Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Humanidades Y Dignidad del Hombre En Baltasar Gracian

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Humanidades Y Dignidad del Hombre En Baltasar Gracian

Article excerpt

Humanidades y dignidad del hombre en Baltasar Gracian. By Aurora Egido. Salamanca: U de Salamanca, 2001. 182 pages.

For decades, Baltasar Gracian has been known as a dyspeptic Jesuit writer responsible for an over-written allegory about the condition of man (El Criticon) and for a lengthy treatise on wit (Agudeza y Arte de Ingenio). In recent years, however, Gracian's works have been seen from new angles, and in a new light. A translation of his shorter writings into English was published in the US by Doubleday under the title A Pocket Mirror for Heroes (1996), with jacket copy that suggested how Gracian's writings might be useful for people seeking success in worldly affairs. And, on the scholarly front, Hispanic Issues devoted a volume to Gracian and the question of modernity.

Aurora Egido's book takes part in this re-appraisal of Gracian, and even if is less forward-looking in its concerns, it is nonetheless an important scholarly contribution to the study of his writings. Egido covers a vast amount of Gracian's writings in a relatively brief book, and offers something that none of the other recent studies of Gracian has accomplished: a comprehensive reconsideration of his works that situates them within cultural history while respecting their distinctive philosophical perspectives. Egido is extremely sensitive to the Jesuit context of Grecian's writings, but her overarching concern is to link Gracian to the tradition of the "humanities" in the Renaissance. However, since the humanities seem founded on a confidence in the dignity of humankind, her true challenge is to explain how Gracian can also accept the baseness of human nature. The explanation she offers-or that she proposes Gracian offers-is founded on a double vision of humanity. On her account, the paradox of human nature as simultaneously noble and base is central to Gracian's vision in the Criticon, the study of which occupies approximately half of Egido's book.

Gracian's vision of the dual character of human nature emerges in the context of a practical philosophy that accepts the Renaissance awareness of the variability of circumstances and conditions. Gracian's purpose in putting forward various components of a practical philosophy is to find ways in which models and examples can provide wisdom where conditions are susceptible to change. …

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