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READING TO PIECES: DIVISIO TEXTUS AND THE STRUCTURE OF EL CONDE LUCANOR Jonathan Burgoyne Pennsylvania State University Recent criticism on the Conde Lucanorhas become increasingly concerned with elements of subversion, ambiguity, aporia and even paradox in a collection of tales that is conventionally viewed as univocally didactic, and transparently informed by Juan Manuel's political life and aristocratic world view.1 The scholarly opinion that the Conde Lucanor is essentially a "closed" work with a stable structure and deliberate thematic organization still appears to be accepted among many hispanomedievalists. Aníbal Biglieri has argued that the meaning of Juan Manuel's exempta can be discovered in their allegorical dimensions that resonate with the author's medieval ethical field of reference , and ultimately cap the entire collection by providing it with an isomorphic interpretive frame (211-14). More recently, Fernando Gómez Redondo writes that Juan Manuel transformed his political desires and frustrations into fiction, giving birth to an entire opus that displays a unique balance of literary creativity and medieval political philosophy (1093-95).2 Following another critical path paved by scholars such as Peter Dunn and James Burke, a shift in the discussion ofJuan Manuel's didacticism leans toward an appreciation of the author's sense of the contingency of language, the open and unpredictable nature of the 1 Laurence de Looze introduces the idea ofaporia in "Subversion ofMeaning in Part I ofEl Conde Lucanor", particularly in his reading ofejemplo 51. It refers toa "gap" or "blank space" created by self-contradiction and paradox in the text (349). 2 Alan Deyermond also supports this view, concluding that, over all,Juan Manuel's fiction ultimately relates back to the author's political ambitions (234) . La corónica 32.1 (Fall, 2003): 231-55 232Jonathan BurgoyneLa corónica 32.1, 2003 world, and the need to intelligently interpret signs of all kinds.3 Rather than conveying one clear lesson in each tale, or one over-arching truth for the entire collection, critics such as Laurence de Looze, John England , and James Burke see the Conde Lucanor more as an exercise in hermeneutics. Maria Rosa Menocal has gone even further in her reading of "openness " in the Conde Lucanor by claiming that the "moral" or "lesson" of Juan Manuel's ejemplos is that "interpretation and judgment should avoid the temptations of closures and certainties" (482) . Recently, Laurence de Looze has written persuasive arguments in favor of a seemingly paradoxical reading that allows for both freedom of interpretation , even "obscurity for its own sake", and a constricting framework that contains and channels the reading process ("The 'Nonsensical' Proverbs" 21O).4 Although the scholarship on the Conde Lucanor is much more nuanced than this brief outline may suggest, and all of the medievalists mentioned above have taken great strides towards reevaluating these simplistic dichotomies regardingJuan Manuel's didacticism, it still remains a perennial source of critical attention for scholars interested in defending or problematizing the author's ethical/ideological message. For my purposes here, an important point to make about this scholarly tradition -a point that Laurence de Looze intimates in "The 'Nonsensical ' Proverbs ofJuan Manuel's El Conde Lucanor"— is that it takes for granted the textual stability of the Conde Lucanor in critical editions based on, for the most part, one codex optimus: the manuscript known as S (Madrid-Biblioteca Nacional, MS 6376). An unintended consequence ofsingling out one manuscript among others —in fact it is a consequence of conventional textual criticism in general- is that the idiosyncratic testimony of the remaining manuscript evidence is obscured or lost for modern readers. In the case of the Conde Lucanor, once the focus of attention shifts -if only temporarily - away from notions of authorial intention and didactic integrity , the entire body of manuscript evidence studied together sheds light on how the Conde Lucanor was rewritten, read, and put to use by its late-medieval and early-modern audiences. This evidence will challenge our modern critical reception ofJuan Manuel's most canonical 'James Burke refers to this theme in the CondeLucanoras the "curse ofmediacy", and claims that it is "the primary concern ofJuan Manuel" ("Counterfeit" 210). 4 Similarly, John England argues that the reader's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 231-255
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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