- Spanish Studies in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, and: Latin American Shakespeares
The celebration of the Seventh World Shakespeare Congress in Valencia in 2001 marked Spain's global commitment to the study of Shakespeare and his English contemporaries. This culminating event was preceded by some important historical landmarks, not least of which was the demise of Franco's long-lived regime. After this political transition, Shakespeare studies grew more democratic, no longer constrained by ideology and poorly funded theaters. Spain's entry into the European Community in 1986 helped bring an end to the country's long [End Page 489] cultural isolation, and Shakespeare has since emerged from the Spanish cultural margins to enjoy new life on stage, in translation, and in Iberian discussions often facilitated by the active Spanish and Portuguese Society for English Renaissance Studies.
José Manuel González's intent in Spanish Studies in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries is to showcase the work of a new generation of Spanish Shakespeareans to a wide readership. Of the sixteen essays in the collection, four address the Spanish adaptation or reception of English literature on the stage or page, four approach English literature with Spanish texts in a conventional comparative mode, and eight deal straightforwardly with English Renaissance literature with no emphasis on Spanish texts or contexts. The four essays dealing with cultural adaptations are the most compelling, as they provide much needed cultural contexts for understanding the history of the Spanish response and help fill in some of the gaps pertaining to Anglo-Spanish encounters not taken up in González's too-short introduction. Keith Gregor's "Julius Caesar and the Spanish Transition," for example, addresses several productions of the Roman play during and after Franco's rule that called into question the legitimacy of autocratic rule and the redistribution of political power in the wake of usurpation. Clara Calvo's "Deforeignizing Shakespeare: Otelo in Romantic Spain" studies how the native theatrical tradition of jealous husbands made Othello a welcome visitor to the nineteenth-century Spanish stage. Concerned more with interclass anxieties than with miscegenation, Spain in the romantic period virtually stripped Othello of his racial otherness in a move resonant with the current use of the term el moro, which need not refer exclusively to a Moor, but to a jealous man of any race.
Half of the essays in this collection have nothing to do with Spain at all. In other words, there is nothing particularly "Spanish" about them other than their authorship by scholars working in Anglophone literature departments in Spain. The introduction does these eight essays a disservice by not locating them within a history of Spain's critical engagement with the English (or Spanish) Renaissance. It's very difficult to generalize about the offerings in this group, which range from a ludic analysis of Sonnet 18 to analyses of Antony and Cleopatra, Venus and Adonis, Romeo and Juliet, and Dr. Faustus. To readers accustomed to Anglo-American scholarship, many of these essays may seem underresearched or downright naïve, despite flashes of brilliance displayed in some of them. Many of them cite but a small handful of critical sources (and in the case of one essay, none at all). Even essays that are clearly well researched, like Ana María Manzanas's piece on race in Othello, do not attempt polemical interventions in a particular critical history of a particular play but seem content to offer modest and evenhanded readings. Generally, none of the essays employ recent methodologies common in recent Anglo-American criticism, such as cultural materialism or New Historicism; most do not integrate extraliterary texts at all, save for those few which trace performance histories through recovered theatrical reviews. I believe that the work of Spanish scholars will become increasingly important, especially as interest in early modern imperialism and colonialism continues to forge new links between [End...