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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 Five: Anonymity, Madness, and the Decadence of Empire: El licenciado Vidriera 123


Chapter Five Anonymity, Madness, and the Decadence of Empire Ellicenciado Vidriera The fifth novela is one of the most memorable and studied of the collection.1 The basic concept and central image of the story-a young man who goes mad and believes himself to be made of glass-is haunting. It both amuses and disturbs. During Tomas's period of madness and under his new identity as "el licenciado Vidriera," Cervantes offers a series of darkly satiric comments on the society of his time.2 In Tomas Rodaja, when he is no longer Rodaja but the licenciado Vidriera, Cervantes creates his second most famous madman.3 But unlike don Quijote, whose madness (the 1 The following commentary is much indebted to Forcione's magisterial study, Chapter III of Cervantes and the Humanist Vision, "El Licenciado Vidriera as a Satirical Parable: The Mystery of Knowledge" (225-316). See also El Saffar, Novel to Romance, 50-61; and J. R. Sampayo Rodriguez, Rasgos erasmistas de /a /ocura del /icenciado Vidriera de Miguel de Cervantes. 2 See Sampayo Rodriguez, especially 171-74; also M.A. Cruz Camara, "Cervantes como analista de Ia conducta humana: La inseguridad ontol6gica del protagonista de Ellicenciado Vidriera," Explicaci6n de Textos Literarios 20.1 (1991-1992): 13-23. See also A. Redondo, "La folie du cervantin licencie de Verre (traditions, contexte historique et subversion)," 33-44 in Visages de /a folie (1500-1600). A highly inventive and incisive reading of this nove/a is provided by E. M. Gerli in "The Dialectics of Writing: Ellicenciado Vidriera and the Picaresque," Refiguring Authority, 10-23. 3 Concerning this...

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