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Articles PASSION AND PERSUASION: PHILOCAPTION IN LA CELESTINA Robert Folger University of Munich Why does Melibea, at first harshly rejecting her suitor, ultimately fall head-over-heels in love widi Calisto? It is hard to imagine that any modern reader ofthe textual artifact now commonly tided La Celestina would not be puzzled by diis question (Russell 243). The issue has also attracted considerable critical interest because it touches on central issues in Celestina scholarship: die psychological make-up of central characters like Celestina and Melibea, the "realism" of the work, the role of magic - in short, the modernity of La Celestina. There are diose who celebrate Melibea as a complex personality who dissimulates her true feelings: initially she teases Calisto and plays along with the go-between, Celestina, in order to fulfill her desire.1 In diis perspective, Celestina's magical machinations arejudged a parodie element or denunciation ofridiculous superstitious practices. Melibea is granted an essentially modern (or presumably timeless) psychic depth, interiority and individuality; she is endowed with a form of subjectivity, which, in the light of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century literary traditions (the wood-cut heroines of courdy poetry, libros de caballerías and sentimental fiction) and contemporary notions of die human self (in natural philosophy and theology), I am tempted to call freakish. 1 See, for instance, Emilio de Miguel Martinez's interpretation ofMelibeas trajectory as a lover, emphasizing the modernity (34) and the "hondura y riqueza del sentimiento amoroso" (30) or Francisco Rodríguez Cascante, who asserts that Rojas's "ideological project" was to debunk the medieval episteme (24) and establish a "nuevo paradigma de seres humanos" (40). La corónica 34.1 (Fall, 2005): 5-29 6 Robert FolgetLa coránica 34.1, 2005 On die other hand, many scholars have emphasized die role of love-magic in La Celestina: Melibea's change of mind, they argue, is effected through supernatural forces deployed by the old bawd.-' Acknowledging magic as an "integral" part ofthe plot (Russell), diey have contributed to restoring to La Celestina's characters part of dieir alterity. Only part of it because, seen in isolation from a radically different episteme and unfamiliar literary practices, magic functions in Rojas's text as a deus ex machina ofsorts, which safeguards the general "psychological realism", explaining away perceived oddities in Melibea's otherwise plausible and consistent personality. In odier words, ifmagic is merely an element ofthe interpretive frame which helps to elucidate puzzling details, it is seen as a screen behind which a modern, "realistic" subjectivity lurks. Ofcourse, scholarship has made considerable progress in exploring the alterity ofRojas's work in general and the psychology ofits dramatis personae in particular. Charles F. Fraker has argued that the modernity ofLa Celestina's characters is a byproduct of the dictates of premodern rhetoric (Genre and Rhetoric). Louise Fothergill-Payne has related the lovers' personalities to die Stoic idea ofaffectas, that is, a lack ofcontrol of the irrational impulses. The general failure to curb their desires explains why they succumb to the "affectus amantium" (403). While diis interpretation has the merit ofpositing a contemporary, influential philosophical system as an explanation for Melibea's motivations and actions, it fails to take into account the prevalent model ofthe human psyche and passionate love. I am talking about so-called faculty psychology and lovesickness, based on Aristotelian natural philosophy and Galenic medicine. Numerous studies have pointed out the importance of faculty psychology in La. Celestina, predominantly focusing on the protagonist Calisto and his love woes. In the last few decades scholarship has demonstrated diat Calisto's condition is a padiological one: he suffers - Since the discussion is closely linked with the question ofthe importance ofmagic in La Celestina, most ofthe pertinent bibliographical references (until 1 997) can be found in Severin's appendix to her Witchcraft in Celestina; see also Patrizia Botta's instructive 1 99? review article. According to Botta, more than one hundred studies liave addressed the issue ofmagic in La Celestina (40). Still indispensable and paradigmatic is Peter E. Russell's work, which considers magic an "integral" part of La Celestina, and Alan D. Deyermond'.' interprétâtion. For an example ofthe opposing view, see Maria Rosa Lida...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 3-29
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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