From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
1.1-2 (1981): 83-94.
Copyright © 1981, The Cervantes Society of America
||RUTH EL SAFFAR|
CONFLICTIVA (Madrid: Gredos, 1975), Cesáreo Bandera offers
a view of fiction that allows him to bring together under a single banner
(Bandera) Cervantes and Calderón, writers who incarnate, as René
Girard says in his prologue to the book, dos polos de la cultura
española a los que se ha tratado siempre de diferenciar (p.
11). The task of finding the fulcrum on which these two poles rest is a worthy
one, and especially appropriate for a critic concerned, as Bandera is, with
recovering the identities that our habitual insistence on difference tends
The irony is that it is consciousness of the arbitrary nature of violence that brings the two authors together in Bandera's study. Their supposed insight into the ultimately fictional nature of violence earns Cervantes and Calderón a place of honor in Bandera's pantheon of authors who have gone beyond fiction. But whatever we are told that the two authors do with violence, it is interesting that awareness of the all-pervasive nature of conflict would provide the cornerstone of the edifice Bandera has built to house Cervantes and Calderón in harmony.
Bandera formulates the basis for his juxtaposing of Cervantes and Calderón most clearly in his reply to Ciriaco Morón Arroyo's review essay of Mimesis conflictiva: If there is one single idea that is repeated time and again in Mimesis conflictiva, it is that the struggle, whenever it appears in the Quijote or in the Life, is an arbitrary struggle, in the sense that it only feeds upon itself, generating out of itself all the conceptual justifications that the violent participants brandish to keep
* This discussion
is continued in An Open Letter to Ruth El Saffar
(Cervantes 1.1-2 : 95-107), by
Cesáreo Bandera, and Response to Cesáreo
Bandera (Cervantes 1.1-2 :
108-10 ), by Ruth El Saffar. F.J.
it going.1 It will be the discovery
of the intimate relation between fiction and violence, and of the nullification
of difference that violence promotes that will make blood-brothers of Cervantes
The topic is a dangerous one, however, for reasons that Bandera's own theory makes clear. For in order to probe the mechanisms of conflict, Bandera must privilege the instances in the texts he is discussing in which those mechanisms are most clearly revealed. Without an understanding of what Bandera is trying to accomplish in his book, the reader might well wonder if his analyses of Cervantes and Calderón have not been distorted in the service of his theory. But before getting into the possibility that Bandera, in trying to get us past violence, has actually made of it a piedra de escándalo, it is necessary to look a little more closely at the way the book presents itself in general.
Bandera's thesis, as he makes clear, draws heavily from Girard's Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965), and his later Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977). Like Girard, Bandera is concerned with what happens when our innate desire for centeredness, for self-sufficiency, loses its attachment to a transcendent God and is displaced onto another object. We then endow that object with powers that it does not possess, experiencing at the same time a sense of increased insufficiency exactly that which we were trying to overcome. The resultant imbalance in the values attributed to the self and to the other manifests in expressions of erotic desire and in violence. The other, meanwhile, who is after all no better than the self, participates willy-nilly in the games of love and war that mimetic desire creates, perpetuating and frustrating the self's desire by withholding whatever is sought after, and seeking in his turn only that which is withheld.
Also like Girard, Bandera does not distinguish between the imitation of the other that Don Quixote demonstrates in his mad effort to become Amadís, and the desire for the possession of the other that Don Quixote's endlessly frustrated pursuit of Dulcinea represents. The confusion of the two displacements of self leads to some distortions when Bandera deals with Don Quixote Part I, explains why he
Conflictive Versus Cooperative Mimesis: A Reply to Ciriaco Morón
Arroyo, Diacritics 9 (1979), p. 65.
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does so little with Part II, and produces a serious misrepresentation of
Rosaura in Life is a Dream.
But I am jumping ahead of my argument. I want here to establish that what primarily concerns Bandera is not the phenomenon of men and women seeking to reach past the otherness that keeps them apart the major theme of Cervantes' last-published works but that of men, who, entranced by their differences, cannot see themselves in one another. The insight, in itself, is not to be belittled. It is of fundamental importance, and the passion with which Bandera expresses his concerns is entirely justified. What is at stake, as he makes clear, is nothing less than our collective survival.
