- La escondida senda: poética y hermenéutica en la obra castellana de fray Luis de León by José Ramón Alcántara Mejía (review)
- Calíope: Journal of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 12, Number 1, 2006
- pp. 102-104
- View Citation
- Additional Information
102 REVIEWS D D D D D Alcántara Mejía, José Ramón, La escondida senda: poética y hermenéutica en la obra castellana de fray Luis de León. Salamanca : Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2002. PB. 304 pp. ISBN 84-7800-755-5. José Ramón Alcántara Mejía, of the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, has provided us with the first monograph dedicated to Fray Luis de León’s Castilian works since David Hildner’s 1992 Poetry and Truth in the Spanish Works of Fray Luis de León. Alcántara’s book fulfills the significant need for a study of comparative length and detail written in Spanish. It offers fresh theoretical insights to readers wishing to pinpoint a key moment in peninsular poetics, unique to Hispanic letters, within Fray Luis’s texts. Alcántara, using the hermeneutic theories of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur, builds extensively upon links made in previous studies by others between Fray Luis’s dialogue De los nombres de Cristo and his poetry. He argues that the underlying structure found within De los nombres and the poemario provides an interpretative key to Fray Luis’s writings. Moreover, he demonstrates how this structure links Fray Luis’s theological and literary writings in an overall project: an attempt to comprehend the world’s relationship to transcendent reality through the metaphoric constructs of poetic discourse. Alcántara differentiates his study from most by examining the intertextual relationships among the totality of Fray Luis’s Castilian works and contextualizing these relationships within the specificity of Fray Luis’s scholastic intellectual environment. While Fray Luis has traditionally been viewed through the lens of Italian Renaissance platonism channeled into Spain though Garcilaso and Boscán, Alcántara discusses the limitations of this approach and affirms the potential for better understanding by placing Fray Luis’s work alongside that of humanists and theologians such as Juan Luis Vives, Alfonso and Juan Valdés, and Francisco de Vitoria instead. The impetus that Vitoria’s influence gave to Thomism in Spain, as well as the pressing theological questions resulting from the protestant schism headed by another Augustinian, Luther, determined the young Fray Luis’s efforts more than court poetics according to Alcántara. One of the merits of this volume is the critique Alcántara makes in his introduction of traditional criticism on Fray Luis. Fray Luis came to be described as the model Castilian poet indebted to Garcilaso, and through him to the Renaissance poetics of Italy, partly due to the19th century concern with defending the notion of a Spanish Renaissance. Throughout his book Alcántara counters this view by demonstrating (through chapters on biblical exegesis, on Fray Luis’s translations, on RESEÑAS D D D D D 103 his commentaries and treatises Exposición del Cantar de los Cantares, Exposición del Libro de Job, and La perfecta casada, on De los nombres de Cristo, and on his original poems in Castilian) how Fray Luis’s understanding of poetic discourse emerges out of Aristotelian and Augustinian intellectual traditions which lend his work its unique qualities and value within the particularity of the contexts of Salamanca and Alcalá. Alcántara defends his decision not to focus upon rhetoric or upon questions of chronology or philology, citing the contributions of the many studies following these methodological lines. Instead, Alcántara proposes a hermeneutic approach, demonstrating that Fray Luis’s deep concern with translation and his work’s anticipation of some 20th century theoretical understandings of the act of interpretation locate him at the vanguard of the Renaissance thought. The hermeneutics of Gadamer and Ricoeur, used thoughtfully and critically by Alcántara, do not emphasize authorial intent but rather a desire for a unified comprehension of a common tradition. Comprehension takes place in the fusion of the historical and cultural “horizons” of text and reader, an event Alcántara finds in Fray Luis’s translations. Fray Luis’s own respect for tradition is among the reasons Alcántara gives in support of his approach, which ultimately leads to illuminating readings of considerable insight. One only wishes for further commentary by Alcántara on the historical similarities between...