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Bulletin of the Comediantes • 2008 Vol.60 No.1 153 Reviews_ __________________________________________________________________ Reviews Vivar, Francisco. “La Numancia” de Cervantes y la memoria de un mito. Madrid: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva, 2004. 174 pp. Francisco Vivar’s“La Numancia”de Cervantes y la memoria de un mito seeks to situate the lone extant example of Cervantes’s experiments with classical tragedic form in a much contested and, ultimately, indefinable space: between collective memory and official history. The crux of this theoretical and historical problem arises from Vivar’s reading of the play as the performance of “un mito español para exaltar la excelencia de los tiempos presentes a través de la antigua hazaña numantina” (13). This neo-conservative reading places the text in close proximity to triumphalistic myths of national identity, and, as such, Vivar is compelled to erect a precarious barrier between what is presupposed to be Cervantes’s channeling of a legitimate collective memory of national proportions and other less legitimate uses of ancient and cloudy “memories.” In chapter 1, Vivar introduces the themes of imperial domination and colonial resistance, the main focus being the articulation of a dialectical opposition between slavery and freedom. There are several points to be made here, the first of which concerns a definition of collective identity that equates freedom with a subject’s continued identification with the collective, whatever the cost. This has a direct bearing on Vivar’s analysis of Numancia, as he establishes a direct relationship between the unyielding posture of Escipión and the mass suicide of the numantinos.Since Vivar himself has contextualized his reading of the play within the U.S. war on terror, the equation is worth dwelling on. Such a frame suggests an analogy between Escipión’s beastly behavior and that of the “coalition” fighting the war in Iraq. What is less clear to this reader is the moral status of the mass suicide, which is presented in horrifying, even grotesque detail in Cervantes’s play. The next chapter contextualizes the self-immolation of the Numantians within ancient and medieval notions of patriotism and religious martyrdom. Left unproblematized, however, is the question of whether this tradition should be regarded as a collective and historical inevitability or as a textual archive produced by cultural elites who collect, rewrite, and deploy such notions in the construction and legitimization of their own political authority. Vivar FLLComediantesFINAL08_60.indd 153 8/13/08 11:01:49 AM 154 Bulletin of the Comediantes • 2008 Vol.60 No.1 ___________________________________________________________________ Reviews introduces Américo Castro’s notion of a Hispano-Jewish substrate to explain (excuse?) the particular susceptibility of the Hispanic soul to this marriage of religion and politics, which leads us to the curious nature of the freedom of the Numantians. According to Vivar, their fate is preordained, and yet “la jornada segunda muestra a los numantinos en perfecto control de su existencia” (54). As Kant might put it, their act of free will is constituted by choosing that which has already been decided for them, which describes precisely the predicament of national identity itself. The following two chapters tighten the grip of Castile around Spanish national identity by framing Cervantes’s creative process within the revisionist historical project of the Hapsburg Empire, specifically the propaganda machine of Felipe II. I think it is fair to say, however, that the concept of a collective national identity becomes unhinged, if not completely delegitimized, when Vivar writes, that “nuestro autor buscará el favor del público y del Rey, y que encontrará en los hechos de los numantinos el tema apropiado que le proporcionaría este apoyo” (100). In the following chapter, the “success” of Cervantes’s play is posited as a dividend of the modern refundiciones Vivar compares with the original. The four plays selected by the author, Numancia destruida (Rojas Zorrilla, ca. 1630), Numancia destruida (López de Ayala, 1775), Numancia, tragedia española (Antonio Sabiñon, 1818), and El nuevo circo de Numancia (Alfonso Sastre, 2002), are used to confirm Vivar’s reading of Cervantes, in particular the first three plays. The works by Rojas Zorrilla, López de Ayala, and Sabiñon are performed in what Maravall...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 153-154
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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