In a later article, Bandera's seriousness about his point is made unmistakable:2
What the prophetic Cervantes is telling us is, to put it mildly, that we have no idea what we are talking about when we so confidently proclaim the openness, the inexhaustibility, or the self-referential character of the work of fiction. What he saw was the worst possible violence, a violence without object, totally immanent, feeding upon itself.
The ethical import of Bandera's findings can be even more clearly seen in the words with which he concludes his answer in his abovementioned reply to Ciriaco Morón Arroyo.3
But if there is an entirely different word, a word that does not mean violence, or that says that the victim has nothing to do with violence then such a word will inevitably undermine all hermetic systems . . . and invite men to live in the open and be ready to run all risks. And the risks will be formidable, because a nameless violence is a violence that cannot be expelled, made alien, or transcendental, and no matter how hard men look for it to name it, to pin it down, it will elude them, which means that as they will look around for a way to expel violence they will see nothing but themselves. And this is the greatest risk of all, and the greatest hope.
What Bandera is talking about, what gives such intensity to everything he writes, is nothing less than the difficult, yet quintessential task of withdrawing, individually and collectively, our projections of good and evil from the objects of this world and realizing our
Cervantes' Quijote and the Critical Illusion, MLN
94 (1979), p. 716.
3 Op. cit., p. 70.
own responsibility for the violence our untamed, often unrecognized, feelings
of envy, pride, fear, and desire create.
There is no disputing the importance of the concerns that underlie Bandera's book. What can be questioned is the medium he has chosen to communicate those concerns. The first sign that Bandera has overloaded Cervantes with a theory his texts cannot truly bear is that he has limited his analysis, especially of Don Quixote, to too narrow a band of episodes. It is not just that he focuses almost exclusively on Part I: It is that within Part I he selects only those episodes for study that reveal a) the violence that metaphysical desire provokes in its victims (Grisóstomo, Cardenio, Anselmo); b) instances of confusion when the fiction is interrupted (Cardenio's story to Don Quixote, Sancho's tale); and c) evidence of the chaos that erupts when words become the object of dispute (the baci-yelmo controversy). The occasional brief references to characters and episodes in Part II all serve similarly to show the ephemeral nature of the object of desire (the braying aldermen); the reciprocity between the fooler and the fooled (Sansón Carrasco, the duchess, Altisidora); and the emptiness of fiction (the books Altisidora reports having seen being tossed around at the gates of Hell).
Of course, Bandera does not claim to have covered everything. But he does suggest that the theory is capable of doing so: Muchos cabos quedan por atar, pero esperamos haber atado aquí los suficientes para marcar el camino de una nueva aproximación a lo mejor y más significativo de nuestra literatura (p. 34). What I would like to do in what follows is to show that Bandera's analysis of Cervantes' works and of Life is a Dream reveals instances of rivalry between men. When a woman intervenes in a role which escapes the erotic fantasies that the men have projected on her, she is either not successfully represented, or is not mentioned at all in Bandera's presentation of the episode. And when a man gives up his fascination with the obstacle that another man a friend, a rival represents to him, to focus instead on the woman as the object of his attention, the event passes unnoticed or is trivialized in Bandera's study.
I point this out not at all in a spirit of combativeness, but for the sake of the same concerns that have motivated Bandera's work. For what I think Cervantes' total opus suggests is that the way out of the hermeticism, illusion, rivalry, and violence of the solitary men who populate his best-known works begins with the woman: the woman not as the object of erotic desire, not as coquette, but as the most
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other of the others a man normally encounters, the
other who, when he has learned to accept her as she is and not
as what he thinks she is, rescues and recreates him. Where this is most
thoroughly worked out in Cervantes, Bandera remains silent, or dismissive.
And where men are still trapped in eroticism and violence, Bandera is most
When woman as other is taken out of the picture as a part of the healing process, we are left only with the spectacle of warring men and damnable attractive, inaccessible young ladies. In this landscape, Calderón makes a fine companion to Bandera and to Bandera's Cervantes. Calderón may have seen clearly the identity of Basilio and the son whom he sends into exile in Life is a Dream, but, unlike Cervantes, he could see no way out of the continual cycle of violence such an identity promises.
