Ruin and Restitution: Reinterpreting Romanticism in Spain.
Ruin and Restitution: is not just one more work about the poetics of Spanish romanticism, but one of those rare books which, from time to rime, capsize received knowledge. It asks questions that have been staring Hispanists in the face without being explicitly formulated, questions about all they purportedly wanted to know about class, nation, politics, and ideology, but did not dare to ask. By tacitly locating recent literary historiography in the national romantic continuum that constitutes his object of study, Philip Silver provides some indications of why these questions were not raised before.
Although nineteenth-century Spain was constructed by central and northern European contemporaries as the embodiment of romanticism--an extended commonplace that prompted Mario Praz to write a book on Unromantic Spain--(1) literary or philosophical production in this country could not match in intention or quality the aesthetic renewal launched by the German and English romantics. To Novalis's summons: "Die Welt muB romantisiert werden" (the world must be romanticized), Spanish poets responded with a distorted recuperation of the past. For this flawed recuperation of what they saw as the national past, their uninformed apprehension of the new aesthetic was in part to blame. Another reason, largely unexplored in the present book, is the fact that, in the absence of a national system of education until the 1857 Moyano law, poets supplied a great deal of knowledge about the "national" past, much as Perez Galdos's National Episodes would supply the modicum of history necessary to nationalize various generations of Spaniards at the end of the century. In this context of a missing national tradition, it may be entirely appropriate to speak of the romantic invention of the national past. Instead of engaging in the philosophically productive dialectic between classic and modern poetry, nineteenth-century Spanish poets were in thrall to the Castilian literary tradition, from which they derived their own sense of Spain's historical development and "romantic" values, with the consequence that, as Silver observes in his Introduction, "from 1700 to 1828, Spanish literature seems to have survived by recycling its literary past" (xii).
The riddle of waning creativity after an extended period of exceptional output from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century has exercised the historiographic imagination. But a symetrical problem arises with the speedy levelling off of Spain's lyrical gap in the twentieth century. What could explain the emergence of a new and eminent lyrical quality in the twentieth century, if criticism holds on to the assumption that modern poetry descends from national romanticism? This is, in a nutshell, the dilemma the author proposes and tackles in this book. Yet, by no means is it clear that the reader ought to share this working assumption. One may reasonably ask if it is actually the case that criticism has ever upheld the notion that modern Spanish poetry descends in direct line from national romanticism. Such scepticism about the premises is still pertinent if one dismisses (as Silver does, quite rightly) the notion of the formative influence on Spanish twentieth-century poetry of the late romanticism typified by Latin-American modernismo. Incidentally, this question could have been short-circuited just by looking at the development of modernista poetry in the Catalan language. Disengaged from both the Castile-centric and the Latin American neo-romantic traditions, turn of the century Catalan poetry not only makes explicit its links to German and French romanticism, but also correlates with aesthetic theorizations, such as Joan Maragall's, which are clearly reminiscent of the Schilllerian concepts of the naive and the sentimental.
To the options consecrated by the canonical literary histories, Silver proposes the following alternative: "either the real status of its national romanticism is misunderstood in the case of Spain, or [...] Spain is not as bereft of romanticism as has been supposed" (xii). In practice, he shows this to be a false alternative, as he comes to view Spanish modernist poetry in the light of the high romanticism that Spain lacked in the nineteenth century. But, as he states it, the alternative already points in this direction, suggesting a "both and" response to the apparent dichotomy. For Silver demonstrates that the status of Spanish national romanticism has been misunderstood and that there is more romanticism in Spanish literature than meets the eye: only not where literary historiography locates it--that is, not between 1833-1844 or in Becquer's and Rosalia de Castro's epigonal romanticism of the 1870s and '80s--but in the twentieth century's pre- and interwar periods. From 1912 (if we take Machado's Campos de Castilla as ab quo publication) up to the Spanish Civil War and the early exile years, the literary landscape was trailblazed by stellar poets whom the author tantalizingly considers an anti-tradition. One that renounced the romantic dogma of a unified Spain, while accomplishing a "native turning back" to its plurinational reality and poetry's integration into the international literary diversity that high romanticism always implied (130).
While postulating a discontinuity between Spanish romanticism and modern Spanish poetry is fairly unproblematic, it has substantial methodological consequences. It leads the author to question the teleological assumptions of traditional scholarship, and to substitute the idea of creative restitution for that of causality. In this way Silver strikes a balance between, on one hand, the presumption that criticism and historiography may be safely conducted outside the questioning circle of philosophy and literary theory, and on the other hand, the vacuum effect of a critical theory that often seems more interested in its self-production than in the elucidation of the literary object as discourse-in-the-world. Happily, then, this study of Spanish romanticism moves beyond the discipline's protocols by taking in stride philosophical insights from the comparative tradition, while delving into the relation between poetics and politics on one hand and ideology and (literary) historiography on the other. As a consequence of his revision of the professional mediations of the literary object, Silver succeeds in enunciating a cogent thesis about the nature and politics of Spanish romanticism, even if this thesis still excludes the literary cultures erased from the national tradition, whose restrictive construction he so eloquently describes. By turning a critical eye on the historiographic tradition spawned by romantic nationalism, he situates himself outside of Hispanism's blind spot.
