SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 13 - Don Quixote, Part II: Front Matter and Chapters I-XI
Chapter 1. The “As If” of Literature [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: I want to begin today by mentioning a virtual literary fact, a story that does not happen; one that only exists in the ‘as if’ of literature. It’s a make believe, but — literature is make believe — but that it’s nevertheless suggestive of the enigmatic and even prophetic powers of literature. In talking the last time about Cervantes’s reaction to the publication oonf Avellaneda’s Quixote, of which he learned when he was writing chapter XXXVI of his own second part, we failed to mention a change he made in Don Quixote’s plans to distinguish his own book from that of the imposter. You may remember that in mentioning the possibility of a third sally at the end of Part I there is a reference to some jousts in Saragossa, you have a handout to help you, no? You have it already? It should have gotten to each one of you, if not… And at the beginning of Cervantes’s Part II it is again said that Don Quixote will go to Saragossa to participate in the tournament, which takes place during the celebration of Saint George’s Day — Saint George is a saint who was a knight — on April 23. This is where Don Quixote is headed as he sets forth for the third time. But it so happens that Avellaneda had also taken the cue from Part I of the Saragossa jousts and had his own Don Quixote actually go and participate in the tournament. This was enough for Cervantes to change Don Quixote’s destination in mid novel and have him divert to Barcelona without passing through Saragossa, which is what he does in the book: Avellaneda’s goes to Saragossa, Don Quixote’s veers and goes to Barcelona. This is all well and good, another instance of Cervantes’ reaction to the apocryphal Quixote.
What Cervantes could not have known, of course, is that April 23, the day of those jousts, would be the date of his own death, so that he avoided unknowingly, of course, having the end of his book announce his own end. Now, this is all, needless to say, speculation on my part, a fiction making on my part, but such implied coincidences make me wonder sometimes, is literature always an evading or a postponement of death? There is more to the telling of stories than the telling of stories, as Scheherazade knew when she told story after story, night after night, forestalling her own demise in the One Thousand and One Nights. You remember that Scheherazade tells stories to avoid her being slain, so she tells stories to forestall her own death, so in some implicit way, perhaps only in my overheated imagination, this is what happens when Cervantes has his character swerve away from April 23, so much for that.
April 23, by the way, is a bad day for great writers, it is the date on which Shakespeare also died, the same year as Cervantes. Not exactly the same day, close enough, the same date, because England and Spain used a different calendar, so there was a difference of two or three days, but April 23 is also the date of Shakespeare’s death. There is something magical about April 23, so much so that Alejo Carpentier, the great Cuban writer about whom I have written a great deal, also died on April 23, centuries later. So we should warn all writers not to take very seriously April 23, but I’m sure that some wishing to be as great as Cervantes and Shakespeare or Carpentier would take it, and would rather just die on April 23 to be as great as they were. So perhaps this is just a mnemonic device, something to make you remember the date of Cervantes’s death to which we will return when we read his farewell in the prologue to the Trials of Persiles y Sigismunda.
Chapter 2. Part II as the First Political Novel [00:06:20]
Now, let us return to the issue of the new features of Part II. I remarked on the discussion among Don Quixote, the priest and the barber about Spain’s political situation and the arbitristas, those who offered solutions to the problems at hand. I remarked that the discussion should be seen in the context of my commentary on the speech about arms and letters, when I said that by the sixteenth century, government had become the object of intellectual reflection and mentioned Machiavelli’s The Prince as a founding work of political science. I also told you that, during the sixteenth century, there were not a few books written about the education of The Prince in which guidelines were offered about how to prepare a young man for kingship, for being a ruler. All of these preoccupations are in the background of this discussion among the three characters. What the discussion also indicates — and this is very significant — is that the Quixote, Part II, is the first political novel because it deals and incorporates current events, such as the expulsion of the moriscos.
The moriscos were the Arabs who remained after the fall of Granada in 1492. Of course, there were large communities of Arabs in Spain and many remained, and they were by decree and by force compelled to abandon not only their religion but their practices, and so forth, the customs, and they were expelled from Spain at the time that Cervantes was writing Part II of the Quixote, and this polemical event is incorporated into the novel. This is why I say that the Quixote Part II is the first political novel. In Part II there is also a bitter satire of the aristocracy and their irresponsible ways, in the figures of the Duke and Duchess that you will meet later. The satire of the arbitristas is part of these political thematic, and Don Quixote’s acting like an arbitrista. He does, remember, the idea that he has on how to fight off the Turks. It’s part of the critique of the nobility, even if Don Quixote is a pathetic and impoverished hidalgo, but here he is trying to play the role of the arbitristas. This is what the king should do.
