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Rhetoric and Politics: Baltasar Gracián and the New World Order

Series: Hispanic Issues
Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Rhetoric and Politics
    Book Description:

    Wide-ranging in focus, these essays demonstrate that the work of seventeenth-century Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián offers insights into the deployment of rhetoric under the “New World Order.” “Rhetoric and Politics will do much to stimulate a renewed interest in Gracián and in the originality of Spanish culture.” David William Foster, Arizona State University. Contributors: Luis F. Avilés, Anthony J. Cascardi, David Castillo, Jorge Checa, William Egginton, Alban K. Forcione, Edward H. Friedman, Carlos Hernández-Sacristán, Isabel C. Livosky, Michael Nerlich, Oscar Pereira, Malcolm K. Read, and Francisco J. Sánchez.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8791-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction The Practice of Worldly Wisdom: Rereading Gracián from the New World Order
    (pp. ix-xxxii)
    Nicholas Spadaccini and Jenaro Talens

    In recent years a good deal of cultural and literary theory has responded to the question asking how relations of power are part of a dynamic process that exceeds its negative attributes when it is seen only within the seemingly oppressive domain of the “state.” Some of Michel Foucault’s thoughts on this issue have become common currency, especially the assertion that power “doesn’tonly weigh on us as a force that says no, but... it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse. It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social...

  4. Part I. The Politics of Modernity

    • Chapter 1 At the Threshold of Modernity: Gracián’s El Criticón
      (pp. 3-70)
      Alban K. Forcione

      Like other notable literary works of the early modern period—Montaigne’sEssays,Cervantes’sDon Quixote,and Milton’sParadise Lost—Gracián’sCriticónis interesting not only for its innovative,in some cases one might say revolutionary, features, but also fori ts articulate dialogue with the traditional modes of conceptualizing and ordering human experience that the orthodox theology, philosophy, political and literary theory, and, of course, literature itself were continuing to affirm. To recall the insights and formulations of Hans Blumenberg’s suggestive study of the origins and legitimacy of modernity, one might say that the most interesting features of these works lie in...

    • Chapter 2 On Power, Image, and Gracián’s Prototype
      (pp. 71-88)
      Isabel C. Livosky

      Gracián’s prescription for success in a world he characterizes as being in constant struggle is based on concealment, disguise, and opportunism. In the first “primor” of his first prescriptive treatise,The Hero(1637), the injunction to the candidate for greatness is “All should know you, nobody should encompass you; with this rule, a little will seem a lot” (8).¹ InThe Politician(1640) he states, “Astuteness has its own way of founding [empires], always availing itself of chance,” (41)² which is later corroborated inThe Oracle(1647): “288. The direction of affairs, discourse, everything, must be appropriate to the occasion....

  5. Part II. Subjectivities

    • Chapter 3 Saving Appearances: Language and Commodificationin Baltasar Gracián
      (pp. 91-124)
      Malcolm K. Read

      If confirmation is required that reading and interpreting an author are activities that presuppose committed interests and social pressures, then it is surely provided by the spectrum of different critical “approaches” to Gracián, from those that recuperate the Jesuit for Spain and Morality, to those that legitimize only his secularism. We will understand more about such critical conflict when we have learned to relate it to the broader process by which society channels literature. Provisionally, we will suggest that a classically “liberal” education, at the tertiary level, aimed to cultivate a higher subjectivity, to inculcate degrees of (aesthetic) sensitivity considered...

    • Chapter 4 Surviving in the Field of Vision: The Building of a Subject in Gracian’s El Criticón
      (pp. 125-150)
      Luis F. Avilés

      It would not be difficult to demonstrate that Baltasar Gracian conceived the first half of the seventeenth century as a conflictive and perilous time for Spain. It was a time when the empire’s grandeur was falling apart, when cultural unity was being contested along all fronts (Catalonia and Portugal being the most representative), and when military and maritime superiority was definitely on a downward spiral against the French, Dutch, and British. For the Aragonese author, reality was defined as chaos and crisis.¹ Whenever these conceptions of reality are dominant in a particular culture, there arises a need to articulate new...

    • Chapter 5 Gracián and the Emergence of the Modern Subject
      (pp. 151-169)
      William Egginton

      In the current discussions concerning the emergence of the modern subject, philosophers, historians, thinkers, and researchers from all disciplines have agreed that something happened around and during the seventeenth century that fundamentally changed European mentality, ushering in what many have chosen to call modernity. Michel Foucault, in the preface toThe Order of Things,speaks of the two great discontinuities in the episteme of western thought, the first occurring around the middle of the seventeenth century and announcing what he terms the classical, as opposed to the modern, episteme, but which in all other aspects points to the same concept...

