From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 12.1 (1992): 132-35.
Copyright © 1992, The Cervantes Society of America

James A. Parr, ed. On Cervantes: Essays for L. A. Murillo. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 1991. x + 305 pp.

     On Cervantes is a first-rate collection of critical studies, and as such it is a most fitting tribute to a man whose patient and thorough scholarship, generosity, and intellectual integrity have inspired so many colleagues and students. Like many other Festschriften, it is eclectic, imposing no particular thematic or critical-theoretical tendency. Rather, On Cervantes reflects the diverse interests of its seventeen contributors. James Parr is to be commended for bringing together these articles, and despite a few typographical problems (results, I suspect, of other computer programs having trouble talking to Juan de la Cuesta's computer), the overall quality of the book is admirable.
     While the diversity of critical approaches embodied in the seventeen essays makes it hard to give a single unifying characterization to the anthology,


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I find a noteworthy contrast between those articles that reflect more traditional approaches and others that judiciously employ the perspectives of more contemporary critical theory. In effect, On Cervantes brings together essays that exemplify solid and thorough erudition, and other studies that focus more on the imaginative act of reading. It is appropriate that Cervantes —the author whose most famous book contributed so much to the formation of the “modern reader” and to the concepts of self-reflexivity should inspire essays of practical criticism that utilize the insights of deconstruction and other post-modern critical concepts but that also acknowledge and avoid their excesses. Good examples of this latter would include the essay by James Parr, “Plato, Cervantes, Derrida: Framing Speaking and Writing in Don Quixote,” and also the articles by Edward Friedman and Michael McGaha.
     In addition to Parr's study, the other contributors and their articles are as follows: Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce (“El narrador y Sansón Carrasco”), Jean Canavaggio (“La conversión del rufián dichoso: fuentes y recreación”), Aurora Egido (“Los silencios del Persiles”), Alban Forcione (“Marcela and Grisóstomo and the Consummation of La Galatea”), Edward Friedman (“Reading Inscribed: Don Quixote and the Parameters of Fiction”), Carroll B. Johnson (“The Old Order Passeth, or Does It? Some Thoughts on Community, Commerce, and Alienation in Rinconete y Cortadillo”), Jacques Joset (“Autores traduttori traditori: Don Quijote y Cien años de soledad (II)”), Francisco Márquez Villanueva (“La tía fingida: literatura universitaria”), Michael McGaha (“Intertextuality as a Guide to the Interpretation of the Battle of the Sheep [Don Quixote, I, 18]”), Augustin Redondo (“Nuevo examen del episodio de los molinos de viento [Don Quijote, I, 8]”), Elias L. Rivers (“Genres and Voices in the Viaje del Parnaso”), Julio Rodríguez-Luis (“On Closure and Openendedness in the Two Quijotes”), Alberto Sánchez (“Don Quijote, rapsoda del romancero viejo”), Karl-Ludwig Selig (“Don Quixote I, 16 and the Ludic Spirit of the Text”), Alan S. Trueblood (“The puntualidades of Cide Hamete and the menudencias of Don Quixote”), and Eduardo Urbina (“‘Forse altri canterà . . .’: nuevos avatares del mito quijotesco en The Mosquito Coast [1982], Monsignor Quijote [1982] y Don Quixote [1986]”).
     As the above list indicates, Don Quijote gets the lion's share of the attention, with twelve of the seventeen essays treating aspects of this work. Cervantes' drama, the Viaje del Parnaso, the Persiles, and La Galatea receive one essay each. The Novelas ejemplares are dealt with by only two of the contributors. While this priority is hardly surprising, it is —at least from this reader's perspective— a bit disappointing, given that much critical attention has recently been turned to the other major works, notably the Persiles and the Novelas ejemplares. In any case, different readers will find their own favorites among these articles, for the most insightful, most imaginative, or most painstakingly researched; but the predominating impression with which one concludes a reading of the whole is the fully predictable one of renewed respect for the quality and originality of the intellectual questions and answers that Cervantes' writing can elicit.


     At the risk of seeming to imply a judgment of relative quality, I would like to mention two essays that particularly impressed me, in each case for very different reasons. First, Forcione's “Marcela and Grisóstomo and the Consummation of La Galatea” is noteworthy not only for its thorough erudition, imaginative reading, and lucid argument, but also for its illumination of the deeply integrated continuities in Cervantes' thought, as manifested in his recurrent explorations of the harmonies and disharmonies of the structures of literature (or the beliefs embodied in literary convention) as opposed to the realities of life. In articulating the complex relationship of continuity and consummation, between the Galatea and the Marcela/Grisóstomo episode of Don Quijote, Part I, Forcione finds a deeper issue. As he states near his conclusion, “The Marcela and Grisóstomo episode, then, allows the tensions that occasionally trouble Cervantes' erotic pastoral and reassert themselves most forcefully at its non-conclusion, to erupt and resolve themselves conclusively. With the death of Grisóstomo and the vanishing of Marcela, Cervantes has quite literally ended his rewritten Galatea and with it any possibility of erotic pastoral, clearly disclosing the fictive nature of the love and the object of love which animate it and the emptiness of the poetic tradition it honors” (61-2).
     While some may disagree with Forcione's conclusions, admittedly somewhat pessimistic, his approach strikes me as valid, in that it suggests the necessity of reading together, as it were, two texts clearly distinct in form, intention, and epoch, in order to understand adequately what the later text —and in fact, the more general Cervantine project— is trying to tell us.
     Carroll B. Johnson's essay, by contrast, confronts a familiar yet baffling text, Rinconete y Cortadillo. Continuing with a methodological approach previously applied to La española inglesa, Johnson goes beyond conventional and intrinsically “literary” approaches to this quasi-picaresque vignette, and instead considers the implications of the socio-economic context of the times. In the curiously static world of this text, the reader gropes for a Cervantine concern that transcends the string of sit-com interludes. Before this challenge, Johnson has chosen to explore the implications of social and economic organization reflected in the text. As he states most succinctly, “Monipodio and his group represent the feudo-monarchical social order enshrined in the majoritarian literary genres noted above; Rinconete and Cortadillo seem instead to have something to do with bourgeois capitalism and the picaresque” (92). His conclusion —that “Rinconete and Cortadillo are the representatives of the new order, destined not to flourish but to be crushed by the old” and that “Cervantes encodes a revolutionary ideological statement, a kind of lament for the bourgeois capitalism that was not to be, in the superficially humorous anatomy of a picaresque crime syndicate” (103)— may not convince all cervantistas, but his well-argued consideration of the historical context certainly justifies the notion that we should return to the Novelas ejemplares better armed with a knowledge of the socio-economic contexts of the worlds within which these texts were composed and with which their language is subtly and densely infused.

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     Johnson's essay, like Forcione's and so many of the others in On Cervantes, opens up a familiar work by opening our attention outward, by going beyond conventional approaches and familiarly “literary” perspectives. That the writings of Cervantes would inspire, in all these articles, such examples of broad, patient scholarship and of daring assertion and unexpected discoveries should surprise no one. That this fine anthology has come into being, meanwhile, is cause for gratitude and sincere appreciation. One must thank all involved —Professor Parr, all the contributors, Professor Murillo and of course Cervantes.

Denison University

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