Chapter 3. New Factors in Part II [00:09:33]
Another new factor is that three or four of the initial chapters in Part II take place indoors, be it in Don Quixote’s or Sancho’s house; in contrast to Part I a great deal of Part II will take place indoors reflecting a more urban setting in the novel. You will have the village of El Toboso and Barcelona. Inns will still play a role, but not as important as Juan Palomeque’s in Part I, and, remember, the holes in the roof of that inn to be in Palomeque’s inn was almost to still be outdoors. Here, in Part II there will be houses, mansions and cities like El Toboso, which is merely a village, and Barcelona, which is a great city. The novel, the modern novel that develops from the Quixote will be essentially an urban genre dealing with cities — so you think of Balzac — because in cities there are more people engaged in playing many different roles, there is a thicker social context. So we can see in this development a movement towards the city in the novel. Although one could say that if the remote kernel of the novel, of the modern novel is La Celestina — about which I have talked many times — that work already takes place in a city, presumably Salamanca, and although much of the picaresques take place on the road, there are also cities in Lazarillo, and particularly in the Guzmán de Alfarache. Being indoors, but also outdoors, much of the action of Part II takes place at night, in the dark. We had night episodes in Part I: the fulling hammers, the fracas at the inn, the episode with the dead body, but most of it takes place outdoors on the road and in daylight. Not so in Part II, in which the darkness will play an important role in several episodes, and there are two that actually take place underground, in caves. Part II, as we will soon see is more baroque, and the buildings and darkness contribute to it.
Another development in Part II is its being scripted and performed in the present, presumably as we read, not in the past by Cide Hamete Benengeli and his translators. It is being improvised on the go; in addition, and as already remarked, many characters have read Part I, which serves as the background, as a model, as it were, for Part II. We already had had intimations of this in Part I, the novel being scripted and written as the novel takes place: in the episode of the dead body, when Sancho gives Don Quixote the moniker the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, the hidalgo remarks that the writer must have put the idea in Sancho’s head, suggesting that the novel is being written as they perform it. But now, we have the plans and preparations for the action being discussed by the characters, particularly by Sansón Carrasco. In Part II, Part I plays the role that the romances of chivalry play in Part I. Let me repeat that, because it’s a bit convoluted: in Part II, Part I plays the role that the romances of chivalry played in Part I. It is the original that the characters who have read it want Don Quixote to reproduce and act according to it, so a new larger mirror has been added to the play of mirrors already present in Part I. Don Quixote belongs to a previous fiction that the new characters who have read it want him to be true to. Everything now is part of Don Quixote’s fiction.
Chapter 4. Sansón Carrasco and a Text in the Making [00:14:14]
Sansón Carrasco is the most important new character to emerge in Part II. He has a harsh sounding name, Sansón Carrasco. He is a town boy, the son of Bartolomé Carrasco, who studied in Salamanca, and has come back with a Bachelor’s degree. He is another of several university graduates in the Quixote, the first being the priest, but the most memorable one, so far, Grisóstomo, as you remember. This is a reflection of the importance of universities in Spain during this period, particularly after the work of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, about who you have read in Elliott, who founded the University of Alcalá. There is a mild satire of the intellectuals in the figure of Sansón Carrasco, as there is in that of the priest in Part I, and throughout Part II. The priest was the graduate of a lesser university, not quite Salamanca. He is called Sansón, to begin the part of the satire is that he is called Sansón but he is quite small; he is not a giant like the Samson of the Bible.