Bandera says that the only way out of the cycle is to give up fiction, and he lauds Cervantes for doing so: Cervantes consiguió lo que no había conseguido ninguna novela de caballería: terminar, encontrar el fin. Cervantes terminó con la caballería con su propia novela (p. 171). And yet, when it comes to discussing Calderón, he praises him precisely for the unending nature of his greatest play: Entre la situación inicial de la comedia, en la que vemos a Basilio arreglando casamientos y manteniendo a uno encerrado en la torre para que no alborote el reino, y la escena final en que vemos a Segismundo haciendo lo mismo, no hay ninguna diferencia . . . (p. 258). Clearly Bandera is attributing to Cervantes and Calderón understanding of something he has found in both men's work. It is not so clear, since the one apparently remained trapped in a world from which the other escaped, that they in fact saw the world as Bandera sees it.
From my perspective, what Bandera has singled out for commentary reveals exceedingly well a phase, perhaps the most common phase, but a phase nonetheless, of human development which Cervantes, unlike Calderón, was able to go beyond. In order to develop this point, it will be necessary to shift focus slightly, To do so, I will begin by calling on Morón Arroyo, who, in his Mimesis review, introduces, ever so tentatively, the question of the woman which I take to be so central to a full understanding of Cervantes. Speaking of Bandera's analysis of Cardenio, he asks:4
Cooperative Mimesis: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza,
Diacritics 8 (1978), p. 83.
Why should the stories of Cardenio and the curious impertinent be approached from the couples Cardenio-Fernando, and Anselmo-Lotario only? This approach casts the women merely as objects of the conflicting desires; from this angle the theory is illuminating. But is it not legitimate to look at the story from the side of the women, as subjects who are the tragic victims? But my view of these stories from the side of the women may be prompted by a hypercritical, conflictive desire to expose the apparent weaknesses of the theory.
If Bandera were to take up this point in his
reply, which he did not, he would probably say that the women in question
were not victims, but rather accomplices in the game of metaphysical desire
that roped them all in. He says: Cardenio y Luscinda juegan cada uno
con respecto al otro tanto el papel del dios como el del esclavo. La conciencia
de cada uno se encuentra sometida a un angustioso y desesperante
vaivén (p. 99). This results, finally, in Cardenio's madness.
The point is, however, that although Bandera asserts a reciprocity
of metaphysical desire, there is no evidence for it. Luscinda does not go
mad. She simply continues, through all the confusions that surround her,
and against Cardenio's expectations, to remain faithful to him.
In a way, Bandera does look at the stories from the side of the women, but only inasmuch as he can drag them into his prefabricated game of metaphysical desire. He therefore infers more about Luscinda, about whom Cervantes tells us very little, than about Dorotea, who is in fact a major character in the tale. Luscinda could be seen as a participant in the see-saw of mimetic desire, since we have caught her passing notes in a chivalric book, and since she manages to drive two men crazy. But Dorotea most decidedly does not fit the picture. She is a farmer's daughter who is very poorly protected from the lustful inclinations of the Duke's son, on whose land she lives. Furthermore, she does not simply appear self-sufficient. She actually is an extremely competent person, brought up to handle equally well the skills of a man and those of a woman. Upon finding herself in a difficult position, she demonstrates that upbringing by behaving as a man when that is what is called for, and as a woman when that is appropriate. Like Luscinda, she proves amply capable of defending her honor. She was not above tossing someone over the cliff who had presumed to take advantage of her.
Most important of all, Dorotea is the agent through whom the
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situation that Cardenio and Fernando conceived as a love triangle is resolved.
Dorotea contributes to the transformation of Cardenio by telling him the
first story other than his own that he has ever been able to listen to, and
she is the first person ever to appeal to Fernando's sense of true honor.
Dorotea anticipates a type of character who will be much more fully developed
in some of Cervantes' later works: Preciosa of La Gitanilla, Teodosia
of Las dos doncellas, Leocadia of La fuerza de la sangre, and
Auristela of the Persiles. What is important to understand about her
is that she escapes the labels that collective wisdom has assigned to women.
