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  • The Spanish Arcadia: Sheep Herding, Pastoral Discourse, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Spain by Javier Irigoyen-García
  • Rosilie Hernández
Javier Irigoyen-García. The Spanish Arcadia: Sheep Herding, Pastoral Discourse, and Ethnicity in Early Modern Spain. University of Toronto Press, x, 344. $70.00

Javier Irigoyen-García’s The Spanish Arcadia has been published at a time when the Spanish early modern pastoral, on the one hand, and morisco studies, on the other, have seen many and important publications. Irigoyen-García brings together these areas in this ambitious, finely researched study, offering a convincing analysis of how pastoral ideality forms and is informed by Spanish ethnic, cultural, and economic interests, and how it constructs an imaginary fable of Spain as an arcadia homogeneously populated by Old Christians, thereby providing the “symbolic means for excluding Moriscos (as well as Jews and Gypsies) from the representation of Spanish identity.” The book traces how pastoral ideality, deployed in all sorts of discourses and texts, was ideologically linked to blood-purity statutes, ethnic homogeneity, religious unity, a convenient reconstruction of ancient Spanish history purged of Muslim influence, and a fictional fashioning of the Spanish people as eternal shepherds whose flock was always already of the purest wool. There are instances in Irigoyen-García’s argument that are truly brilliant, such as when he brings together the religious concept of the “Good Shepherd,” the semantic field of sheep herding and the wool trade, and blood-purity discourses. Irigoyen-García demonstrates how “defenders of the statutes of blood purity rewrote the trope” of the Good Shepherd as the protector of all of humanity by mimicking the need for wool to be pure white and transposing this demand of the trade to the religious and social spheres: they argued that “the same logic should be applied to the management of human population, eliminating from the beginning any ‘tainted’ lamb that could threaten to ‘contaminate’ the flock’s [ethnic and religious] purity.” The merit of [End Page 536] this argument resides in how it newly informs the paradox that underlies the religious notion of the Good Shepherd (most notably Christ), who is tasked with safeguarding his entire flock and yet who, within this ideological context, acts as a prejudiced enforcer of a singularly defined purity and consequently attacks and discards any elements perceived to contaminate the ideal flock. In what follows, Irigoyen-García offers similarly inspired readings of the social and political implications of an imaginary “invention of the Spanish people,” which privileged a supposedly broadly shared Spanish pastoral identity that suppressed any participation from ethnic minorities, as well as the imaginary construction of an ancient history for Spain as the “land of pan” that never sees its borders invaded by the Moorish Other.

The second part of the book focuses on pastoral literature’s fictional engagement with Moors and their function in the Spanish literary landscape. Although Irigoyen-García continues to make the case for a broad “silencing” and “repression of cultural and ethnic heterogeneity and of the history that may hinder their concept of purity” in pastoral fictions, the examples on which he places most importance are shown to disrupt and offset these mechanisms of subjugation. In his findings on the reception of El Abencerraje as a constituent part of Montemayor’s La Diana; the careful readings of Cervantes’s La Galatea, the Quixote, and the Persiles; and his analysis of Lope de Vega’s Pastores de Belen and Espinel Adorno’s El premio de la constancia, Irigoyen-García unexpectedly offers a caveat that seems to undermine the main proposition of the book. As it turns out, pastoral literary discourse often honours and—after the expulsion of 1609—displays a brooding nostalgia for the Moorish Other in its midst. Given that the texts examined form the core canon of pastoral literature in Spain, Irigoyen-García would have been better served by framing his analysis of pastoral fiction as a complex and contradictory reaction to (and not an extension of) the suppression of the Moors that he delineates in the first chapters of the book. In the concluding chapter, Irigoyen-García moves on to...


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pp. 536-537
Launched on MUSE
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