But most importantly, he is a jokester, a prankster, an avid reader of romances of chivalry, and particularly of Part I of the Quixote, which he seems to know by heart. To judge by comments he makes, he was also a reader of Boiardo and Ariosto, so Sansón spent his time at Salamanca reading literature, not studying theology, which is what he was supposed to do. He is the counterpart of the Canon of Toledo in Part I, but is not solemn and pedantic like the canon was; he is quite the opposite. Sansón is a reader of Part I. Part I, again, is to him what the romances of chivalry were to Don Quixote. He wants to reenact it, just like Don Quixote wanted to reenact and dramatize the romances of chivalry. His plan to cure Don Quixote is to defeat him within the fiction of his madness, like the priest and the barber in Part I, but in doing so he will become another Quixote, his double in a truer sense than all of the others in Part I. If Part I was held together by the overarching plot of the persecution and capture of Don Quixote by the Holy Brotherhood, the barber and the priest, in Part II that role is played by Sansón’s schemes, to bring Don Quixote back within the fiction that he has helped him create. That is, Sansón has helped create another fiction for Don Quixote, which is really not a fiction; that is that Don Quixote a great knight errant, already the object of a book. So he imbues Don Quixote with this idea, you are a great character already in a book, so you have to act accordingly.
In Part II, Sansón is the main author within the book. Cide Hamete Benengeli was a distant author, at least thrice removed by translators and transcribers. Sansón and others, like the duke’s steward, whom you will meet soon enough, will be authors within the fiction we read and will script the action and watch it unfold, most of the time not like they intended it to. As author figures they are, but particularly Sansón, quite complex and modern, their intentions rarely match their results. Much of the fun, of the humor in Part II is following the elaborate schemes of internal authors that go awry when the opposite of what they had planned actually happens, some of them spectacularly. This has much to say about authorship, about the creation of fiction and about Cervantes’s own creation of the fiction of the Quixote. I say that it is quite a modern conception of the author because this is the conception we have in the modern period of authors.
The whole of Deconstruction, the famous literary movement that was mostly started here at Yale had to do with fine deconstructing authors showing how their intentions rarely, if ever, matched the results, but that is another story. Now, Sancho and Teresa — oh no. So in the hands of Sansón and other readers of Part I, the action in Part II is poised between the past, their remembrance of Part I, and the future; their scripts based on it, so it’s poised in that. It’s like a balancing act between the past Part I and the future in the scripts that they prepare. Hence, it is like an action that unfolds in the present as it is being written, or just after following scripts whose development we, as readers, can more or less follow. Part II is a text in the making; we learn this quite early in chapter V, in the episode when Sancho goes home to convince his wife that he must accompany Don Quixote again. This is an issue and an episode that I discussed briefly at the end of my last lecture but that I want to revisit today. So the question of translation and improvisation resurfaces here. Chapter V Part II begins, in your translation:
And the chapter begins. A little further, it is again, reported [quote]: “This kind of language and what Sancho says further below made the translator of this story say he takes this chapter to be apocryphal.”
Let us step by step reconstruct what the comment by the translator at the beginning of chapter X suggests about the status of the text that we read, but keeping in mind that all of these games of authorship and textuality do not lead to an ultimate coherence. We cannot really pin down Cervantes on the issue of authorship, how many authors or translators, and we cannot pin him down either on which is finally ‘the text’. The text exists supposedly in the original, in a form that seems to be apocryphal; that is, that it is false, either a bogus addendum by somebody else, or a falsifying rewriting of it. Did Cide Hamete write it this way? Or was it falsified in some way so that Sancho appears talking like this? Then it is translated into the text we read by a reluctant translator who alludes to its falseness but decides nevertheless to translate and transcribe it, but adding a note about its falsity.
It is a text that is erased as it is being written and that should disappear as we read it. Moreover, there is a question of temporality: when does it exist and in what form? The answer is that it only exists at the moment of each reading. This is, I think, a model of how the entire of Part II exists, poised, as I said, between the remembrances of Part I and the future actions scripted by the internal authors of Part II, actions that don’t turn out to be quite like the script. Furthermore, the translator’s admonition raises the issues if mimesis: which Sancho is the real one? Is it the one he remembers from Part I or the new Sancho who has evolved improving his speech and endowed with the desire for social advancement, not just for wealth? The translator’s quip reveals that Sancho has changed, that he is not static. In fact, that reality, in general, is not static, and true mimesis, to be very much aware of the changing nature of things and people.
So there is an inherent provisional nature to the text that we read and to the whole of Part II that, as which I’ll suggest later, is part of its Baroque nature. It is clear that here Sancho is playing the role of Don Quixote, in this chapter, and his wife, that of himself as he used to be. This is hilarious, which is why he corrects her mistakes when she misspeaks. He is echoing Don Quixote’s ideas, revealing that he has been quixotized; but also that he has acquired new values. All this comes out in the discussion of their daughter’s marriage, which they are discussing from different points of view. She wanted her to marry her equal and Sancho wanted her to marry somebody of higher status, and so forth.
