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Beneath the Fiction

The Contrary Worlds of Cervantes's "Novelas ejemplares</I>

Series:

Wiliam H. Clamurro

Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares rival Don Quijote in complexity and significance. This book analyzes all twelve novelas, seeking to illuminate the inherent tensions between the usually affirmative resolutions and lessons proposed by Cervantes's narrators, on the one hand, and the inescapable socio-cultural dissonances and ironies of story and language, on the other. This reading of the entire collection reveals the richness and complexity of many of the less-studied novelas as well as the striking modernity (or postmodernity) of the final text.

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Preface xi

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Preface All books have their subject matter, the main point under discussion; but they also have their external, extra-textual stories. This book is no different. What it announces and attempts to present is an analysis of Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares. The chapters that follow take as their basic starting point the notion that each of the novelas embodies a vision of the interlocking problems of individual identity and social order. What is explored in each case is unique to the given story and yet coherent with a larger Cervantine vision. The contradictory, problematic nature of the social order as portrayed is often intentionally depicted by Cervantes. But at other times it emerges indirectly, unintentionally revealed, as it were, through the cracks and fissures of language and detail. Our awareness of this complex, double message prompts the application of what I define in the introduction as a picaresque approach to reading. The ostensible themes and critical concerns, along with the particular analytic perspective employed here, are mainly an attempt at a unified reading. They do not pretend to argue for the deeper, hidden unity of the Novelas ejemplares as a work, if such a unifying principle in fact exists. One of the most durable convictions that I bring to my own attempts at reading Cervantes's Novelas is the sense that they cannot be reduced into a unifying framework, especially if such unity requires turning a deaf ear to the diversity of these texts or to the lingering ironies within all of them....

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