She is neither the untouchable, forever inaccessible coquette, nor is she
a prostitute, following the pattern that Maritornes incarnates in Don
Quixote Part I. In the literal no-man's land of the unmarried
non-virgin, she is outside the city and can therefore operate
either as a figure of damnation or of salvation. Leonela, the unmarried
non-virgin of the Curioso, whom Bandera's theory has also expelled,
functions as a demonic figure, but has the same all-important role as Dorotea
in leading a threesome locked into mimetic desire out of the fiction they
Were Bandera here with me now, I am sure he would say at this point that the happy ending that Dorotea makes possible is a contrived one, and to some extent I would agree with him. Fernando and Cardenio are not truly prepared for the transformation that is required for them to discard their socially-created projections onto women. In later stories in which the obstacles to union are overcome, both the men and women involved are forced to go through an extended period of purgation during which they learn to release the illusions that hold them captive. The purgation that they undergo I am thinking here of Don Juan in La Gitanilla; Tomás de Avendaño in La ilustre fregona; Ricardo in El amante liberal; Recaredo in La española inglesa; the Captive in the Captive's Tale of Don Quixote Part I; and Periandro in the Persiles is one that takes them far from the everyday conventions that are constructed to preserve their cherished illusions. Precisely outside of the city, beyond order and reason, they learn to withdraw their claims upon the woman, earning, at the same time, the right to leap over the barrier that held them so fascinatingly and so madly apart from their loved ones.
Juan Palomeque's inn, in which the love triangle becomes a foursome and the desperations of unrequited love yield to the banalities of marriage, may indeed be enchanted, as Bandera suggests (see his
discussion on p. 136). But his consistent rejection of the resolutions Cervantes'
fiction offers with increasing insistence after the publication of Don
Quixote Part I finally becomes suspect. And once again, it is Morón
Arroyo who cautiously peeps over the obstacle to resolution that Bandera
has placed before our eyes: If we take the complete stories [of Cardenio
/ Luscinda / Fernando / Dorotea], the mechanism of rivalry would account
for the beginning (the initial conflict), but not for the result (peace).
Do we have the right to consider these happy endings as mere literary convention?
Should we not rather form a system out of the work itself that accounts for
the whole story?5 The question is especially
apt, since the last of the major interpolated tales in Part I centers precisely
on the achievement of harmony.
The Captive's Tale, which is situated between the Curioso and the Canon of Toledo's discussion about the possibility of an exemplary epic, seems to represent Cervantes' first sustained effort to break out of the self-enclosed, socially-conditioned fictions of his earlier male characters. It is the one story, of all the interpolated stories of Part I, that is not interrupted in the telling. It goes on for three entire chapters that contain no other extraneous material, and continues to deal with the fortunes of Zoraida and the captive on into a fourth chapter.
The Captive's Tale is clearly important, and it makes even more compelling Morón Arroyo's question. For Bandera, who gives a full chapter to the Curioso, writes only ten lines on this story, asking along the way: ¿Quién puede dudar que esta historia del cautivo no la sienta [Cervantes] como la novelización heroica de su propia vida? ¿Cuántas veces no soñaría su fertilísima imaginación alguna historia de este tipo en los amargos ocios de su cautiverio? (pp. 136-37). Why should two tales of nearly equal length, so closely juxtaposed, receive such unequal treatment?
But Bandera does not stop there. In a brief excursion outside of Don Quixote Part I he makes a necessary tour of the Persiles, which he sees as Cervantes' attempt to salvar de entre un mundo en ruinas, de entre esa discorde confusión primera . . . el amor y la amistad, un amor y una amistad liberados del mimetismo destructor de la pasión (p. 126). In this work, in which Cervantes demonstrates the process by which that love and that friendship are in fact freed from the destructiveness of mimetic desire, Bandera persists in seeing a
Ibid., p. 84.
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cuento de hadas in the happy ending: Pero Cervantes sabe
que ese final es puramente convencional y arbitraria en la medida en que
se produce dentro de la novela (p. 129).
