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

Space in "La Fuerza De la Sangre"

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

Space in "La Fuerza De la Sangre"

Article excerpt

My interest in "La fuerza de la sangre" relates to those aspects of our engagement of space that involve fundamental issues of orientation and identity. Generally, the function of space in this novella has been approached in terms of various overarching interests. In his classic study of the Novelas ejemplares, Joaquin Casalduero sees in "La fuerza" a replay of the human drama of sin and redemption. While attending with his customary perspicacity to form and narrative rhythm, he underlines in the tale's development the thrust of Christian eschatology and subsumes all issues of space to this movement. Rodolfo's trip to Italy, for instance, which clears the way for Leocadia's recognition of the various spaces of her sundering (inner space of the self, room as the locus of the rape, disordered social space of family and town), is understood as merely part of a social tradition: the formative voyage undertaken by young noblemen. The crucifix which Leocadia takes with her as a marker of space and identity (Rodolfo's) is seen by Casalduero with its full symbolic weight. Such a near-allegorical reading makes "space" a mere ground for the enactment of a symbolic sacrifice and undervalues the care with which location is deployed in the novella.

Ruth El Saffar tells us at the outset of her commentary on the novella that "neither the plot nor the characters are to be evaluated by realistic or naturalistic standards" (128). She assigns the novella to Cervantes's later works because of its "recourse to character types to present the universal problems of sin and salvation, its use of religious symbolism, its absence of historical or social detail, and its careful structuring of scenes" (129). In this context most references to space acquire a moral connotation: the family's climb toward the city and the young men's descent are seen as a move toward and away from civilization. The crucifix itself is a symbol of Leocadia's restoration, rather than a simple marker of place. While El Saffar's reading is perceptive and enlightening in many ways, it bypasses the issue of bodily agency within "place" as well as issues of orientation that underpin Leocadia's and dona Estefania's reordering of fractured or disordered space.

In his study of "the literal and the figurative levels of meaning" (154), Edward Friedman navigates between the real and the symbolic in a reading that allows space, at most, an ancillary role. Leocadia's careful survey of the room where she is raped, an inventory that powerfully calls attention to itself, is principally the place where "she seems to intuit the recourse that will lead to justice" (130). The foundation of Friedman's reading is implicitly hermeneutical in that he sees the novella's ending--the projection of a just recovered harmony into the future--as a rhetorical move by the narrator that calls attention to the contrast between the plot as signified and the narrator's discourse as signifier. This efficient explanation suggestively frames ambiguities of plot and character development as well as the tale's thrust toward the symbolic. Issues of space, however, are necessarily secondary to Friedman's interest. His approach, on the other hand, goes directly to the source of the tension that has preoccupied so many readers of the novel and led them to elevate it toward the transcendent (as does Casalduero, and also Alban Forcione, who sees it principally as a miracle story) or to focus on its qualities as an esthetic object (de Rentiis). He suggests that "the relation between the literal and the generative levels of meaning is self-consciously ambiguous" (154), and that, while expected norms appear to win out (as does "la fuerza de la sangre" ultimately), the uneasy relationship between the narrative and its discourse allows for an ironic, counter-conventional (counter-romance) reading.

In Chapter 6 of his book on the Novelas, "'La fuerza de la sangre': Redemption and Identity," William Clamurro focuses on the endangerment and regaining of selfhood, a process which, in itself, is synecdochal for the endangerment and restoration of familial and social harmony. …

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