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C O N C L U S I O N Classicism, Truth, and the Novel THE AMBIVALENCE marking Cervantes' engagement with neoAristotelian literary theory may remain ultimately irreducible and be taken as another vindication of that useful catch-phrase of Cervantine criticism, the "two Cervantes." It is indeed tempting to add to the various traditional dualities—the romantic-realist of Menendez Pelayo, the reactionary-progressive of De Lollis, the sincere hypocrite of Ortega and Castro, and the "Cervantes der Urerlebnisse-Cervantes der Bildungserlebnisse" of Hatzfeld—that of a Cervantes pro-Aristotle and a Cervantes contra-Aristotle. In fact such a distinction would confirm Hatzfeld's view: if Cervantes was attracted to classical theories because of their cultural prestige, this would be an "inauthentic" Bildungserlebnis, as opposed to the "authentic " Urerlebnisse responsible for his critique of those very theories. The disadvantage of such a scheme is not primarily its implicit value judgment—the "good" vs. the "bad" Cervantes—but rather its suggested dissociation of Cervantes' great creative achievement— Don Quixote—from his critical thinking. There is, I think, in Cervantes' movement toward Aristotle something far more profound than his admiration for such figures as Tasso, Virgil, and Heliodorus and his disappointment over the success of Lope's nonclassical drama. Both Cervantes and the neo-Aristotelians shared a belief that art must deal responsibly with truth and that conventional popular literature had failed to meet this responsibility. Against the common enemy, literary genres which cast human experience in the molds of the wish-fulfillment dream, disregard the limitations which reason discovers everywhere in experience, and in effect decline to make a meaningful statement about reality, Cervantes could join with the classicists in a united front. However, at some point Cervantes realized that, lurking behind the central critical issue of Renaissance literary theorizing—the necessity of truth in literature—was a problem far more bewildering —the nature of truth itself. Like his greatest contemporaries he knew that neither of the traditional sources of truth, faith and 339 Conclusion reason, was entirely adequate as a source of order in the variegated and intractable province of human experience. If experience mocks the order demanded by our dreams and embodied in the idealizing literary genres, it is no less cruel with all systems which our rational faculties can create. While never questioning the order of faith, Cervantes is continually turning experience back both on reason and desire to show their limitations. The inadequacy of Don Quixote's simple concept of justice is revealed in his encounter with people for whom such a system will not suffice. In the humanist cousin's conversation with Sancho Panza, the limits of the great Renaissance faith in knowledge and books as the ultimate source of wisdom suddenly come into sharp relief. At the same time, when Sancho reveals his ignorance of grammar and the goatherds gape in bewilderment at Don Quixote's speech about the Golden Age, the Renaissance faith in man's natural wisdom appears to be inadequate . The contradictory experience of various lovers in Cervantes ' works gives the lie to all his spokesmen for conventional codes of courtship and love, who freely offer their wisdom concerning the great foundation of social order—marriage. And the judicial dilemmas which governor Sancho faces, and his personal, arbitrary manner of resolving them, dramatically reveal the limitations of perhaps the most elaborate system by which society deals with the variety of situations possible in experience, its codes of laws. What is true? What is false? Cervantes' works are full of characters who are preoccupied with truth—the sober merchants of Toledo, who refuse to accept as true Don Quixote's description of Dulcinea without the proof of a picture; Sancho, who is concerned to show Don Alvaro Tarfe the important differences between the "true" Sancho and the "false" Sancho of Avellaneda; the humanist cousin, who seeks documentation and authority for the most ridiculous facts imaginable; Don Quixote as he employs an impeccable syllogism to prove that Sancho could not have ridden Clavileno through the region of fire; Cide Hamete as he playfully maintains that the incident of the Cave of Montesinos is apocryphal; the narrator of the Persiles as he discusses the "truth" of the Ruperta episode; the dogs Cipion and Berganza, who are not certain that their experiences are not a dream; and the bewildered Campuzano 340 Conclusion as he is prepared to "jurar con juramento que obligue, y aun fuerce, a que Io crea la misma incredulidad" that his "coloquio...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400868643
MARC Record
OCLC
933516122
Pages
376
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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