- Rewriting Classical Mythology in the Hispanic Baroque
This volume of thirteen well-researched and engagingly written essays originated in a colloquium held at Queen's University, Belfast in 2004, entitled "The Protean Muse: Rewriting Classical Mythology in the Hispanic Baroque." The thirteen essays, some of which were written expressly for this collection while others are revised versions of papers from the colloquium, bring fresh perspectives and insight to two problematic concepts in literary studies in general, and seventeenth-century Hispanic studies in particular: the definition and idea of the Baroque and the definition and range of mythology. Editor Isabel Torres's introductory essay nicely encapsulates the problems associated with the historical use of the two terms in literary criticism, and she especially praises the work of Ann Mackenzie on the [End Page 1282] subject. In a turn that mirrors other contemporary developments —that is, the current focus on medieval Hispanisms, or multiple Iberias —she suggests that there are seventeenth-century Baroques rather than a single Baroque. In terms of mythology, what is essential, in her view, is that Spanish writers manipulated classical references to their advantage, causing "tradition . . . to serve innovation, and a notional continuity of experience for the individual reader reverberates in a sense of collective national purpose" (11). The reader must be actively engaged in the decoding of the artistic work: "the multilayered, polyvalent nature of classical mythology in the Hispanic Baroque is inextricably linked to its original (usually Ovidian) context, and is a direct consequence of the vibrant dialogue of reception aesthetics, developing and modifying over time" (12). Torres then closes her introduction with an example of how to read the mythology in a Quevedo poem. What the reader misses is a framing of the argument for the collection to follow, by weaving remarks about the collection's essays into her own observations. While the essays are excellent, it is not clear whether the authors collectively intend to suggest new ways, tools, and methodologies to understand the Baroque and mythology within it, or simply to offer numerous close readings of fresh observations on well-traveled critical paths. Either choice is acceptable, although, for a collection of essays at a very hefty price, the former might be preferable. That reservation aside, the reader will learn a great deal from these extremely erudite articles.
Of the thirteen essays, the first five, including Torres's introduction, offer analyses of poetry by Quevedo (in addition to Torres, D. Gareth Walters on Leander), by Góngora (Trevor J. Dadson and Isabel Torres both on Polifemo y Galatea), and by Pedro de Espinosa (Barry Taylor on Fábula de Genil); the next two essays focus on Cervantes' prose (Stephen Boyd on El celoso extremeño and B. W. Ife on illness in Don Quijote, Persiles y Segismunda, and three of the novelas ejemplares); the next three turn to theater (Anthony Lappin on Lope's Caballero de Olmedo, Jeremy Robbins on Calderón de la Barca's Eco y Narciso, and Bruce Swansey on the topos of the labyrinth in comedias by Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz). The next two essays treat painting —Oliver Noble Wood "reads" Velázquez's Marte, and D. W. Cruickshank explores Calderón de la Barca's interest in painting and theatrical depictions of painting and painters —and in the last, truly fascinating essay of the collection, Jean Andrews discusses opera and musical culture in Jesuit mission settlements in colonial Latin America, and the Jesuit enterprise of melding Christian theology and European cultural norms with indigenous cultural practice and context.
For me, the most impressive essays, in addition to Andrews's, were by Taylor, Ife, and Cruickshank, but the collection is notable for the consistent excellence of its essays. Taylor's contribution, "River Gods of Andalusia: Pedro Espinosa's Fábula de Genil," examines the Ovidian motifs in a poem by one of Góngora's earliest followers...