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

Cervantes's Ingenioso Hidalgo: Ingenio and the Americas

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

Cervantes's Ingenioso Hidalgo: Ingenio and the Americas

Article excerpt

[N]o ay ingenio grande que no tenga un grano de demencia. --Baltasar Gracian (424)

In the autograph petition for license and privilege for publishing Don Quijote de la Mancha submitted in 1604, Cervantes specifies that his book is titled "el ingenioso hidalgo de la Mancha," a work of "letura apazible curiosa y de grande ingenio." (1) The 1604 petition characterizes El ingenioso hidalgo de la Mancha as "de letura apazible y de grande ingenio," thus echoing Gracian Dantisco's aprobacion penned in 1584 for Cervantes's Galatea, in which the censor judged the pastoral work to be a "tratado apacible y de mucho ingenio" (Bouza and Rico 17). (2) The use of the term ingenio to describe two such disparate works in Cervantes's oeuvre signals the need to reexamine what the concept meant in the early-modern Hispanic context. To date there exist two critical approaches to the way in which Don Quijote may be considered ingenioso', the humoral-medical and the rhetorical or poetical (Pereas de Ponseti, Cervantes y su concepto del arte 32-43). (3) For the first school of thought, Don Quijotes possession of ingenio is seen as more a possession by ingenio resulting from a case of badly balanced humors. (4) The other school associates ingenio with ingenium; that is to say, poetic giftedness and inspiration. (5) Don Quijotes furor is linked to Renaissance notions, stemming from Seneca, that ingenio brings with it at least a bit of madness.

Nonetheless, ingenio constituted in Cervantes's time nothing less than a faculty of mind complementary to--and, in certain contexts, different from--reason when the latter was understood strictly as scholastic and deductive. It found full expression in poetry, but was also necessary for science, exploration, and invention. (6) Circulating in the phrase ingenio libre, it stood for the individual impulse to break out of old molds, be they inherited forms of scientific knowledge or poetic models. The word ingenio shows up in surprising and contradictory ways in writings about the Americas, where it can refer to sugar mills and the creation of economic capital, the crafty inventiveness used by conquistadores, or the acquisition of cultural knowledge and linguistic competence. The term also occurs frequently in writings defending the indigenous American populations; for the possession of ingenio as a mental capacity was considered essential for the demonstration of humanity. According to Cacciatore, Cervantes most often associates the term ingenio with poetic inventiveness and native intelligence, but also uses it to refer to practical knowhow (64). This characterization holds true for part one of Don Quijote, but in part two the term is more often associated with the assessment of Don Quijotes and Sanchos humanity as the pair are now met with readers of the first book who both play with and judge them. By analyzing the encounter with Don Diego de Miranda as well as Sanchos governorship in Baratada, I will show that both protagonists are subjected to a testing of their ingenio that places them in the position of the previously unknown other. Like the indigenous person, they are on display and put to the test. In this sense, both Don Quijote and Sancho step into the position of the unknown, newly encountered indigenous inhabitant of the Americas, although Cervantes will ultimately undercut this simple identification through ironizing governorship and heroism.

INGENIO

In Republican Rome ingenium referenced inborn talent and creativity, as seen in usage by both Tacitus and Cicero (Syson 47), but, when employed in Gorgias's Encomium of Helen, it could also refer to the "transference of meaning through fantasy" (Hodges 90). Derived from the Latin ingenium, the Spanish term ingenio retained its reference to both human creativity and the products of human invention. Although ingenium signified for the humanists Antonio Nebrija and Alfonso de Palencia innate wisdom, the actual usage of ingenio in sixteenth-century Spanish linked it to inventiveness, cultural knowledge, and even deception. …

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