2. Paradoxy and the Spanish Renaissance: Fernando de Rojas, Antonio de Guevara, and Pero Mexia
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Paradoxy and the Spanish Renaissance Fernando de Rojas, Antonio de Guevara, and Pero Mexia Three Definitions of Paradox In this chapter and those that follow, I shall base my analysis of paradox in Spanish writers, especially Cervantes, on three acceptations of the term. First, in agreement with its etymology, paradox denotes any assertion that runs contrary to (para) conventional understanding or received opinion (doxa). It therefore elicits a response of shock or wonder, admiratio or "alienation" in the recipient, who is forced to observe and cooperate in the undoing of his or her commonsense assumptions. This understanding of the term prevailed in Cervantes' day, as shown in the following definition by Covarrubias: Paradox: Equivalent to something causing astonishment [admirable] and contrary to common opinion; as in maintaining that quartan fever is 38 Western Paradox and the Spanish Golden Age good, that the sky does not move and that the globe of the earth is the [body] that turns, etc. Graece dicitur "paradoxos, "admirabilis, praeter opinionem , inauditus. (Paradoxa: Vale tanto como cosa admirable y fuera de la comun opini6n; como sustentar que la quarentena es buena, que el cielo no se mueve y que el globo de la tierra es el que anda a la redonda, etc. Graece dicitur "paradoxos , "admirabilis, praeter opinionem, inauditus.) (Covarrubias 1984, 852) Besides including the concept of admiratio and that of opposition to received opinion and common expectations, this definition encompasses the paradoxical encomium and the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, a paradox that was stillas paradoxes invariably are, for as long as they remain paradoxes-officially heterodox . Following the terminology of Rosalie Colie, many scholars have chosen to classifY paradoxical encomia as "rhetorical paradoxes." Although the designation is certainly accurate, it may also prove misleading. Such encomia deserve the label "rhetorical" to the degree that an orator pronounces them in a purely formal exercise. More specifically, however, they belong to the third ofAristotle's three branches of rhetoric: the epideictic or panegyric. This branch constitutes a rhetoric of display that serves a nonutilitarian, commemorative, or even festive purpose, and consists in assigning praise or censure (Rhetoric 1.1358a).1 It is pertinent to remember, however, that the Ciceronian tradition of paradoxes , aimed at moral and social reform, and thus performing a deliberative and suasive function, are no less "rhetorical" than the paradoxical encomia. Moreover, as Erasmus's most famous work makes clear, paradoxical encomia in the Renaissance are seldom purely formal exercises. They likewise aim at persuading the reader to ponder what is often an important moral question. Indeed, Ciceronian paradoxes frequently take the form of paradoxical encomia and vice versa. Second, the closely related acceptation that figures in most literary or rhetorical manuals defines paradox as an apparent contradiction that, upon examination , reveals a hidden, startling truth. Concerning this second acceptation, it is necessary to stress that contradiction occurs only in the surface meaning of the opposing statements, each of which is found to be true in some sense or some degree, and both of which resolve in some "higher" synthesis, beyond the terms 1. It will be remembered that the first branch (the deliberative or legislative) is undertaken in light of some foture action and aims at either persuading or dissuading one's listeners. The second (judicial or forensic) consists in either accusing or defending someone in a legal setting and is based on a criminal action known or thought to have taken place in the past. Paradoxy and the Spanish Renaissance 39 set by the contradictory statements. The natural "end" of paradoxical discourse is to "resolve" in the ineffable, extrarational domain of mystery-itself a paradoxical combination of what for human intelligence is excessive opacity and excessive light. Hence the need to resort to a language of apparent nonsense. Such an end, however, resists closure, constitutes a fresh beginning, and points toward a potential enlargement of linguistic and logical categories, which may in turn be pushed to an aporetic impasse that requires further reassessment, resolution , and enlargement of discursive categories. Increasingly, "learned ignorance" and generative openness are paradoxy's natural form of "closure." The rhetoric of paradoxy thus pursues truth in the form of a continuing, progressive, adventurous quest. It constitutes a rhetorical "way'' that leads to the discovery that the infinite intelligibility of truth is what guarantees its incomprehensibility for the finite mind, but also what guarantees that mind the continued possibility of novel, truthful findings, infinite in number, from a potentially infinite number of perspectives within that mind's temporal sphere...