11-18 abril 2005
Puede responder a la siguiente tesis, en español o inglés, mandando un mensaje a:
Was Cervantes a Feminist?
Some Irritating Thoughts on the Quixote of 1605
The title alone might cause an astonished frown. For Gender Studies, as a rule are engaged, but sometimes lacking seriousness. Is Don Quixote, mirror of knighthood, feministically contaminated? That sounds like a joke, even high spirited experts of Gender Studies would not dare to utter similar assertions. Nevertheless, as soon as we start scrutinizing closely some crucial situations and persons we are confronted with astounding results. Of the men present in the novel no one is really sympathetic. Only Don Quixote himself. But as we are told already in the first chapter, he has lost his mind.
As far as the women are concerned it is completely different. First of all we have Dorotea. Don Fernando sneaked in, promised to marry her and then abandoned her. A fact, not gentlemanlike at all. Dorotea has left her parents' house, has clothed herself like a young man and gone in search of her noble seducer. She is prudent, energetic and helpful. This becomes obvious when she is told the crazy plan of the parson to bring Don Quixote home to his village. For she resolutely declares that she will play the part of the unfortunate princess far better than the fat parson or the barber. The amused reader certainly agrees. At any rate, Dorotea plays her part of the unfortunate princess so perfectly, that Don Quixote is convinced at once. Also, Cervantes loves her with all his heart. And he shows his sympathy. Not by exaggerating her beauty or her other perfections. On the contrary. He makes her human by attributing her little shortcomings. When she tells her story, how Don Fernando seduced and then abandoned her, she scolds and reviles like a muleteer. And when she tries to describe her journey, she confounds seaports with other cities, blushes and looks for an evasion. Just, like a beginner in school. And exactly those blunders, skillfully chosen by Cervantes, make her so lovable to the reader. •1•
Also the feminine trio in the inn of Juan Palomeque has the sympathy of Cervantes and the reader. Tired from the long ride, Don Quixote immediately goes to sleep. But the others prefer to chat a bit and the innkeeper and his women join them. They come to speak of Don Quixote and his madness, for the innkeeper and the women know him already from a very turbulent night. It turns out that the innkeeper has also two books on chivalry a traveller left behind some time ago. He cannot read, but at harvest time groups assemble in the inn and there is always someone who reads for an interested audience. The innkeeper particularly enjoys the bloodiest battles most. And when the parson wants to convince him of the deceitfulness of the books of chivalry, he is obstinate and comes out with a nice argument: those books wear the approbation of the king himself, so they could contain no lies.
Then the parson asks the women. Compared with the wild exaggerations of the innkeeper, their commentaries are rather realistic. And very characteristic for each one of them. The wife of the innkeeper admits at once a sympathy for the books of chivalry. At harvest time, when someone was reading to a company, her husband sat there listening openmouthed. That was fine, for she had a peaceful time and could do her work without him meddling with it or standing in the way. The next who answers the question is Maritornes, the ugly Asturian maid. She is enraptured of the books of chivalry, especially of the appetizing love-scenes, when the knight holds the lovely young lady firmly and kisses her tenderly. Such scenes, she assures, fade away like honey on your tongue. Another aspect is named by the adolescent daughter of the innkeeper. She likes the tender complaints of the knights-errant. But confesses that it is hard to understand why they do not marry their beloved ones.•2•
Cervantes, infatuated with revealing situations, has succeeded in presenting the «libros de caballerías» from rather surprising points of view. In the discussions between experts and fans of those books the debate is mostly concerned with the categories of Aristotle, History vs. Poetic inventions, Truth vs. Fantastic exaggerations, or the complexity of probability. Cervantes breaks the fetters of the traditional discussion in a most unconventional way. At the same time, he succeeds splitting up the feminine trio in the house of Juan Palomeque in manner, not only striking, but most amusing. Everyone of those women has well-determined features and evokes our sympathetic interest. But only at the rim of the scene. As for Cervantes, the outstanding star of them is the prudent, energetic and humorous Dorotea. A peach of a girl.
(1) With respect to Dorotea see «La ingeniosa Dorotea y su voluble don Fernando». In: Kurt & Theo Reichenberger, Cervantes. »Don Quijote« y sus mensajes destinados al lector. Traducido por Pablo Álvarez Ellacuria. (Estudios de literatura 93). Kassel 2004. pp. 115-128. – Mª Carmen Marín Pina, «Don Quijote, las mujeres y los libros de caballerías». In: Cervantes y su mundo II. Eds. Kurt Reichenberger / Darío Fernández-Morera. (Estudios de literatura 94). Kassel 2005. pp. 309-340.
(2) With respect to Maritornes see «La noche pasada en lo que don Quijote creía castillo y la lasciva Maritornes». In: Kurt & Theo Reichenberger, Cervantes. »Don Quijote« y sus mensajes destinados al lector. o.c., pp. 71-75. – Joan F. Cammarata, «Descifrando los códigos de clase, cultura y poder en el mundo de Cervantes». In: Cervantes y su mundo II. o.c., pp. 86-100; – "Typological Forays: Maritornes, the Asturian Maid, and Her Hagiografic Model." In: Kurt Reichenberger, Cervantes and the Hermeneutics of Satire. (Estudios de literatura 94). Kassel 2005.
As a matter of fact, due to the exaggerated agressiveness of some authoresses, the terms “feminism, feminist” etc. sound rather despective. I am convinced Kurt does not mean that, but that by reading attentively the Quijote, he has adopted from Cervantes the trick to shock the readers by fresh formulations, thus stimulating them to decided reactions.
