes demonstrated, through Don Quixote, that truth lies not in objects but in language, the truth of literature being therefore a truth of language. Moreover, literature is the persistent subject of the Quixote: the work is a fiction about fiction. Within it Don Quixote is the archeologist who would reimpose his resurrected chivalry by virtue of speaking its extinct, hence solipsistic language which ipso facto dooms him to isolation and failure.
We rediscover the quintessential comic genius of Cervantes with Javier Herrero's only seemingly enigmatic query apropos of the interlude El viejo celoso: Did Cervantes Feel Calixto's Toothache (La Celestina, Act IV)? Perfectly demonstrated in this piece of scrupulous sleuthing is the capacity of exacting philological inquiry to unravel a whole train of meaning. Even in the written version of the inquiry, the light touch with which it was delivered remains perfectly attuned to the amusing nature of the subject. One might mention here an additional straw in the wind which turned up in the discussion
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that followed the paper: the wily Sansón Carrasco's mischievous
instruction to Don Quixote's housekeeper to say a prayer for him to St. Apollonia
and the housekeeper's uncomprehending rejoinder that her master's ailment
is not in his teeth but in his brain (II, 7).
The two papers which concluded the sessions examined pictorial analogues or metaphors as keys to the understanding of Cervantes' broader meanings. In Cervantes, the Painter of Thoughts, Helena Percas de Ponseti, by looking into hints dropped by Cervantes and applying iconographical and chromatic symbolism, elaborates a view of Cervantes' art of poetic-pictorial composition as a transcending of the Aristotelian literary canon of his age and an anticipation of twentieth-century schools of painting. In demonstrating her thesis she offers innovative readings of a series of episodes of the Quixote of 1615.
Marisa Álvarez, in Emblematic Aspects of Cervantes' Narrative Prose, reexamines certain episodes of the Quixote in the light shed on them by contemporaneous emblem literature. She discovers in specific emblems clues to the moral or esthetic implications of Don Quixote's actions. Like Professor Percas de Ponseti and Professor Riley, she finds verbal and visual registers to be inextricably interwoven in Cervantes' art. Are there perhaps indications of a critical trend in the fact that Professor Pope also addresses the relevance of the visual-pictorial sphere to the understanding of Cervantes' novelistic art?
While the papers we are publishing convey well the essence of the Symposium, the written word is powerless to reproduce the atmosphere surrounding them. They proved unusually effective in setting listeners' ideas in motion and stimulating lively, occasionally heated, and sometimes hilarious exchanges. Over the flowing bowls at the receptions hospitably offered by the Library the discussions continued, converting the occasion into a Symposium in the full sense of the word.
The meetings marked the opening of an extraordinarily rich exhibition built around the Library's holdings of Cervantes' works, including first editions of almost every one. (The Librarian apologized for having had to borrow a first edition of La Galatea!) Literature of Cervantes' day, beginning with romances of chivalry; translations; versions of Don Quixote for the performing arts; pictorial representations were only a few of the areas covered. (In mounting this memorable display from its own holdings, the Library had the able assistance of Professors E. Michael Gerli and Harry Sieber.)
In his remarks at the opening of the exhibition, The Librarian of Congress observed that in his case the Celebration had already achieved one of its aims: it had sent him back to the Quixote. We hope that the exhibition, which remained on display for six months, had a similar effect on many others. Though the Cervantes Society has no need to proselytize, it sees no harm in engaging from time to time in a bit of preaching to the unaware, the unconverted, or those who somehow have managed to forget the unforgettable.
||Prepared with the help of Myrna Douglas||
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