Transforma-se o amador na coisa amada: hegelian recognition in a sonnet by Camoes.
Se nela esta minha alma transformada, que mais deseja o corpo de alcancar? Em si somente pode descansar, pois consigo tal alma esta liada.
Mas esta linda e pura semideia, que, como um acidente em seu sujeito, assi co a alma minha se conforma,
esta no pensamento como ideia; e o vivo e puro amor de que sou feito, como a materia simples busca a forma.
The lover becomes the beloved, through much imagining; I need, then, only desire and I have in me that which is desired.
If my soul is transformed within her, what more should the body desire? It can only find repose in her, for with her that soul is joined.
But this fine and pure semi-goddess, that, as an accident to its subject, conforms to my soul,
is in my thought as an idea; and the living, pure love of which I am made, like simple matter searches for its form. (1)
PORTUGUESE poet Luis de Camoes (c. 1524/25-1580), though best known for his epic Os Lusiadas (1572), produced a notable body of lyric poetry in traditional peninsular and Italianate forms. Since its initial publication in 1595, Camoes's lyrical work has been praised for its formal rigor, conceptual sophistication, and clarity of expression. Further, Camoes's presentation of life as an estranha condicao, as he remarked in the fourth canto of Os Lusiadas (137), in which the individual is assailed by concrete dangers, metaphysical doubts, overwhelming passions, and melancholy regret, has led generations of readers to view Camoes as an uncannily contemporary writer, one who presciently anticipated later literary and intellectual trends, particularly Romanticism. (2) Indeed, in an 1872 article Antero de Quental--himself an innovative Portuguese sonneteer--praised Camoes's "prophetic imagination," his "presentiment of a new moral world," and his anticipation of "the moral revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries" (230-31).
On the other hand, significant critical effort has been expended in placing Camoes in the literary and intellectual context of sixteenth-century Portugal, Iberia, and Europe. Perhaps no other composition by Camoes seems to compel such a historicized reading as does the sonnet Transforma-se o amador na coisa amada, whose first line glosses Petrarch's Trionfi d'Amore, part III, verse 62 ("l'amante ne l'amato se trasforme"), (3) as well as Dante and Castiglione, (4) whose vocabulary of "ideas," "matter" and "forms" is suggestive of Plato, (5) and whose discussion of love recalls questions addressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. (6) At the same time, the sonnet's presentation of a lover in dialectical confrontation with his beloved, seeking to define the terms of their interaction, is suggestive of the philosopher G.w.F. Hegel (1770-1831), and particularly his ideas on recognition and mutually constitutive self-consciousness. (7) It would, of course, be willfully anachronistic to argue that Camoes was a proto-Hegelian, particularly given his sonnet's panoply of classical, late medieval and Renaissance intellectual references, and Camoes's use of poetic figures similar to those found in peninsular contemporaries such as Juan Boscan, Garcilaso de la Vega, and Bernardim Ribeiro. For instance, Boscan presents the idea of the lover and beloved standing in for each other in his sonnet Puesto me ha amor al punto, do esta el medio: "De tanto amar, qual debe ser lo amado? / Vean a mi, y entenderan a ella; / Yo doy entera fe de su traslado" (196). Regarding the transformative character of love, Garcilaso remarks in a cancion of how his lover has made "mi natura en todo ajena / de lo que era primero" (188). And reflecting on the notion of mutua inhLsio (mutual indwelling), Ribeiro writes in a cantiga: "[N]a alma vos recebi, / onde estareis para sempre, / [... ] Nem fiz mais que dar a mao [a outra mulher referida no poema]; guardando-vos o coracao" (186). Bearing in mind the daunting task of analyzing Transforma-se o amador na coisa amada in relation to the panoply of philosophical discourses and poetic-literary voices implied by Camoes's sonnet, I will limit myself in this paper to assessing the degree to which the sonnet is illustrative of Hegel's concept of recognition, particularly as applied to romantic love. In short, I will read Camoes's sonnet in light of Hegel, first presenting a brief overview of Hegel's argument, and then offering an interpretation of the sonnet that is informed by this argument.