Chapter 5. Characters Evolving in a Social Context [00:25:02]
Sancho’s social ambition is reflected in his intellectual improvement and swagger. In Part II of the Quixote Sancho will play a more central role and prove himself to be capable of things that would not have been thought possible by the Sancho of Part I. The changes in Sancho, his elevation in status, have an ideological dimension as well as an aesthetic one. The poor and humble can learn and advance, and novelistic characters move up and down the social ladder. This element of the Quixote, which is a political element, too, anticipates the enlightenment, and ideas that lead to concepts about social leveling that will eventually lead to modern conceptions of democracy, but it also has a profoundly Christian background. We can recall Matthew’s Gospel, chapter V, the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount. I quote: “Blessed [these are the Beatitudes], blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” [Unquote].
If characters in novels will evolve, they do so within a social context, so this consonant with the political character of the novel, but this has also much to do with the development and evolution of realism in literature, particularly in the novel. This brings me to Erich Auerbarch, I gave you a handout that happens to be an obituary note — oh, you don’t have it yet — it happens to be an obituary note written by none other than René Wellek. René Wellek was a great professor here at Yale for many years, the founder of the discipline of comparative literature in the United States. It so happens that all of the professors and critics that I will be mentioning in my lecture today were Yale professors. Yale has been at the forefront of literary studies for many, many years, and this is a reflection of it; I didn’t plan it this way but it so happens. So if you have a chance read that obituary note but I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch of Auerbach and his theories.
Now, the critic who put forth this theory about Christianity and the development of realism was Erich Auerbarch in his outstanding book Mimesis: the Representation of Reality in Western Literature, first published in the original German in Switzerland in 1946, a year after the end of World War One. We will be talking about him next week, when you read his essay in the Casebook which is drawn from the book Mimesis about the enchanted Dulcinea. Auerbach — this is my thumbnail sketch of Auerbach — who was Jewish, was born in Berlin, he was trained in the German philological tradition and would eventually become, along with Leo Spitzer, who you will also meet in the Casebook, one its best known scholars. After participating as a combatant in World War I he earned a doctorate in 1921, and in 1929 become a member of philology faculty at the University of Marburg publishing a well-received study Dante: Poet of the Secular World, a book that still is read.
With the rise of Nazism, however, Auerbach was forced to vacate his position in 1934 — he was thrown out because he was Jewish. Exiled from Nazi Germany, he took up residence in Istanbul, Turkey, where he wrote Mimesis, generally considered his masterwork and one of the best books of literary criticism of the twentieth century. He has said, in a moving statement, that he wrote such a general book because in Istanbul he did not have his books or the journals that he needed, so he just went for the big works in Western literature, and so it was these terrible circumstances that had the happy result of Mimesis. Auerbach moved to the United States in 1947, first teaching at Pennsylvania State University, and then working at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. In 1950 he was made Sterling Professor of Romance Languages at Yale, a position that he held until his death while here being a professor in 1957. He died in Wallingford. I have to say that as a holder myself of a Sterling chair here at Yale I feel honored and humbled to have a precursor like Auerbach, whose work and memory I cherish.
The main idea of Mimesis, a broad and profound one, is about the Christian mixture of the sublime and the low style in the New Testament leading up of the emergence of realism, the representation of every day life and common people in serious literature. We take this for granted now, but it was not so until the New Testament. This was a break away from the strict distinction between high and low style in the classical tradition by which the serious genres, like epic and tragedy, dealt with outstanding figures — including gods — and was written in a high rhetorical style where common speech had no place, whereas the minor genres, like comedy, dealt with low class people who speak in vulgar speech and are invariably comical.
“Auerbach finds an apparently low or humble diction pressed into the service of transcendent spirituality. Developing an argument of Augustians here on the power of the Christian words stripped of the trappings of classical eloquence, Auerbach sees the progress of late antique and medieval literature as moving inexorably towards a synthesis of the humble and the sublime. [One could say that the Quixote embodies such a synthesis of the humble and the sublime]. Auerbach’s debt to Vico [Giambattista Vico — he has a very nice brief name easy to remember. He is a great Italian philosopher of the eighteenth century] have been brought out to show his understanding.”
