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

Affective Dissonance and Literary Mediation: Emotion Processing, Ethical Signification, and Aesthetic Autonomy in Cervantes's Art of the Novel

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

Affective Dissonance and Literary Mediation: Emotion Processing, Ethical Signification, and Aesthetic Autonomy in Cervantes's Art of the Novel

Article excerpt

En Don Quijote, el movimiento del texto va hacia una insistente interiorizacion de la autoridad o la autonomia estetica que se desprende de su significacion etica de la liberacion de dogmatismos ideologicos y metafisicos. La comunicacion estetica de Cervantes y su significacion etica pone de relieve una tension fundamental que da forma a como los seres humanos interpretan lo que es importante y bueno. Por un lado, los procesos afectivos y de evaluacion cognitiva presuponen privilegiar al propio grupo floreciente, pero en otros, la capacidad de respuesta somatica para imaginar el sufrimiento humano real o imaginario suspenden las distinciones el grupo propio y el ajeno, con lo que la legitimidad y la justicia de todo privilegio queda en tela de juicio El texto de Cervantes se mueve hacia el arte de la novela en la medida que la significacion etica derivada de la afectividad somatica ofrece una autonomia estetica "legalidad interna" que se convierte en cultura reformista.

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In HIS 1976 CERVANTES o la critica de la lectura, Carlos Fuentes credits Cervantes in Don Quijote with developing a revolutionary hermeneutics in which meaning emerges from within the fictive world depicted, rather than standing behind of outside that represented world (93-96), while Luc Ferry in his 1990 Homo Aestheticus credits the mid-eighteenth century German philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten with inaugurating modern aesthetics by making the media of art productive of an "internal lawfulness" which generates and authorizes signification (27-29; 67-76). Taken together, the arguments of Fuentes and Ferry suggest that Baumgarten gives theoretical expression to an artistic practice whose prototype was Don Quijote. A further implication is that Cervantes's apparent "invention of the novel" involves more than adding a new, modern genre to the repertoire of classical forms. It entails transforming literary art by allying it with an insistent internalizing of authority--an aesthetic autonomy--reflective of the "internal lawfulness" of ethical signification liberated from metaphysical and ideological dogmatisms.

Such "internal lawfulness" regulates signifying practices that call into question the sense (and hence the justice) of any meaning not communicated along lines we associate with aesthetic autonomy. For Baumgarten this entails involuntary, non-arbitrary entwinement of affective responsiveness and rational predication grasped, in the words of Ferry, "as a sensual linkage of representation or, to use the future Kantian vocabulary, as a 'legality without concept,'" which he describes as a "legality proper to the sensible or an 'aesthetico-logical' objectivity" (71, 72; original emphasis). (1) Importantly, to make what follows from the sensible the principle of its intelligibility of "legality," aesthetic communication in the modern sense must both presuppose and cultivate an ethical subjectivity primed to hear the accents of the ridiculous in all discourse dismissive of--or incongruent with--such intelligibility. (2) Indeed, what makes Don Quijote the harbinger of modern national literatures is the way that, in Don Quijote, all traditional literary arts--epic, romance, historiography, polemic, dialogue, diatribe, panegyric--become media for fashioning signification from ethical experiences disruptive of ideological-normative constructions of meaning and value. (3) The failure of received forms to enclose the implications and harmonize the dissonances that Cervantes's narrative calls forth directs our attention, by virtue of the comedy it generates, to how intensely the world we experience is not a construct.

But such a state of affairs, in which lived experience invariably overflows any categorizing or metaphysical container, only matters to the extent that we live in a world of others who may be hurt by our constructions or wronged by being assimilated into our signifying economies. The early episodes of Cervantes's narrative stress the violence that Don Quijote's mad perception of the world visits upon others in equal measure to the grief that his perceptions bring upon himself. …

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