Truly to understand what is going on in the Persiles, or even what is going on with the Basilio of Part II of Don Quixote who escaped the trap that Cardenio and Grisóstomo fell into in Part I, the trap prescribed by the archetypal pair Pyramus and Thisbe, we need, in fact, another model. We need a model that takes into account the possibility of understanding illusion without being caught by it. We need a model that explains why the illusion-bound protagonists need to be led outside of the city, to let go of the reason that illusion feeds, if they are ever going to be able to make the itinerarium mentis ad Deum, which is also, as Bandera explains, the itinerarium mentis ad proximum.6 The master of illusion can be the thief or the actor, the trickster that Maese Pedro stands for in Part II of Don Quixote, or that Pedro de Urdemalas represents, but he can also be the Christ figure, the savior.7 It all hinges on the ability (to use literary terms) of the character to remember that he is one with the author;8 of the subject in time to remember the origin and the end of his journey; or (now to use theological terms) of the individual to be in the world but not of it. Bandera sees this often enough, since one of his major points is that chaos ensues when fiction is confused with reality. But he is not easily convinced when Cervantes offers instances of characters who keep the two worlds straight. Perhaps what is needed is the
6 I take
these expressions from Bandera's conclusion to his chapter on the
Persiles, p. 132.
7 In Literature and Desire: Poetic Frenzy and the Love Potion, Mosaic 8, (1975), p. 46, Bandera discusses briefly the trickster figure in the context of Tristan. He sees Tristan, as trickster, as the source of peace and prosperity and the rock against which all peace and prosperity will stumble. In Cervantes' work, it seems to me, there is an evolution from trickster to savior, but the two are never embodied in the same character. The difference can be seen clearly in the contrast between Maese Pedro's illusion-making, and Persiles' mastery over illusion. The one works in the service of his own self interest, the other, in the service of God's purpose for him.
8 I have tried to approach this subject in a recently-published article that was written many years ago, Periandro: Exemplary Character-Exemplary Narrator, Hispanófila 23 (1980), 9-16. A much fuller treatment of the topic will appear in my forthcoming book on the long novels of Cervantes.
introduction of another literary form: the acceptance of romance, of the
cuento de hadas as the literary expression of the very escape
from fiction that Bandera hopes we will all
But what is required to accept romance is a dethroning of the intellect, an opening up to the feeling nature that is precisely what the woman in the allegory of the Persiles, or of La Gitanilla, or of La ilustre fregona, or of La fuerza de la sangre stands for. What is required is a love that will force the intellect out of the walled city, into that which is unfamiliar. The reaction to this alternative on the part of the author will determine whether he will continue to produce grim tales of the failures of society and of the intellect, or will begin to produce works of a different order, to be sure that celebrate peace, love, and prosperity. The escape from fiction is as simple and as difficult as that.
Certainly we cannot mandate a taste for romance. It is, in any case, a dangerous form, as Bandera would be the first to point out, since it can as easily inculcate an indulgence in fantasy as lead to an understanding of the truth that lies beneath appearances. In Cervantes' Quijote and the Critical Illusion Bandera suggests that the Persiles and the Exemplary Novels are not popular today because Cervantes properly understood the confusion toward which we were collectively headed in our persistent attachment to illusion: If the Quijote has rightly come to be regarded as a masterpiece, this is not due to any metaphysical and temporal qualities of the novel, but simply to the fact that it prophesied our contemporary situation, that it reads us precisely as we think we are reading it.10
While there is no doubt that he is right, what troubles me is that Bandera himself is caught, fascinated and horrified, by the very violence and unfulfilled desire that he sees as leading inevitably to catastrophe. Like John the Baptist's, his is a voice crying in the wilderness. He is proclaiming the Savior without the relief that salvation promises . Like Socrates, of whom he speaks so eloquently
Bettleheim's treatment of The Thousand and One Nights in The Uses
of Enchantment (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977) offers an example of
how the telling of tales can have a transformative effect on the listener.
La Galatea and Don Quixote Part I can also be rewardingly studied
if the interaction between story and listener is taken into account. I find
such a possibility of transformation through fiction lacking, for obvious
reasons, in Bandera's study.
