Affective dissonance and literary mediation: emotion processing, ethical signification, and aesthetic autonomy in Cervantes's art of the novel.
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. Throughout part one, his effort to coerce attestations of Dulcinea's superiority in chapter four, the adventure of the windmills in chapter eight, the seizure of the barber's basin in chapter twenty-one, and the liberation of the galley prisoners in chapter twenty-two all reflect the work's indebtedness to Lucianic satire, which makes sport of the "mad" antisocial internal consistency latent in all dogmatic philosophical system-building. (4) By the middle of part one, however, and with increasing insistence throughout part two, the violence of colonizing perception becomes an attribute not simply of individuals alienated from practical rationality (phronesis) by a theoretical rigidity fueled by intellectual pride (as in Cervantes's novela ejemplar "El Licenciado Vidriera"); rather, colonizing perception becomes an attribute of dominant and normative cultural discourse generally. According to E. C. Graf, such discourse calls us to assume "subject positions" that "consent" to subordination by the system (23-29). Despite its own antisociality and egoism, Don Quijote's madness may be viewed as rebelling against the repressiveness of modern subject positions in ways that invite not approval, but a measure of sympathy (if not a desire for more effective forms of resistant subjectivity). So much is this the case that one may speak of Cervantes anticipating postcolonial critical analysis not just of imperial Spain's adventures in the New World, as Diana de Armas Wilson argues, but of the role of literary-cultural discourse in naturalizing hegemonic power relations generally (New World 1-18). (5)
The narrative's aesthetic communication of ethical significance, however, alerts us to the colonizing violence implicit in the aestheticizing of others in which the reader is implicated along with the characters. On the one hand, affective and evaluative cognitive processes presuppose privileging one's own in-group flourishing; on the other hand, somatic responsiveness to imagined or real human suffering blurs or suspends in-group/out-group distinctions sufficiently to bring their legitimacy, and so the justice of privileging, into question. The resulting affective dissonance makes all discursively coherent but self-serving patterns of intelligibility the potential target of Lucianic satire, not just because "mad" internal consistency gives free rein to absurd claims, but because such "madness" constricts or diminishes sensible responsiveness to others. While emotion processing identifies as meaningful what promotes one's own survival and flourishing, it also renders as physiologically impossible indifference to images of others in distress. (6) Such involuntary affective responsiveness may be traced to specialized pre-motor neurons that--as we perceive or imagine another doing something--activate as though we were performing or undergoing the same action. (7) Clinical studies of neural mirroring of physical pain have pinpointed connections linking neural mirroring, empathy, and emotion processing. (8) While neural mechanisms processing our own pain are directly engaged or "recruited" when we observe or visualize another's pain, our processing others' psychological or social feelings is much less direct neurologically. (9) This suggests the latter may be more susceptible to socio-cultural strengthening or weakening.
Jamil Zaki and Kevin Ochsner note how, despite "neural overlap between self-pain and other pain processing" in the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex, self-pain activates brain areas associated with body-state monitoring, whereas "other pain activated [medial pre-frontal cortex], bilateral ventrolateral [pre-frontal cortex], and [orbitofrontal cortex]" areas are associated with socialization, representation, and deliberation (25-26). While "watching others feeling pain or expressing emotion" stimulates both the motor cortex (whose connections with mirror neurons "may help us understand intentions underlying others' actions") and the amygdala (which suggests that viewing others feeling threatened triggers our own fear response); only perceiving in relation to others, as opposed to in relation to ourselves, "causes [anterior cingulate cortex] and [anterior insula] to become functionally connected with the [medial pre-frontal cortex], an area associated with mental state inference" (29; emphasis added). Notably, increased medial prefrontal cortex activity occurs when what is seen as taken to be human rather an object while decreased medial pre-frontal cortex activity occurs when out-group members are the focus of mental processing (Harris and Fiske 123-34). This suggests that medial pre-frontal cortex processing "discriminate[s] relatively more human from relatively less human targets [of perception]" (130). Conversely, pre-frontal cortex and frontal cortex processing appear to inhibit or dilute empathetic responsiveness, thus leading Zaki and Ochsner to spectulate that in circumstances where "one's own goal[s] and those of someone else directly conflict," it may be "adaptive [...] to 'turn off' otherwise automatic reactions to the pain of others (e.g., during athletic competitions of, more extremely, during war)"; strikingly, "both autonomic and neural activity evoked by watching others in pain is reduced or reversed when the people are in an adversarial or competitive relationship with a perceiver" (Zaki and Ochsner 26).
