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Georgina Dopico Black and Francisco Layna Ranz, eds.: USA Cervantes: 39 cervantistas en Estados Unidos.

Georgina Dopico Black and Francisco Layna Ranz, eds. USA Cervantes: 39 cervantistas en Estados Unidos. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas / Ediciones Polifemo, 2009. 1220 pp. ISBN: 987-84-96813-22-9.

In sheer size and scope, this volume represents an undertaking of immense proportions, equaled perhaps only by the symbolic significance of its ambition to strengthen the transatlantic ties which, despite a history of often divergent critical approaches and methodologies, unite Peninsular and North American literary scholars through the works of Cervantes. While the ultimate effectiveness of such a formidable yet worthy goal is necessarily difficult to measure, USA Cervantes: 39 cervantistas en Estados Unidos undoubtedly succeeds in its principal objective of highlighting the valuable contributions of American scholarship to the study of Cervantes. By providing an autobiographical entry, bibliography, and original article for each of the thirty-nine scholars featured in the volume, Georgina Dopico Black and Francisco Layna Ranz dearly demonstrate the continuing originality, vibrancy, and diversity of Cervantes scholarship in the United States.

USA Cervantes begins with a preliminary introduction in which Dopico Black and Layna Ranz concisely summarize the historical trajectory of North American cervantismo, placing particular emphasis on the broader debate between the philological and theoretical traditions that distinguished literary scholarship in Spain and the US, respectively, for a large part of the last century. As they observe, however, recent trends on both sides of the Atlantic suggest that this division has diminished considerably: "En Espana la tradicion filologica sufre un severo menoscabo, y en Estados Unidos las nuevas generaciones viven un desconcertante regreso a los archivos, al legajo y al documento exclusivo" (11). These new points of convergence likewise offer the opportunity--and for the editors, indeed, the obligation--to revalue the critical contributions of the former 'enemy': "Despreciar la labor del enemigo era parte de nuestra estrategia, obligacion del critico de pro. Pero la rencilla parece perder tono a cada dia que pasa, y la reconciliacion es un asunto de agenda y compromiso academico" (12).

A similarly conciliatory tone spans much of the rest of the volume, beginning with the two prologues--written by Enrique Garcia Santo-Tomas and Alison Weber--that follow the editors' introduction. Garcia Santo-Tomas further contextualizes the history of Cervantes studies in the US by sketching a brief yet enlightened critical genealogy that begins with the contributions of Americo Castro and continues through the most recent efforts to explore, disseminate, and digitally archive the Cervantine oeuvre. His prologue concludes on a prescriptive note by advocating for a continued engagement with Cervantes in the American academy, but one which follows a more selective criterion of "menos y mejor" instead of the "criterio de abundancia" that, for Garcia Santo-Tomas, has tended to dominate the last several years (55)- Weber, on the other hand, details the well-known debate among Cervantes scholars regarding the Romantic or "soft" versus the historical or "hard" approaches to Don Quijote, which have further colored the traditional allegiances to Peninsular and American interpretive paradigms. Citing liberalism, postmodernism, and pragmatism as the three most salient influences on the American academy, Weber's prologue ends with a call to forge a new kind of Cervantine scholarship, one that subsumes the divisions of the past under a new critical rubric that is "a la vez acomodaticia e historicamente valida" (85).

The remainder of USA Cervantes is dedicated to individual scholarly contributions that, to one extent or another, evidence the vitality and heterogeneity of cervantismo in the US today. In fact, it is this very diversity of critical approaches that, while lauded in the opening pages of the book, nevertheless confounds a lucid criterion for organizing a collection of this magnitude. Be that as it may, the editors' introduction offers an avowedly provisional attempt ("USA Cervantes excede--en el mejor sentido--la posibilidad de nitida categorizacion" [15]) at demarcating the various contributions according to a common theme or approach, including: comparative studies; genre or formal aspects; gender studies; transnational and border studies; political approaches; methods of close reading or deconstruction; textual, geographical, and architectural spaces; reception theory; and, finally, studies that focus on editions or the editing process. While this medley of distinct interests highlights the "abanico amplisimo de propuestas" and "multiplicidad de acercamientos" (14), the editorial decision to organize the volume alphabetically by author actually renders it more accessible and less overwhelming for the reader.