10 Op. cit., p. 709.
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in the Introduction, he exposes himself to be judged on the terms by which
he has made judgment. His savior is the savior of the Passion, the sacrificial
lamb, and not the savior of Blake, whose exemplarity comes from the power
to establish the heavenly city that he has promised to those who can learn
what he came to teach.
I mention Blake because Bandera begins his book with a comparison between the vision of art that, through Blake, Northrop Frye offers in Fearful Symmetry. A Study of William Blake (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), and the vision of art that Socrates manifests in Plato's Republic. Bandera points out that Frye and Plato concur in believing that the artist dallies with divine powers. But whereas Frye (actually Blake) welcomes that mingling of the human with the divine, since it promises to lift earth-bound consciousness past its limitations, Plato (actually Socrates) sees such a conjoining only as a threat to an orderly republic. The divinities of which Plato speaks, however, are the passions, which desplaza[n] al hombre de su centro y . . . por tanto, introduce[n] la confusión y la violencia . . . (p. 23). Plato does not want to be led out of the city out of the neat and well-planned world of the intellect and he is prepared, in the republic he would establish to mirror that intellect, to expel the poets who would appeal to the passions and undermine order.
But Blake, who is reacting precisely against the apotheosis of the intellect, sees in the imagination the key to raising up mankind, to establishing the city of God on earth. In a passage that Bandera does not quote Frye says: The harlot typifies nearly every aspect of the life of fallen man, and Jesus' forgiven harlot is the real form of whom the triumphant Whore of the Apocalypse is the analogy. By forgiveness Blake means a release of imaginative power, the creating of conditions which make it possible for a harlot to go and sin no more, as opposed to the miserable futility of the Pharisaic attempt to destroy harlotry by killing harlots.11
I find this quotation particularly apt because it brings us back to the question with which this discussion began, namely where are the women in Bandera's analysis of Cervantes' work? Dorotea, whom Bandera does not discuss, is in fact Cervantes' first attempt to forgive the harlot, that is, to create the conditions which make it possible for a harlot to go and sin no more. In the hands of a Calderón, Dorotea would have been killed by a husband, father, or
Frye, Fearful Symmetry, p. 392.
brother, as would Teodosia in La fuerza de la sangre, or Leonora in
El celoso extremeño. In the world of Calderón, that
Bandera so admires, the absurdity of the struggle among men may in fact be
understood by the playwright, but he seems to have found no way of reaching
beyond that understanding to conditions in which wife-murder would not have
It is right here, on the question of the woman, and with her, of all that does not belong to the realm of the intellect, that I think Bandera stumbles. For the violence that he rightly finds as pointless occurs all too frequently in Cervantes as well as in Calderón, because the male protagonists are incapable of seeing the real woman beneath the images of her that their confused response to the feminine evokes.12 To forgive the harlot is to discover the self in the other the most absolute of all the others, yet one which in Bandera's text remains undifferentiated: the feminine other that masculine consciousness despairs of comprehending.
This could be much longer, but I don't think it needs to be. I could include, if this were not an article for the inaugural issue of Cervantes, a long section on Rosaura, whose role in Life is a Dream has been reduced by Bandera to that of the bringer of violence and disturbance into the court. But that would be only to show that Bandera's reading of the texts in question is a consistent one, and that my reading of Bandera is equally consistent. I will resist the temptation to elaborate further, and close by pointing out that I have gone through this entire (exhausting) exercise not to disparage what I have found as a truly admirable and challenging book, but to offer an insight into the impasse it suggests that may help some of us begin to work past it. For the impasse, for all that it is a fiction, is nonetheless real, just as silly fears are real, just as unreasonable jealousy is real. I offer my own reading, however, in deep humility. For I know that even as it proposes a solution, it perpetuates the intellectual controversy and threatens to become not a solution at all, but part of the problem. The real solution, Bandera knows it and so do I, is not here on this page, dear reader, but in our collective and respective hearts.
|UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, CHICAGO CIRCLE|
12 The failure to see the real woman, when it is not a subject for tragedy, becomes the basis of farce. For a good discussion of the role of women in undoing the self-importance of a man, as a basic element in farce, see Edith Kern's recent The Absolute Comic (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980).
|Fred Jehle email@example.com||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|