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Burningham, Bruce R. Tilting Cervantes: Baroque Reflections on Postmodern Culture. Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 2008. PB. 232 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8265-1602-2. In Tilting Cervantes, Bruce Burningham stages a series of conversations between the cultural production of the Spanish Golden Age and a selection of narratives and films from our own time and place. The baroque motif of the mirror works as a time portal that takes us from the present to the past and back to the future in a Borgesian tour de force of intertextuality. The point is not to privilege the Spanish Golden Age or to prove that the Spanish masters did it first, but to reflect on the commonalities of baroque and postmodern aesthetics. Hence, we may wonder why the critical subject of the enunciation is placed on the “baroque” side of the mirror rather than the “postmodern” one. Why not “Postmodern Reflections on Baroque Culture”? I suspect that Burningham would see this as a different type of project, a project anchored in the recognition that what we see is a function of our way of seeing; that our horizon of expectations conditions (or even determines) what we can possibly see when we look back at the past; that the object of study is hopelessly polluted by the violence of our own hermeneutical act. This is of course true, and it is certainly part of the Cervantine, baroque, and postmodern lessons; but Burningham is after a more radical Borgesian revelation. As he writes in the introductory section: “I explore the hermeneutic ramifications of the fact that for contemporary readers […] the various texts I analyze in it are ultimately coetaneous, regardless of the centuries that separate their actual moments of production. Taking seriously Borges’s notion that literary works create their own precursors […], I suggest that the collection of disparate texts I examine in this book can be read –in a very Borgesian fashion—as precursors of each other” (2). The business card of the schizophrenic protagonist of The Fight Club (1999) (two angels staring at each other through a mirror) is a REVIEWS CALÍOPE Vol. 15, No. 2, 2009: pp. 75-109 76 Reviews ! ! ! ! ! perfect illustration of this notion. Burningham’s interpretation of Tyler’s business card as a symptom of the character’s split personality seems to capture the complexity of the baroque/postmodern dyad as selfreflective mirror image(s): “Tyler Durden’s business card –which contains an image of two figures staring at each other as if each were looking into a mirror—suggests Tyler’s true identity as Jack’s alter ego” (68). Is it possible that the postmodern and the baroque are the split image of the same angel of history, to evoke the well-known Benjaminian figure? This notion seems to be at the core of Burningham’s chapter by chapter pairings of baroque authors and texts with their postmodern counterparts: Lope de Vega and John Ford, Johnny RottenMarilyn Manson and Lazarillo-Pablos, Jack-Tyler and RinconeteCortadillo or Cipión-Berganza, Don Quixote-Sancho and Buzz-Woody, Salman Rushdie and Cervantes, butch Jill-Dream Jill and AndonzaDulcinea , until we get to the protagonist of The Matrix and its two sequels, Neo, the “I” who is—according to Burningham— “the quintessential postmodern reflection of Don Quixote […], the remainder, the ‘unbalancer’ […], the ultimate embodiment of the Cervantine baroque” (170). Burningham’s view of the baroque is informed by José Antonio Maravall’s well-known conceptualization in his classic study Culture of the Baroque, and simultaneously by the ideas of Mieke Bal andAngela Ndalianis, especially the latter’s notion that “the seventeenth century and our own era are epochs that reflect wide-scale baroque sensibilities that, while being the product of specific socio-historical and temporal conditions, reflect similar patterns and concerns” (qtd. in Burningham, 3). In his theorization of the postmodern he acknowledges the work of Fredric Jameson but draws primarily from Jean Baudrillard. While Burningham’s self-consciously unapologetic “presentism” will be well received among Golden Age scholars receptive to poststructuralist and theoretically-oriented approaches, I suspect that it will meet with some opposition in historicist and philological circles for what could be perceived as its anachronistic stance. My own...


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