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Beneath the Fiction

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


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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Introduction: The Contrary Worlds of the Novelas ejemplares 1


Introduction: The Contrary Worlds of the Novelas ejemplares Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares rival Don Quijote for their artistic merit and significance in World Literature. Yet unlike the Quijote, the Persiles y Sigismunda, or the Galatea, the Novelas are not a single unified text.I The "work" is several works, narratives whose textual diversity engages and ultimately troubles the reader. The superficial simplicity of these stories masks numerous levels of self-critiquing narrative irony and socio-cultural inequity and instability. Given their diversity of action, theme, and form, each individual text challenges the reader in its own way. At the same time, the sequen- tial movement through the entire collection produces a subtle and surprisingly modern-or postmodern-lesson in reading, as we shall learn from a pair of critical dogs. Any one of the twelve (or eleven, depending upon whether one considers the Casamiento and the Coloquio two novelas or only one) is sufficiently rich to merit critical attention in its own right.2 Ultimately, however, the collection demands to be dealt with as a totality, as a whole. Cervantes himself prompted this urge in the famous passage of the "Pr6logo" that teasingly mentions "el sabroso y honesto fruto que se podria sacar, asf de todas juntas, como de cada una de par sf" (I, 52).3 Following from this hint, many critics have sought to find a unified vision or pattern of development in the Novelas. 4 But even in the more 1 The Quijote can, of course, be dealt with as two separate and distinct...

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