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Allegories of Love: Cervantes's "Persiles and Sigismunda," (review)
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228Philosophy and Literature Allegories of Love: Cervantes's "Persiles and Sigismunda," by Diana de Armas Wilson; 260 pp. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991, $32.50. This volume, like Cervantes's The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda which it explores, is a gem with many facets. Although entitled Allegories ofLove, its focus is both manageably limited and intriguingly liberated by de Armas Wilson's vision of Persiles and Sigismunda as a "generic transformation" of romance "kidnapped " by a different notion of unity into the realm of allegory linked with exemplarity. The volume itself is extremely readable and well organized. Throughout her text, de Armas Wilson has done an amazingly thorough job ofciting and summarizing the major and minor foci ofpastand presentcriticism of Persiles and Sigismunda and in her "Contexts and Subtexts" section, she has also contributed a highly relevant and creditable review of the history and description of romance as a genre and allegory as a mode. She also touches on how the chivalric, pastoral, and picaresque are different from but related to that romance genre, and argues convincingly that the elements of "blatant" personification in Persiles and Sigismunda provide evidence of Cervantes's concern with cause and agency—his link to allegory—and his exploration of what the sexual Other is and how it functions. In preparation for a close look at the text itself, de Armas Wilson ends this section with a study of what she calls "the organizing metaphor" (p. 79) for Cervantes's last romance: the androgyne. As a basis for her theory, once again she helpfully and thoroughly summarizes literary and cultural treatments of the androgyne and its place in the discourse of the Renaissance. Her argument that "the Persiles is a strategically split discourse, a cunning analogue of the ancient split between the sexes it aims to explore" (p. 82), not only answers some traditional criticism of the work as fragmented and "destabilizes" that notion, but provides a very convincing context for Cervantes's strange personal appearance toward the end of what he considered his best work. The pilgrim/ editor/Cervantes (Book 4, Chapter 1) is compiling a text within the text entitled the "Posy of Peregrine Aphorisms" for which he requests contributions from characters in Persiles and Sigismunda. For de Armas Wilson, the fact that these contributions are not only solicited by the "editor" in two distinct gender groups, but divide themselves clearly into stress on "agency and achievement" by the male and "anxiety and admonition" by the female characters, displays an obvious critique by Cervantes of "how the sexes are imprisoned in their separate languages " (p. 89). In the second part of her work, she continues that examination of gender focus and language begun by the pilgrim/editor/Cervantes himself. First, she provides us with a clear and thoughtful résumé of the romance's extremely complicated circumstances and actions, then organizes and discusses many of Reviews229 the instances in Persiles and Sigismunda when she sees Cervantes presenting the main characters with examples of both commendable and non-commendable attitudes and behavior, some of which are designed for Periandro's edification, some for Sigismunda, but all for his readers. This brings her discussion to what she sees as Cervantes's implicit exploration into the Other. Her specific and richly detailed studies of the examples of Transila Fitzmaurice, Feliciana de la Voz, and Isabela Castrucha as women breaking out of the mold of the silent or gender-imprisoned Other successfully argue for de Armas Wilson's important point that throughout Persiles and Sigismunda there is a movement toward gender bilingualism. Her argument and this volume are effectively convincing because hercontributions tocriticism ofthe work are grounded in and anticipate a vast range of other critical stances and resources. By de Armas Wilson's own example of the skillful organization of this diverse material and our smooth guidance through it, she convinces us that Cervantes's method, too, is not that we readers stand by to "watch" or "hear" the language of the Other, but that with Persiles and Sigismunda we actually begin to experience that bilingualism. Whitman CollegeCelia E. Weller Humanism in Crisis: The Decline oftL· French Renaissance, edited by Philippe Desan; viii & 323 pp. Ann...