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Conscience on Stage

Conscience on Stage: The Comedia as Casuistry in Early Modern Spain

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Conscience on Stage
    Book Description:

    This study outlines and reiterates the relationship of theatre to casuistry, the Jesuit contributions to Spanish literary theory and practice, and the importance of casuistry for the study of early modern subjectivity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8421-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: The Rise of Casuistry in Spain, the Flowering of Jesuit School Drama, and the Jesuit Education of Spanish Playwrights
    (pp. 3-37)

    The early modern Spanishcomediaas a genre has proven notoriously difficult to explain fully. Since Lope de Vega first published hisArte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempoin the early seventeenth century, scholars and critics have been trying to generate a more or less complete history and poetics of the genre.¹ Scholars writing within such diverse critical frameworks as New Criticism, psychoanalysis, feminism, Marxism, and New Historicism have all attempted to answer certain fundamental questions: What was the artistic process by means of which thecomediaswere generated, especially in such astonishing numbers? With playwrights such as...

  5. 1 The Vocabulary of Casuistry
    (pp. 38-63)

    How does the Jesuit background of Spanish playwrights, amply demonstrated above, carry over into their works? Early modern Spanishcomediasare permeated by the linguistic register of casuistry, but we must be attuned to this linguistic register in order to hear it. Unfortunately, this vocabulary is largely unfamiliar to audiences of the twenty-first century. The language of casuistry is a highly specific (even technical) vocabulary that, today, may seem utterly foreign to all but the most theologically inclined reader. It was not always so: early modern audiences were well versed in casuistry by virtue of their private experiences of receiving...

  6. 2 ‘¿Qué he de hacer?’ / ‘What should I do?’
    (pp. 64-107)

    The most common pivotal question, or ‘catch phrase,’ signalling to the audience that casuistry underlies any given speech or interchange in thecomediais the oft-repeated ‘¿Qué he de hacer?’ (What should I do?). This question echoes the query of penitents seeking advice from a priest in the confessional and sets the wheels in motion for the casuistical reasoning process to begin. The temporal orientation of this question towards future action signals another important feature of casuistry – namely, that it can be simultaneously both prospective as well as retrospective. Richard B. Miller explains this apparent paradox of casuistical temporality:...

  7. 3 Asking for Advice: Class, Gender, and the Supernatural
    (pp. 108-142)

    The idea of thetraceis not exclusive to the thought of Jacques Derrida. It is perhaps in the ethical work of Emmanuel Levinas that the concept of trace bears the closest relation to casuistry. Writing in the field of Holocaust studies, Levinas emphasizes our ethical responsibility to the Other even though we can never truly know that other human being. In his essay ‘The Trace of the Other,’ Levinas definestracenegatively at first: ‘The trace is not a sign like any other. But every trace also plays the role of a sign.’¹ He further explains: ‘A trace in...

  8. 4 Constructions of Conscience
    (pp. 143-179)

    A crucial part of casuistry is the examination of conscience to determine motives, intentions, desires, and even thoughts concerning the resolution of moral dilemmas. As we noted in the introduction, Saint Ignatius in hisEjercicios espirituales(Spiritual Exercises) had recommended extensive examinations of conscience.¹ The words ‘conscience’ and ‘casuistry’ are frequently uttered in the same breath by scholars in the field, as for example in the title of Edmund Leites’s valuable essay collectionConscience and Casuistry in Early Modern Europe. But conscience is a slippery word to get a handle on. What is it? Where is it located? How does...

  9. 5 Casuistry and Theory
    (pp. 180-202)

    The passages cited in the preceding chapter are merely the best examples culled from roughly four hundred references to conscience in thecomedias. This is the stuff of genealogy: the specific, the minuscule, the tiniest little nuance can add to our understanding of a complex concept that demands explication. Paul Ricoeur has utilized a similar methodology inThe Symbolism of Evilto write what purports to be a ‘history of types of guilt.’¹ What conclusions can we draw from such a wealth of detail?

    The quoted passages reveal a fascination – an obsession, even – with conscience as an entity...

  10. Appendix Chart of Relevant Plays: Comedias Containing Variations of the Phrase ‘¿Qué he de hacer?’
    (pp. 203-206)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 207-242)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-274)
  13. Index
    (pp. 275-299)