- Don Quixote, Don Juan, and Related Subjects: Form and Tradition in Spanish Literature, 1330–1630
Perhaps an appropriate term for describing this study of several canonical pieces of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish literature is "bricolage," a concept borrowed from Claude Lévi-Strauss in Parr's analysis of El libro de buen amor. Defined by Parr as "a kind of improvisation, drawing upon and making use of whatever one finds close at hand" (200), "bricolage" captures the strength of this book. With the ease of one who has a profound knowledge of texts, history, previous criticism, and literary theories, Parr draws on whatever is most helpful to construct insightful analyses. Moreover, he uses traditional criticism in refreshing and unpredictable ways while also making newer approaches look quite orthodox. Finally, Parr peppers the entire study with the enticing innuendo that many of the works analyzed here anticipate twentieth-century critical thought and were merely waiting for, say, a Freud or a Derrida to notice their narrative, structural, or linguistic intricacies.
Part I, "Don Quixote and the Narrative Tradition," begins with the chapter "On Translation, with an Overture to Interpretation," in which Parr compares several English versions of the Quixote and discusses knotty problems that stymie even the most meticulous translators. With regard to interpretation, Parr calls for a back-to-basics, "new" New Criticism informed by poststructuralist thought. The chapter entitled "Formal Features and Narrative Technique" tackles the issue that has most attracted recent critics of the Quixote, namely, "who tells the story?" In the opening paragraphs of "Framing, Orality, Origins," Parr acknowledges the "wit and levity" that deconstruction has added to literary criticism. Parr's own style reaches its highest level of playfulness when he applies Derrida's ideas on différance and deferral to the Quixote. The highlight of the chapter is Parr's analysis of the murky dichotomy between orality and literacy. He concludes that it is often difficult to separate the spoken from the written word and that, [End Page 532] similar to the often-cited baciyelmo, neither entity, or, in this case, medium, is privileged. As suggested by the chapter title "Don Quixote and Le Roman bourgeois: Comparative Anatomy," Parr turns to comparative literature studies to address questions of genre, or, Parr's preferred term, "kind." Basing his analysis on several critical cornerstones, including Northrop Frye's seminal Anatomy of Criticism, Parr makes a compelling case for classifying the Quixote as satire, despite the fact that many critics, particularly Hispanists, insist that it is the first modern novel.
In the opening chapter of Part II, "Don Juan and Classical Spanish Drama," entitled "Don Quixote and Don Juan: The Body in Context," Parr highlights psychological traits that the two heroes have in common, primarily their dedication to the pleasure principle and avoidance of the reality principle. Don Quixote, the sadomasochistic neurotic, and Don Juan, the homoerotic abuser, seek eros but encounter thanatos. Despite popular connotations to the contrary, quixotic desire is actually a death wish. The first sentence of the next chapter, "El burlador de Sevilla: Authorship and Authenticity," says it all: "The controversy over the authorship of El burlador de Sevilla y el convidado de piedra should now be laid to rest" (138). Parr cogently rejects assertions that Andrés de Claramonte authored the original Don Juan play and offers a plausible model of transmission of a play eventually attributed to Tirso.
"Don Juan and His Kind: Generic Irony" opens with the old chestnut about whether or not tragedy could have been produced and appreciated in seventeenth-century Catholic Spain. Parr suggests that the answer is yes, but he urges critics to focus on aesthetic and psychological considerations rather than on the moral and philosophical dimensions of classical tragedy. Finally, Parr inserts El burlador in the continuum of tragicomedy in Peninsular theater.
In "Two Characters from Seville: The Canon and the Culture Wars," Parr defends his choice of El burlador de Sevilla and La Estrella de Sevilla for inclusion in the...