restricted access Critical Cluster: Early Modern Theater and Theatricality
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Critical Cluster:
Early Modern Theater and Theatricality

With this Hispanic Issue of MLN, the editors introduce a new section—a "critical cluster"—on the general topic of Early Modern Spanish literature. (Future issues will include clusters about other periods of the literatures of Spain and Latin America). The common thread among the following articles is theater and theatricality in Golden Age Spanish drama and fiction. Enrique García Santo-Tomás, in his review article of Jesús Pérez-Magallón's recent book on Calderón, provides us with a brief history and an assessment of critical trends and reactions to Calderonian drama from the late seventeenth century to the present. His primary interest is to determine what constitutes a "classic" in the formation of literary canons, the focus and tastes of readers and critics, and the political implications and contexts over an extended time period. Esther Fernández concentrates on the importance of the use of puppets in the theatrical productions of comedias de santos, a genre embraced by the Church, often to celebrate Cuaresma and its religious and theological interests. Mira de Amescua's El esclavo del demonio is her play of choice, first presented as a puppet show as early as 1692 and received enthusiastically by its original audience. Its recent puppet performance in 2010 inspires her to conclude that the medium is as crucial as the message and that the recuperation of the mechanics of performance are integral to an understanding of Golden Age theater.

The remaining two articles in this cluster are devoted not to theater but to prose, even though both deal with performance and plot, and both follow an invented script in which characters assume acting roles [End Page 406] in which they are invited or coerced into playing a part. Seth Kimmel concentrates on the episode of the "bodas de Camacho" (Don Quijote II) in his analysis of "industria" and its relationship to post-Tridentine Spanish fiction, and concludes that the use of ritual and belief are subject to the power of human artifice to transform reality. A staged performance and a questionable wedding beyond the purview of the Church are legitimized for the reader as the result of the force of "industria" to incorporate the exchange of ritual sacramental vows. Ryan Schmitz also focuses on Cervantes (Don Quijote II) in his analysis of "discreción" and the "art of conversation" in the episode of the Duke and Duchess. Manuals of social and courtly conduct, whose relevance and ubiquitous presence in Golden Age Spain has been somewhat neglected, supplie him with a context to approach the question of social and economic ascendency of the period. His focus on ritualized and coded rules of conversation and behavior (and their hilarious challenge by Sancho Panza), display a cutting critique by Cervantes of the power of language (speech) to acquire or maintain honor or respect within the increasing "fluidity" of a highly ritualized and restricted social order. [End Page 407]