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

Hearing Voices of Satire in Don Quixote

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

Hearing Voices of Satire in Don Quixote

Article excerpt

JAMES PARR'S DON QUIXOTE: A Touchstone for Literary Criticism (1) offers a slightly revised and expanded version of his Don Quixote: Ah Anatomy of Subversive Discourse (1988) as well as two appendices devoted, respectively, to selected book reviews that Parr wrote before and after this book's original version.

The new title of this book expresses two large claims: one explicit, the other tacit. I predict that the explicit one, however large, will spark little controversy from readers of this journal: namely, that Don Quixote is a touchstone for criticism on narrative fiction. The tacit claim of Parr's title--never stated but developed throughout his text--strikes me as far bolder" namely, that both versions of Parr's book jointly represent a touchstone for criticism on Cervantes' Don Quixote. This inference follows not only from Parr's assertion that his Anatomy has become over the course of seventeen years "something of a classic in its own right" (8) but also his stated purpose to enderezar the exegetical tuertos of other critics, or to embark on a solitary "quest to re-orient the Quixotic Establishment" (x).

The first version or sortie of this ambitious quest is aimed, generally, at English-speaking critics, whereas the second one aims specifically at Hispanists. In both cases, Parr seeks to reorient criticism on Don Quixote toward ah emphasis on the formal over the thematic, narratology over psychology, the playful over the solemn. This aligns with his concomitant emphasis on the achievement of the author as master storyteller and master satirist in the Menippean or Varronian tradition over the mockheroic adventures of Cervantes' mad protagonist. Parr therefore enlists a critical discourse that he describes as "more idealist than materialist," reflecting less interest in "superficial contradiction and struggle [within Cervantes' text] than in resolution of all the apparent tensions into a transcendent and atemporal logos" (3).

Parr pursues his argument in four Parts, between a preface that he calls an "Overture" and concluding remarks that he calls a "Coda." He devotes Part I, "The Diegetic Domain--Narration," to what has proved to be his influential ranking of narrative voices and narrative "presences" that he discerns in Cervantes' text. In "approximate descending order of credibility," according to Parr, these fictional constructs encompass 1) the extratextual or "historical author" (a presence); 2) the "inferred author" deriving from all textual voices (a presence); 3) the "dramatized author" of both prologues (a presence in the fictional text); 4) the "supernarrator" who intrudes openly in I, 8, though controlling the whole fictional narrative from the start (the chief narrator or "voice"); 5) the "fictive historical author," or a fictional analogue of the empirical Cervantes in his capacity as author of "El curioso impertinente" (a presence); 6) the "autonomous narrator" of "El curioso impertinente" (a narrator and voice); 7) the "archival historian" who collates the first eight chapters of the fiction until the intrusion, or "metalepsis," of the supernarrator (a narrator, voice); 8) the "translator" (narrator, voice); 9) Cide Hamete, both an emblem of writing and Cervantes' transparently absurd parody of chroniclers (a presence); 10) the "second author" (an ephemeral, transitional narrator, voice); 11) Cide Hamete's "pen" (a presence).

Besides introducing the major innovation of Parr's supernarrator, this scheme addresses what our critic thinks the untenable practice of dubbing Cide Hamete a narrator, a role that far exceeds his supernumerary "presence" within the text as a "red herring, [or] a joke played on unsuspecting readers in search of high seriousness" (34).

Further, if these voices and presences that Parr adduces underscore Cervantes' achievement in both their number and variety, they do so as well in the mutual interplay that leads them continually to discredit themselves and one another. …

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