The book is organized into rive chapters. The first and longest one interrogates current positions on Spanish romanticism and offers a good synthesis of the relation between the reception of romantic ideas and bourgeois political hedging. As in other transitional periods, at the end of the reign of Fernando VII Spanish liberals were too weak to effectively take over the state and had to compromise with the powerful conservatives. Repeated over time, such compromises led to demoralization and prolonged periods of apoliticism--or conversely, they bred a rhetorical politics designed to keep the majority of the people from participating in public affairs. Politics, in this sense, is reduced to shiftiness within the rules of a fetishized constitution and to elite control of the media's well-nigh dictatorial power. In short, politics, which is otherwise reviled as an undignified arena, coincides with Alberto Lista's recipe for a "liberal" regime consisting of a representative monarchical government, public opinion, and the opinion leaders in charge of molding the former (15). The liberal press, in fact, along with elite institutions like Madrid's Ateneo and Liceo, constituted the primary support of the literary institution in the 1830s and 40s. And, as Jose Valero notes, literary activity within these circles often was initiatory for future members of the governing elite (Valero 217). In the so-called romantic period, literature emerges not only as a legitimation of the traditional elite, turned into an deceptive meritocracy, but also, and perhaps primarily, into a form of opinion-shaping in the absence of a genuine public sphere.
The still dominant story of Spanish romanticism does not stress the continuity between the old political or bureaucratic elite and the authors representative of the romantic decade. To this day, students are regularly fed a romantic fare consisting of the Larra-Espronceda liberal tandem, coupled with the pseudo-Byronic Duke of Rivas and rounded off with the reactionary late romantics Zorrilla and Becquer, often presented in a liberal light (as, for example, in Ricardo Navas Ruiz's introduction to Luis Fernandez Cifuentes's edition of Don Juan Tenorio). Against this canonical lineage, Silver roundly asserts Bohl de Faber's importance in outlining the dominant romantic doctrine in Spain: one that was politically conservative, traditionally Catholic, and focused on the revitalizing of "national" values (4). Through Bohl a feudal axiology was nationally reappropriated by reading the Castilian medieval and Golden Age literary tradition in the wake of Friedrich Schlegel's assertion that this was the most "national" of European literatures. Although clearly establishing Schlegel's influence on the historicist outlook of Spanish national romanticism, Silver surprisingly bypasses another important Peninsular venue for Jena romanticism, namely Manuel Mila i Fontanals' reception of Wilhelm Schlegel's ideas through Overbeck and a group of Catholic German painters in Rome. This neglect is even more puzzling inasmuch as Mila's interest in aesthetics was responsible for the introduction in Spain of romanticism's theoretical core. Perceiving the dialectical force of the classic/romantic opposition, the young Mila rejected the mediation of a "monstrous middle term," in which he shrewdly detected an aesthetic equivalent of the liberal-conservative political compact. Instead he considered romanticism the only genuine modern movement, an opinion he sustained by regularly preferring the term "modern" to the term "romantic." Independent from Bohl de Faber's, this reception of Jena theory might have avoided the former's historicism. However, as the "moderate" party gained strength after the Carlist war, Mila increasingly turned towards historicism, devoting himself to research on medieval poetry, thus anticipating the future direction of Spanish philology.
In the end Mila's reception of romantic aesthetics did not prevent a conservative instrumentalisation of art. Romanticism in Spain came to serve the requirements of public order and morality, fulfilling the expectations of literary preceptors like Lista, whose initial rejection of romanticism as subversive slowly gave way to the realization of its conservative potential. In the pens of the poet-bureacrats and the members of Madrid's literary societies, romanticism became a site for the actualization of a Castile-centric unitarism, which was legitimized through, to use Silver's felicitous expression, the rewriting of the past as its own simulacrum (53). As he points out unambiguously, liberal romantics were not purveyors of a radical, philosophically searching discourse. Emblematic "liberals" like Larra and Espronceda do not reveal the imprint of high romanticism but that of a neoclassical education (6). The received notion that these authors spearheaded liberal romanticism in Spain dissipates in the evidence of this "movement's" political correlations. Yet not romanticism's bourgeois entailments, as Silver assumes (7), but the lukewarm quality of its bourgeois convictions squandered the opportunity to develop a radical aesthetics. Liberal romanticism was inhibited less by "the bourgeois struggle for political and ideological hegemony" (7) than by the fateful deal struck with reactionary forces seeking to relegitimize pre-bour-geois traditions. Had conditions in Spain permitted its appearance, a radical bourgeoisie would have challenged the seigneurial powers and promoted revolutionary changes which, in the Spanish context, would have developed in the opposite direction from that taken by romantic "liberalism": away from the centralized state and towards a federal republic. This is exactly what happened during the brief interlude of 1873, when a radical bourgeoisie found itself in government by temporary default of the patrimonial elites.
This alternative bourgeois horizon, envisioned by a number romantic exiles, is not mentioned in this book, although Silver does recall the existence of federal and confederal proposals reflecting Iberia's historical and cultural complexity. As the author observes, romantic nation building erased those proposals, leaving behind a (literary) historiography and a political habitus rigidly impervious to that complexity. Spanish historicist romanticism not only updated the legitimation of traditional oligarchic rule but often displayed the continuity between its objectives and the nature of the state inherited from the absolutist era. Besides deploying an ideology of extreme male dominance, plays like Garcia Gutierrez's Venganza catalana celebrate the "national" past with massive doses of jingoism and, more crucially, by assimilating an extrinsic "history," that of Medieval Catalonia. The popularization and eventual canonization of this form of romanticism excluded and definitively erased even the memory of radical historiography and its corollary alternative proposals for state formation. Memorable in this connection is Antoni Puigblanch (born in Mataro in 1775, died in London in 1840), a liberal precursor of the Catalan literary Renaixenca, only recently rescued from oblivion as subject of a doctoral dissertation in progress (by Joan Abello, at the University of Barcelona). Imprisoned and exiled in 1815 for authoring a book, La Inquisicion sin mascara, in which he urged the abolition of the Inquisition, Puigblanch returned to Spain as member elect of the Spanish Parliament at the beginning of the short liberal spell of 1820-1823, only to go again into exile the following year. During his second exile he elaborated a political division of Spain into three sovereign confederated states, each with its own constitution, leaving a door open for Portugal to join as fourth state. Puigblanch's extensive historical knowledge and modern understanding of the economic dynamics of states went unheeded. Instead of using his territorial proposal to challenge the state's absolutist structure, the liberal bourgeoisie established the provincial model, which broke up the historical and cultural units, subjecting the pieces to strict control by a centralized bureacracy dependent on the landed aristocracy.
