From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 12.1 (1992): 139-40.
Copyright © 1992, The Cervantes Society of America

Urbina, Eduardo. Principios y fines del Quijote. Potomac, Maryland: Scripta Humanistica, 1990. 199 pp.

     In this ambitious project, Urbina undertakes the daunting task of exploring the interrelationships among irony, the grotesque, and parody in Don Quijote. (As the author acknowledges, he builds upon various articles he had previously published; only occasionally do brusque transitions reveal the hidden seams between old and new.) He divides the study into three substantial chapters. In the first, “La ironía medieval y el Quijote,” he examines past scholarship on irony in Cervantes and arrives at a working definition of the term. Then, he argues convincingly that we as critics must consider the crucial links between Arthurian romances, especially those by Chrétien de Troyes, and the Quijote in order to appreciate the parodic nature of the text. He also considers the role that Cervantine criticism, especially that devoted to proving “Cervantes's originality,” has played in propagating inattention to the relationship between the Quijote and the medieval romance tradition. After establishing this foundation, he proceeds to analyze five categories of irony based on the model proposed by D. H. Green: thematic irony, verbal irony, narrative irony, dramatic irony and structural irony.
     The second chapter, “Admiración y risa,” first attempts to define the grotesque, and then examines its relationship with “admiratio”. The final subsection, “De lo maravilloso a lo grotesco” employs the analysis of giants and dwarfs to elucidate the conflict “entre las necesidades de la parodia de crear un personaje burlesco y el deseo de escribir una historia verosímil y alegre” (109).
     “Parodia y creación,” the last chapter of the text, again begins with a consideration of the term “parodia” itself. In addition, the author reflects upon critical resistance to the classification of the Quijote as a parody. He astutely argues that to deem the work a parody by no means diminishes it; instead, it adds yet another dimension to our understanding. After examining “Sancho Panza, escudero sin par,” he turns his attention to “Don Quijote como puer senex.” The rather abrupt closing section of the work dealing with the use of “la aventura guardada” culminates in the conclusion that “La empresa exclusivamente guardada de la creación del Quijote se ha convertido en la aventura colectiva de recrear e interpretar . . . el mito de don Quijote. . . .  [N]os atrevemos a creer que para nosotros todos la aventura está guardada” (177).
     As the preceding outline demonstrates, the work has many strengths. Nonetheless, it seems necessary to mention a few troubling elements. At times, despite conscientious efforts to clarify the use of terminology, the wording becomes imprecise. For instance, in the introduction, the author refers to “los tres modos narrativos estudiados: la ironía, lo grotesco y la parodia [emphasis mine].” Although the discussion focuses on narrative, these cannot be considered inherently narrative modes; moreover, the phrase


140 AMY R. WILLIAMSEN Cervantes

seems to imply a certain parallel among all three which does not exist. The subsequent clarification that irony “representa la posibilidad de crear una narración de doble significado . . .”, while the grotesque “representa la posibilidad de crear una narración ambivalente . . .” and parody “representa la posibilidad de crear una narración de carácter paradójico” proves less than illuminating. In certain instances, the text favors enumeration in lieu of analysis, as in the discussion of “litotes” in the section on verbal irony: “Los litotes constituyen un tipo de lenguaje atenuante particularmente apropiado para la expresión de la ironía. Ocurren con relativa frecuencia a través de las dos Partes y su análisis se presta mejor a la enumeración que al comentario” (58). Nonetheless, the following list, two paragraphs long, could have been strengthened through the addition of commentary. Another possible source of bewilderment is the continual reference to “the narrator” of the Quijote. Although the author acknowledges the existence of various narrative voices, he usually does not specify to which one he refers. Since the conflict between narrative levels is a significant source of irony (and an element of parody, as Urbina himself indicates), it seems that the unquestioning use of the generic term, “narrador,” might obscure, rather than illuminate, key instances of irony.
     In general, this extremely well-documented work demonstrates an impressive command of the relevant literature. For this reason, a few bibliographic omissions seem puzzling. The analysis often refers to the distance between the author, the narrator, and the characters, yet Ruth El Saffar's seminal work, Distance and Control in Don Quixote (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1975), is never mentioned, not even in the bibliography. Similarly, it would seem that Leland Chambers' standard article, “Irony in the Final Chapter of Don Quijote” (Romanic Review 61 [1970]: 14-22), should be cited, in that it would offer further support for the author's arguments.
     Despite these minimal shortcomings and a very few typographical errors, the text represents a valuable contribution to the ever-growing body of Cervantine scholarship. Undoubtedly, it will provoke welcome debates for years to come.

University of Arizona

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