Given the dialectical orientation of Hegel's thought, it makes sense that recognition (Anerkennung) would lie at the center of his understanding of how individuals negotiate the terms of their inter-relationships and thereby make the leap from elementary consciousness to full self-consciousness, which for Hegel is predicated on awareness of oneself as both subject ("Being-for-self") and object ("Being for another"). As Hegel remarks in the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807): "They recognize themselves in mutually recognizing one another" (112; author's emphasis). Further: "Self-consciousness achieves its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness" (110; author's emphasis). Indeed, Robert P. Williams has argued for recognition as "the general intersubjective structure and pattern of Hegel's concept of spirit," and observes that contrary to what one might conclude from Hegel's famous account of the master-slave relationship, it is love that "is the origin of Hegel's concepts of recognition and spirit, and ultimately the system itself" (xi, 208). (8) Indeed, throughout his career Hegel affirmed love (often institutionalized in marriage) as a primary structure for recognition, remarking in the Phenomenology that, "the relationship of husband and wife is in the first place the one in which one consciousness immediately recognizes itself in another, and in which there is knowledge of this mutual recognition" (273). In an 1811 poem to his fiancee Marie von Tucher, Hegel mused that, "life is life only as reciprocated, / By love in love is it alone created," a notion that recalls Camoes's contemporary Fray Luis de Leon, who wrote in his De los nombres de Cristo (1587) that, "el amor solamente busca y solamente desea al amor" (755). And in his Philosophy ofRight (1821), Hegel described the family as "the direct substantive reality of spirit," an entity brought together by marriage, which he defined as "legal ethical love" (Letters 237; Philosophy 164, 166). (9)
There are three features of Hegel's argument on recognition and love that should especially be kept in mind in preparing to evaluate Camoes's sonnet. First, Hegel defines the inter-subjective encounter that provides the occasion for recognition as fueled by desire, specifically a desire for self-consciousness. (10) Indeed, Hegel states in the Phenomenology that, "self-consciousness is Desire,"11 identifies the "object of Desire" with the Other, and explains that desire may be satisfied in the subject's "supersession of the independent object" through sublation (Aufhebung), i.e., the simultaneous negation/incorporation of the Other, or antithesis, which serves as the motor of the Hegelian dialectic (109-10).
Second, Hegel views love as necessarily transformative, as he elaborates in the Philosophy of Right:
Love is in general the consciousness of the unity of myself with another. I am not separate and isolated, but win my self-consciousness only by renouncing my independent existence, and by knowing myself as unity of myself another and of another with me [...] The first element in love is that I will to be no longer an independent self-sufficing person, and that, if I were such a person, I should feel myself lacking and incomplete. (164-65; my emphasis)
Through love, the Hegelian subject becomes a new being, un nuevo ser, as Boscan put it in his "Respuesta a Mendoza" (413). The subject experiences this transformation in a myriad of ways: in terms of identity (once married, he can no longer consider himself formally independent), ontology (he is substantively no longer independent), legality (the state no longer recognizes his independence), and action (married couples, according to Hegel, must act "in concert"). (12)
And third, Hegel views love as essentially contradictory, in that it places the lover in the paradoxical position of surrendering his free subjectivity in order to gain a more substantive "freedom" in marriage:
[L]ove is the most tremendous contradiction, incapable of being solved by the understanding. Nothing is more obstinate than this scrupulosity of self-consciousness, which, though negated, I yet insist upon as something positive. Love is both the source and solution of this contradiction. (Philosophy 165; my emphasis) (13)
In the following section we will revisit all three features of Hegel's argument in the context of Transforma-se o amador, after a brief discussion of the sonnet's dialectical structure, which itself is suggestive of Hegel.