These findings, taken together, present neural mirroring as eliciting somatic fellow feeling in evolutionarily anterior parts of the brain (the anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula), affectively suspending self/other divisions, which are then reinstated by pre-frontal cortex and frontal cortex processing (i.e., conceptualizing, representing, deliberating) that may justify dissipating or marginalizing primordial (anterior cingulate cortex- and anterior insula-rooted) empathy. By inhibiting or displacing affective dissonance, pre-frontal cortex and frontal cortex intra-brain hegemony may facilitate ideological-conceptual investments. Contrastively, taking such somatic disturbances to be morally and cognitively significant may well bring one's perceptions, projects, and self-image into question. Moreover, experiencing the pain of another may direct medial pre-frontal cortex activity toward enhanced recognition of the target of perception's full humanity. Such anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula influence upon medial pre-frontal cortex functioning may be experienced as a call of conscience akin to the exceeding and questioning of egocentric intentionality that Emmanuel Levinas associates with the coming to mind of an idea of God "in the concreteness of my relation to the other man, in the sociality which is my responsibility for the neighbor" (Of God xiv). For Levinas, "awakening" as "a derangement of the Same by the Other" opens up a "non-eudaimonic, non-hedonistic affectivity" wherein "God is pulled out of objectivity, out of presence and out of being," and instead brought to mind by "the trauma of a fission of oneself," wherein "the human," properly speaking, is found (Of God 31, 51, 69, 78, 121). (10)
Moreover, language acquisition, rooted in bodily imitation, builds upon and enlarges the kinds of cortex connectivity described above, engendering a sociality constantly breaking down the self/other division upon which egoistic isolation and ethnocentric violence depend. (11) Because cognition of sound-images merges with simulating the feeling of a thought, mood, or action (what Aristotle calls the "affections of the soul" [16a 3-19]), language facilitates imagining other people's minds in ways that connect mental-state attribution with somatic empathy. Upon this basis, one may speak of an ethically positive acculturation that contests its imperialistic tendencies. (12)
Indeed, affective dissonance yields internally conflicted acculturation, much as Levinasian phenomenology suggests: belated cultural efforts to contain or explain away "an-archic" or primordial ethical significance are unraveled by somatic susceptibilities to others, which push representational, deliberative cognition toward becoming answerable to justice. (13) Traditional humanism's goal of attuning the soul through speech and letters to moral perception and civic responsibility assumes natural entwinements of fellow-feeling and practical rationality, elaborations of which from Aristotle to Plutarch to Erasmus and Vives shape Cervantes's understanding of literature's value. (14)
The discursive-conceptual spaces within early modernity most likely to work against affective dissonance to consolidate in-group solidarity are those associated with chauvinistic religious-ethnic nationalism, Christian-Islamic misogyny, dogmatic scholasticism, and Neostoic impassivity. While highlighting the ease with which literary arts may serve each of these, Cervantes depicts the very heterogeneity of literary models for "madness" working against the totalizing grasp of any one. He then brings together ethical signification and aesthetic internal lawfulness within romance and proto-novelistic narration, making imperialistic cognition in all its cultural-political permutations the "madness" that autonomous art aspires to cure. For example, after portraying how Dorotea is configured as an object of aesthetic consumption by the curate and barber, who--having snuck up upon her while she is disguised as a solitary peasant boy--assimilate her to pastoral, idealizing tropes, Cervantes underscores the predatory edge of such consumption: the voyeuristic discovery of her true sex puts her at risk of assault (1.28:277-78; 1.28:178-79).
Dorotea's vulnerability to coercive literary construction mirrors that of the shepherdess Marcela in chapters eleven through fourteen of part one. Cast as the "disdainful" lady of Petrarchan poetry, Marcela counters accusations of having driven the student-goatherd Grisostomo to suicide by delivering an apologia that insists she is no "tyrant" simply for having refused to conform to some man's idea of her (1.14:130-32; 1.14:77-79). Both Marcela and her male adversaries, however, lapse into ethically dubious aestheticizing literary-rhetorical discourses that "totalize" in Levinas's sense: they reduce all exteriority to terms internal to their systems and so remain untouched or unmoved (Totality and Infinity 35-52). In effect, they enclose themselves within phenomenological worlds of "rocklike" neo-Stoic imperviousness in which dogmatic inflexibility and "sterile" moral-psychological impassivity overlap. So Grisostomo inscribes both himself and Marcela within an accusatory poem, in which his opinion that love should maintain its sway undisturbed in peace leads him to respond to her rejection by offering himself to "los vientos cuerpo y alma, / sin lauro o palma de futuros bienes" (1.14:127-28) ["the wind body and soul, / Expecting no laurels or palms or future bliss" (1.14:75)]. Viewing any modification as impurity or violated integrity, Marcela similarly prizes sterile self-consistency above all else: "Tienen mis deseos por termino estas montanas, y si de aqui salen, es a contemplar la hermosura del cielo, pasos con que camina el alma a su morada primera" (1.14:132) ["All my desires have their boundaries here in these mountains, and if they ever go forth, it's only to contemplate the sky's beauty, and the steps the soul takes as it proceeds toward its primal home" (1.14:79)]. Paradoxically, Marcela's apologia can engender unforced admiration of its author's "discrecion" without at all inducing the writer of Grisostomo's epitaph to describe her otherwise than as "una esquiva hermosa ingrata" (1.14:133; 1.14:79), a stereotypical "disdainful lady." Here, literary media--Petrarchan idealization, pastoral lament, apologia, and epitaph--produce nothing more than competing prison-houses of language.
Marcela's discourse has no effect upon the colonization of her image to falsifying, simplifying literary tropes because its very success in prompting auditors to appreciate its meta-representational cleverness (combining classical motifs of both self-sufficiency as happiness and Catoesque self-enclosed freedom as virtue with evocations of the huntress-virgin Diana and Neoplatonic ascension toward one's pure origin) leaves her hearers "admirados, tanto de su discrecion como de su hermosura" (1.14:132) ["dazed, as much by her wisdom as by her beauty"(1.14:79)], but undisturbed by affective dissonance. Drawing on theory of mind cognitive research, Lisa Zunshine argues that one of the novel's distinctive generic attributes is the intensity with which it calls upon us to exercise our cognitive aptitude for "mind-reading"; that is, our ability to come up with "theories" of how other people's minds work (Why We Read Fiction 3-17). Moreover, she says, novels call upon us to engage in "meta-representational" thinking, to hold an image in our mind while tagging its source as external both to ourselves and to independent reality, as in having a mental image of one person which we attribute to the "view" of another person (4-5, 47-51, 75-76). (15)
Part of the pleasure of reading Don Quijote rests in "tagging sources," in perceiving how inventively Don Quijote and others interweave multiple worldviews belonging to diverse cultural milieus and discourse genres, such as Don Quijote's making Ovid's account of the Golden Age explain the origin of chivalry (1.11:104-06; 1.11:59-60). (16) Beginning with Don Quijote himself, characters are apt to lose sight of the meta-representational texture of their own consciousnesses, forgetting that others are the source of their ideas, images, and linguistic formulae. In so doing, they naturalize "mad," colonizing cultural fictions (however improvised or awkwardly stitched together), while reinforcing estrangement from pre-conceptual, somatic aspects of themselves and so of others.
