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Cervantes' Epic Novel

Cervantes' Epic Novel: Empire, Religion, and the Dream Life of Heroes inPersiles

  • Book Info
    Cervantes' Epic Novel
    Book Description:

    This study sets out to help restorePersilesto pride of place within Cervantes?s corpus by reading it as the author?ssumma, as a boldly new kind of prose epic that casts an original light on the major political, religious, social, and literary debates of its era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8757-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Note on Editions, Translations, and Names
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction: Cervantes’ Epic Novel
    (pp. 3-32)

    Cervantes took up the epic gauntlet when he announced that his final major work,The Labours of Persiles and Sigismunda: A Northern Story(Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda: Historia setentrional), dared to compete with Heliodorus.¹ IfDon Quijotecasts its hero as a burlesque reader of chivalric literature, this tribute to the Hellenistic author ofThe Ethiopian Story of the Loves of Theagenes and Chariclea(Historia etiópica de los amores de Teágenes y Cariclea, henceforthThe Ethiopica) would appear to make Cervantes a straight-faced writer of the Greek adventure novel.Quijote’sparodic approach to romance has often been celebrated...

  6. 1 Europe as Barbaric New World
    (pp. 33-110)

    Tracing the Gothic princely heroes’ peril-fraught passage from a Barbaric Isle on the northwestern edge of Europe to Rome,Persiles sweepsits readers along on a journey with epic labours and delights that match those of the protagonists. The American resonances of the journey – the animal skins and bows and arrows, cultural alienation, conversions, the Babel of tongues, racial mixing, island-hopping followed by mainland-trekking, corsairs, slavery, captivity, shipwreck, ideal commonwealths, and references to barbarism – have struck many readers. And yet the novel turns such associations on their head by projecting that marvellous world of adventure and rapacity, of grace and disgrace,...

  7. 2 Christian Spirituality: The Law of Love
    (pp. 111-166)

    A prose epic that rivals Heliodorus’sEthiopicaovertly and Vergil’sAeneidby association could only be expected to feature pious heroes. Any scruples about the decidedly pagan spirituality in Heliodorus’s novel did not keep Christian moralists from championing it over chivalric and even pastoral fictions as a superior model for profane literature in the sixteenth century.¹ Chaste protagonists and a firm commitment to verisimilitude made it the darling of critics, who might agree about nothing more than the danger to public order of chivalric and pastoral fictions they saw as incitements to lust and indulgers of lies. And if the...

  8. 3 Epic Recast: The Dream Life of the New Hero
    (pp. 167-204)

    A hero moved principally by or for love would raise no eyebrows in novelistic romance or indeed the modern realistic novel in its guises of courtship (Pamela, Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch) or adultery (Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, La Regenta) narratives. Students of medieval epic and romance have conventionally associated Carolingian epic (chansons de gestesuch as theChanson de Roland) with war, Arthurian verse and prose romances (including the learned Italian tradition of the chivalric epic orromanzo) with courtly love and adventures.¹ Yet in classical and chivalric epic there is a pronounced tension between heroic and erotic values, and...

  9. 4 Christian Politics: Church and State
    (pp. 205-290)

    Persiles’response to the epic themes of empire, religion, and love is not exhausted by its original, paradoxical reworking of the discourse of barbarism, by its sly affirmation of Pauline spiritual values, or by its celebration of the heroic possibilities of erotic love. Many of its episodes face head on the institutional realities of Church and monarchy, often implicitly calling into question southern European ecclesiastical or Crown practice by the light of professed ideals. In centring the novel on princely protagonists, Cervantes is partly giving us in their trials a picture of the ritual initiation and education of princes, the...

  10. Epilogue: Cervantes’ Human and Divine Comedy
    (pp. 291-305)

    Now that we have concluded our own epic journey toPersiles’Rome, what might we say about Cervantes’? A novelistic Rome to which all roads lead but where official truths are honoured mainly in the breach discourages definitive conclusions. It may be inevitable that the traveller ofPersiles’highways and byways should be left with an acute sense of roads not taken. In that spirit I glance briefly both backward and forward, to suggest howPersilesmight be situated in other biographical, historical, and literary narratives I will only try to sketch here.

    Cervantes launches his prose epic with a...

  11. Appendix: Composition Dates of Persiles
    (pp. 306-308)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 309-360)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 361-380)
  14. Index
    (pp. 381-406)