- Luis de Góngora and Lope de Vega: Masters of Parody by Lindsay G. Kerr
As one approaches the end of the road, so to speak, there is a consciousness of time that differs from a more youthful sensibility. A mature person may be especially preoccupied by the trajectory of life and may be in search of synthesizing elements to round out a pattern of decisions, achievements, and expression of feelings. A writer is likely to be more self-conscious than the average citizen, more prone to self-reflection and self-examination. In this context, I think of Ruth El Saffar's Novel to Romance (Johns Hopkins, 1974)—a work of my (relative) youth—which looks at Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares and other writings as reflecting his mindset at different stages of intellectual and artistic development. Cervantes's later works, according to El Saffar, demonstrate a change of direction and a change of heart on the part of the author, who tends to incorporate a recognition of mortality and a renewed understanding of idealism into his writings, including Part 2 of Don Quijote. My current senior status perhaps makes me a strong candidate to analyze, and to comprehend more thoroughly than younger colleagues, the thesis and the readings of Luis de Góngora and Lope de Vega by Lindsay G. Kerr, a formidable recent PhD.
A key element of Kerr's study is the association of the later literary accomplishments, or late style, of Góngora and Lope with parody. Kerr maintains that, in essence, "Lope and Góngora use the same methods—regardless of style—in order to renew, to pay homage and to acknowledge the limits of art" (193). The road is complex, given that it is lined with analyses that are intricate, striking, and more often than not informed by interpretive strategies based on concepts that are in themselves conspicuously indirect. Jacques Derrida is a notable presence in the commentary, and, perchance fittingly, endless mediation via what could be called "metalayers" may affect the author's interest in "pragmatic effects" (8), but, thankfully, not the impact or insights of the readings. There is an intertextual focus here that seeks the roots of parody and that regularly pays heed to classical sources. [End Page 514] Something highly significant is gained by the juxtaposition of the two poetic geniuses, whose approaches to parody at the end of their trajectories are testaments to similitude and difference. Kerr hopes to elaborate ways in which Góngora and Lope demonstrate, through artistic creation and in diverse styles, a reading of poetry, the world, and themselves. Parody embraces a set of presuppositions, one of which, as Kerr sets forth, is confrontation. The establishment of a theory of parody is a fascinating enterprise, fraught with paradoxes and, following the post-structuralist paradigm, endless mediation. I see this as a requisite and positive factor and by no means as an impediment to the pleasure of the texts under scrutiny, among them Kerr's study itself.
The book is divided into five chapters, together with an introduction and a brief afterword. The first chapter ("Parodic Beginnings") and the concluding chapter ("Last Laughs") frame detailed examinations of Góngora's Fábula de Píramo y Tisbe and Lope's Rimas de Tomé de Burguillos and La Gatomaquia. A common denominator of the methodology—of Kerr and of her subjects—is the dialectics of tradition and innovation. Góngora is an example par excellence of Baroque rivalry. He seems always attuned to the literary past, which he attempts not to emulate but to surpass. Arguably, he exhibits Harold Bloom's "anxiety of influence" with each stroke of the pen. Góngora may be classified as obsessive in his attention to the works and modes of writing of his predecessors, but he finally can poke fun at his models, and at himself, by choosing the new over the old in a poem that unmistakably evokes classical antiquity. Kerr identifies in Góngora a surprising depth of emotion, a response to the formulaic qualities and the...