Paradoxically, however, the narration's celebrated "grave irony" hinges upon hyper-self-consciousness about its own source-tagging. Negotiating the tensions between the characters' forgetfulness and the narration's implicit self-awareness stretches to the limit the reader's own meta-representational dexterity. Marcela's set-piece apologia, contesting her assimilation to Petrarchan, pastoral tropes, may itself colonize her would-be lovers to the extent that its vision of the world and the self is, like Don Quijote's knightly-romance conventions, dissociated from any critical distancing of self from self-presentation, thus effacing the body's registering of vulnerability and affectivity from one's sense of self. (17) For Marcela, liberty denotes autarky because rhetorical flourish in Stoic discourse is taken literally, just as Don Quijote takes chivalric "history" literally. Imperiousness of mind, inducing blindness to embodied sociality, follows from obliviousness to how easily the sources of self-presentation can be tagged. Marcela shows no awareness, for instance, that Plotinus's and Proclus's philosophical trope (revived by Ficino, Pico, and Renaissance Neoplatonic poetry) of contemplating the heavens as a method for moving the soul toward "su morada primera" is just that: a trope. On the contrary, consciousness of identity's emplacement within rhetorical-literary traditions--and hence connectedness to others--opens to our view manipulative, unjust exercises in romancing the self and totalizing worldviews. (18)
Cervantes's subtly insistent calling upon the reader's meta-representational skills highlights the tyrannizing potential of atrophied or mystified meta-representational cognition. Don Quijote and others become overbearing through naturalizing mental images, either by losing sight of how they are "the view of" some source that can be tagged or by following traditional, metaphysical thinking in identifying some "tagged" discursive form (such as chivalric romance) with ultimate reality. The latter alternative denies embodied actuality sufficient reality or conceptual value to make experiences of affective dissonance morally significant. Likewise, cultural discourse itself becomes tyrannical once its ideological or aesthetic subject formation either institutionalizes quixotic "forgetfulness" or legitimates quixotic dogmatic hermeneutics, as epitomized by Don Quijote's breathtakingly irrefutable claim that he was not mistaken in taking a windmill for a giant because the evil magician Freston must have changed giants into windmills to rob him of the glory of the victory (1.8:82; 1.8:44). Such ad hoc circularly self-confirming system conservation is clearly suggestive of the "madness" of late medieval scholastic or Reformation/Counter-Reformation polemics, as it is no less of the hermetic structure of ethnocentric, misogynistic psychology generally. (19)
Nonetheless, the shepherd-students may share both Don Quijote's and the reader's aesthetic appreciation of Marcela's discourse, but still assimilate her to misogynistic literary tropes after hearing her speech. This suggests that opposing one meta-representational discourse to another leaves unconstrained a freedom that articulates itself by choosing one or another convention within a cultural, textual space totalized by convention (where representation is always and only meta-representational). In other words, the displacement of traditional metaphysics with ubiquitous meta-representations, where--as Friedrich Nietzsche puts it--there are no facts but only interpretations, does not impress claims to justice, but renders them indifferent. (20) Appreciating Marcela's skill in manipulating tagged sources need not arouse affective dissonance, and so does not divert the student-shepherd poet from gratifying himself by incorporating Marcela into the aesthetic conventions of misogynistic lament, as he does by writing an epitaph that blames Marcela for Grisostomo's death immediately after having admired the "discrecion" of her apologia: "Murio a manos del rigor / de una esquiva hermosa ingrata" (1.14:133) ["[He] died of disdain [from] a beautiful ingrate" (1.14:79)].
If apprehending the epitaph's ridiculousness is inseparable from perceiving its moral obtuseness (i.e., its indifference to Marcela's impassioned argument, "El que me llama fiera y basilisco, dejeme como cosa perjudicial y mala; el que me llama ingrata, no me sirva; el que desconocida, no me conozca" (1.14:132) ["He who calls me savage, and a stone monument, should shun me as something dangerous and evil; he who calls me ungrateful should not woo me; if I'm fickle, stay away from me" (1.14:78)]), then both the human predilection for morally obtuse conceptual rigidity and our equally strong propensity to laugh at unjust foolishness warrant scrutiny. Moreover, such laughter distinguishes the ridiculous from the horrific. Risible theoretical or conceptual objectification or consumption of another ceases to be risible if literalized within simulated literary worlds (or in real life). So Henry Fielding, predicating his aesthetics explicitly upon Cervantes's, insists that attempts to present "the blackest Villanies" or "the Miseries of Poverty and Distress" as ridiculous must give "Shock to Humanity" (Joseph Andrews, Preface 7). Marcela's obliviousness to any identity exterior to the network of literary-rhetorical tropes in which she encloses herself does not divest her of claim to ethical consideration. When a few of the shepherds, having been "wounded" by the rays of her beautiful eyes, consider pursuing her, Don Quijote moves to protect her, both because it seems to him a good opportunity to make use of chivalrous virtues and because, consistent with his own madness, he takes her self-consistent rhetoric as offering "clear and sufficient reasons" for metaphysical claims about the world and herself (1.14:132-33; 1.14:78-79). Just as Cervantes's stylized phrasing does not obscure the shepherds' predatory justifying logic (Marcela's desirability and unprotected status make her fair game), so the narrative's highlighting of Don Quijote's self-centered opportunism and credulity does not make his act ethically insignificant, however problematic its place within his intentional consciousness. That the shepherds settle for symbolic incorporation of Marcela, enacting retribution for her "slaying" Grisostomo, through an epitaph, keeps within comic bounds. Were assimilation of the Other into one's own conceptual-ideological-literary schemas to be literalized bodily, as in attempted of realized gang rape, it would or should give "Shock to Humanity," the effect that Fielding argues would necessarily follow were one to "write the Comedy of Nero, with the merry Incident of ripping up his Mother's Belly" (7).