Vico found that the stories, the literature, the lore of the people are very much a part of their culture and has a philosophy — I’m just simplifying this — that is very compelling because, his basic argument is, that humans understand only that which was created by humans, not by gods. Therefore, he has the story of mankind begin not with Genesis but after the flood, when man remakes on his own the world. This is just so that you can read Vico some day as an enticement, but of course, it’s a simplification. Now, you will see all of this in action and understand much better the essay on the enchanted Dulcinea with this background. Having said that, that chapter on the Quixote is a very polemical one, that was very badly received by hispanists and by Cervantes scholars — it was added to Mimesis later — because through his study of the mixture of styles Auerbach comes up with the idea in the end — that I think is very questionable — that the Quixote is mainly or essentially a comical book, but we will get to that after you’ve read that essay on a chapter that you will have read by then, or are reading now, that hilarious chapter when Sancho tries to convince Don Quixote that these wenches that come on from donkeys includes Dulcinea, and it’s an episode that I will be discussing later, it’s an episode that always makes me laugh every time I reread it, no matter how many thousands of times, I laugh, particularly when Don Quixote reports that the alleged Dulcinea smelled of raw garlic and that he was dismayed by this, but we’ll get to it, we’ll talk about that, but that’s part of the humble, you see? That’s part of the realism that has to do with the comical the humble and so forth.
Chapter 6. Renaissance and Baroque Aspects [00:35:58]
So I have been anticipating ideas about the Renaissance and the Baroque and it is time that we begin a more focused discussion on this period of Western art and literature. It is useful to be able to place a work like the Quixote within this period of art and literature. It cannot be the goal of our readings, it is something that helps our enjoyment and understanding of a book such as this, but does not explain it away. Now, first, to have a clear chronological notion, let us say that the Renaissance covers from the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and the Baroque the seventeenth century and parts of the eighteenth, so we could have a scheme, let me see, I was thinking of how to — we can say — this is all going to be very simplistic; this is Middle Ages, and then from the fourteenth, fifteenth — let’s see if I can make it at least readable — and sixteenth centuries, parts of it, this is the Renaissance, and from here through the eighteenth is the Baroque, which has a further development in what is called the Rococó.
In one of my quotes, then, Wellek will mention German expressionism at the beginning of the twentieth century; expressionism, this is so that you have an idea. Okay? So the Renaissance covers from the fourteenth to the fifteenth century, and the Baroque from the seventeenth century through the eighteenth. The Renaissance, as we have seen, is the period when Western thought breaks away from medieval ideas and practices, which were centered on religious doctrine, and humanists attempt to revive the classical age, Greek and Roman arts and ideas. It is a more secular period in which Neo-Platonism is one of the principle trends of thought, basically the idea of perfection achieved through love and the possibility of achieving perfection by imitating the harmonious forms of classical art.
There is an inherent optimism in the Renaissance and in humanism in general because it is hoped that the revival of the classical past will reanimate, revive the present and bring back a golden age, as we saw expressed by Don Quixote’s speech. Also there is confidence in human agency in the ability to bring about perfection to the practice of classical norms. Utopia is one of the Renaissance ideas and ideals which gain concretion in Thomas More’s famous book Utopia. The perfect society is obtainable through the application of rational norms. There can be a perfect ruler, as described by Machiavelli in The Prince, and a perfect courtier, as described by Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier, and even a perfect knight, as presented in the romances of chivalry, fourteenth and fifteenth century. Nature and its representation can be harmonious and beautiful, perfect beauty is available in nature and attainable in art.
The Baroque, on the other hand, is an age in which disappointment with these ideas and aspirations are expressed, and the perfect forms of the Renaissance are twisted and turned to generate a complicated convoluted form of art that has often been seen as the blending of Renaissance forms with gothic ones by looking back to the Middle Ages. Therefore, the Baroque would be turning these Renaissance neoclassical forms back to the Middle Ages and to the Gothic. Think of the Gothic as the cathedrals like that, and think of Classicism as buildings like that. This is all very simplified, but I want you to have clear ideas, which you can then complicate. Where there is light in the Renaissance, there is darkness, or at least chiaroscuro, a word that I introduced you to before, in the Baroque, a mixture of darkness and light.
