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Reviewed by:
  • The Refracted Muse: Literature and Optics in Early Modern Spain by Enrique García Santo-Tomás
  • Antonio Barrera-Osorio
Enrique García Santo-Tomás. The Refracted Muse: Literature and Optics in Early Modern Spain. Translated by Vincent Barletta. u of chicago p, 2017. 320 pp.

the original book, Musa refractada. Literatura y óptica en la España del barroco (Iberoamericana / Vervuert, 2015), has been translated from Spanish by Vincent Barletta, who has done excellent work with the project. The book "explores the impact that advances in optics from the seventeenth-century Scientific Revolution had in Baroque Spain" (1). By optics the author means eyeglasses (including telescopes) and the astronomical ideas of Copernicus and Galileo. The book reviews "a selection of novels published during the reign of Philip III [1598–1621] and ends with the study of a handful of pieces that came to light at the very end of the seventeenth century" (x). Later, the author identifies this book's focus as "the middle decades of the seventeenth century," "which corresponds more or less neatly with the reign of Philip IV (1621–1665)" (3). It is organized in eight chapters with an introduction and conclusion.

The introduction provides an overview of sixteenth-century science in Spain and the Spanish reception of Copernicus—whose text became a "recommended reading in the 1561 statutes of the University of Salamanca" (7)—and Galileo. From an initial moment of Spanish openness to Copernicus, the situation began to change, according to the author, with "the isolationist inertia of Philip II" (10); Spain eventually became "stuck at a crossroads that was by any standards paradoxical: it allowed the reformist winds of the scientific revolution to pass it by" (11). Yet this "clampdown was neither complete nor uniformly felt" (10). Seventeenth-century Spanish authors did discuss Copernicus, Galileo, and eyeglasses in their texts. There is a tension implicit in this book between the traditional historiographical idea that the Catholic Church and the Inquisition closed Spain to new ideas and the more recent historiographical arguments that the new ideas of Copernicus and Galileo did circulate in seventeenth-century Spain. This tension is the result of two different historiographical traditions at the center of this book. I will come back to this point below. [End Page 151]

Chapter 1 studies the attempts to bring Galileo to Spain in the early seventeenth century and the translations and dissemination of Galileo's works and ideas in Spain. Chapter 2 discusses Ptolemaic ideas in Spanish literature and the gradual interest in and references to eyeglasses and telescopes in works of the early seventeenth century. Chapters 3 and 4 deal with the "dissemination of knowledge regarding glass and lenses [chapter 3], as well as the idea of the so-called keeper of secrets and of the virtuoso [chapter 4]" (92), considering the translations of Tomaso Garzoni's La piazza universale di tutte le professioni del mondo (1585) and Trajano Boccalini's Ragguagli di Parnasso (1612) into Spanish. Chapter 5 analyzes the relationship between perspective, appearance, and reality in the works of Rodrigo Fernández de Ribera (1579–1631) and Antonio Enríquez Gómez (ca. 1602–63) and how eyeglasses and telescopes allowed Spanish authors to make a critique of the social and moral realities of their time. Chapter 6 continues this idea through the imaginative notion of a celestial voyage that allows characters to see earth (Spain, cities, people) from a distance with the help of eyepieces and to make social and moral commentaries. Chapter 7 examines the use of the telescope in Quevedo's La Fortuna con seso y la hora de todos (1650; it was first published with an inverted title and the work is known today as La hora de todos y la Fortuna con seso) and in Diego de Saavedra Fajardo's Idea de un principe político christiano. Representada en cien empresas (1640, referred to as Empresas Políticas). Chapter 8 analyzes late seventeenth-century works that offer "enthusiastically positive descriptions of new optic instruments" taking "seriously their capacity to provoke doubt or suspend judgment" (211). Overall, this book offers a very interesting review of seventeenth-century Spanish texts dealing with the ideas...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 151-153
Launched on MUSE
2019-06-27
Open Access
No
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