Based on an underlying historical reality, Puigblanch's project inevitably resurfaced, first in Francesc Pi i Margall's federalism, later in Pere Bosch Gimpera's proposal for an Iberian federation during the Second Republic, and quite recently in the "Declaration of Barcelona" of July 1998, in which major parties of Spain's peripheral nationalities converged to collaborate in bringing about a recognition of Spain's plurinationality. Puigblanch's attack on the Inquisition and his call for a confederal state were hardly un-Catholic or unpatriotic, yet they motivated the arch-Catholic and ultra-nationalist Menendez Pelayo to incorporate him in his gallery of heterodox Spaniards. Puigblanch satisfied the criteria for inclusion, being at once Catalan, Federalist, and Pantheist, the very charges on which Menendez Pelayo also indicted his contemporary, Francesc Pi i Margall (Menendez Pelayo, Book VII, ch. 3,150). The charge of pantheism alerts us to the Catholic resistance to European romanticism and gives us a clue to its domestication and draining. When they denounced "pantheism," Catholic censors were rejecting the political implications of romanticism's doctrine of ontological immanence.
Although the bourgeois revolution was hindered by a still powerful nobility, it is not apparent why the political impasse of the middle classes should have prevented the appearance of high romanticism. Romanticism, according to Victor Hugo, was after all, "le liberalisme en litterature" (Hugo 30); in other words, an idealized transcription of the liberalism frustrated in the political sphere. What was missing in Spain for even this transcription to be halting and inconclusive? Silver lays the blame on the endurance of Enlightenment aesthetics and the conservatism of Spanish romantics, but these seem insufficient reasons when one recalls that social conditions in Germany at the end of the eighteenth century were not all that different and yet a genuine, even if conservative, romanticism was hatched by the Jena circle. In Germany too, a feudal ideology kept absolutism's hold on everyday life, and consequently on the freedom to think beyond the immediate circumstances. The political corruption that Puigblanch, in his Prologo de un Tratado sobre la Rejeneracion politica de Espana, sees spreading from the Royal Palace through the network of bureaucratic employments that corset the Spanish territories has a counterpart in the "Untertanenverstand" promoted by the Prussian bureaucracy. German Enlightenment writers, like nineteenth-century Madrid writers, depended for their existence on subordinate positions in the state's bureaucracy, and that dependency limited their intellectual and political horizon (Lukacs 19). And yet, high romanticism was born in these circumstances and triumphed because of them. The aesthetization of rebellion and the philosophical incorporation of absolutism in the transcendental subject went hand in hand with the ego's subjection by the bureaucratic state. This contradiction found an aesthetic niche (and thus a convenient release) in the concept of irony. In Spain, whose Golden Age classics inspired the romantic idea of irony, this concept and the subject/object tension on which it was built were replaced by the gratuitous, either as a threatening force disguising social determination (The Duke of Rivas's Don Alvaro o la fuerza del sino) or an obliging one that can change its sign in due course to please sentimental audiences while reabsorbing bourgeois relations into a relegitimized patrimonial absolutism (Zorrilla's Don Juan Tenorio).
If we rule out the correspondences and disavow the existence of high romanticism in nineteenth-century Spain, how can we account for the romantic stance of some of its authors and the rhetoric of defiance in some of their works? Silver accounts for this epiphenomenon by extrapolating the concept of Biedermeier from German art history. Yet this recourse seems unnecessary and potentially generates more problems than it solves. Having exposed the pseudo-romanticism of the first generation of Spanish "romantics," nothing is gained by positing a second biedermeierish moment to designate the aesthetic's post-1844 extensions (11). Lukacs's skeptical reception of the term in German literary history should be a warning against its transculturation. In the case of Spain the skepticism is doubly justified, since the absence of an original high romanticism could hardly have inspired a second wave of tamed or diffident romanticism. "The new literary historians," writes Lukacs, "want to introduce a period of the `Biedermeier' in German literary history. But what is the Biedermeier if not the predominance of the romantic ideology among the masses, if not the penetration of Romanticism in German literature?"(69).
In the second chapter Silver actually comes close to formulating what I think is a convincing reason for Spain's differential romanticism. Initially he posits the need to pursue "the aesthetic force of literature on history" and to study "poetry's potential for discovering `historicality'"(42). But this programmatic declaration does not cover the whole ground. In tune with its title, the book lets its restitutive intention transpire in this final privileging of the aesthetic, as Silver endeavors to restore to Spanish (i.e. Castilian) poetry the romantic achievements it lacks. Hinting that the difference in ideological vigor between Europe's high romanticism and Spain's "penury and belatedness" is smaller than one might think, he intriguingly proposes that "the decisive factor here is not only the romanticism itself but the force of its reinterpretation" (43). With more than a trace of the Bloomian idea that poetry is meaningful not in itself but for the uses that can be extracted from it (Bloom 39), Silver aims to rescue romanticism for Spanish literary history by displacing it from the historico-ontological to the hermeneutic sphere. In effect this means that, if Spain lacked an original romantic production, its poets eventually produced (the equivalent of) high romanticism by laboring upon the traces (or ruins) of a century of European romanticism. Silver's claim does not rest on a simple notion of delayed influence but tacitly on the distinction between the performative and the cognitive underlying the Bloomian concept of Gnosis. Nonetheless, his deferral of romanticism to the nineteen twenties and thirties through the troping of the romantic theme of ruins will encounter serious resistance, especially because it doubles its initial clash with literary historiography by running foul of another sanctioned category: modernism. Furthermore, the "restitutive" character of modern Spanish poetry may be misleading with regard to its mimicry of romanticism's predilection for the fragmented, the allusive, and the unsayable. Pushing Silver's argument to its logical conclusion, would it not be precisely post-romantic Spanish poetry, in its deliberate formalization of romantic rhetorical features, that fits best the Biedermeier category? If so, this criterion would apply not only to Becquer, but also to Jimenez, Lorca and other modernists insofar as they partake of the restitutive dynamic.
