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

Cervantes and the Sequel: Literary Continuation in Part I of Don Quijote

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

Cervantes and the Sequel: Literary Continuation in Part I of Don Quijote

Article excerpt

LITERARY CONTINUATION IS A little considered and even less understood element of Don Quijote. This is all the more unfortunate because the sequel plays a central role in the creation of Don Quijote and Don Quijote in the creation of the sequel. (1) The same holds for Don Quijote's elected precursors and the genres they found, namely the chivalric, pastoral, Celestinesque and picaresque novels. The present article proposes a new lens for reading the Don Quijote and its antecedents: a focus on the form and function of the sequel and the means and motivation of the sequelist. Indirectly, it suggests a way of tracing the history of the Early Modern Spanish novel through the prism of literary continuation. (2)

Such continuation imbues every page of Part I of Don Quijote. It is present in the front matter, where Cervantes meditates on the challenges of continuing his own stalled career two decades after La Galatea's failure to yield a second part; in the early discussion of Don Quijote's favorite writer, the era's great sequelist Feliciano de Silva; in the Scrutiny of Books episode, where every work considered either is a sequel or generates sequels; and in the very structure of the work, which alludes to various continuation traditions through its division into partes. (3) Finally, a quest for continuation's necessary complement, closure, is a major topic of the final parte of the novel.

Among the continuations that Cervantes reads most productively in Part I are the rival La Diana sequels of Alonso Perez and Gaspar Gil Polo, his own La Galatea and the genre-generating Amadis de Gaula and La Celestina sequels of Feliciano de Silva. Fernando de Rojas' La Celestina, initiator of the sequel in Early Modern Spanish letters, also proves crucial, particularly to the structure of the work. (4) Each adds to the story of the sequel; each is absorbed within Part I's pages, which collectively constitute a veritable summa of the sequel.

1. The Sequel and the Pastoral Novel: From Silva to Cervantes

Perdi mi bien, perdi mi Feliciano; muerta es la gracia, el ser, la sotileza, la audacia, ingenio, estilo sobrehumano. (Jorge de Montemayor "Elegia a la muerte de Feliciano de Silva")

In 1559, the prohibitions of the Valdes Index effectively end publication and sale of sequels to La Celestina (1499/1501), Amadis de Gaula (1508) and Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) on the Iberian Peninsula. In 1561, the death of Jorge de Montemayor has a similarly stifling effect on sequels to the pastoral La Diana (1559). Together these events augur the end of the era of literary continuations that Fernando de Rojas begins and that Montemayor's friend Feliciano de Silva embodies until his death in 1554.

Happily, the continuations of La Diana by Alonso Perez and Gaspar Gil Polo (1563 and 1564, respectively) revive the sequel in Spain in the second hall of the sixteenth century. In their pioneering efforts, Perez and Gil Polo add new and notable meditations on the means and motivations of the continuator to the story of the sequel while also helping refine and define the art of the Peninsular pastoral novel that Silva first sketches and that Montemayor first masters. Among their most attentive readers is Miguel de Cervantes, who responds to them as pastoral novelists in Part I of La Galatea and as sequelists in Part I of Don Quijote.

When his best friend Feliciano de Silva dies, Jorge de Montemayor honors his memory first with a poem, the "Elegia a la muerte de Feliciano de Silva," (1554) and then with a novel, La Diana (1559). The former mourns the loss of the pen of Silva the sequelist; the latter resurrects it. Montemayor revives, resuscitates and expands Silva's work as a continuator by becoming one himself. The 1559 Index bans Montemayor's religious poetry and forces him to seek a new direction as a writer. (5) In reviving Silva's legacy, Montemayor will also revive his own career.

In La Diana, Montemayor takes the seeds of the pastoral prose novel planted in Silva's Florisel de Niquea (1532), Segunda Celestina (1534) and Amadis de Grecia (1535) and produces its first and greatest flower in Spanish literature. …

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