The discussions of the priest and the barber with Don Quixote seem to center on the disappointments of the age, along with the game of illusions, Part II is going to be that of Baroque desengaño, a word that I mentioned before that I’m going to mention again today and discuss in some detail. When the games prove to be nothing more than that, games of illusions, Renaissance optimism gives way to Baroque disillusionment. The commonplace then is that Part I of the Quixote belongs to the Renaissance and Part II to the Baroque. Think of the two ages that Elliott spoke about in that quote that I read to you from the book, one of imperial expansion and another of imperial retreat. This is an over simplification, of course, but there is enough truth in it to merit consideration, so I will devote some time to the concept of ‘baroque’ today.
What is understood by ‘baroque’ in general? People have a general idea, a vague idea; ‘this is very baroque’. By that, it’s something very complicated, needlessly complicated. Webster’s definition is good enough: “irregular in shape like some pearls [actually the name ‘baroque’ comes with the names of some irregular pearls]; artistically irregular, incongruous or fantastic; as a style of architectural and other decoration of the seventeenth and eighteenth century; tastelessly odd, bizarre and grotesque.”
You do not want to be called baroque. Some of its features are excessive accumulation, difficulty, obscurity and literally darkness, chiaroscuro. A good example is Bernini’s Saint Theresa in Ecstasy — we have a problem of chiaroscuro here — where one sees the effects of the spiritual or the physical, which cannot express the sublime feeling of union with God. You can see, she is in ecstasy, and the folds of her clothing express this sublime feeling of union, clothing expressing mood by its folds, body covered, except for the hand and the foot — I can’t see the foot there — and the face, of course, in that moment of ecstasy. This is certainly not a Renaissance statue, think of Michelangelo’s David or something like that, this is, not because of its twists, and folds, and so forth, this is a Bernini statue, typical of the Baroque.
Another good example is Antonio Pereda’s The Cavalier’s Dream, where the ephemeral nature of the real is emphasized, and, of course, the Baroque emphasizes images of death and of decay, so his dream turns into a theater, death, books and so forth. This is a baroque dream that this cavalier is having. His name is, by the way, Antonio Pereda, and the previous one is Bernini. So I wanted you to have those, but I’m going to give you some more examples that are close at hand. So let me comment on a few quotations on the Baroque. The first one is from José Arrom who was also a professor at Yale for many years, a Yalie and a professor, he died about two years ago at age about ninety-eight. He wrote:
[Unquote]. In Spain, the renewal of scholastic thought and the retrenchment brought about by the Counter Reformation, in general, signifies this, and lead towards the Baroque, because there can be, of course, no return in history, and what turns out is something completely new the mixture, the very uneasy mixture of Renaissance forms with Medieval ones, and that turns out to be the Baroque. I hope you follow this back and forth. The next quote is from René Wellek — whom I mentioned before, a great professor of comparative literature here, of Czech origin — the concept of Baroque and literary scholarship; this is a little denser because it has to do with the critical concept of the Baroque but I want you to have an idea of it. Wellek traces the development of the term ‘baroque,’ above all, its transfer from art history to literary historiography.
The term “baroque” began as a term in art history. He links the dissemination of the concept to use that Oswald Spengler makes of it in The Decline of the West — The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler was a very, very important book in the twentieth century, late teens early twenties, early twentieth century, The Decline of the West. It was a book that was misused by the Nazis and so forth, but was very powerful. I see it as a synthesis of Hegel and Nietzsche, but that’s too much to explain today — and the relationship established with expressionism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Wellek thinks that the popularity of the baroque came because critics saw an expressionism, which is a kind of poetry in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century, in the 1920s, a very convoluted complicated poetry; they saw that as a kind of return to the baroque.
I hope this very crude drawing of mine can help you visualize all of this. Wellek distinguishes between those who want to turn baroque into a typology; that is, that the whole of art history is a back and forth between Renaissance and Baroque, Renaissance and Baroque; it’s like others who have tried to turn all of literary history to Romanticism and the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Neo-Classicism; he is against all of those. And, this is the most important quote, and let me see if I can unpack it for you, the word here that is important is that big word there. What does synesthesia mean? Synesthesia means to express one sense through another; that is, when you say it’s a blue sound, that’s a synesthesia; or a shrill color, shrill is sound and you apply it to color, that is synesthesia, it’s a combination of sensations from various senses used one for the other. You understand what I’m trying to say? Is that clear? Okay.