Silver's attempt to disentangle European high romanticism from Spanish pre-romanticism (here the prefix carries the sense of insufficient, or "not quite") leads him to analyze the philosophical roots of German romanticism. Stressing its religious component, he refers to the Jena circle as "originary `messianic' romanticism." This messianism may or may not have been a "secularized" one, as Silver asserts following Walter Benjamin, M.H. Abrams, and Virgil Nemoianu, but it must remain central to any consideration of the movement's origins. It is crucial not only for the theologically oriented Schleiermacher, but also for the mystical Novalis and the Catholic convert Friedrich Schlegel. In Spain one searches in vain for a similar hallowing of poetic inspiration. Neither Espronceda nor Zorrilla, nor even Becquer adequately signify Schlegel's intuition of the "holy breath" enticed by poetic language. Nor do they formulate an equivalent for the romantic "Witz" as residue of previous imaginary activity (Schlegel 212) or, more generally, seek an interior route to the subjective participation in a pantheistic Christianity. One must wait until Unamuno for a comparable transposition of intellectual skepsis into religious subjectivity.
It is not so much that the fantastic is missing from Spanish romanticism as that its speculative force is compromised by orthodoxy and does not represent the riddle of the divine in nature (Schlegel). Espronceda's and Becquer's incursions into the marvellous and the gothic recede into the miraculous through a Catholic association of otherworldliness with eschatology and sin. Even a play like Don Alvaro, based on the ironic tension between self and world, depends on a pedestrian conception of fiendish forces explicitly related to the protagonist's racial contamination. The fact is that none of the "rebellious" Spanish romantics internalized idealism's revolutionary metaphysics or even disputed the Catholic worldview and political hegemony.
This explains the persistence of the historical mode long after its demise in France--Alfred de Musset saw it fall in disrepute after 1831 (Furst 48). Concentrating on this mode left the location of authority intact, while impeding aesthetic energies from being redirected to the expression of subjective tensions. Explanations for the speculative feebleness of Spanish romanticism must be sought in a social atmosphere de-intellectualized and de-subjectivized by the pervasive subjectivism of Spanish life. Nineteenth-century Spain existed in a peculiar spiritual medium, one in which aesthetic questions such as the relation between classic and modern art were transcended in the atmosphere of naive magic and harsh reality-checks which a work like the Quixote had already sought to unify aesthetically. Romanticism's reenchantment of the world had little purpose in a society that had moved into modern times clinging to metaphysical legitimation and the pseudoempiricism of the miraculous. As if to underscore this distinction, Silver follows Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy in deemphasizing the "pseudo-religious messianism in Jena romanticism"(47). However, his (and their) endorsement of a strictly philosophical reading of the Athenaeum texts seems unnecessarily reductive. Appealing though it be to secularized thinkers, the proposition that the Jena circle was the aesthetic executor of a strictly philosophical problematic disremembers the religious ground of German idealism. Not irrelevant to this matter is the fact that Novalis' notorious essay, "Die Christenheit oder Europa," was originally intended for publication in the Athenaeum, and that its ultimate rejection necessitated the strength of Goethe's disuasive recommendation.
In Spain the absence of subjective religiosity kept philosophical speculation at bay and prevented the development of an autonomous aesthetic sphere. The onus carried by the word philosophe was proportional to the hegemony of dogmatic theology, while aesthetics floundered between diehard neoclassicism and nationalist apologetics like Agustin Duran's Discurso sobre el influjo que ha tenido la critica moderna en la decadencia del teatro antiguo espanol y sobre el modo con que debe ser considerado para juzgar convenientemente de su merito peculiar (Discourse on the Influence of Modern Criticism on the Decadence of Ancient Spanish Drama and on the Way in which it Must be Considered for its peculiar Merit to be Judged Appropriately) (1828). By the time Mila i Fontanals published his Principios de estetica in 1857, proposing philosophical principles as the basis for literary studies, political events had exhausted the radicalizing potential of aesthetics.
Silver's view of romanticism as secularized theology does not prevent him from accepting the traditional correlation between the Protestant/Catholic divide and the presence/absence of high romanticism(65). This comes after a dense theoretical excursus through Paul de Man's debate with earlier theories of romanticism, such as Wellek's, Wasserman's and Abrams's. In this section of the book, the author resorts to de Man's defense of allegory against symbol and to his post-Heideggerian historical poetics for the purpose of grounding his analysis of Spanish romanticism in the Holderlinian dialectics of "foreign" and "native" and in the idea of return as becoming (also present in Novalis). However, unremarked by the author, there is in de Man a convoluted reassertion (against the Abramsian idea of a naturalized theodicy) of transcendence as romanticism's "strong" feature. "The poet, faithful disciple of Being, is privileged because he is called upon to see it in its wondrous all-presence" (de Man 258). Yet his word, like the mystic's, does not establish Being, but merely asserts the moment of the revelation: "It is not because he has seen Being that the poet is, therefore, capable of naming it; his word prays for the parousia, it does not establish it" (de Man 258). What does the claim that Rousseau, Wordsworth, and Holderlin "succeeded in renouncing nature and moved `upward' toward a non-sensuous realm" amount to, if not a pre-phenomenological metaphysics? How can an allegorical reading of the Holderlinian "Umkehr" altogether avoid the idea of conversion? Resorting to metaphysics seems unavoidable if the allegory of Being in a sentence like the following is to be grasped historically: "Returning from their `foreign', or the ontological envy of nature, to their `native' or `national', they directed their longing to `an entity that could never, by its very nature, become a particularized presence'" (Silver quoting de Man, 63). Of course, de Man can sound as mystical as the poets he interprets; for example, when he speaks about "[t]he new [that] produces itself by the confrontation of becoming in process with anterior movements, a confrontation through which a unity of intention reveals itself" (quoted by Silver, 63). To no avail will an empirically minded reader ask: What unity? Whose intention? What is the ontological status of self-revelation?