Each of the contributors, in addition to an original essay, is represented by a brief autobiographical entry that explains his or her personal interest in and approach to Cervantes, as well as a complete bibliography of the author's publications on Cervantes. The contributors are: Mercedes Alcala-Galan, John J. Allen, Julio Baena, David A. Boruchoff, Marina S. Brownlee, Bruce R. Burningham, Alison Caplan, Maria M. Carrion, William Childers, William H. Clamurro, Anne J. Cruz, Frederick A. De Armas, Georgina Dopico Black, Salvador J. Fajardo, Barbara Fuchs, Maria Antonia Garces, E. Michael Gerli, Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, Steven Hutchinson, James Iffland, Carroll B. Johnson, Jacques Lezra, Isabel Lozano-Renieblas, Francisco Marquez Villanueva, Adrienne Martin, Rogelio Mifiana, James A. Parr, Charles D. Presberg, Francisco J. Sanchez, Dale Shuger, Nicholas Spadaccini, Henry Sullivan, Eduardo Urbina, Diana de Armas Wilson, and Stanislav Zimic. The volume ends with the transcription of a debate in 2005 between Daniel Eisenberg and Tom Lathrop on the question of errors in Don Quijote. Although, at times, some of the contributions adopt an apologetic or confessional tone in remarking on prior scholarship that is deemed ahistorical or overly theoretical, the veritable wealth of critical postures, individual musings, and extensive bibliography will be of interest to young scholars just beginning their studies on Cervantes as well as those with an already illustrious career, no matter which side of the Atlantic they call home.

This encyclopedic panorama of material encompassed in USA Cervantes: 39 cervantistas en Estados Unidos ultimately stands as a response to what may be its most pressing enigma: that of the criteria employed for determining who would contribute to the collection. To state the question more directly: why thirty-nine? Aside from the obvious practical considerations (any more contributions would have almost certainly implied multiple volumes and, therefore, a much greater editorial and economic commitment; any fewer may have risked understating the point), to answer this question is to inquire into some of the most fundamental issues facing Cervantes scholars today. Namely, what does it mean to be a cervantista? How do we define or delineate ourselves and our scholarship from other disciplines? These are no doubt questions that confronted previous generations of Cervantes scholars as well, above all perhaps in their quest to elevate Hispanism to a level of academic recognition equal to other European national literatures, a quest placed largely on the shoulders of Don Quijote through the invocation of the novel's distinguished place in the canon of world literature (a tendency recognized by Weber as a "complejo de inferioridad" [70]).

But in the age of increasingly acute economic challenges for the Spanish and North American academies alike, these questions may resonate with even greater urgency today. USA Cervantes implicitly offers both a reflection and a response. For while the number thirty-nine may be arbitrary, the message is not: Cervantism is still alive and well in the US yet, far from resting on its laurels of canonicity, continues to push the boundaries of critical inquiry, delve deeper into the archives, and interrogate the underlying premises of its own scholarship. Ina volume that could have been several rimes larger--by including other scholars whose contributions to Cervantes studies have been equally worthy--the diversity of disciplinary training, theoretical background, and professional experience of its thirty-nine authors subtly attests to this reality. In fact, Dopico Black and Layna Ranz's achievement as a whole affirms that this kind of multiplicity--resistant to facile categorizations as it is--remains Cervantism's strongest quality. Their explicit call to "seguir tendiendo puentes," "trazar avenidas criticas de ida y vuelta," and "contribuir a una mayor interaccion de intereses cervantinos" on both sides of the Atlantic is one which, in the face of the aforementioned challenges currently confronting academe, we can no longer afford to ignore (14). If this volume is as much a reflection on the past as it is a roadmap for the future, and if the moment is indeed ripe for Cervantes studies to build more transatlantic bridges of mutual cooperation, then USA Cervantes lays a critical cornerstone.


University of California, Irvine
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Author:Johnson, Paul Michael
Publication:Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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