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Del director Ijust returned from an exceptionally enjoyable conference, a Symposium held at Indiana University under the leadership ofJuan Carlos Conde to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the publication ofthe Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea. Most know the pleasant - but all too infrequent - experience of attending an academic event where all the papers are solid and the informal exchanges rich and enlightening . It occurred to me that there's an informal index that helps flag such a gathering: how many offprints are swapped from one presenter to the next. I came home the happy recipient of over a dozen excellent studies recently published by the panelists who helped commemorate this milestone in the history of Spain's second most important literary work. Those whojust finished reading the preceding sentence probably thought my last affirmation unremarkable: Celestina in its definitive 2 1-act form is commonly hailed, both inside academic circles and among the educated public in every Spanish-speaking country, as second only to Cervantes's Don Quijote in literary glory. But this school year I have endured a long semester of challenges from my undergraduates who want to know precisely who decided that ranking was true. It's certainly not that they are ill disposed to the Tragicomedia (although few have actually read it at this point); the problem is one of canonicity and the negotiation of cultural capital that canons imply. At my university we recently abandoned our traditional undergraduate program blandly labeled as "Spanish" with its routine surveys of "Spanish Literature I and II" and single-author, single-genre courses in favor of a completely rethought cadre of offerings in a newly rebaptized Program in Hispanic Studies. I am impressed with the new ventures my colleagues have created under rubrics like "Landscapes of Spain: Real Places, Imagined Spaces", "Knights, Witches, Savages: Introduction to Early Modern Spanish Culture", and (I confess ) my own "Love and Prostitution in Medieval Spain" where I regularly teaching Celestina. The faculty in Hispanic Studies recognized from the outset that these thematically organized courses would not easily subsume any number of major works to which our students deserved an introduction, literary landmarks like Cien años de soledad, La regenta and Don Quijote. So we invented a non-repeatable course called "Masterworks and Issues of Canon Formation". My naively trusting colleagues asked me to launch the series with a reading of the Libro de buen amor, which most ofus would probably agree shares top honors in medieval Spanish literature with Celestina and the Poema de mio Cid. That's what I told my students in "Masterworks". And again they asked with an entirely reasonable insistence how we academic guardians of the canon came up with that short list. Many of this journal's readers who teach in the United States still bear the scars of our recent "canon wars" that still flare up in persistent skirmishes between political and cultural opponents who claim the Western canon as their battlefield. The sniping over curriculum, research funding in the arts and humanities, political correctness, multiculturalism, and more are in part a byproduct of an uneasy conscience over America's generally unrepentant national self-obsessiveness and our often smug presumption that we are the center of the universe. The sharpest hostilities seem to be a smokescreen for political forces in our conservative right wing who perceive any indication of going soft on the Western canon as a spineless concession to valueless - not to mention Godless - liberalism. I would hesitate to invite canon-thumpers like William J. Bennett (former Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration and also past Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in one of its more reactionary phases) to share our discussion in a recent issue of this journal on "Return to Queer Iberia". Bennett, E.D. Hirsch, Allan Bloom and other defenders of a static canon would actually insist that we who teach the great literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance should be on the front lines of resisting trendy approaches and non-canonical texts. But the Tragicomedia would make an odd bulwark against liberal excess or wrongheadedness. Yes, scholars have entertained a prolonged debate on the work's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 1-3
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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