Through this deManian detour Silver arrives at his methodological concept of restitution. Not exactly an "Umkehr" and not a repatriation either, the "true center of romanticism", in his view, "must be this `failed'-successful analeptic interpretation" of a past that is always dissolving(66). Contrary to the assumption of historical romanticism, the object is not reappropriable, the past is never recovered. Precisely for this reason "genuine" romantics like Holderlin and Becquer know that interpretation is endless but also vital. Awareness of the irretrievable nature of the past, of its necessary epiphany in its ruins subtends the possibility of a restitutional romanticism, which Silver lays out as he reviews diverse and erstwhile influential accounts of Spanish romanticism, such as Edgar Allison Peers's, Octavio Paz's, Edmund L. King's, and Juan Luis Alborg's.
Chapters three and four are in-depth studies of Becquer and Cernuda respectively, the former considered as transitional to a restitutive romanticism and the latter as a paradigm for a restitutive poetics. Becquer is, apparently, the one more difficult to classify, as can be seen from Silver's ambivalence about his theoretical status. He variously considers this poet a "romantic nationalist" (12), the "point of inflection between historical Romanticism and the present" (66), and "the proponent of a religiously tinged national-romantic sublime" of neoclassical extraction (73). But the monographic chapter repays careful reading. In Becquer's prose, particularly in his Historia de los templos de Espana, Silver locates a poetic consciousness of the pastness of the past, that is, of the poet's historicity. By virtue of this consciousness Becquer's contemplation of ruins becomes the focal point of a restorative project that would make good the devastation of time through poetic vision. The poet now conjures the (historical) spirit in the wound opened by time between the senses and their intentional objects. Brought back by force of analeptic vision, the past becomes an ideological component of the present. Thus, by a sort of backward necessity, poetic vision functions as reverse providentialism. "A better example of the designs of national-romanticism--says Silver--is difficult to imagine" (76).
If Becquer actualizes an eighteenth-century, pre-romantic sublime neglected by historical romanticism, the twentieth-century poet Luis Cernuda is the privileged exponent of a post-romantic sublime. Silver finds it possible "to align both his early romantic self-emplotment and his `culturalism' with an overarching romantic preoccupation with `saying' the ineffable" (120). And this, of course, is where Cernuda meets Becquer and Holderlin in privileging (aesthetic) experience over writing, aware, like them, of the inevitability of mediation. There is in Cernuda, as Silver puts it, "a difference between presentation and the presented that is a token of the rift between Being and entities" (121). But his is a "poetics of failure," which does not share Becquer's faith in the demiurguic act. Writing can never bring back but only reveal the withdrawal of meaning forever receding in the poem.
As its title indicates, the last chapter is intended as a methodological conclusion. However, rather than tackling methodological issues, it reflects on a theme that has been implicit throughout the book. Unlike Germany, Spain did not produce idealized images of the Greek and Roman past, but instead (for reasons that would merit another book) it cathected an image of its own past. As a result of its historical narcissism, Spain did not experience the tension between classical and modern, "foreign" and "native," as a longing for an impossible repetition. Thus it had no use for the romantic sublime as compensation for the loss of organic beauty with the passing of the classical world. By adopting its own past as its classical object of emulation, Spain incorporated the romantic valuation of its foreignness qua nativeness into its self-understanding. Because its own "classical age" was, from a European point of view, the paradigmatically romantic one, Spain underwent the illusion that the past was a continuation backwards of the present. It thus reproduced the dichotomy between "foreign" and "native" in a non-dialectical way, winding up with the distortion of its own internal foreign/native dualities.
There are tantalizing conclusions to be drawn from this thesis. One that Silver does not mention, though it clearly fills the bill, is that Catalan noucentisme, an early twentieth-century reaction to romanticism, may have been determined by a rejection of Spain's romantic narcissism and a dialectical inversion of its foreign/native dichotomies. By appropriating an idealized Greco-Roman culture, noucentisme cathected as utopian striving and interpretable hieroglyph of the present a nativized image of a high romantic "foreign," producing its own version of the lost Holderlinian paradise. Thus Silver's approach to Spanish romanticism could prove fertile in connection with the issues of authenticity and the production of historicality. If, as he asserts, historical romanticism extended Spain's imperial ideology as a modality of nineteenth-century nation-building, then noucentisme's anti-romantic classicism can be seen as a strategy to mark a distance from both the Spanish romantic-national tradition and its replica in the Catalan Renaixenca's restorative medievalism. Catalan national classicism appears then as a means of resisting romantic appropriation by Spanish nationalism, visible, for example, in Garcia Gutierrez'sVenganza catalana (1864), and--at a later date--in Jose Maria Saenz de Heredia's post-civil war film, Raza, based on a script by Francisco Franco. In Silver's term, one could say that in early twentieth century Catalonia the tension between classical and romantic was inverted, with poets (Guerau de Liost, Riba) pursuing a restoration of classicism's ruins. In this context the classical was produced by strong poets able "to create a freedom out of and by catastrophe" (Bloom 59). Theirs was the catastrophe of a ruined nation, the petering out of its poet's voices since late medieval times. Historically, they stood in a relation of foreignness to, and expulsion from their own tradition, and knew, like no one else in Spain, the modern need for redemption. Belatedness, as Bloom notes, "sees a writing in space; it cannot hear a voicing in time" (59). Against the literal ruins of Greek and Roman settlements along the Catalan toast, they read the outline of a "native" Hesperia. This view replaced for them that of the romantic Middle Ages, Catalonia's "othered" foundational past.