The dialectical structure (14) of Camoes's sonnet is made clear in its first quatrain, which introduces the figures of the lover (amador) and beloved (coisa amada), and defines their roles as distinct, complementary to the point of mutual dependence, and reversible: if the lover is "transformed" into the beloved, this implies that the beloved may correspondingly take on the role of lover. It bears noting that Camoes presents the relationship between lover and beloved in dialectical terms elsewhere in his lyric poetry. In one cantiga he writes: "E muito para notar / cura tao bem acertada, / que podereis ser curada / somente com me curar. / Se quereis, Dama, trocar, / ambos temos a mezinha: / eu a vossa, e vos a minha." And in another cantiga he remarks: "Reinando Amor em dous peitos, / tece tantas falsidades, / que, de conformes vontades, / faz desconformes efeitos. / Igualmente vive em nos: / mas, por desconcerto seu, / vos leva, se venho eu, / me leva, se vindes vos" (Lirica 77, 111). The question then, is how lover and beloved begin to act upon one another once they are brought into dialectical confrontation, that is, what sets their dialectical encounter into motion? As in Hegel's account of self-consciousness, in Camoes's sonnet it is desire--which Boscan described in his "Mar de Amor" as "fuerza del alma" (145)--sparked by the lover's capacity for imagination (por virtude do muito imaginar), that sets love into motion, and anticipates its consummation either physically (in sex) or institutionally (in marriage). The reader may be tempted here to interpret imaginar as entailing self-deceptive fantasizing on the lover's part, with the lover "becoming" the beloved exclusively in his mind. However, contextual examination of Camoes's lyric poetry shows that the poet routinely describes desire as spurred by the subject's senses, and specifically by his capacity for sight (ver or mirar). See, for example, the following two glosses by Camoes, the second of a verse from Boscan: "Se so no ver puramente / me transformei no que vi, / de vista tao excelente / mal poderei ser ausente / emquanto o nao for de mi," and, "[d]espues que Amor me formo / todo de amor, cual me veo / en las leyes que mi dio, / el mirar me consintio, / y defendiome el deseo" (Lirica 73, 106). As such, and bearing in mind the progression of the sonnet's second and third verses, in which imaginar precedes desejar, we may interpret imaginar as entailing a mental imaging that is productive of desire, that is, as roughly equivalent to ver or mirar. (15) As in Hegel, who describes an elementary "sense-certainty" as giving way to the subject's active desire for self-consciousness, in Camoes's sonnet it is the lover's capacity to see his beloved, whether with his eye or mind's eye, (16) which generates the desire that sets into motion his half of the dialectical encounter. (17)
Also like Hegel, Camoes insists on love's transformative character, focusing in the sonnet's first quatrain on the "transformation" of lover into beloved, in the sense of an exchange of roles and subject/object positions, and in the second on the possibility that the lover's soul, as a function of a Thomistic notion of mutua inhLsio be substantively transformed in coming to reside "within" the beloved. Indeed, mutual indwelling is a recurrent theme in Camoes's lyric poetry. Camoes writes in one gloss that "[a]mor [...] quis em vos me transformasse," and, "esta alma que eu trazia / porque vos nela morais, / deixa-me cego," and in a trova that, "[a]quela cativa, / [...] me tem cativo, / porque nela vivo" (75, 122). And finally, Camoes declares in his sonnet Este amor que vos tenho, limpo e puro: "[T]e-lo dentro nesta alma so procuro" (215). Camoes's invocation of Thomistic mutua inhLsio in his sonnet's first quatrain in turn leads to the paradox introduced in the second quatrain: if the lover's soul dwells within the beloved, why should he desire to possess her physically and why should he presumably continue to feel such a desire? While Eduardo Lourenco argues that this contradiction cannot nor is meant to be satisfactorily resolved, and that Camoes's sonnet must then be seen as a self-conscious deconstruction of Petrarchian (and by extension Platonic) logic, (18) I would contend along with Antonio Jose Saraiva and Oscar Lopes that the paradox serves to create a productive tension and points toward the Hegelian ideal of "synthesis" between body and soul, lover and beloved--that is "always sought after, sometimes anticipated, but never consummated" (335). Though Hegel, who viewed marriage as an "ethical duty," (19) would likely disagree with the deferral of romantic consummation that Saraiva and Lopes attribute to Camoes, Hegel accepted that love necessarily implies a cantradiction as far as the lovers' alternately independent and conjoined subjectivities, one that is both reflective and productive of love. Interpretation of Camoes's paradox in this light serves both to underscore the sonnet's particular affinity to Hegel on the issue of love's (productively) contradictory nature, as well as the poem's broader Hegelian resonances.
