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Refiguring Authority

Refiguring Authority: Reading, Writing, and Rewriting in Cervantes

E. Michael Gerli
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Refiguring Authority
    Book Description:

    In this wide-ranging study E. Michael Gerli shows how Cervantes and his contemporaries ceaselessly imitated one another -- glossing works, dismembering and reconstructing them, writing for and against one another -- while playing sophisticated games of literary one-upmanship.

    The result was that literature in late Renaissance Spain was often more than a simple matter of source and imitation. It must be understood as a far more subtle, palimpsest-like process of forging endless series of texts from other texts, thus linking closely the practices of reading, writing, and rewriting. Like all major writers of the age, Cervantes was responding not just to specific literary traditions but to a broad range of texts and discourses. He expected his well-read audience to recognize his sources and to appreciate their transformations.

    The notion of writing as reading and reading as writing is thus central to an understanding of Cervantes' literary invention. As he created his works, he constantly questioned and reconfigured the authority of other texts, appropriating, combining, naturalizing, and effacing them, displacing them with his own themes, images, styles, and beliefs.

    Modern literary theory has confirmed what Cervantes and his contemporaries intuitively knew -- that reading and writing are closely linked dimensions of the literary enterprise. Reading Cervantes and his contemporaries in this way enables us to cojnprehend the craft, wit, irony, and subtle conceit that he at the heart of seventeenth-century Spanish literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5697-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Note on Translations and Editions
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Reading, Writing, and Rewriting in Cervantes
    (pp. 1-9)

    Parts of four of the six chapters in this book have appeared elsewhere in different form, in disparate and sometimes obscure places, over the course of the last fifteen years. These have now all been reread, substantially rewritten, and gathered around a central theme—namely that reading, writing, and rewriting, more than a guiding principle of academic publishing, is central to the process of invention and textual composition in Cervantes. Although each of the six chapters is devoted to a separate work, or to a significant portion of a larger work, each in its own right seeks to demonstrate from...

  6. Chapter 1 The Dialectics of Writing: El licendado Vidriera and the Picaresque
    (pp. 10-23)

    El licenciado Vidrierais one of Cervantes’ most perplexing and intriguing works, seemingly disjointed and full of puzzling contradiction. Most critical approaches to thisnovela ejemplarusually address only one of two problems: the enigma of the sources for the figure of the mad licentiate, or the riddle of the conceptual and artistic unity of the work. With regard to the first question, some scholars have sought precedents in real personages or purely imaginative antecedents, while still others proclaim the complete originality of the character.¹ The second problem, the novelistic cohesiveness ofEl licenciado Vidriera, is, however, the most contested...

  7. Chapter 2 A Novel Rewriting: Romance and Irony in La gitanilla
    (pp. 24-39)

    La gitanillais traditionally viewed from the perspective of romance. Critics have been predisposed to view it only as one of Cervantes’ “idealistic” works because it tells a tale of love and adventure; it is organized around a test /quest motif; the characters portrayed in it remain more psychological archetypes than individuals; its resolution is serendipitous, involving chance, coincidence, and sudden recognition; and, finally, it is a story related in an elevated verbal style that often lapses into song and poetry. Frank Pierce, for example, best exemplifies this critical tendency when he asserts thatLa gitanillais “a romance in...

  8. Chapter 3 Rewriting Myth and History: Discourses of Race, Marginality, and Resistance in the Captive’s Tale (Don Quijote I, 37-42)
    (pp. 40-60)

    In a book published over a quarter century ago, under the rubric “ElQuijotecomo una forma secularizada de espiritualidad religiosa,” Américo Castro wrote that:

    Cervantes llevó a cabo la máxima proeza de reducir a uno los dos pianos delEntierro del conde Orgaz; los armonizó secularmente, de tal forma que la eñsofiación ilusoria pareciera incluida en la realidad de este mundo. Don Quijote y Sancho, además de contemplar lo inexistente como visible y tangible, actúan, y convierten en urdimbre de sus vidas el tema de su eñsofiación. ‘Sin mas estudio ni artificio,’ fue posible componer algo ‘que hace verdadero...

  9. Chapter 4 Unde Veritas? Readings, Writings, Voices, and Revisions in the Text (Don Quijote I, 8-9)
    (pp. 61-81)

    Leo Spitzer, employing as his point of departure Américo Castro’s discussion of Cervantes’ problematical representations of reality, which is outlined in his epoch-making studyEl pensamiento de Cervantes(The Thought of Cervantes), in an equally momentous investigation, explored what he called the “linguistic perspectivism” ofDon Quijote. By this Spitzer meant the manner in which Cervantes in his novel formulated a phenomenology of language, illustrated through the representation of things “no por lo que ellas son en sí, sino sólo en cuanto objeto de nuestro lenguaje o de nuestro pensamiento” (163) (“not as they are unto themselves, but as objects...

  10. Chapter 5 Aristotle in Africa: Interrogating Verisimilitude and Rewriting Theory in El gallardo espñaol
    (pp. 82-94)

    El gallardo español is one of Cervantes’ least known, least read, and most misunderstood plays. The few extant critical statements dealing with it address only its supposed “nationalist” spirit (Casalduero 1966, 54-55), its putative autobiographical resonance of Cervantes’ North African experiences,¹ its inscription of myth (De Armas 1981), its historical verisimilitude (Canavaggio 1977, 53-56) and novelistic elements (Zimic 1974), or the contrasting of myth, honor, and reality (Stapp 1978; Friedman 1981, 29-30; Hughes 1993). While critics remain at odds as to the play’s sense, however, the text itself offers its own explicit instructions regarding its purpose and meaning. In the...

  11. Chapter 6 Rewriting Lope de Vega: El retablo de las maravillas, Cervantes’ Arte nuevo de deshacer comedias
    (pp. 95-109)

    El retablo de las maravillasis one of the most compelling works of Cervantes’ theatrical repertoire. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century it has played a prominent role both in the editorial enterprises and in the criticism aimed at understanding the nature of Cervantine theater. As a result, it has provoked numerous interpretations. Some scholars have viewed the piece as an exercise in testing the power of language and the limits of illusion, as an exploration into the blurred boundaries between art and life via the metaphor of the theater within the theater (Marrast 1957, 91-93; Canavaggio 1977, 376-77,...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 110-113)

    Although books are mere physical objects, gatherings of paper made from fiber and ink and thread, they are more than their material selves: they are the extracorporeal residence of language and of the human imagination; they are repositories of memory, knowledge, illusion, and meaning whose materiality is effaced at the moment a reader peruses them. Books possess the authority to enlighten, confuse, convince, dissuade, tell the truth, enchant, and lie. When books are read they are, indeed, capable of eliciting strong responses and of profoundly transforming people. Augustine of Hippo and Don Quijote de la Mancha, two paradigmatic readers, are...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 114-123)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 124-133)
  15. Index
    (pp. 134-138)