Desire for self-contained immutability, evident in both Marcela's and Don Quijote's apologetic discourses, encourages an impervious self-image popularized toward the end of the sixteenth century by Justus Lipsius's Neostoic dialogue De constantia (1584) and by new editions of Seneca's essays, wherein godlike (diis aequa) immovability and cool freedom from intense, binding affections (apatheia) are associated with moral freedom. (21)
In Dorotea, Cervantes associates feminine resistance to co-option into others' imperialistic egoism with an assertion of inner rational freedom initially inflected by Neostoic aspirations. At the same time, her appearance in the text marks movement away from a narrative world defined by irresolvable impasses, where competing totalizing cognitions enter into violent confrontations, or where one conceptual framework is displaced, perhaps fleetingly, by avid consumption and mirroring of another (both alternatives characterize Don Quijote's meeting with Cardenio in part one, chapters twenty-three through twenty-seven). Indeed, the narrative introduces Dorotea (whose name denotes "gift from God") as proof that Don Quijote's "true history" wonderfully yields embedded stories no less agreeable, artful, and true than the main narrative (1.28:275; 1.28:178). While promising, perhaps ironically, reconfigured contexts, this introduction positions Dorotea as an object of aesthetic consumption, thereby reinforcing the curate's and barber's initial assimilation of her to pastoral, idealizing tropes by perceiving the feet she is washing as "dos pedazos de blanco cristal" (1.28:276) ["two bits of white crystal (1.28:178)].
Dorotea's vulnerability to coercive literary constructions echoes that of Marcela, and just as the shepherdess is coerced into speech by slander, so too Dorotea is forced to expose her "historia" to protect her reputation. Through the proto-novelistic texture of her autobiographical account (seemingly at antipodes from idealizing chivalric and pastoral discourse), Dorotea describes herself, the daughter of wealthy pure-blooded farmers who are vassals to an Andalusian duke, as the beneficiary of an upward social mobility that is tacitly underwritten by conquest of an Islamic cultural-political stronghold and displacement of Moorish landowners. This upward social mobility makes her own development the primary project and justification of her parents' temporal existence: "Era el espejo en que se miraban, el baculo de su vejez, y el sujeto a quien encaminaban, midiendolos con el cielo, todos sus deseos" (1.28:279) ["I was the mirror in which they saw themselves, the staff and support of their old age, and it was toward me, though always as God directed them, that they bent all their desires" (1.28:180-81)]. David Quint argues that Dorotea "is a hinge figure" standing between "two narrative complexes": the first portraying the "erotic jealousy" integral to an "aristocratic feudalism" where games of male pride--such as the competition of Cardenio and Don Fernando for Luscinda--victimize women for "egotistical motives"; the second depicting "stories of love and marriage [...] tied to wealth and status" reflective of mixed class upward social mobility that is epitomized by the romantic entanglement of the same Don Fernando with Dorotea (55-60).
While significant, the contrast Quint points out involves more than a shift of "desire" from "pride" to "greed" (56). Capitalist accumulation transmutes Dorotea's parents' self-love into love of a child who, as more cultivated and autonomous than themselves, constitutes an idealized, perfected "mirror," even as gratitude for such parental care anchors the child's identity in practical usefulness and inner refinement: Dorotea takes charge of her parents' estate and rationally expends her leisure upon good books and music (1.28:279; 1.28:180-81). Socio-economic circumstances and ideological-sentimental patterns link accumulation of wealth and status to cultivation of a sense of inner freedom akin to an aristocratic, Neostoic one, thereby affiliating virtues of constancy, self-regulation, and rational autonomy with both the discharging of duties toward others and the making of a good account of oneself.
When the Duke's son, Don Fernando, surprises her in her bedroom, Dorotea seizes upon "virtue is true nobility" tropes to define herself as inwardly impervious to seductive arts, thus exploiting affective--no less than social and bodily--vulnerability: "Tu vasalla soy, pero no tu esclava[...]. Conmigo no han de ser de ningun efecto tus fuerzas, ni han de tener valor tus riquezas, ni tus palabras han de poder enganarme, ni tus suspiros y lagrimas enternecerme" (1.28:282)) ["I am your subject, sir, but not your slave [...]. Your power is useless against me, as your wealth is worthless, nor can your words deceive me any more than your tears and your sighs can move me" (1.28:183)].
This assumption of Senecan immovability, more than Marcela's construction of herself as Diana's votary, frays boundaries between genuine sublimity, Machiavellian cunning, and variants of quixotic delusion. Declaring that she will yield only to a legitimate husband, Dorotea may be understood as nudging Fernando--perhaps unawares, perhaps strategically, perhaps both--toward accommodating her sense of honor to her desire. He responds with binding oaths of marriage. She, however, opposes the inequality of the alliance, but then undercuts her own reasoning:
[N]o sere yo la primera que por via de matrimonio haya subido de humilde a grande estado; [...] bien es acudir a esta honra que la suerte me ofrece, puesto que en este no dure mas la voluntad que me muestra de cuanto dure el cumplimiento de su deseo; que, en fin, para con Dios sere su esposa. Y si quiero con desdenes despedille, en termino le veo que no usando el que debe, usara el de la fuerza, y vendre a quedar deshonrada y sin disculpa de la culpa que me podia dar el que no supiere cuan sin ella he venido a este punto. (1.28:283) [I won't be the first woman whom marriage has raised from a humble to a great position; I ought to accept this honor being pressed upon me by Fate, for if his affection lasts no longer than the achievement of his desires, at least in the eyes of God I will be his wife. And should I try to scornfully repel him, it's plain that, if he can't have it any other way, he'll use force, and then I'll be left dishonored and unable to escape censure from those who can't understand how, unless it was indeed my own fault, I found myself where I now am. (1.28:184)]
As Quint notes, by rationalizing "her acquiescence to her lover's desires, [...] she blurs the meaning of the scene. Is Dorotea describing her near rape by Don Fernando or her entrapment of him into an unequal match?" (74).
