- An Erotic Philology of Golden Age Spain
Adrienne Laskier Martin's contribution to our critical understanding of the erotic imagination's role in early modern Spanish literature has placed her among a selected group of scholars known for the consistency and quality of their publications. I doubt that anyone interested in Cervantes, for example, would skip her Cervantes and the Burlesque Sonnet (1991), a book that opened new vistas for recent generations of Cervantistas all over the world. This new book springs from the author's fundamental insight affirming the intrinsic worth and originality of a type of literary expression traditionally branded as merely burlesque, popular, or simply too plebeian to be ranked as material meriting serious and systematic study. [End Page 1285]
The topics covered on each chapter can be summarized under clear terms: prostitution, homosexuality, lesbianism, "wild women," transvestism, and cuckoldry. Among the texts studied are found "La tía fingida," a novella ascribed to Cervantes, a selection of Quevedo's and Góngora's poems, the narrative poem "El sueño de la viuda de Aragón" by Fray Melchor de la Serna, Montemayor's Diana, folk ballads, serrana's from El libro de Buen Amor, and Catalina de Erauso's Historia de la monja alférez, among others. The abundance and variety of the material is almost overwhelming, but the organization of the book allows for a focused, intricate, and highly stimulating reading, rendering a detailed analysis of the textual history as well. That all the works included here have been subjected to previous and sometimes superficial or prejudiced analysis won't impede the reader from detecting the freshness —no pun intended —and suppleness permeating Professor Martin's comments and observations, as in her approach to the topic of wild women, where she explores a variety of semantic layers to illuminate the special sensibility that gave birth to such peculiar images. Also, her knowledge of the critical literature, especially in English, is not confined to simple adaptation or copying, and in most instances, she succeeds in upholding the uniqueness of the Spanish past, underlining its richness.
The book cover, a painting by a Dutch master, has been chosen to point in the preface to the kind of changes in perception that inevitably lead us to discover meanings buried by the effects of times past, as well as to recognize certain connections between popular and high culture. Thus we are reminded that the aim of a book like this is to invite us to rediscover these unorthodox figures to gain a new appreciation of their distinctive position in cultural history. The painstaking and thoughtful manner in which the author engages with this variegated material will definitely enhance our appreciation and enjoyment of it.