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C H A P T E R II Heliodorus and Literary Theory Not everyone can be a Theagenes or an Aristotle. Cristobal Suarez de Figueroa I offer you the Trabajos de Persiles, a book which dares to compete with Heliodorus. Cervantes IN 1526, one year before Alessandro de' Pazzi wrote the dedication to the translation of Aristotle's Poetics which would lead to the reorientation of Renaissance literary theory, an event occurred which was to have far-reaching consequences in the development of the European prose narrative. During the sack of Buda by the Turks, a soldier discovered the richly bound manuscript of Heliodorus' Aethiopica in the library of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. Shortly thereafter this postclassical Greek romance1 came into the possession of Vincentius Obsopoeus, who published it in Greek in Basel in 1534. In 1547 Amyot's French translation appeared, to be followed shortly by Warschewicski's Latin (1552) and Ghini's Italian (1556) versions. The Spanish humanists were quick to turn their attention to the newly discovered classical work, and the celebrated Hellenist, Francisco de Vergara undertook the task of translating it. Unfortunately his translation has not survived; and so credit for the first Spanish rendering of the Ethiopian History must go to an unknown translator, whose version, based on Amyot's French, appeared in Antwerp in 1554. In 1587 Fernando de Mena, claiming to offer a 1 Throughout my study I refer to the prose works of Heliodorus, Achilles Tatius, and Longus as "Greek romances." I regard the designation novela bizantina, commonly used by Spanish literary historiography to refer to these works and medieval and Renaissance imitations of them, inappropriate and misleading. I prefer to follow Erwin Rohde, who makes a distinction between Greek and Byzantine works (see Der Griechische Roman und seine Vorlaujer [Leipzig, 1900], pp. 554ft.), using "Byzantine" as a chronological-geographical (i.e., not a stylistic) term to refer to the civilization which flourished in Constantinople from around the fifth century to the fall of the city to the Turks in 1453 and to the cultural production of this civilization. As for the term "novel," if it is to mean anything more specific than "long prose fiction," I prefer that it be used to refer to fiction in which actuality and character are dominant elements. "Romance" is a convenient term in English (although not in Spanish) for referring to fiction in which plot or action (as opposed to character) and the wish-fulfillment dream (as opposed to actuality) are dominant. 49 The Genesis of the Persiles more faithful translation by working from the original Greek text, published a new edition in Alcala de Henares.2 In this chapter I am not concerned with the many cases of specific influence which Heliodorus' work had on all forms of literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.3 As I am seeking to clarify Cervantes' artistic intentions and aspirations in the plan of the work which he regarded as his masterpiece, I have found it more fruitful to situate the Greek work within the climate of literary tastes and problems which I have attempted to describe above in Chapter I. Various critical documents indicate beyond all doubt, first, that the Ethiopian History was a frequent topic of discussion among the Renaissance classicists and was measured favorably by all the aesthetic categories which they had derived in their rigorous exegesis of the poetics of Horace and Aristotle, and, second, that the Greek work in its relation to the old prose romances of chivalry came to occupy a place in literary theorizing analogous to that of the classical epic in its relation to the verse romances. By close examination of the major theoretical writings concerning the subject, I hope to reveal how the Ethiopian History was drawn into the orbit of contemporary literary theorizing and to shed more light on those fundamental aesthetic preoccupations—the legitimation of the marvelous and the matter of unity—which we must understand if we wish to understand the Persiles and numerous scenes in the Quixote. I find it convenient to begin with two documents which chronologically frame the development of the prose narrative from which Heliodorus' work cannot be dissociated. The one points toward all the major lines of development that the ensuing decades would witness, the other recapitulates the entire development within a fully formulated, classical theory of literature. I begin with the latter, reversing the order followed in the first chapter, for in its application of the Horatian-Aristotelian...


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