This search for another tradition challenged the literary canon constructed by romantic historiography in the process of Spanish nation building, anticipating a possible answer (or at least a demurral and a doubt) to Silver's questions: "What is the genuine `native' of Spain's past? And what would an authentic interpretive relationship to it be?" (127). Noucentisme's answer supports Silver's idea that an authentic interpretive relationship involves "a `native turning back' to a pluri-nationalism and a consequential international literary diversity" (130). Nonetheless, by its very challenge to the Spanish-romantic canon, noucentisme places demands on his conception of "a non-stratified, non-Castile-centric, antitradition of modern poetry" (130). It shows, namely, that his admirable effort to break loose from Hispanism's Castile-centric tradition falls short of the requirements and succeeds only in producing a restitutive Castile-centric tradition. One that consolidates the "national" canon: Juan Ramon Jimenez, Pedro Salinas, Jorge Guillen, and a list of others, to which Joan Maragall is (predictably) added for good plurinational measure. Moreover, some of the names mentioned to illustrate an intellectual tradition discrepant with romantic historiography are not far removed from the romantic cathecting of Spain's imperial past. Historians like Americo Castro and Claudio Sanchez Albornoz's, for all the former's restitution of Spain's semitic past, continued the late-romantic imperial nostalgia of the Generation of '98 and their academic associates, Ramon Menendez Pidal and Jose Ortega y Gasset.
Silver's "methodological conclusion" suggests a fruitful line of research that would refocus the crucial and still heatedly debated issue of historical authenticity in view of Spain's plurinational structure. It raises the questions: what would a legitimate Spanish historiography be like? Would it be plural and open, and, consequently, unstable? Would it, on the contrary, recanonize the ideological components of the nation-state? Recent statements by Antonio Munoz Molina and Javier Tusell (to mention two influential Castilo-centric intellectuals) point in this direction, as does a recent editorial in Madrid's daily, El Pais (13 October, 1999), calling for textbook unification throughout the state ("Libros controlados"). Munoz Molina caricatures North-American multiculturalism in order to lambaste Spain's alternative national histories, while pleading for the restitution of the romantic unitarian history. For his part, Tusell warns against the opening up of history to non-professionals, that is, to non-licensed historians, thus advocating the state's authority in defining the (usable) past.
To Silver's credit, his book alerts against this kind of neoromantic closure, offering counterexamples of democratic, federalizing historians. Perhaps significantly, all of his primary examples practiced their disciplines in Catalonia. These include Menorca-born Ferran Patxot i Ferrer, the Valencian Pere Bosch i Gimpera, and Jaume Vicens Vives. Examples from this cultural and political "foreign" could be multiplied at will. A wider knowledge of this tradition could prove invaluable in correcting the ravages of romantic nationalism's one-dimensional history. But the same is true of the literary tradition. Since Silver effectively exposes the erasure of projects for a non-authoritarian, plurinational history of Spain, it is inexplicable that his own restitutive effort erases poetic countertraditions which reinterpret the European inheritance while shaking to pieces the unified culture concocted by Spain's national-Catholic romanticism.
Notwithstanding this restriction, Silver's book calls attention to Hispanism's self-inflicted blindness to its object's complexity, pointing the way to a more critical, because more inclusive and more theoretically exacting practice. While this is the gist of his methodological conclusion, the preceding chapters set high standards of critical finesse and intellectual daring. This slim book will displace a large volume of bibliographic matter as it helps move nineteenth century studies into the twenty--first century. (JOAN RAMON RESINA Cornell University)
Bloom, Harold. Agon. Towards a Theory of Revisionism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
De Man, Paul. "Heidegger's Exegeses of Holderlin." Blindness and Insight. Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism. 2nd. edition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983, 246-66.
Furst, Lilian R. European Romanticism. Self-Definition. London: Methuen, 1980.
Hugo, Victor. "Preface." Hernani. Paris: Larousse, 1971, 30-3.
"Libros controlados." El Pais, 13 October, 1999.
Lukacs, Georg. Fortshritt und Reaktion in der deutschen Literatur. Berlin: Aufbau, 1947.
Menendez y Pelayo, Marcelino. Historia de los heterodoxos espanoles, ed. Enrique Sanchez Reyes. Edicion Nacional de las Obras Completas. Second Edition. Vol. VI. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1963.
Munoz Molina, Antonio. "La historia y el olvido." El Pais, 28 November, 1997.
Navas Ruiz, Ricardo. "Los donjuanes de Zorrilla," in Jose Zorrilla, Don Juan Tenorio. Ed. Luis Fernandez Cifuentes. Barcelona: Critica, 1993, ix-xxviii.
Puigblanch, Antoni. Prologo de un tratado sobre la Rejeneracion politica de la Espana, e Idea de una obra Filosofica sobre las monedas antiguas celtibericas, llamadas comunmente espanolas desconocidas, y acerca de la relijion panteistica que en ellas se profesa. London: V.[icente] Torras, 1840.
Praz, Mario. Unromantic Spain. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1929.
Schlegel, Friedrich. "Gesprach uber die Poesie." Kritische Schriften und Fragmente (1798-1801. Ed. Ernst Behler and Hans Eichner. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh, 1988, 186-222.
Tusell, Javier. "El uso alternativo de la Historia." El Pais, 23 July, 1998.
