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  • Cultural Capital, Language and National Identity in Imperial Spain by Lucia Binotti
  • Eli Cohen

Golden Age, Renaissance, Spain, Cultural Capital, National Identity, Linguistics, Historiography, Material Culture, History Of The Book, Canon Formation, Sentimental Fiction, Góngora, Cervantes, Ekphrasis, Lucia Binotti, Eli Cohen

Binotti, Lucia. Cultural Capital, Language and National Identity in Imperial Spain. Woodbridge, UK: Tamesis, 2012. x + 207 pp.

In an effort to recontextualize the recurrent debate about the existence, nature, and scope of a Spanish Renaissance, Lucia Binotti brings an interdisciplinary perspective to bear on a broad range of practices and artifacts which contributed to the specific contours of sixteenth-century Spanish culture, while also identifying the formative points of contact between Spain and the epicenter of Renaissance activity and thought, Italy. Binotti’s Cultural Capital, Language and National Identity in Imperial Spain positions itself at the intersections of renewed interest in both the material production of Renaissance culture and early modern thought about language as a rhetorical and epistemological medium. In doing so, it incorporates historiography, intellectual history, cultural materialism, and linguistic and literary analysis, a program that mirrors the complex constellation of practices that characterize early modern Spanish culture.

Of special interest to Binotti is the process by which the Renaissance, in Spain as in Italy, though with different outcomes, arose as the result of specific commercial, [End Page 511] artistic, and intellectual practices which sought to establish the grounds for their own authority, circulation, and consumption. Binotti fruitfully builds off of Paula Findlen’s work on the role of the creation of cultural capital in producing a material, intellectual, and artistic Renaissance in Italy, but does so not simply by describing a parallel procedure in Spain; rather she shows how the political relationship between Spain and Italy enabled concrete practices of cultural appropriation and exploitation which instigated and gave form to what would become the Renaissance in Spain.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one, “Patronage, Audiences and Cultural Markets,” explores how the cultural conditions of the Italian Renaissance were transposed into the Spanish context, only to be reshaped by local concerns into a unique cultural configuration. In chapter one, Binotti examines the commercial triumph of Italian translations of Spanish sentimental fiction in the sixteenth century. The shifting formation of the Italian elites found, in works like Cárcel de amor and La historia de Grisel y Marbella, the representation of the conventionalized and ritualized discourse of courtly life and values which reflected and codified this diverse yet exclusive readership’s own evolving self-image. In this context, Binotti identifies the “entrepreneurial” use of the printing press (17), the material transformation of the text, and the editorial emphasis on linguistic purity as crucial elements in the commercial and cultural success of these Spanish texts in Italy. This success manifests itself both in the editorial history of the works and in their role as intertexts for the works of Castiglione and Ariosto, a role Binotti examines in some detail.

Chapter two continues the story of the Italian appropriation and transformation of Spanish texts, but turns from textual analysis to an account of the editorial and publishing practices through which Spanish texts were furnished with cultural authority and presented to readers as canonical, first in Italy and then in Spain. Binotti describes how Italian editors and publishers established concrete formal identifiers which would confer on texts both literary and artifactual canonicity, marking them as appropriate for consumption and collection by the social and political elites of Italy. She then locates the translation and publication, by Spaniards living in Italy, of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso within this set of practices, stressing the new edition’s “institutional physiognomy as a book” (76) and affirming the role of such formal traits as typography and the inclusion of reader-oriented paratexts in the process by which the procedures and objectives of Italian Renaissance culture were imposed on Spanish texts in a way that would then allow for their domestication in the upper echelons of Spain’s own cultural milieu. The chapter ends with a consideration of how Cervantes’s Don Quijote at once parodies, inscribes, and reimagines the ascribed linguistic and literary canonicity of early modern...


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pp. 511-514
Launched on MUSE
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