Here, dispassionate deliberation flirts with darkening of the mind by delusive self-love (the cupiditas condemned by Augustinian Christianity, naturalized in privileging one's own of one's in-group's flourishing). Male force, patriarchal conventions, and female "rational calculation" collude with a susceptibility to quixotic fictions that support imagining other minds in ways that harmonize with our ends (Quint 75). (Of course Dorotea wants to see herself as one of those who transcend class boundaries, and wants to see Fernando's predation as an "honor" offered by "luck.") However consistent with neo-liberal self-assertion, Dorotea's aptness in fashioning a modern tale of upward mobility for herself--no less than other characters' aptness in fashioning chivalric, pastoral, Petrarchan "histories"--reflects the impress of cupiditas upon how one "grasps" experience. (22) As Charles D. Presberg notes, "every variety of ideological entrenchment blinds its devotees to philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical mysteries" (191). (23) Cervantes does not, however, offer "openness" as a naive solution to impasses of "closure." Dorotea's susceptibility to affect, her "feminine/maternal" vulnerability to being moved by Fernando's appeals and tears discloses that natural affections incline us to pity even as self-love inclines us to construe appearance in ways that flatter our desires (1.28:284; 1.28:184). Rather than seeing such a portrait of embedded affective dissonance as a delusive ahistorical "essentialism," we may see Cervantes as disclosing, in effect, how neural mirroring (productive of somatic empathy) and interpretative prejudice (induced by the egocentric processing of significance) are so entwined that what is redemptive within "fallen" human nature is precisely what prevents us from walling ourselves off against seductions by others and ourselves. Under such circumstances, the multivalent verbal texture of Dorotea's proto-novel undercuts its singular rhetorical purpose: to serve as on apologia. Instead, Dorotea's "history" is enfolded into the wondrously implausible romance plot of part one of Don Quijote, whose artificial order mirrors miraculous dispensations that Christianity associates with grace. (Nevertheless, Cervantes's imitation of non-Christian classical exemplars--Heliodorus's Ethiopian Romance and Apuleius's Golden Ass--suggest that his narrative's intuitions are not exclusive to Christianity). (24) Only within such romance plotting do alternatives to being victimized (either by another's exploitation of one's affective disposition or by one's own inability to separate self-perception from self-love) come into view.
A real "damsel in distress," Dorotea is persuaded by the curate and barber to impersonate a fictive one in order to help Don Quijote by offering him an "adventure" that will lead him back to his village. It is true, as Presberg argues, that by having "the heroine" of a "sentimental novella" "willfully imitate a distressed damsel of chivalric romance," Cervantes increases "the degree of his work's self-conscious, multigeneric parody" (168). It is equally true, as Quint argues, that Dorotea's "story of social ascent bears an inverse relationship to the role she plays as Micomicona," the princess threatened by a giant who seeks to force her into an unequal marriage (59). In "terms of social ambition," Quint says, "the aspiring giant mirrors not so much Don Fernando as the lowborn, social-climbing Dorotea herself" (59). Nonetheless, the masquerade involves more than what Presberg calls a "string of imitations" or what Quint characterizes as a mystified pursuit of egoistic desire (Presberg 168; Quint 59). Above all, embedded in Dorotea's responsiveness to another, there is an exercise in fallen, charitable folly: a willingness to aid a disempowered stranger, Don Quijote, who is exposed to the predations of his own madness.
The charity is fallen folly. (25) Still, charitable affective concern for another is no less real within the text than delusion and cunning, and it gives Dorotea a direction (literally) and thus the "second chance" generically normative of romance. Her first speech in the novel--a monologue addressed to the wilderness, to pagan gods of nature and fortune--links the speaker to narcissistic self-enclosure and life-destroying stasis: " Si sera posible que he ya hallado lugar que pueda servir de escondida sepultura a la carga pesada deste cuerpo, que tan contra mi voluntad sostengo!" (1.28:275) ["Perhaps I have found the place where the heavy weight of this body, which I bear so unwillingly, can be laid in some hidden grave!" (1.28:178)]. Consistent with romance moral causality, Dorotea is "rescued" by discovering within herself a charitable ethical sociality that, like a knight-protector, leads her to a "miraculous" chance meeting with Fernando. With "marvelous" improbability, Don Quijote's delusion that he can serve Dorotea, coupled with her "foolish" concern for a stranger, does just that, reuniting her with Fernando. The "wonder" (admiratio) such improbabilities arouse is a quality of romance that Cervantes, following Tasso, would reconcile with poetic truth. (26)
The idealized moral causality of romance can infiltrate the realistic, fallen causality of disenchanted actuality only when unexpected ethical sociability, as though led by providence, allows human actions a counter-intuitively redemptive efficiency. What makes such action possible is "the marvel" that being moved by others moves us beyond the conceptual, generic, self-loving constructs that seem to constitute us as well as offer us (delusive) protection. (27) The faces of those who hear Dorotea's words reveal a great deal of pity and admiration (1.29:289; 1.29:188); in wishing to console and counsel her, the eclectic group of curate, barber, and Cardenio are so affected as to take Dorotea to be ethically irreducible to the gender and class categories her conduct transgresses. Cardenio promises to remonstrate with Don Fernando, and if that fails, challenge him to a duel, "sin accordarme de mis agravios [...] por acudir en la tierra a los vuestros" (1.29:291) ["without any reference to my own injuries [to] attend [...] here on earth [to the wrong done you] (1.29:189)].
