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Reviewed by:
Akiko Tsuchiya. Images of the Sign: Semiotic Consciousness in the Novels of Benito Pérez Galdós. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1990. 145 pp. $25.00.
Abigail Lee Six. Juan Goytisolo: The Case for Chaos. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990. 232 pp. $25.00.

The critical studies by Akiko Tsuchiya and Abigail Lee Six on the novels of Benito Pérez Galdós and Juan Goytisolo, respectively, bear eloquent witness to the sophistication and general good health of contemporary scholarship on the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Spanish novel. Although the individual volumes may appear to have little in common, their similarities multiply upon closer scrutiny. In each case, what began as a doctoral dissertation evinces the rigor and originality of vision that characterizes mature scholarship. Directed to distinct populations within the English-speaking community of Hispanists, the two studies may also be of interest to specialists of narrative in other national literatures, a focus facilitated by the translation of all Spanish material into English. Each text may also be considered as forming one end of a parenthesis around the theoretical trend broadly recognized as structuralism; whereas Six's study maintains a firm commitment to the "deep structures" of myth criticism and a sociological perspective, Tsuchiya's work ventures into the Barthesian world of semiotic displacement and disjunction. What, more than anything, brings the two efforts together is a shared desire to creatively expand the horizons of Hispanic criticism, combined with a general lucidity of argument and coherence of style.

In her terse introduction to Images of the Sign, Tsuchiya outlines the theoretical "umbrella" for the five analytical chapters to follow. Eschewing a diachronic approach in favor of the atemporality of the semiotic perspective, she suggests that Galdos's novels consistently draw attention to their own status as fictional creations; mimeticism confronts self-referentiality as two contradictory concepts of the sign struggle to efface one another. Tsuchiya explores this dynamic through her treatment of the ways in which specific characters in Fortunata y Jacinta, El doctor Centeno, Tristana, La incógnita, and the first series of the Episodios nacionales respond to the discrepancies between signs and their referents. In addition to evaluating character motivation, she also works with the themes and narrative devices that dramatize the essential semiotic indeterminacy of Galdós's work.

Theoretically well-read and contextually conversant, Tsuchiya consistently brings to bear in her analysis of a particular novel the weight of its relation to other texts in the Galdós canon. She succinctly sustains her critique, elaborating upon it in each subsequent chapter, and makes a convincing case for the reevaluation of nineteenth-century novels in light of recent theoretical developments, and in spite of the artificial hierarchy constructed in critical circles between realist and modernist literature. Notwithstanding the fact that four of the five analytical chapters have already been published elsewhere, Tsuchiya's contribution to Galdós studies should accomplish a great deal towards bringing nineteenth-century Spanish literature "up to date," as well as attracting readers "back" to one of the preeminent novelists of Spanish letters.

Whereas the previous investigation might be considered a radical rewriting of conventional appraisals of realism, Abigail Lee Six's Juan Goytisolo: The Case for Chaos proposes to conventionalize, in the sense of defining the conventions of, the work of one of the most radical twentieth-century Spanish novelists, Juan Goytisolo, by tracing the evolution of his inversion of the hierarchy between order [End Page 329] 329 and disorder, which, in turn, leads the novelist to champion the fluidity and unity of chaos. Six intends to move scholarly emphasis away from sociohistorical analyses and referential glosses to a study of "deeper, timeless, and universal patterns of narrative tradition which [Goytisolo's] texts exploit." Thus, like Tsuchiya, she opts for a synchronic approach to his novels, focusing on characters, themes, motifs, and symbols as they elucidate the basic ideological (her term) purpose underlying Goytisolo's later novels.

After initially laying the theoretical groundwork and providing a brief biography of Goytisolo, Six concentrates her discussion principally on the novels beginning with Señas de identidad (1966), and she concludes in the Afterword with a discussion of...


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pp. 329-330
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