What this means is the following. In the Baroque there is an attempt to reconstitute the kind of unified conception of the universe that was prevalent in the Middle Ages, and that you see in Dante, and that you see in the gothic cathedrals, all centered on the figure of the Christian God, and in all symbolism, everything connected to it in a very harmonious and satisfying whole, where everything has a meaning and a place. In the Baroque, this set of correspondences tries — the writers and the artists try to reconstruct this set of correspondences, but this is a world that is no longer centered — remember? — it’s a world that is post-Copernican, and it’s a world during which Galileo is producing his theories, so it’s a de-centered world.
So the Baroque is an effort, through synesthesia — that is, to express the correspondences between colors, and sounds, and so forth — to reconstruct through art that set of correspondences, that harmonious world that is no longer available, and this is what gives the Baroque this tension. The way that I explain the Renaissance and Baroque is: think of Beinecke Plaza, Beinecke Plaza with its columns is like the Renaissance, only that it is an eighteenth century kind of Neo-Classicism, but think of it, it is that kind of classical shape. Sterling Memorial Library is Gothic, Neo-Gothic; okay? Neo-Gothic. I often say that the McDonald’s arch is more genuine than our Neo-Gothic, but nevertheless it’s Neo-Gothic, and so the Baroque would be a very forced combination of Beinecke Plaza and Sterling Memorial Library, that would be the Baroque.
Now, the Baroque now in Parts I and II of the Quixote; we have spoken about Baroque elements in Part I, particularly the grotesque in characters like Maritornes, the play of illusion and reality and the multiplicity of fictional levels, the chiaroscuro of the episodes in the inn and the knight himself, who is a combination of things, a grotesque combination. But Part I still contains many elements of what could still be called Renaissance aesthetics. This is so particularly in characters such as Marcela and Dorotea, whose beauty and perfections reflect Neo-Platonic ideals. The same is true of some of the settings, particularly the locus amoenus that I have mentioned several times, where Dorotea appears washing her feet, in an episode in which the classical background seems to be derived from Ovid, as Tony reminded me once and I didn’t give him credit for.
This is an Ovidian scene, and the rewriting of classical models is very much a Renaissance feature, by the way. Nature present, because so much of Part I takes place outdoors appears to be plentiful and orderly, except when Rocinante gets a sudden and unexpected sexual urge and provokes a row, as we remember. There is also a kind of underlying sense of optimism and mirth in Part I, even when Don Quixote is returned home in a cage which had something carnivalesque about it — remember that he gets home on a Sunday–and, after all, of the various amorous conflicts are resolved, except for the last one, whose resolution is not clear because it’s still going on. Dorotea is betrothed to Fernando, and Lucinda to Cardenio, the captive is going to marry Zoraida, Luis and Clara, and so forth. Don Quixote’s interventions have an affirmative effect in the end, the common place about this is that Renaissance aesthetics are based on an idea of order, symmetry, and perfection obtained by the imitation of classical models and the striving for humanely attainable goals: human agency, self fashioning, straight angles, horizontal lines meeting vertical ones, ordered repetition in the columns. All of these are Renaissance features, the repetition of all of these stories is like those columns.
Part II, however, is going to be much more Baroque. I have already said that much of it takes place within buildings and that it is generally darker. There is a chiaroscuro quality to it, and the chiaroscuro, as I have been saying, is typical of the Baroque. There are more grotesque elements made up of the disparate, the contrasting and the ugly. Here, the key figure, about which I will be speaking in other classes, is the monster. It is going to take place — Part II is going to take place not in inns or in nature, but in lavish country and urban houses. The Baroque tends to be built up, to be complex.
In Part II we have not so much nature as architecture or what I like to call arch-texture, a texture that is intensified, therefore arch-texture. The multiplicity of fictional levels is going to increase by the fact that the characters now know and discuss Part I, and by the appearance of Avellaneda’s apocryphal Quixote, a central theme, a narrative device of Part II is going to be desengaño, disillusionment, which could be the overarching direction and shape of the plot. In fact, one could say that the whole of Part II is leading to desengaño. This is going to be the end of Part II and desengaño is perhaps the most important element of the Spanish Baroque. I am going to leave it there, except to point out that I have given you in the handout with a map of Spain behind you will see a quote from Gracián, El Criticón, which is the definition of desengaño that I am going to begin the next lecture with, as I apply it to the evolution, the unfolding of the plot of the Quixote.
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