Valero, Jose A. "Intellectuals, the State, and the Public Sphere in Spain: 1700-1840." Culture and the State in Spain: 1550-1850. Ed. Tom Lewis and Francisco J. Sanchez Hispanic Issues 20. New York: Garland, 1999, 196-224.
Balzac et le style. Etudes reunies et presentees par Anne Herschberg-Pierrot.
Paris: SEDES, 1998 (Groupe International de Recherches Balzaciennes, Collection du Bicentennaire). Pp. 192
Balzac "et" le style: l'objectif de ce recueil n'est ni une theorie du style "a propos" de Balzac, ni une etude systematique du style "de" Balzac. Centre sur un auteur accuse depuis bientot deux siecles, en termes odieux, condescendants ou genes, de n'avoir pas de style, et convaincu lui-meme de n'en pas avoir; sur une epoque, 1820-1850, ou les regles et rhetoriques d'antan ont perdu leur legitimite et leur fixite, mais non leur emprise; sur un genre, le roman, sans canon mais non sans contraintes; sur un mode litteraire, le realisme, qui allegue sa fidelite aux choses pour mieux cacher son allegeance aux mots, Balzac et le style reflechit lucidement et sur les incertitudes actuelles de la stylistique (la notion de "style" pouvant sembler moins porteuse que celles d' "ecriture", de "poetique", de "texte", d' "enonciation" ...), et sur les difficultes d'apprehension de la litterarite balzacienne.
"Style" oscille, dans les travaux ici reunis, entre des acceptions diverses: correction grammaticale et exces rhetorique; demarquage des codes, modes, idiolectes d'une epoque et marque du genie; singularite de l'ecrivain ("le style, c'est l'homme") et pluralite des ecritures ("a chaque oeuvre sa forme"); minimalisme de l'elocutio et prise en compte de la dispositio et meme de l'inventio; valorisation ("le style est une maniere absolue de voir les choses") et marginalisation ... L'unanimite des chercheurs est remarquable sur certains points: la non-dissociation du fond et de la forme, la rehabilitation du style de Balzac, la reference obligee a l'article de Baudelaire sur Gautier ou au Contre SainteBeuve de Proust. Mais les styles de critique sont des plus varies, de l'histoire litteraire a la linguistique, des catalogues documentaires aux hypotheses anthropologiques, de l'explication de texte a la semiotique, tout comme l'est le style des critiques, depuis l'ingeniosite de Claude Mouchard, qui signe le premier article, jusqu'a l' "ingenuite" pretendue de Lucette Finas, en clausule; sans parler du corpus balzacien auquel il est fait appel: romans, traites, parodies, prefaces, lettres, descriptions, scenes d'action, intrusions narratives ...
Anne Herschberg, auteur de Stylistique de la prose (1993), introduit pertinemment ces articles et leurs enjeux. Une premiere section, "Ouvertures", pose, en termes qui problematisent plutot qu'ils n'elucident, l'epineuse question du style. Claude Mouchard commente le "defi historique" qu'elle represente pour Balzac et ses contemporains, dans la mesure ou cette question met en jeu "la puissance de la novation en meme temps que le risque de repetition" (p.18), ou encore la singularite de l'auteur en un age de nivellement reel ou fantasme, et de concurrence entre ecrivains; dans ce contexte, le style balzacien apparait comme volonte et tension, comparable a la toilette, a la demarche--ou le style entre en connivence (floue) avec le desir, le jeu, la theorie ...
Dans un convaincant essai, Michel Sandras commence par refuter l'opposition frequente entre "style de poete" et "style de romancier" (ce dernier trop facilement defini par le principe bakhtinien de l'heteroclite), en un siecle qui invente le roman-poeme et le poeme en prose. Il demontre que "le style de Balzac est soumis a une tension entre une prose poetisee, ou l'on peut lire le desir poeme impossible, et une prose qui, au contraire, se detourne de la poesie, voire lui fait la guerre, prose sans modeles, resolument moderne que Balzac, avec Baudelaire, a contribue a inventer" (p.30), et dont la vehemence passionnelle se distingue du "non-style" revendique, entre autres, par Stendhal.
De la prose balzacienne, Juliette Grange dit trois choses. "Qu'elle n'est pas litterature", et donc n'a pas de style (p.36)--on se demande toutefois de quelle prose, de quelle litterature, de quel style on parle ici pour risquer cette assertion. "Qu'elle a d'abord un sens politique". Qu'elle prend en charge ce qui fut longtemps l'objet de la philosophie, "la passion de connaitre, la question du sens"--soit; mais on contestera des formules comme: "il n'y a pas de place pour la speculation, tout est donne a voir (...) Balzac est necessairement indifferent a toute speculation sur ce qu'est la creation litteraire" (p.39).
Jacques Neefs reprend la question de la prose narrative, cette prose insistante, bouillonnante, qui s'efforce a la fois de formuler ou "figurer" le multiple, le confus, le paradoxal, et de le comprendre, au fil d'une construction elle aussi a la fois mimetique, ou dramatique, et analytique. Cette prose, qui emprunte les points de vue de l'observation, fait voir, au sens pleinement injonctif du terme ("Figurez-vous"...), et ainsi fait etre le monde.
Inclus en quatrieme section, sans doute a cause des commentaires du Pere Goriot qu'il propose, l'essai programmatique qu'Henri Mitterand intitule, non sans un brin de provocation, "`Un bel artiste'" aurait pu etre insere dans la premiere. Il interroge en effet la notion de "stylistique", pour la repudier comme trop exclusivement sociologique chez Bally, philologiquement limitee chez Bruneau et Marouzeau, feconde mais surtout au niveau micro-textuel chez Riffaterre; a l'exemplarite du "style" que defend Genette dans Fiction et diction, Mitterand prefere, avec Henri Meschonnic, une conception sensible a la litterarite, a la specificite individuelle, a la valeur: "l'etude du style, somme toute, c'est la poetique du genie scriptural" (p.137)--definition qui aurait comble d'aise le Balzac romantique--; cette etude devra prendre en compte "les formes du contenu", "la continuite textuelle", enfin "les tempos du phrase", ou "unites de souffle" de l'ecrit (p.144).
