Celestina and the Ends of Desire

Celestina and the Ends of Desire

E. MICHAEL GERLI
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tts1f
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  • Book Info
    Celestina and the Ends of Desire
    Book Description:

    In'Celestina' and the Ends of Desire, E. Michael Gerli illustrates how Fernando de Rojas' 1499 novel straddles the medieval and the modern in its exploration of changing categories of human desire - from the European courtly love tradition to the interpretation of want as an insatiable, destructive force.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9428-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Citations and Translations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    This is a book about one of the most popular books of early modern Europe, Fernando de Rojas’sTragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, which has been commonly referred to asCelestina, the name of its chief female protagonist, since shortly after its initial publication at Burgos in 1499.Celestinathe book, like the character whose name it ultimately adopted, traffics in desire, and when it was first published offered new, remarkable representations and expressions of it to an avid reading public more accustomed to witnessing desire’s exaltation, interdiction, censure, or repression.

    The present work argues that, while the control and...

  7. 1 The Chain of Desire: Linking Language and Longing in Celestina
    (pp. 13-36)

    Celestina, the name commonly given to theComedia(subsequentlyTragicomedia)de Calisto y Melibea, is one of the most remarkable works produced at the close of the fifteenth century in Iberia. A text composed initially of sixteen ‘acts’ written entirely in dialogue, its earliest known edition (Burgos, 1499) was published anonymously. By the publication of the 1502 edition, however, five more acts were added, along with a prefatory ‘letter from the writer to a friend’ and an acrostic verse identifying an author. Although uncertainty still clouds the identity of the individual who composed the original act 1, the remaining acts...

  8. 2 Celestina, Mistress of Desire
    (pp. 37-63)

    When as a student at the University of Salamanca Fernando de Rojas took up his pen to complete the anonymous manuscript that would become act 1 ofCelestina, he noted that the latter was something confected by one of the most ‘doctos varones castellanos’ (6) [brightest intelligences of learned Castilian gentlemen] comparing it to a weapon of the strongest steel, which stood out for its ‘primor, su fuerte y claro metal, su modo y manera de lavor, su estilo elegante, jamás en nuestra castellana lengua visto ni oýdo’ (6) [its newness, its subtle artifice, its strong and bright metal, its...

  9. 3 Calisto’s Hunt: The Pursuit of Carnal Knowledge
    (pp. 64-97)

    In the Book of Genesis (2:9) the Tree of Knowledge, located in the Garden of Eden, and from which God forbade Adam and Eve to eat, is directly implicated in carnality and in the distinction between Good and Evil. Violation of God’s prohibition to eat the Tree’s fruit led to humanity’s Fall from Grace. As a result, Adam and Eve ‘knew’ each other, saw their nakedness (Gen. 3:6–7), understood shame, and were cast out of the Garden of Eden into the mortal, fallen world, where they were forced to live a life of physical pain and survive by the...

  10. 4 Yearning to Look: Desire and the Pleasure of the Gaze
    (pp. 98-121)

    Calisto’s very first words inCelestina, ‘En esto veo, Melibea, la grandeza de Dios’ (24) [In this, Melibea, I see God’s greatness], mark the critical importance played by both vision and the gaze in the development of the action and the characters in the work. From its starting point, the plot emerges from the possibilities and the frustrations of seeing. Using Calisto’s invocation of sight as their point of departure, three studies have underscored the prominence of this faculty as a constitutive element of all the characters. Emilio Blanco (1993) has stressed the pervasiveness of metaphors dealing with sight and...

  11. 5 Complicitous Laughter: The Sounds of Desire
    (pp. 122-137)

    Celestina, as Dorothy Severin (1978–9; 1989, 63–80), Louise Fothergill-Payne (1993), and María Eugenia Lacarra (1990) have shown, is a work fully capable of making us laugh. Yet it is also one of the few works, indeed perhaps the first work, of early Spanish literature where the sounds of laughter, plus the act of laughing, are audibly, visibly, and prominently recorded in the text. At certain critical moments, laughter inCelestinais far from trifling. Indeed, it becomes a meaningful act of signification, a referent of discourse and concealed desire, which performs both a decisive communicative task and a...

  12. 6 Melibea Speaks: Language and Feminine Desire
    (pp. 138-163)

    The medieval literature of courtly love generally falls silent when it comes to expressing feminine desire. In the late Middle Ages, courtly love as represented in literature consisted of an unrequited male passion and a concomitant devotion to a woman that exhibited various distinctive features. Among those features are an inverted gender hierarchy where the male lover suffered physically from lovesickness, wounding, or other corporal ailments, all of which led to melancholy depression, characterized by spiritual pain, despair, and a sense of impotence; the claim that the fetishized, desired, and incomparably beautiful body of the beloved provided the key to...

  13. 7 The Desire to Belong and the Body Politic
    (pp. 164-183)

    According to Karl Marx, the body, like the world, God, and commodity, ‘abounds in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties’ (Marx 1976,163). At the threshold of modernity, the body began to be conceived as something that could be autonomous, self-moving, and conscious of itself, and as a new medium for experiencing the world. An awareness of human corporality began to be imagined as a given reality that could be offered or witheld in every action. It began to be seen explicitly as a vehicle of volition and pleasure, and therefore as an instrument of desire. In this way, the body became...

  14. 8 Precincts of Contention: Locating Desire and Ideology in Celestina
    (pp. 184-198)

    Subjectivity is a category of thought that is accountable for the way people define themselves, are perceived by others, and are affected by the things around them. Within the notion of subjectivity, people are conceived as thinking beings who disclose a presence through continuous action and change. Their emotions, feelings, and intentions, as well as their perceptions and ideas, undergo continuous transformation. Although tied to a body but distinct from it, human subjectivity always locates itself in physical space. The world is divided between subject and object, body and mind, and space is conceived of as a location where body...

  15. 9 Pleberio and the Ends of Desire
    (pp. 199-222)

    The final act ofCelestinais one of the most disquieting and controversial scenes in all of Spanish, indeed all of early modern European, literature. It is Pleberio’s soliloquy spoken before the lifeless bodies of his wife, Alisa, and his suicide daughter Melibea. Superficially, the scene rehearses a long-established tradition of medieval sacred and profane texts, but especially texts from the dramatic and elegiac traditions. Yet in its poignant intensity and the intellectual postulates that sustain it, act 21 ofCelestinarepresents both the culmination and the dissolution of these traditional elements since in it the consolatory oration, orplanctus,...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 223-234)
  17. Works Cited
    (pp. 235-252)
  18. Index
    (pp. 253-258)