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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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Chapter One: Value and Identity: La gitanilla 15


Chapter One Value and Identity La gitanilla La gitanilla, while perhaps not the most prismatic of all the Novelas ejemplares, is one of the most deceptively ironic and, in some ways, troubling of the group.1 Although the richly developed character of the female protagonist, the novela' s happy ending, and the prominent role of poetry within the novelistic frame, all have prompted many critics to read the work as a highly idealized tale or romance, such readings, however plausible and convincingly argued, often simplify this markedly heterogeneous text.2 Beyond the in- evitable narrowings of focus that any act of interpretation requires,3 1 In addition to the critical works cited in my subsequent notes, studies that have contributed to my thinking on this text include Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce, "La gitanilla," Cervantes 1.1 & 2 (1981): 9-17; Ruth S. El Saffar, Novel to Romance, 86-108. Among the numerous other studies on the Novelas ejemplares in general and on La gitanilla, in particular, see especially Peter N. Dunn's "Las Novelas ejemplares," in Suma cervantina, 81-118, and Julio Rodriguez-Luis, Novedad y ejemplo de las novelas de Cervantes, vol. I, 107-41. A recent and suggestive study of La gitanilla, emphasizing the sharply ironic implications of the historical situation of the gypsies is found in J. V. Ricapito's Cervantes's Novelas Ejemplares: Between History and Creativity, 11-37. 2 The best known exposition of this concept is, of course, given by Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism, especially 33-37; see also Frye's The Secular Scripture, especially "The...

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