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

Teresa Panza's Character Zone and Discourse of Domesticity in Don Quijote

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

Teresa Panza's Character Zone and Discourse of Domesticity in Don Quijote

Article excerpt

While Don Quijote has served as a source for an abundance of critical interpretation, there is a relative dearth of analysis with respect to Sancho's wife Teresa Panza. (1) Literary critics have seen her as a conservative and/or aggressive female figure who pales in literary comparison to the ideal Dulcinea or the women who cross paths with Don Quijote and Sancho in their journeys. One significant critical exception is Heid's study of Teresa Panza as a "non-gendered" (122) and "fully-realized" (131) subject whose discourse actively places in question gender and class constructs. In a similar vein, but using Bakhtinian theory, I focus here on both Teresa's words and her character zone, that is, the influence of her discourse and presence in the narration of Sancho's "construction" of domesticity, or the space of the home, in dialogue with Don Quijote. (2)

My reading thus implies a reversal, which Heid began, with respect to former critical approaches to Teresa Panza. That is, rather than starting with the Sancho/Don Quijote dichotomy (and with it, that of Dulcinea/Aldonza), with a generalized group of women in Don Quijote, or with matrimonial constructs of abnegation, humility, or conservatism in order to work back to Teresa's image, I look at Teresa's proverbial speech in order to see how her discourse of domesticity is rewritten by Sancho in the Second Part of Don Quijote and is an influential factor in his returning home.

More specifically, using Bakhtin's theories of the material body and dialogism in the novel, I will study Teresa as a (re)productive working woman within an agrarian economy. Teresa's discourse and her character zone participate in a carnivalesque system of (re)productive bodies, in which the bodies of labor and coins are still connected to animals and the earth. (3) Cervantes ultimately uses both proverbial dialogic speech and Don Quijote's double-voiced speech with its monologic "ideal," to create metaphoric domestic spaces that are open or closed, productive or nonproductive, but proverbial speech in the Second Part of Don Quijote retains the vital presence of both women's and men's productive (and reproductive) bodies within domestic space. Within Sancho and Teresa's shared discourse, Cervantes drew no strict gender lines to divide the social, productive carnival body off from the world of renewal and rebirth to which it was still connected.

Teresa's proverbial tactics.

In general terms, the content of proverbs can be opposed, sustained, or questioned in differing degrees. Since proverbs can be used aphoristically to close a debate (Sullivan 83), in an attempt to cut off the opponent's possibility of reply, the saying "La mujer honrada, la pierna quebrada y en casa," with its example of woman shut up in a home, would seem to be the most graphic and monologic of sayings limiting women's verbal or physical presence. Indeed Sullivan indicates that canonical and civil law as well as printed collections of proverbs sanctioned dominating and controlling women through violence (102). However, women's words were considered dangerous (101), since women "disputed verbal dominance" and evidently not only used existing proverbs as "weapons" but also created new ones to their advantage (Sullivan 102).

As part of a string of proverbs which is the point of departure for my reading of Teresa Panza's discourse, the above saying, one that will resonate in Spanish domestic space at least until the end of the nineteenth century, (4) is used by Teresa in her argument with Sancho in Chapter Five of the Second Part, before his second journey with Don Quijote (663-771). Teresa Panza's citing of this specific proverb can be and has been seen as an example of what Molho considers her "inmovilismo del medievo" (299), or the control and limitation of domestic spaces and women's bodies in a feudal system. (5) However, Teresa's citing of the proverb is part of an attempt to prevent Sancho from leaving their productive agrarian home. …

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