This notion that "acudir agravios" done to others, not oneself, confers ethical significance upon temporal being. Such intense concern for another pulls Cardenio away from his own mad asocial narcissism, and is answered by Dorotea, almost kissing his feet: "por no saber que gracias volver a tan grandes ofrecimientos" (1.29:291) ["not knowing how else to thank him for such a noble offer" (1.29:189)]. Immediately after the others join Cardenio in offering aid to Dorotea, Sancho appears and paints a pitiable portrait of what his master's delusion has reduced him to: "les dijo como le habia hallado desnudo en camisa, flaco, amarillo y muerto de hambre, y suspirando por su senora Dulcinea" (1.29:191) ["he told them he had found his master wearing nothing but his shirt, weak, pale, and half dead of hunger, but still sighing for his lady Dulcinea" (1.29:189)]. In the wake of this discursive evocation of destitution, Dorotea volunteers to assume the role of a damsel in distress to help execute the "remedy" planned by the curate and barber to induce Don Quijote to go home (1.29:292; 1.29:189). Being moved by others induces (albeit in humanly flawed and impure forms) the caritas that Erasmus associates with enacted (as opposed to theoretical or ritualistic) Christianity. (28)
In the pivotal chapter thirty-six, immediately after the novella "El curioso impertinente" elaborates the probable tragic consequences of delusive self-love, a mysterious party of masked men appears at the inn in the company of a veiled lady. Learning that the lady has been crying, and hearing her sigh, Dorotea, moved by natural compassion (1.36:373; 1.36:248), offers her services, which leads to discovering that the lady is Luscinda, and that one of the men is Don Fernando. Being moved by natural compassion brings the marvelous into life: referring to Cardenio, Luscinda admonishes Don Fernando, "Notad como el cielo, por desusados y a nosotros encubiertos caminos, me ha puesto a mi verdadero esposo delante" (1.36:373-74) ["Take due notice of the fact that Heaven, following strange pathways we are unable to see, has set me here, in front of my true husband" (1.36:248-49)]. Dorotea not only makes emotional and ethical appeals that serve to "conquer" Don Fernando (for, as he significantly puts it, "no es posible tener animo para negar tantas verdades juntas" (1.36:376; emphasis added) ["How could anyone deny such a weight of truth" (1.36:251)]; she also begins to reshape him morally, urging him to reconcile with Cardenio so that he can show "el mundo que tiene contigo mas fuerza la razon que el apetito" (1.36:377) ["the world [...] that you value reason more than passion" (1.36:252)]. (29) Such affectively communicated ethical signification at least has the potential of making "razon" more than the instrument of "apetito."
For Dorotea, susceptibility to "natural compassion" leads not just to modified reinstatements of Neostoic ideals of inner freedom ("la razon" having more "fuerza" than "el apetito"), but also to a female agency in which upward social mobility and transformative reshaping of male selfhood; what Quint calls the taming of "Don Fernando's pride and violence," are entwined (75). Cervantes's linking of "natural compassion" with rational autonomy legitimates early modern impatience with traditional (Christian and classical) limitations on both the authority of ethical signification and affective claims of others upon us--whether those limitations are ethnocentric, metaphysical-conceptual, theologically dogmatic, gendered, racial, of class-determined.
Literary arts in Don Quijote, then, begin to articulate sense, rather than simply expose nonsense to ridicule once they begin to communicate with authoritative indirection an implicitly anti-imperializing politics that depends upon signifying the ethical in ways that are irreducible to both traditional metaphysical hermeneutics (parodied in Don Quijote's use of romance texts) and the anarchic skepticism of totalized meta-representational Lucianic satire. In producing meaning from within its own represented world, Cervantes's narrative frees a neo-Augustinian (and Erasmian) insistence on the primacy of responsibility to others over self-fashioning from the naturalizations of metaphysics. Augustine challenges Seneca's Stoicism by asking, "What is compassion but a kind of fellow-feeling in our hearts for another's misery, which compels us [compellimur] to come to his help by every means in our power? Now this emotion is the servant of reason, when compassion is shown without detriment to justice" (City of God 9.5:349). (30)
Similarly, Erasmus views "emotional impulses [...] as tutors, attached to souls striving toward virtue" (Antibarbari 62). In Don Quijote recuperations of Augustine and Erasmus, as well as anticipations of Levinas, intersect with a future "art of the novel." Somatic empathy triggers affective dissonance that becomes reformative--for characters and implicitly for readers--of "higher" cognitive processing in ways that allow signification to generate modern aesthetic autonomy. This is most clearly sketched in the portrait of the Moorish father of Zoraida in part one of Cervantes's novel and the depiction of the Moorish father and daughter, Ricote and Ana Felix, in part two.
"The Captive's Tale," which describes how Zoraida, the beautiful Moorish heiress (and secret Christian), contrives the rescue of the captive narrator and then subsequently elopes with him to Spain, is a discourse that masterfully interweaves hegemonic ideological subgenres (military chronicle, adventure story, Oriental tale, Catholic panegyric contrasting Christian freedom with Islamic slavery), while indicting contemporary Spain's racial politics. (31) When this discourse's meta-representational virtuosity is interrupted by the anguished voice of Zoraida,s father upon realizing the extent of his daughter's betrayal, his unaltered love confers upon him an ethical significance--thereby making aesthetics the instrument of cultural politics--before which all the ideological frameworks that might make him "disposable" are exposed as inadequate. Meaning here depends upon ethical sense, predicated upon somatic empathy, outstripping all the contexts that would subsume it. Believing that he and his daughter have been kidnapped for ransom, the father declares that he will pay any price for both of them, of failing that, for her alone, who is "la mayor y la mejor parte de mi alma" (1.41:424) ["the best and the largest part of my soul" (1.41:2-85)]. So great is his feeling that not only the captive, but also a renegade and his men are by him all moved to compassion. Here "compassion" has an agency independent of both will and self-interest. To be "moved" is to sense the injustice both of the captive-narrator's colonization of the father (to the tropes of the culturally Other) and of the genres that construe the father (as a mere vehicle within a plot of triumphant flight, repatriation, and religious solidarity offered up for our enjoyment and identification, even if such a plot is subversive of Spain's association of religious and national identity with race). The question is not whether Cervantes was or should have been willing to view Islam and Arabic culture as no less good, if not better than, Catholicism and Spanish culture. (32) Rather, to the extent that we are "moved" like the captive-narrator, quite literally "making sense" of the discourse through simulating the mental actions it depicts, both aesthetic enjoyment and ideological identification are disturbed in ways that suggest the self's transcendence of the sum of meta-representations and in-group investments composing its subject positions, however plural or fragmented. (33) The reader experiences in relation to the father something akin to what he ultimately experiences in relation to his daughter. Once he understands that she is complicit in his kidnapping, he falls into conventionally misogynistic tropes, which Cervantes's audience would view as typical of Moorish patriarchal Islamic tyranny. But rather than allowing the final view of the father to confirm comfortable ideological assumptions that "contain" the subversive, aesthetically discordant implications of the father's humanity, Cervantes has the father break with his own diatribe to plead for his daughter's return, forgiving her and mourning the loss of her companionship: " Vuelve, amada hija, vuelve a tierra, que todo te lo perdono; entrega a esos hombres ese dinero, que ya es suyo, y vuelve a consolar a este triste padre tuyo, que en esta desierta arena dejara la vida, si tu le dejas!" (2.41:427) ["Come back, oh my beloved daughter, come back, I forgive everything! Let those men have all this money, it's already theirs, and come back to comfort your miserable father, who will die here in these barren sands, if you abandon him!" (2.41:287)].