Well, what is your position in this case? Cervantes, is he, or is he not a feminist?
Responda en español o inglés a:
I suppose it would depend on one's definition of feminism. If one means favoring women's freedom of choice in their lives regarding things like love, marriage, and general way of life, I suspect Cervantes was a feminist. At least his female characters are evidence of this. If one means favoring equal pay with men regardless of work experience, the right women have to abort their babies without interference from the community in which they exist, their right to get equal money for high school and college sports regardless of audience's interest, the right to keep the children in case of divorce unless the woman is basically a criminal, and other positions, one may doubt he would be a feminist given his historical status as a Spanish man of the late sixteenth century. Besides, modern feminism shares some basic assumptions but there are differences of detail among those who call themselves feminists. They do not make a monolithic block. Some of the views listed above are not shared by all feminists. There are other views not mentioned that some feminists share and others do not. So it is safer to say that Cervantes' feminine characters are fairly good evidence of the views listed first above, but not of the views listed afterwards. Beyond that, one is merely making interesting analogies and transpositions that cannot be substantiated for obvious reasons: one cannot ask Cervantes the man of flesh and bone. So he cannot be characterized as a feminist tout court, but as a writer that seems to favor some views which are associated with modern feminism, but which as a matter of fact can be associated not only with feminism, modern or not, but with freedom-loving viewpoints on human life that have existed long before what one calls feminism, a relatively recent label in human history anyway.
Feminism seems to me to be an anachronical concept with which to judge
Cervantes. We can say that he had a particular inclination to view
women as individuals that are capable of action and independent thought.
Dorotea is a wonderful example. Cervantes also could understand women
and feel great sympathy for their human situation. With few comments,
he gives a full portrait of Maritornes's circumstances at the inn.
There are some authors (Flaubert, for example), who capture the condition
of being a woman with great clarity, and Cervantes is such an author.
Estimados colegas del Coloquio Cervantes:
María José Rodilla
Para poder responder adecuadamente a la pregunta
sobre si Cervantes era o no feminista se tendría que establecer
primero una definición del término. A la vez, lo que
interesa aquí es ver cómo presenta este narrador a sus personajes
femeninos, que, obviamente, sería otro asunto. Propongo para
nuestros propósitos que el «feminismo» literario de
Cervantes, si existe, se debiera deducir de la forma como presenta a sus
personajes femeninos; haciendo una comparación con la forma como
el mismo narrador presenta a sus personajes masculinos. También
se tendría que comparar la manera de presentar a estos personajes
con la manera como otros autores habrían presentado a personajes
similares en sus respectivas obras y en la misma época barroca.
En otras palabras, ¿presenta Cervantes a sus personajes femeninos
de la misma forma que presenta a sus personajes masculinos? ¿Desarrolla
más a unos que a otros? ¿Tienen unos las mismas dimensiones
verosímiles que los otros o son simplemente tipos y no personajes?
A. Robert Lauer
Robert: no estoy de acuerdo. Para saber si Cervantes es feminista, hay que pensar sólo en Dulcinea, un absoluto para don Quijote, y sin embargo, con materialidad, dado que es una persona concreta, Aldonza Lorenzo. No sé si hay feminismo; más bien, humanismo, diría, porque todos los personajes del Quijote, varones y mujeres, están siempre entre una cosa y la otra. Todos repiten, en cierta manera, a Dulcinea.
Hay, por supuesto, un elemento intencionalmente
anacrónico en la formulación de la pregunta “Cervantes ¿era
feminista?” Puesto que el feminismo como término entró mucho
más tarde dentro del léxico del castellano. Así, en
cierto sentido resulta imposible responder afirmativamente a la pregunta.
Sería como preguntar a un campesino del siglo XIV si cree en los
derechos del niño o en la guerra de guerrillas. No existe el concepto,
por lo que no se puede responder.
I would agree that Cervantes shows among his
female characters some which todays's feminists can find appealing.
City College of San Francisco
Right on, Juergen!
I believe the Marcela-Grisóstomo episode of Don Quijote is a perfect example of how Cervantes purposefully
misleads and lulls the reader into false conclusions. Much of the critical attention this episode has received to date points
to Marcela as a free-spirited and ultra-modern feminine personality. What few readers overlook is that, despite her
grandiose speech in praise of "freedom" in the pastoral utopia of nature and her firm decision not to submit to any love, let alone the love of a single man, Cervantes implicitly forces a comparison between daughter, parents and her guardian uncle, the priest. How does the reader in fact reconcile that, in comparison to her daughter, Marcela's mother in fact enjoyed marital bliss with her husband. The husband, in fact, follows Marcela's mother to the grave, not being able to tolerate the loss. On the other hand, the reader is forced to question the priest uncle's motives in his guardianship of Marcela, since his lenience not only goes against Marcela's parent's wishes for their daughter's future happiness, but also smacks of self-interest and greed. Certainly it is not in the interest for the uncle to expedite Marcela's marriage since he would have
to give up control of her fortune, despite his status as a cleric and marriage as a holy sacrament. In conclusion, although
Cervantes might agree that no woman should be possesed by a man and forced to conform to social norms against her will, I am not sure he would condone a single woman's pastoral bliss over Christian matrimony. We have to be quite careful to
impose our twenty-first century post-modernist views on a writer and product of the socio-cultural milieu of Baroque Spain and its Counter-Reformation.
Villanova, PA, USA