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  • Avatares de lo invisible: espacio y subjetividad en los Siglos de Oro by Luis F. Avilés
  • Susan Byrne
Avilés, Luis F. Avatares de lo invisible: espacio y subjetividad en los Siglos de Oro. Madrid/Frankfurt-am-Main: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2017. HB. 227 pp. 978-84-16922-04-8.

In this well-structured and stimulating study of the themes of space and subjectivity in a range of classical medieval and Golden Age texts, Luis Avilés offers a captivating optic on a number of textual "I" figures in various venues. His approach combines multi-layered theory and solid bibliographical referents with his own very able and close philological readings. The results are new, revealing looks at well-known literary works and thus, compliance with the Coetzee and Calvino maxims cited by Avilés in his preface: that a text remains a classic only if it continues to be interrogated (7-8). With his study of textual "I" figures that simultaneously reveal and hide themselves in spaces both singular and plural, Avilés includes vicissitudes and transformations – avatars – moving into and through material and immaterial locations. His impressive incorporation of theoretical proposals and commentary on each point studied includes thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Nietzsche and, as noted above, Coetzee and Calvino. This amalgam of voices, joined and filtered through Avilés' own, allows the reader to clearly appreciate textual avatars that might seem invisible at the start, as the volume title indicates, but that throughout are handily revealed. As he demonstrates the functioning of hidden facets of the studied texts, Avilés offers striking arguments and reaches innovative conclusions.

Chapter one is titled "«Quien no han visto mis ojos»: amor distante y de oídas" and in it, Avilés approaches the selected topic with a fine collection of texts: Cicero's De amicitia, Ibn Hazm's El collar de la paloma, selected French troubadour verse, the anonymous Razón de amor and, to close, a look at Cervantes's Dulcinea in Don Quijote. This apparently varied selection is proven to be wonderfully connected through the broad scholarly perspective taken by Avilés, who highlights theoretical and thematic changes on sight, and the lack of it, in key narrative developments regarding love and friendship. Questions of historical perspective are neatly addressed at the start, from ideas on beauty and sight in classical Greek sources, to troubadours who see the beautiful as first a means to the good, then an end in itself. Avilés then highlights Ibn Hazm's orientation towards a future in [End Page 139] which the mentally-generated image will be put to a test, whether for good or bad, with the resulting mental exercise to be later either confirmed or destroyed in literal space, when the friends/lovers finally meet in person. This crossing and uncrossing of elements: distance as erotic aspect accompanied by precise details on qualities described by the authors, leads Avilés, at chapter's end, to convincingly bring out innovative connections in the "coexistence" rather than traditional opposition between Cervantes' figures of Aldonza and Dulcinea.

The second chapter deals with the space of the Court, seen through the lens of Antonio de Guevara. The first, direct question posed to the text, in this case Guevara's Menosprecio de corte y alabanza de aldea, is its contradiction with other advice given by the same author, regarding the counselor and his need to know himself so as to learn how to pay proper attention to the lives of others, i.e., the inherent problem of simultaneous spatial distance and closeness. The chapter title recaps the conundrum along with Avilés' response: "El menosprecio como práctica del cuidado de uno mismo: la corte de Antonio de Guevara." Here once again, the visible and invisible enter into a dialogue that incorporates a necessary fluidity between exterior and interior selves. Sharp distinctions are handily drawn from various sources, as Avilés' noteworthy analytical skills lead the reader to re-think aspects of that courtly space, from its imagery as suitable, or perhaps not, and with its courtesan occupants painted as oxen in relation to the themes of liberty and slavishness.

Chapter three...


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pp. 139-141
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