    • Chapter 6 Gracián and the Ciphers of the World
      (pp. 170-188)
      Jorge Checa

      Shortly before they arrive at the Island of Immortality, Critilo and Andrenio contemplate the Wheel of Time from one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Led by the Cortesano, their last guide, both protagonists ofEl criticónthen receive what can be considered the culminating vision of their worldly pilgrimage, insofar as the Wheel provides them with a higher degree of wisdom than they have obtained up to this moment. The image not only grants Critilo and Andrenio the possibility of transcending the immediate appearances of reality (as happened in other educational stages); it also raises such intellectual knowledge to...

  6. Part III. Representations

    • Chapter 7 Gracián and the Art of Public Representation
      (pp. 191-208)
      David Castillo

      In this study I seek to examine how Gracián’s texts inform the redefinition ofpublic—public persona, public space, public ostentation—that was taking place in early modern Europe. The essay is structured into three sections: the first explains Gracian’s understanding of art and writing as avenues for the public representation of eminent men against the background constituted by the fundamental changes operating in the social function of art in early modernity; the second sets forth a succinct exposition of Gracián’s techniques for mastering the supreme art of public ostentation; while the third section reflects upon Gracián’s conceptions of knowledge...

    • Chapter 8 Symbolic Wealth and Theatricality in Gracián
      (pp. 209-229)
      Francisco J. Sánchez

      Within the society of the court and among the aristocratic-bourgeois groups of seventeenth-century Spain, there arises a concern for the role and place that literature and writing have in politics. In this context, I first analyze the notion ofcaudalas symbolic wealth, a notion that brings to light the close relationship that Gracián establishes betweenprudenciaandagudeza(prudence and wit). His description of an essentially strategic conception of social performance also has, in my view, aesthetic implications. Courtly society becomes a theatrical stage for the public display of economic and cultural attributes of the subject.

      On the one...

    • Chapter 9 Gracián and the Scopic Regimes of Modernity
      (pp. 230-254)
      Osar Pereira

      It seems that in academic circles, iconoclastic attitudes are on the rise. In a recently published article, D. M. Levin goes so far as to state that a change has taken place in our cultural paradigm, “from the normativity of) seeing to (the normativity of) listening” (3). Some years earlier, Martin Jay already had noted that the iconoclastic tendencies present in Wagner, Nietzsche, and Heidegger are renewed and strengthened in the work of Richard Rorty, as well as by the acceptance of hermeneutics favored in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s work (Jay, “Hermeneutics” 309). In his latest book,Downcast Eyes,Jay has noted...

    • Chapter 10 Gracián and the Authority of Taste
      (pp. 255-284)
      Anthony J. Cascardi

      In the opening chapter ofTruth and Method(1960), Hans-Georg Gadamer described the work of Gracián as standing at the very beginning of the modern discourse on aesthetics, which concerns itself primarily with the question of taste.¹ Typically, the problem of taste in its modern form has been understood in the following more or less Kantian terms: if knowledge involves establishing a relationship between the objects of cognition and the categories of reason we bring to bear on them, then how can we validate the claims we customarily make about beauty and sublimity, which are based on feelings of pleasure...

  7. Part IV. The Politics of Everyday Life

    • Chapter 11 The Art of Worldly Wisdom as an Ethics of Conversation
      (pp. 287-304)
      Carlos Hernández-Sacristan

      In this essay I aim to show how Gracián’sOráculo manual y arte de prudenciacan be read in the light of a sociology of everyday life, such as that developed by Erving Goffman and his followers.¹ This is not, of course, to say that the conceptual world of Gracian’s work is comparable to that of Goffman’s. Nevertheless, they do address the same objective, as both of them analyze the social encounter from the point of view of the subject involved in it. This shared objective also leads to several other common issues: what kind of practical knowledge guides our...

    • Chapter 12 Gracián in the Death Cell
      (pp. 305-354)
      Micheal Nerlich

      Sebastian Neumeister has recently pointed out that if German Gracián scholarship is particularly solid it is because of Werner Krauss and Hugo Friedrich. Of Krauss he says the following: “In 1943 he was to write the first monograph on Gracián after Borinski.... He [Krauss] understands Gracián as a court psychologist, with a humanistic culture but at the same time as very modern in his pragmatic philosophy. Krauss’s book... is among the best studies of Gracián’s work” (121–125, 123). The importance that Neumeister grants to Werner Krauss for the further development of Gracián scholarship in Germany is surprising. For while...

  8. Afterword Constructing Gracián
    (pp. 355-372)
    Edward H. Friedman

    Perhaps the most accurate adjective for Baltasar Gracián isdifficult.Gracián belongs to a literary school that relishes obscurity for its own sake. Uniting concept and conceit, he challenges the analytical and rhetorical skills—the astuteness, the wit—of his readers. The rhetoric ofconceptismois hardly an empty rhetoric. Discursive play is linked to social, political, and theological issues. If the words of Gracián’s texts are often puzzles to be solved, the solution does not lie solely in decoding but in complex recodings messages. The author is an exemplary exponent of thears combinatoria.Practical guides or manuals become...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 373-376)
  10. Index
    (pp. 377-394)