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Clio, Eros, Thanatos

The 'Novela sentimental' in Context

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Theresa Sears

Clio, Eros, Thanatos argues that the sentimental mode plays itself out along a scale from the chivalric to the pornographic, thereby encompassing amatory narratives both chaste and erotic. The texts studied – Le Chevalier de la Charette, Cárcel de amor, Celestina, and La Princesse de Clèves – implicate both private and public realms in an irresistible drive toward an impossible unity, the result of which is usually a form of death. Here, desire is never dealt with on a simple, bodily level, but rather is analyzed according to some ethical, moral, rational, or political criteria, which turns love into an aesthetic, rather than a mimetic, phenomenon. Already in the fifteenth century, the Spanish novela sentimental presents the evidence for the erotic paradox, which dominates the sentimental mode, that argues that desire/love is ethically and aesthetically enobling, and at the same time, morally subversive and destructive.