Even more strikingly, the portrait of Sancho's converted Moorish friend, Ricote, and his exemplary brave and pious daughter, Ana Felix, indict the politics of racial (and ideological) purity that led to the 1609 expulsion of those of Moorish descent from Spain. Cervantes can put a defense of the expulsion in Ricote's mouth, thus protecting himself politically, while surrounding the Ricote story with novelistic content whose "internal lawfulness," reflecting "autonomous" ethical signification, condemns the state's racial politics on both prudential and ethical grounds. Sancho meets Ricote in chapter fifty-four of part two, immediately after the conclusion of his "island governorship," a narrative sequence that reveals both the quixotic folly of associating imperialistic self-fashioning with happiness and the self-serving cruelty of the Duke and Duchess. The conduct of the latter epitomizes an aristocratic cultural order within which meta-representational self-consciousness yields a purely "performative" selfhood in which manipulative arts have ultimately no point other than attesting to their authors' power and thus allowing a leisured elite to pass the time that--in the absence of any sense of responsibility born of somatic empathy reforming conceptuality and deliberation--hangs upon their hands.
Having led the reader through what we may recognize as novelistic indirection to scathing ethical judgments of the Duke and Duchess, and thus of entrenched social-political power relations in Philip III's Spain, Cervantes presents Ricote, Sancho's long-time fellow villager, in the company of German pilgrims. After a notably sociable, multiethnic, and multi-lingual feast, Ricote tells his story (in "pura castellana") of forced exile, secretive return to Spain to collect a treasure he had buried, and his desire to be reunited with his wife and daughter, who he believes are in Algiers (2.54:932; 2.54:647-48). Ricote's "pure" Castillian speech dramatizes autonomously the unethical fiction of Ricote's official designation as an "alien." Not only does Ricote share a language with Sancho; he also shares the ethical sociability and pious humility that Cervantes affiliates with the best aspects of Catholic Spanish culture, aspects utterly lacking in the Duke and Duchess. Commenting upon his wife and daughter's exemplary Catholic piety, Ricote adds that he is less good: "todavia tengo mas de cristiano que de moro, y ruego siempre a Dios me abra los ojos del entendimiento y me de a conocer como le tengo de servir" (2.54:933) ["all the same I think I'm more Christian than Moor, and my constant prayer to God is that He will open the eyes of my mind and show me how I can serve Him" (2.54:648)].
Ricote describes his religious deficiencies in terms that reveal, independent of his intentions, sincere and humble piety. Thus, what the reader understands (i.e., that the expulsion is both unjust and stupid, since it deprives Spain of such good menas Ricote) from a representation that is not, strictly speaking, a meta-representation is reinforced by Sancho's recollection of the daughter's departure from the village:
Iba llorando y abrazaba a todas sus amigas y conocidas, y a cuantos llegaban a verla, y a todos pedia la encomendasen a Dios y a Nuestra Senora su madre; y esto, con tanto sentimento, que a mi me hizo llorar, que no suelo ser muy lloron. (2-54:935) [She was weeping and hugging all her girl friends, and all the women she knew, and asking everyone to pray to God for her, and to His Blessed Mother, and with such feeling that she made me cry myself, and I'm not usually much of a weeper. (2.54:649)]
Sancho's spontaneous crying, which discloses an affectivity discordant with construing significance in terms of his own flourishing, is tightly correlated with literary autonomous ethical signification. The reader's perception of the rationality of Sancho's tears, their attestation of redemptive ethical sociability behind bluster, ignorance, and peasant cunning, follows from hermeneutically induced ethical revolt. By putting us affectively at odds with egocentric emotion processing, spontaneous ethical responsiveness to others allows us to distinguish, in life as in literature, between representations whose meaning is generated from within and representations whose meaning depends upon a meta-representational frame, be that an interested "point-of-view," a cultural-ideological tradition, or a metaphysical hermeneutical schema. Thus, as both Fuentes and Ferry intimate, the movement of Cervantes's narrative toward the art of the novel implies the convergence of ethical signification derived from somatic affectivity along with the advent of "internally lawful" aesthetic autonomy. And this convergence produces the culture of modernity for which Don Quijote serves as both prototype and progenitor.
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(1) For more on this, see Ferry (71-76); and Kant (43-51, 145-64).
(2) Such subjectivity is explicitly dramatized in Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews and Taro Jones. The reader must enter into the narrator's unstated ethical judgments for the text's continuous irony to be intelligible and so enjoyable (see Tom Jones 6.1:268-72).
(3) Hence, the cognitive and moral failures of traditional speech genres become not only the focus of comedy, but also the "via negativa" to truths or values emphatically felt but not, strictly speaking, said. See Fielding: Joseph Andrews (3.6:233-36; 3.11:264-67); Tom Jones (1.7:5155; 3.3:123-28); Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1.19:36-40); and Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (109-16, 139-47).
