restricted access Introduction: Paradoxical Problems
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Introduction Paradoxical Problems More than twenty years ago, Francisco Marquez Villanueva wrote: "The study of Don Quixote as a masterwork in the genre of paradox has yet to be carried out and remains one of the sizeable gaps in Cervantes scholarship" (El estudio del Quijote en cuanto obra maestra del genero parad6jico no se ha realizado aun y constituye uno de los grandes huecos en la bibliograffa cervantina) (Marquez Villanueva 1975, 214).1 Since then, scholars have generally recognized the pervasiveness of paradox in Don Quixote, although no one has yet undertaken a systematic investigation ofthis trope in Cervantes' masterpiece.2 My purpose in this study is to situate Cervantes' Don Quixote within the tradition of paradoxical discourse, or paradoxy, in the West. Hence, this book is a response, in part, to 1. Translations from Spanish to English are mine unless otherwise stated. 2. The subject of Cervantes' use of paradox is explicit in Russell 1969 and latent in an important study of semantic ambiguity and authorial ambivalence in Don Quixote by Duran (1960), both ofwhich 2 Introduction the challenge set forth by Marquez Villanueva, though I recognize that the specific gap to which he refers will remain unfilled and, perhaps, unfillable. In the first place, though I believe that Marquez Villanueva is right in pointing to Don Quixote as a work of literary paradoxy, my examination of that trope leads me to doubt whether one can properly speak of "paradox" as a "genre" (genero parad6jico) and, hence, to doubt whether Cervantes' fiction exemplifies such a genre.3 The tradition of paradoxical writing encompasses works in disciplines as diverse as philosophy, rhetoric, and literature. And, among the literary works alone, a rhetoric of paradoxy informs a host of poems, dramas, prose narratives , anatomies, and miscellanies, all varying considerably in the selection-as well as the comic or serious treatment-of their subject matter. Paradoxy, in short, represents a particular if broad species of artful discourse. It is a trope of thought, a structuring principle, or a rhetorical strategy that moves freely and playfully across the boundaries that convention assigns to genres, modes, and intellectual disciplines. In the second place, I am aware that my attempt to undertake a systematic investigation of a slippery trope in a slippery text must begin with what Rosalie Colie calls a "defense of the indefensible"; that is, a defense of this "attempt to treat systematically a subject [both the trope and the text] designed to deny and destroy systems" (Colie 1966, vii). Paradoxically enough, the defense and indefensibility coincide in that paradoxy both "denies" and "destroys" systems through a rhetorical gesture of self-reference. In other words, paradoxical discourse systematically uses the categories of language and logic to question and mock the very categories that undergird language and logic as discursive systems. As a consequence , paradoxist and public alike must reassess their formerly untested assumptions about logic and language, even as they realize that the measure of a writer or rhetor's success in using the system against itself is also a measure of his or her failure to undermine that system. In equal measure, what Colie would call destruction thus becomes a form of validation, denial a form of affirmation. In the present analysis of Cervantine paradoxy, it is therefore necessary to acknowledge , at once, the utility and futility of systematic treatment. The categorical limits set forth in these pages stand as only one possible means of arranging a studies predate Marquez Villanueva's observation quoted above. Besides the study by Marquez Villanueva from which that quotation is taken (1975, 147-27), other discussions of paradox in Don Quixote include those by Eisenberg (1987, 188-93), Jones (1986), Martin (1991, 79-80) and Parr (1988, 103-19). Two studies by Forcione (1982, 1984) explore aspects of Cervantes' paradoxical discourse chiefly in relation to that author's Exemp!dry Novel!ds (Nove!ds ejemp!dres). 3. It seems that the "genre" that Marquez has in mind is the "paradoxical encomium," also called the "mock encomium," a burlesque species ofdeclamation that I discuss in Chapter 1 ofthe present study. Introduction 3 subject that both implies the necessity and questions the fixity of all orderly arrangements in discourse. In more specific terms, in this study I argue that Don Quixote exemplifies a species ofliterary discourse that is about, for, and against literary discourse, including its own. Cervantes' fiction represents a self-conscious text that is made from other texts, and a text that is about the reading...