The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes

The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes

The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes

The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes


Frequent and complex representations of jealousy in early modern Spanish literature offer symbolically rich and often contradictory images. Steven Wagschal examines these occurrences by illuminating the theme of jealousy in the plays of Lope de Vega, the prose of Miguel de Cervantes, and the complex poetry of Luis de Góngora. Noting the prevalence of this emotion in their work, he reveals what jealousy offered these writers at a time when Spain was beginning its long decline.

nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Wagschal examines jealousy not only in canonical texts-- The Jealous Old Man from Extremadura, The Commanders of Cordoba --but also in less-studied writings such as Lope de Vega's Jealous Arminda and In Love but Discreet and Góngora's "What of the Tall Envious Mountains." Through close analysis of numerous works, read in relation to one another, he demonstrates how the rhetorical elaboration of jealousy is linked to the ideological makeup of the texts--complicating issues of race, class, gender, morality, epistemology, and aesthetics--and proposes that the theme of jealousy offered a means for working through political and cultural problems involving power. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; Grounding his study in the work of thinkers ranging from Vives and Descartes to Freud and DeSousa, Wagschal also draws on classical antiquity to unravel myths that impinge upon the texts he considers. By showing that the greatest hyperbole of each of these writers is a representation of jealousy, he calls for a reconsideration of an era's literary giants, arguing not only for a reinterpretation of settled views on Cervantes but also for a reconsideration of Góngora's role in the development of modern European aesthetics. nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp; With its fresh insights into the interrelationships among literature, art, and society, Wagschal's study offers background theory for analyzing the emotions in literature and is the first book to treat an emotion in any national literature from the perspective of contemporary philosophy of mind. With its cogent insights into the jealous mind, it raises issues relevant both to the early modern period and to our contemporary world.


[N]othing is more deceptive than the laying down of general
laws for our emotions. Their texture is so delicate and intricate
that even the most cautious speculation can hardly pick out a
single thread and follow it through all its interlacing

—G. E. Lessing, Laocoön

When Miguel de Cervantes described his writing in 1614, the author of Don Quixote explained that his favorite among his own poems was “El romance de los celos” (The Ballad of Jealousy). Jealousy plays an important role in Cervantes’s novels and novellas, one of the most widely read of which is El celoso extremeño (The Jealous Old Man from Extremadura). Cervantes’s foremost literary rival, Félix Lope de Vega, composed six dramas that contain the word jealousy in the title. Scores more treat plots of love and intrigue in which people suffer or are motivated to kill; in his poetic treatise of 1614, Lope de Vega recommended the use of this theme to other dramatists, many of whom, like Tirso de Molina, put his advice into practice in their own plays, such as Celosa de sí misma (Jealous of Herself). Lope de Vega’s avowed enemy was Luis de Góngora, Spain’s most important early modern poet, who wrote many poems about jealousy. His most accomplished work, from 1613, is a recasting of the classical myth of Polyphemus, in which the Cyclops kills Galatea’s lover out of jealousy.

My study asks why representations of jealousy abound in the literature of Spain’s Golden Age. At this crucial period of Spanish history, why are the most important authors obsessively writing on jealousy in poetry, prose fiction, and drama? What does the emotion offer these writers, just as Spain is beginning its long decline from the apex of European hegemony? In answering these questions, I

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