If we respect historical chronology, we must conclude that Camoes's Transforma-se o amador na coisa amada is not the product of Hegelianism. However, as I have attempted to demonstrate in this piece, the sonnet's dialectical structure exhibits a clear affinity to Hegel, and its conceptual architecture reveals strong similarities as well, particularly as concerns the role of desire as a driver of inter-subjective encounter, and love's character as both transformative and contradictory.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-DAVIS
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(1) This is my translation of Camoes's sonnet.
(2) See Saraiva/Lopes 332, Machado Filho (qtd. in Camoes, Lirica 14), and Lourenco 20.
(3) See Petrarch 569. See also Machado Filho (qtd. in Camoes, Lirica 162, f.n. 156) and Lourenco 17.
(4) See Silva 53, f.n. 16. The lines glossed are from Dante's Purgatorio, Canto XVIII: "[S]o does the soul, when seized, move into longing, / a motion of the spirit, never resting / till the beloved thing (cosa amata) has made it joyous," and from Castiglione's Book of the Courtier: "[W]e are all alike in cherishing the one we love (cosa amata)" (Divine Comedy 299; Castiglione 46). See also Camoes's tenth cancao for an additional usage of cousa amada (Lirica 264).
(5) For the platonismo camoniano argument, see Cidade in Luis de Camoes. O Lirico 160-61 and Luis de Camoes 73-80, and Saraiva/Lopes 336. See Lourenco for a critique.
(6) Specifically, Aquinas considers whether "mutual indwelling" (mutua inhLsio) and "transport" (extasis) are "effects of love" (88-107).
(7) Throughout this paper I treat the figures of the lover (amador) and Hegelian subject as male, and the beloved (coisa amada) and Hegelian Other as female. This decision has been made to accurately reflect the gender politics and assumptions that underlie both Renaissance lyric poetry and Hegel's understanding of marriage--exploration of which lies outside the scope of my analysis here. See Landes (13-17) for discussion of Hegel and gender.
(8) Here Williams's argument follows Dieter Henrich's "Hegel und Holderlin" in Hegel im Kontext. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1967.
(9) See Halper, Landes, and Siebert for discussion of Hegel and marriage.
(10) As Hegel explains, "self-consciousness is the reflection out of the being of the world of sense and perception" (Phenomenology 105). For Hegel the senses generate elementary consciousness, which the subject, motivated by desire, seeks to transform into self-consciousness. See also Jenkins.
(11) Hegelian Begierde (desire) may take on a specifically sexual character in the context of love, as Siebert (186) explains.
(12) See Halper 830.
(13) See also an alternate 1824-1825 account from Hegel (qtd. in Williams 212-13).
(14) See Saraiva/Lopes 331 and Macedo 66-67.
(15) See also Aristotle's observations in De Anima that "imagination must be a movement resulting from an actual exercise of a power of sense," and that, "[a]s sight is the most highly developed sense," the Greek term phantasia (imagination) is formed from phos (light), "because it is not possible to see without light" (429a 1-5).
(16) See also Leon on the plausibility of love or desire being generated in the mind's eye (750).
(17) This understanding of desire as generated by sight finds classical precedent in Aristotle (414b 1-5), and seems commonplace in Romance poetry of the late medieval and Renaissance periods. From Dante's Vita Nuova: "A worthy lady's beauty [...] is viewed / With pleasure by the eyes (occhi), and in the heart (core) / Desire for the pleasing thing is born (Nasce un disio de la cosa piacente)" (37). See also Boscan's sonnet Este fuego que agora yo en mi siento: "Su luz al derredor do estoy presente, / Alumbra en un instante quanto veo" (217).
(18) See Lourenco 19. See Macedo (67-68) for a similar interpretation.
(19) See Hegel, Philosophy 167.
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|Title Annotation:||Luis de Camoes|
|Author:||Newcomb, Robert Patrick|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||May 1, 2011|
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