- Celestina según su lenguaje by Raúl Álvarez Moreno
Fernando de Rojas's masterpiece, Celestina, has been scrutinized from nearly every possible angle. Raúl Álvarez Moreno's monograph, Celestina según su lenguaje, adds yet another dimension of epistemological inquiry to Rojas's work. Álvarez's overarching thesis is that readers have to read and interpret Celestina on the premise of its language as it emerges from the characters' dialogue. Álvarez's title, Celestina según su lenguaje, is a reference to Marcel Bataillon's La Célestine selon Fernando de Rojas. In his monograph, Bataillon argues that Celestina has to be interpreted as a moral work that Rojas wrote to warn his readership against the deception of "falsos sirvientes / y malas mugeres". Bataillon bolsters his argument with two problematic premises, both of which Álvarez forcefully refutes. As the title suggests, Bataillon presupposes a single author, whose name is Fernando de Rojas. Nevertheless, sole authorship has been a point of contention among Celestina scholarship for centuries. As Álvarez notes, some scholars, including Joseph T. Snow, José Luis Canet, and Ottavio di Camillo, question the idea that Rojas participated in the composition of Celestina at all (360). Bataillon also relies on the dubious hermeneutics of authorial intentionality, which may lead to deterministic interpretations of the work. Álvarez's monograph, however, goes beyond challenging Bataillon's interpretations. He explores the preponderant role language plays in Rojas's construction of characters, places, and time through the literary mechanism of dialogue.
To follow Álvarez's argument, the reader has to understand three main concepts around which his work gravitates: surrogacionismo, contractualismo, and instrumentalismo. Surrogationism argues that words are merely surrogates or substitutes for other things (33). Contractualism posits that the meaning of words emerges from a tacit agreement or contract between members of a speaking community, which is enhanced by customs. Compared to surrogationism, contractualism bestows more agency on speakers. Under instrumentalism, a community of speakers creates language according to its changing needs within a social, individual or communicative situation. In this theory, "las palabras serían primero y ante todo instrumentos para alcanzar objetivos comunicativos [End Page 207] humanos más que para estar por las cosas o los conceptos de las mismas, y el lenguaje se constituiría en algo práctico que serviría principalmente para crear y hacer cosas" (35, original emphasis). Álvarez argues that from these three linguistic theories, Rojas relies on the deployment of instrumentalist discourses to fashion his work (17), while he also implements a "retórica total" that emphasizes the primacy of words (verba) over things (res) as constitutive elements of linguistic signification (175).
Besides a brief introduction, in which he delineates the scope of his study and the importance of language as an epistemological locus from where conflict arises, the book has seven chapters. In Chapter 1, Álvarez notes the preeminence of a hybrid concept as the prevalent linguistic ideology throughout the Middle Ages. The author argues that "contractualismo surrogacionista" became the basis of the philosophy of language, which was linked to both epistemology and politics. The epistemological and political dimensions of language allowed social and ecclesiastic authorities to exert a rigid control over the conception and dissemination of ideas through censorship. When translating biblical texts, translators adhered to surrogationist methodologies, which advocated for the stability of the res over verba.
Chapter 2 explores the limitations of language and the ways in which it fails to accomplish its objective. To substantiate his analysis, Álvarez analyzes the linguistic theories of nominalism, which entered Spain toward the end of the fifteenth century. Nominalism, however, was never unequivocally adopted as a school of thought in the Salamantine academy until 1508 (87). Álvarez, then, explores the intricate relationship between language and logic, underscoring the overarching importance that institutional entities bestowed upon language. With the epistemic field of rhetoric at the center of conflict, contractualismo and instrumentalismo enjoyed some prestige throughout the fifteenth century (124).
Chapter 3 continues the same line of inquiry, stressing the linguistic tensions in Celestina. After...