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  • El Parnaso español: Canon, mecenazgo y propaganda en la poesía del Siglo de Oro
  • Elias L. Rivers
Julio Vélez-Sainz, El Parnaso español: Canon, mecenazgo y propaganda en la poesía del Siglo de Oro. Madrid: Visor Libros, 2006. 237 pp.

The thesis of this well-researched book is that the allegorical mythology of Parnassus, Apollo, and the Muses, an apparatus that since the Romantic movement has seemed to be largely meaningless, ought to be seen by the modern historian of literature as in fact meaningful in many ways for our understanding of early modern poetry in Spain and of how Renaissance and Baroque readers and writers thought about that poetry. The author traces the cultural history of Parnassus from Greece to Spain. He finds the theme in Garcilaso's Sonnet XXIV ("Ilustre honor del nombre de Cardona"), in which the poet promises to take water from Italian springs to the Tagus River; both Góngora and Quevedo recognize Garcilaso as "príncipe de la poesía castellana" and claim, each in his own way, to be following his classical tradition in Spain. And these three poets, I might add, were gentlemen (entitled to "don"), not commercial publishers of their own poetry.

It is significant that Quevedo used the nine Muses as a framework for organizing the posthumous edition of his own poetry; most modern editors of Quevedo's poetry, with the notable exception of James O. Crosby (Poesía varia, Cátedra, 1981), have not used this historically authentic principle of organization. Cervantes satirizes the competition for fame in the "academias" [End Page 463] of Madrid, of Apollo's Greece, and of the Count of Lemos's Naples in his burlesque Viaje del Parnaso, which is the major poem to use the myth in a full-scale allegorical review of the state (disorderly) of poetry in Spanish high society. Cervantes, a self-publishing commoner, recognizes that this world has ruled him out as a poet. But Lope de Vega, a commoner and huge commercial success, has no hesitation in suggesting that Philip IV should crown him as the true poet laureate of Spain.

In this brief notice I do not pretend to judge whether Vélez-Sainz has fully proven his thesis or not. He does bring to bear a wide range of provocative readings in both Spanish and English; he has graduate degrees in both of these languages and literatures, from the University of Salamanca and from the University of Chicago. Future readers of this book will have to reach their own conclusions as to the coherence and cogency of its arguments.

Elias L. Rivers
State University of New York at Stony Brook


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pp. 463-464
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