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Heroic Forms

Heroic Forms: Cervantes and the Literature of War

Series: Toronto Iberic
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Heroic Forms
    Book Description:

    Before he was a writer, Miguel de Cervantes was a soldier. Enlisting in the Spanish infantry in 1570, he fought at the battle of Lepanto, was seized at sea and held captive by Algerian corsairs, and returned to Spain with a deep knowledge of military life. He understood the costs of heroism, the fragility of fame, and the power of the military culture of brotherhood.

    InHeroic Forms, Stephen Rupp connects Cervantes's complex and inventive approach to literary genre and his many representations of early modern warfare. Examining Cervantes's plays and poetry as well as his prose, Rupp demonstrates how Cervantes's works express his perceptions of military life and how Cervantes interpreted the experience of war through the genres of the era: epic, tragedy, pastoral, romance, and picaresque fiction.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1950-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Note on Texts and Translations
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-30)

    A brief episode in the second part ofDon Quixote(II. 24) describes an encounter with a young page who has abandoned the court for a life of service in the king’s armies. Like a number of minor characters in Cervantes’s novel, the page draws attention by presenting an unusual appearance and by speaking of his life in terms mediated by popular art.¹ He carries a sword across his shoulder with a bundle tied to its end. His attire is in the style of the court – a short velvet jacket, silk hose, and square-toed shoes – but his clothing...

  6. 1 Warriors: Epic and Tragedy
    (pp. 31-62)

    An early modern author who chooses to reflect on the nature and rewards of a warrior’s ethos will turn in the first instance to epic, a genre that offers canonical texts on martial themes and informs critical thought on central issues in Renaissance literary theory. Classical epic commemorates exemplary acts of arms and, in the case of Vergil and his Roman successors, explores the intersection between the ethos of heroic poetry and the public sphere of politics and history.¹ Renaissance poetics places epic at the highest position in its hierarchy of genres and often frames its commentary on such questions...

  7. 2 Defenders: Pastoral and Satire
    (pp. 63-99)

    The difficult passwords that the army was using at this time were a minor source of danger. They were those tiresome double passwords in which one word has to be answered by another. Usually they were of an elevating and revolutionary nature, such asCultura – progreso, orSeremos – invencibles, and it was impossible to get illiterate sentries to remember these highfalutin’ words. One night, I remember, the password wasCataluña – eroica, and a moonfaced peasant lad named Jaime Domenech approached me, greatly puzzled, and asked me to explain.

    Eroica– what doeseroicamean?’

    I told him...

  8. 3 Captains and Saints: Lyric and Romance
    (pp. 100-148)

    Classical forms allow Cervantes to explore issues in infantry warfare and strategic command that were central to the wars that Spain waged to maintain its imperial patrimony in the Lowlands. Through the tragedy of the Roman general Cipión,La Numanciaexamines the limits imposed on epic heroism by the conditions of a campaign by siege and the constraints of military pragmatism. In combination with other historical kinds, Cervantine pastoral reveals the instability of the terms that define heroic values and the persistence of violence in settings conventionally associated with the lives of rural characters and peaceful retirement from a life...

  9. 4 Soldiers and Sinners: Picaresque
    (pp. 149-194)

    The captive’s tale is faithful to the conventional preference in romance for characters of high social standing. Ruy Pérez reports on his experience as a soldier and captive by recording the military commanders and important masters under whom he has served, and his beloved Zoraida is the daughter of a wealthy renegade who holds a prominent place in the society of Algiers. In the course of his military career he rises to the rank of captain in the infantry, and during his service in the Mediterranean he maintains contact with other officers who belong to the aristocracy. Don Pedro de...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 195-202)

    The canonical literature of war centres on grand designs. Homeric epic celebrates heroic figures from a remote past who demonstrate the moral and physical qualities of male excellence in close combat. The goal of the Homeric hero is to be the best among peers, an attainment that garners the fame that preserves men’s names against the force of time. The heroes are also founders of ruling houses, and their stories trace the lineage of families marked by warfare and its aftermath. The epic of battle and siege finds its counterpart in classical tragedy, with its focus on the difficulties of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 203-232)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 233-244)
  13. Index
    (pp. 245-252)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-254)