Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

John Jay Allen's Contributions to Cervantes Studies. (1)

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

John Jay Allen's Contributions to Cervantes Studies. (1)

Article excerpt

First, let me say how happy I am to be here today. When Joe Jones invited me to participate in this symposium, I immediately decided that I would like to talk about Jay Allen's contributions to Cervantes studies, partly because that is the context in which I have known Jay best, but also because it gave me a good excuse to go back and reread many of his writings which have brought me so much pleasure and insight over the years. Jay and I have been friends for twenty-two years, but I knew and admired his work before I met the author. Indeed very few people have had so great an impact on Cervantes studies during the past thirty years as Jay Allen. His contributions have taken many different forms.

Jay completed his dissertation on "An Analysis of the Language and Style of Cervantes' 'Las dos doncellas' and 'El casamiento enganoso,'" directed by Mack Singleton, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1960. (2) Just two years later, he published his first article on Cervantes, "The Evolution of puesto que in Cervantes' Prose." Underlying this meticulously researched and carefully written little article is Allen's conviction--which would characterize all of his subsequent work on Cervantes--that broad interpretive strategies can only be validated by subjecting the text to an extraordinarily close reading. Even apparently insignificant details can sometimes yield surprisingly important insights. The article demonstrates that Cervantes' use of puesto que as a concessive conjunction equivalent to aunque decreased significantly during the course of his career, while his use of puesto que in its modern meaning as a causal conjunction increased in his later writings. The two major portions of Don Quijote, Part One, which are clearly interpolations--"El curioso impertinente" and the Captive's Tale--contain much higher ratios of the use of concessive puesto que than the book as a whole, which suggests that they were in fact written considerably earlier than the remainder of the book. Another very interesting observation is that the ratio of concessive puesto que in the Persites suggests that it was "an early work, altered to some extent and published in the wake of the fame achieved by Don Quixote." Allen noticed that the single use of the causal puesto que in the Persiles occurs in Book III, Chapter 6, as part of a short story that is loosely connected to the rest of the novel. Curiously, the same section contains the book's only reference to Philip III's moving of the court to Madrid, which has been a major argument for assigning a late date to the Persiles.

Another noteworthy thing about this article is that it is only three pages long. Jay Allen is a man of few words. In all of his books and articles, he has had important things to say, and he has made his arguments clearly, rigorously, and with the utmost concision. As the Spanish proverb tells us, lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno. Saber callar a tiempo is all too rare a quality among literary scholars, but Jay always leaves us wanting more. In a review of his Don Quijote: Hero or Fool?, Edward Riley wrote that "my chief regret is that Professor Allen's book is not half long enough." Most of us would be ecstatic if that were the major fault a critic of Riley's caliber could find with our own work!

It was with the publication of Don Quixote: Hero or Fool? in 1969 that Jay first became known as an important Cervantes scholar. Though less than a hundred pages long, that little book, in my opinion, was at the time of its publication the most significant attempt to deal with the central question facing any interpreter of Don Quixote: how did Cervantes intend the reader to react to Don Quixote? Was he to be admired as a hero for his sublime idealism or despised as an arrogant fool for his inappropriate and unsuccessful attempts to alter the world he lived in? Most previous critics had taken a firm stand on one side or the other, or else had adopted the "perspectivist" notion that Don Quixote can be seen as either hero or fool, depending on one's point of view. …

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