Cervantes, Aristotle, and the "Persiles"

Cervantes, Aristotle, and the "Persiles"

Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 376
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    Cervantes, Aristotle, and the "Persiles"
    Book Description:

    Any student of Cervantes' literary production must at some point take into account the theories that inspired the plan and creation ofLos Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismundafor, of all Cervantes' works, it is the one most directly related to the author's awareness of literary theory.

    This volume, in attempting to clarify thePersiles, traces the major influences reflected in the Renaissance literary theories which inspired it, examines Cervantes' ambivalent attitude toward those theories as revealed in his works, and provides a close examination of the structure of thePersiles.

    Originally published in 1970.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6864-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    A. K. F.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Any student of Cervantes’ literary production must at some point take into account the theories which inspired the plan and creation ofLos Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, for of all Cervantes’ works, thePersilesis the one most directly related to the author’s awareness of literary theory. In conceiving his epic in prose, Cervantes was attempting to solve the basic aesthetic problems preoccupying contemporary theorists and to create a masterpiece according to their envisioned ideal of the highest literary genre, the epic. William Atkinson has written that Cervantes’ “discovery of Aristotle, even at second or third hand, with the...

    • CHAPTER I The Critique and Purification of the Romance of Chivalry
      (pp. 11-48)

      If it could ever be said that a work of literature is almost exclusively a product of literature and literary theory, it could be said of Cervantes’ final workLos Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda. Everywhere the eclectic character of the work is visible: in its undisguised appropriation of scenes and passages from Virgil’sAeneidand Heliodorus’EthiopianHistory, in its inclusion of an Italian novella and many brief reminiscences from biblical tradition, medieval romance, and other works of classical antiquity, and in its presentation of various recurrent topics of imaginative literature which are as old as literature itself. Moreover,...

    • CHAPTER II Heliodorus and Literary Theory
      (pp. 49-88)

      In 1526, one year before Alessandro de’ Pazzi wrote the dedication to the translation of Aristotle’sPoeticswhich would lead to the reorientation of Renaissance literary theory, an event occurred which was to have far-reaching consequences in the development of the European prose narrative. During the sack of Buda by the Turks, a soldier discovered the richly bound manuscript of Heliodorus’Aethiopicain the library of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. Shortly thereafter this postclassical Greek romance¹ came into the possession of Vincentius Obsopoeus, who published it in Greek in Basel in 1534. In 1547 Amyot’s French translation appeared, to...

    • CHAPTER III The Dialogue Between the Canon and Don Quixote
      (pp. 91-130)

      The dialogue between Don Quixote and the Canon of Toledo is, as all critics have agreed, Cervantes’ most complete and profound statement of a theory of literature. As the practical focus of this dialogue is thelibro de caballerias, it becomes fully meaningful only when examined against the background of the literary polemic surrounding theromanziin Italy and the romances of chivalry in Spain. For basically the discussion is a reasoned debate between the apologists for a type of artistry best exemplified by the chaotic fantasies of theromanziand the advocates of a type of artistry which encompassed...

    • CHAPTER IV The Narrator and His Audience: The Liberation of the Imagination
      (pp. 131-166)

      In the analysis of the literary discourse that concludes the first part ofDon Quixote, we observed Cervantes’ preoccupation with the problem that so insistently plagued Tasso. If the artistic quality of a work of art is contingent on its observation of the principle of verisimilitude, and if verisimilitude depends ultimately on the audiences’ willingness to accept the literal truth of the subject matter, how is the poet to know how far he may strain their capacities for belief? For Don Quixote the matter presented no problem. He could mischievously put his finger on the difficulty raised by the canon’s...

    • CHAPTER V The Critical Examination of Literary Theory in the Persiles
      (pp. 169-186)

      It is clear that the Canon of Toledo’s plan for the ideal book of chivalry was Cervantes’ general formula for thePersiles, and it is tempting to believe that the hundred pages which the canon claims to have written and abandoned are Cervantes’ first sketch of his final work. Just how far the composition of thePersilescan be related to the suggestive literary dialogue is conjectural. Nevertheless, Cervantes’ desire to follow the classical rules—unity, verisimilitude, decorum, the legitimized marvelous, rhetorical display, moral edification, and instructive erudition—is everywhere evident in thePersiles, both in subject matter and structure...

    • CHAPTER VI Periandro’s Narration
      (pp. 187-211)

      The long narration of Periandro to his fellow wanderers and his hosts, assembled in the palace of King Policarpo (Persiles, II, x-xx), is Cervantes’ most significant use of the dramatic situation of the narrating author vs. the critical audience to examine the literary problems which preoccupied him throughout his career as a creative artist. It is important to recognize at the outset the function of the account in relation to various aesthetic demands of the genre to which thePersilesbelongs: its structural necessity in theinmedias-resscheme of disposition,¹ its exaltation of the protagonist in accordance with the Renaissance...

    • CHAPTER VII Topics of the Marvelous
      (pp. 212-256)

      One of the best indications of the breadth of Cervantes’ literary awareness is to be found in his various treatments of what may be the oldest theme of world literature, the description of the paradisiacal regions of the otherworld. It is undoubtedly one of his favorite topics, appearing at nearly every stage of his literary development, assuming various forms, and evoking a wide variety of the elements of a deep and persistent literary tradition. In its different forms, from the classical landscape that provides a stage for the shepherds’ homage to the dead Meliso in theGalateato the fantastic...

    • CHAPTER VIII The Narrator of the Persiles
      (pp. 257-302)

      Unlike the skillfully conceived triptych of historian (Cide Hamete Benengeli)-translator-editor, who are coherent in all their elusiveness, the narrator whose words we occasionally hear in thePersilesseems to speak with two conflicting voices, which never reach an adequate resolution. In the analysis of the discursive comment which introduces the episode of the counterfeit captives we discovered the simultaneous presence of a voice which we could liken to that of Cide Hamete Benengeli as it attempts to introduce the humorous play on the concepthistoria, typical of many comments in theQuixote, and a sober voice reminiscent of that of...

    • CHAPTER IX The Cervantine Figure of the Poet: Impostor or God?
      (pp. 305-338)

      In the microscopic examination of the complex of scenes in theQuixoteand thePersilesin which the creating author confronts a critical audience, I hope to have shown an unbroken continuity in theme and structure. In all of these scenes the principle of authorial freedom is opposed to artistic restrictions which the great critical movement of the sixteenth century had formulated. The ensuing dramatic interplay is in each case comic, and in each case the comedy functions at the expense of the spokesmen for the classical aesthetic. Enough has been said of the particular aesthetic principles which form the...

  9. CONCLUSION. Classicism, Truth, and the Novel
    (pp. 339-348)

    The ambivalence marking Cervantes’ engagement with neo-Aristotelian literary theory may remain ultimately irreducible and be taken as another vindication of that useful catch-phrase of Cervantine criticism, the “two Cervantes.” It is indeed tempting to add to the various traditional dualities—the romantic-realist of Menéndez Pelayo, the reactionary-progressive of De Lollis, the sincere hypocrite of Ortega and Castro, and the “Cervantes der Urerlebnisse–Cervantes der Bildungserlebnisse” of Hatzfeld—that of a Cervantes pro-Aristotle and a Cervantes contra-Aristotle. In fact such a distinction would confirm Hatzfeld’s view: if Cervantes was attracted to classical theories because of their cultural prestige, this would be...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 349-360)
  11. Index
    (pp. 361-365)