(4) See Lucian, The Dream, or the Cock and Philosophers for Sale. For Erasmus's imitation of Lucian, and Cervantes's relation to Erasmus, see Graf (49-50); Vilanova (7-47, 77-125); and Castro (245-328).
(5) This is a theme in many recent studies. See Graf; Childers; Jehenson and Dunn; Fuchs; Johnson (71-92); and Gerli.
(6) For the former effect, see Damasio (Looking for Spinoza 35-36); for the latter, see Damasio (Descartes' Error 127-222). Also see Hogan's distinction between "cognitive appraisal" and "neurobiological sensitivity" in "On Being Moved" and in What Literature Teaches Us about Emotion (40-75).
(7) See Iacobini; Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia; Bloom ("The Moral Life of Babies" and Descartes" Baby 99-154); and Meltzoff.
(8) See Hutchinson et al. (403-05); Carr et al. (5497-502); and Avenanti et al. (955-60).
(9) See Immordion-Yang et al. (8024-25); Damasio and Damasio (15-22); Mar et al. (694712); and Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia (173-93).
(10) Pascal Boyer notes that "intuitions" of the good in itself, outside self-interest, are attributed by cultures worldwide to the divine (175-91).
(11) See Iacobini (79-129); Rizzolati and Sinigaglia (115-71); Bloom (Descartes' Baby 3-34, 65-95); and Hogan (Understanding Nationalism).
(12) See Graf's questioning of postcolonial, postmodern criticism's exclusive focus on imperalizing cultural activity (54).
(13) See Krueger (603-604); and Levinas (Otherwise Than Being 145-52).
(14) See Graf (119-30); Castro (159-212); Vilanova (7-47); Herrero; Forcione; Wardropper; Marquez Villanueva; and Batallion.
(15) For later elaborations, see Zunshine (Strange Concepts and "Lying Bodies of the Enlightenment"); for theory of mind and Don Quijote, see Mancing ("Sancho Panzas Theory of Mind" and "James Parr's Theory of Mind").
(16) See especially Childers; Castillo; and De Armas ("Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance" and Cervantes, Raphael and the Classics)
(17) For spirited counterarguments, see El Saffar ("In Marcela's Case"); and Cruz. I am arguing here that sympathy for Marcela's desire to escape male (linguistic-conceptual/social-material) colonization may coincide with rejection of the asociality that she conflates with autonomy, and this makes her discourse and conduct analogues of Don Quijote's.
(18) The hermeneutical flexibility that such self-consciousness induces is integral to implicit critiques of the "reading" of self and others that Counter-Reformation dogmatism, misogynistic and class politics, and Spain's drive toward ethnic, racial "purity" sought to naturalize. See Graf (56-102); Jehenson and Dunn (1-20); Close; Cruz and Johnson; Gerli (40-81); Cascardi; and El Saffar (Beyond Fiction).
(19) See Dean; and Stroud.
(20) As Slavoj Zizek argues, epistemological critique of an ideological claim may have no bearing upon willingness to assert it, for the assertion induces an enjoyment unrelated to its truth or explanatory value. See Nietzsche's comment in Notebook (1888), [section] 481, in The Portable Nietzsche (458).
(21) See Seneca, De constantia 6.8: "The walls which guard the wise man are safe from both flames and assault, they provide no means of entrance--are lofty, impregnable, godlike" ["Illa, quae sapientem tuentur, eta flamma et ab incursu tuta sunt, nullum introitum praebent, excelsa, inexpugnabilia, diis aequa"] (66-67). See also McCrea (3-24); Miles (63-109); and Morford (139-80).
(22) On Augustinian currents in Cervantes, see DiSalvo. The appropriativeness of cupiditas induces imperialistic attitudes (see Confessions 1.6-8:24-29, 2.2:43-44) akin to those Levinas associates with egocentric intentionality and cognitive research associates with emotion processing tied to appraisals of self or in-group interest.
(23) Thus, Cervantes uses Don Quijote's "folly" (locura) as a master trope for the "folly" of all modes of thought and discourse that reduce others to our concepts of them. Yet, ironically, Don Quijote idealizes chivalry in terms of fitting into on age (implicitly, unlike the present one) where ethical action and substance triumph over representation and rationalization. In both respects, Cervantes aligns his novel with Erasmian satire, as many scholars have argued (see Vilanova; Presberg; Higuera; and Marquez Villanueva).
(24) See Graf (58-59, 65-85).
(25) There is much delight in silly playacting. Meanwhile, the curate, barber, and Cardenio (no less than Dorotea) reveal self-understandings darkened by self-love.
(26) See Riley (88-94, 179-99); Rhu; and De Armas ("Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance" 42-44).
(27) This is, of course, the redemptive side of "folly" in Erasmus's Praise of Folly, associated with imitations of divine caritas. In De libero arbitro and in books one and two of Hyperaspistes, Erasmus attributes humans' receptivity to grace to their nature being inflected by the love God impressed upon Creation.
(28) See Erasmus (Handbook).
(29) On the thematic centrality of what Graf calls Don Fernando's "moral metamorphosis," see Graf (72-73); Herrero; and Marquez Villanueva (34-72). Felix Martinez-Bonati is skeptical of any metamorphosis, but the improbability of human transformation by caritas is precisely the miracle that romance artifice seeks to portray (127-28).
(30) See also the Latin original in the Loeb facing page edition (168).
(31) See Graf (42-45); Wilson ("Cervantes Romances Inca Garcilaso de la Vega"); and Gerli (40-60).
(32) For this debate, see Graf (93-102, 123-30); Mariscal; (92); and Medina.
(33) For a discussion, informed by affective neuroscience, of the way Cervantes highlights the role of what Amy Williamsen calls "dehumanizing distance" in enabling atrocities and casual cruelties, see Williamsen (175-79).
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|Author:||Wehrs, Donald R.|
|Publication:||Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2012|
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