Les deuxieme et troisieme sections, "Contextes" et "Receptions critiques", sondent l'environnement discursif insututionnel dans lequel fut produite et consommee l'ecriture de Balzac; leur erudition nous oblige a feuilleter grammaires, manuels, dictionnaires, quotidiens et periodiques, et a evaluer leurs partis-pris, leurs incertitudes, leurs querelles. Jacques-Philippe Saint-Gerand precise le "fonds rhetorique" commun a Balzac et a ses contemporains, ce fonds figural neo-classique plus decrie que veritablement repudie par le romantisme, dans son ambition de passer "du genie global de la langue francaise aux genies particuliers qui l'inscrivent en litterature" (p.53). Saint-Gerand suit ensuite l'evolution semantique du terme "prose", dans son rapport au vers et aux formes mixtes, puis du terme "style", notant la discordance entre normalisation toujours accrue des discours et recherche d'une maniere individuelle. Riche demonstration, en depit de la longueur des citations et d'un souci parfois trop pousse de la nuance; une abondante bibliographie la complete en annexe.
Dans son judicieux "Balzac stylisticien", Jose-Luis Diaz, puisant dans les lettres, comptes rendus, prefaces, pastiches et mises en abyme romanesques de l'ecrivain, montre comment, en depit de certaines declarations dedaigneuses ou platement normatives, celui-ci a profondement reflechi sur la question du style. Il juge celui de ses confreres, de ses personnages, corrige inlassablement le sien, qu'il veut, conformement au poincon etymologique, "mordant", diversifie, "semaphorique" (p.81). Pas de style, Balzac? "Il n'a pas de style parce qu'il doit les avoir tous, comme la lumiere blanche est composee de la diversite des couleurs du spectre" (p.85).
Ce qu'une presse plus polemique que scientifique eut a dire de ce style du vivant de son auteur, Stephane Vachon le repertorie a partir de plusieurs centaines de documents, et classe les griefs sous les rubriques de "debordement" ou exces, "ignorance" ou fautes de langue, "defaut de methode" (du a la precipitation et aux enormes ajouts sur epreuves trop hativement relues), "immoralite" enfin; car le style "impur" du romancier, ces "ecuries d'Augias", a semble inseparable de ce genre impur, le roman. Eric Bordas, a qui l'on doit le recent Balzac, discours et detours, pour une stylistique de l'enonciation romanesque, prolonge le recensement jusqu'a nos jours, mentionnant de rares admirateurs (Stendhal, Sand, Baudelaire) et d'innombrables detracteurs (Janin, Sainte-Beuve, Taine, les manuels scolaires, pour lesquels le style est un accessoire et qui "excusent" le grand romancier d'etre mauvais ecrivain, Barthes enfin). Bordas insiste sur l'elan donne par la revelation des brouillons et des epreuves, et note que la lourdeur et la vulgarite du style furent constamment associees, puisque "le style c'est l'homme", a celles de l'auteur.
La quatrieme section, "Poetiques", comprend, outre l'article de Mitterand, deux analyses micro-textuelles. Dans celle de Martine Leonard, "Le style comme dramaturgie du sens", la dramaturgie s'eclipse vite. A partir de cet axiome, que "la description stylistique d'un texte nous contraint a interroger la recherche linguistique dans ce qu'elle peut avoir de plus specialise (...) prix a payer pour decouvrir (peut-etre?) la specificite du texte" (p.147), l'auteur scrute l'emploi du demonstratif, "designateur" anaphorique et/ou cataphorique, dans de multiples occurrences tirees de La Comedie humaine, sans oublier le "balzacisme" "un de ces ... qui". Seulement, les conclusions tirees--le designateur introduit un "nouveau point de vue sur l'objet", "communique un effet de parole" (p.150) voire "tend a transformer en metaphore le mot qu'il determine" (p.155)--sont parfois bien lourdes pour lui, la souris peut sembler accoucher d'une montagne ...
"Balzac est style": Lucette Finas ne cache pas ses partis-pris dans l'explication (deploiement et creusement) de trois passages, tires du Cure de Tours, de la Theorie de la demarche et de la pochade Aventures administratives d'une idee heureuse. Le premier file, a propos de commeres locales, une metaphore vegetale pleine de replis, d'incoherences, d'exces: "la figure s'emporte et c'est merveille" (p.163). Dans le second, l'auteur jubile, et avec lui son critique, qui releve 1' "embrassement des extremes" (p.167), la raison et la folie, ou, pour reprendre un titre de Finas, la toise et le vertige. Quant aux "sauteries analogiques" du troisieme extrait, elles nous entraunent dans le fantasque, le fantastique, le delirant.
Une importante bibliographie critique couvrant les annees 1858 a 1997 a ete etablie par Eric Bordas en fin de volume. A un carrefour de disciplines (critique et theorie litteraires, linguistique, semiotique, esthetique, philosophie, histoire, sociologie), Balzac et le style constitue un faisceau de pistes, de problemes, de reponses possibles, un brassage d'idees a la fois savantes et heuristiquement naives, qui invitent a porter un regard nouveau sur la somme balzacienne, et a se pencher a nouveaux frais sur cette vieille question du style, qui est bien plus qu'une question (de) rhetorique. (CLAUDIE BERNARD, New York University)
(1.) The original title is Penisola Pentagonale (Milan: Alpes, 1928), but the title of the English translation adequately captures the author's intended revision of romantic views on Spain.
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|Publication:||The Romanic Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1999|
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