ISBN is

978-0-7734-7109-2 / 9780773471092

El Discurso Dieciochesco Espanol: Pensiamento Y Parodoja En Jovellanos, Cadalyso Y Forner (Hispanic Literature, 72) (Spanish Edition)

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Publisher:Edwin Mellen Pr

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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The main contribution is the application of contemporary literary and social theory to understand some of the discursive trends of three major 18th-century Spanish writers. This study is centered around the rhetorical recognition of the failure of enlightened goals in the prose of Jovellanos, Cadalso and Forner. It is fair to say, I think, that there is a curious anomaly as far as studies of the eighteenth century in the Western World is concerned. Although the century is of the utmost importance from the point of view of history - political, economic, social - it has had very much less immediate appeal in the sphere of the study of culture. It was a period that witnessed by its end the French Revolution and the emancipation of the British North-American colonies, massive material developments in agriculture and manufacture, when the prevailing rationalism brought about a new set of major scientific and philosophical discoveries. At the same time, no doubt under the enduring influence of Romanticism, eighteenth-century literary works are, in the modern world, all too often dismissed as dull, pedantic and unimaginative. Yet the eighteenth century is extremely rich in the various facets of the literature of ideas, precisely the field that bridges the gap between its portentous historical developments and creative literature. To ignore or underplay these works is to overlook an essential dimension of the century, and one that contributes powerfully to its modernity. In no country is the failure to appreciate the qualities of the century more prevalent than in Spain. A nation which had so evidently fallen from the pinnacle of its power a century before, which at the beginning of the eighteenth century had its dynasty determined by the intervention of foreign powers, Spain was easily dismissed as a "has-been." Its past achievements were disparaged and it was no longer considered to have any great significance, let alone any future prospects. Hence, as we shall see, a very defensive attitude among Spanish intellectuals, who have a very thin skin concerning national history. Spain had massive domestic problems caused by economic stagnation, depopulation, a totally inadequate infrastructure and so forth, yet it was by no means as negligible as contemporary European opinion and subsequent general assessments have believed, even though the fact that its reforming urge came more from the lower nobility than from a still underdeveloped bourgeoisie gave a special tone to its attitudes. Moreover, assessments of the not unpromising period in Spain before the French Revolution have been all but irreparably flawed by the disasters that afflicted the country after that momentous event. The prime mover of the Enlightenment, Charles III, was succeeded by a mediocre monarch, Charles IV, who was in no way capable of facing the problems arising from the breakdown of the ancien regime in France. Authoritarian government was now encumbered with the extra burdens of favoritism, caprice, opportunism and corruption. Spain was exposed to the diplomatic maneuvers of Napoleon, followed by the French occupation; and subsequently, by the tyranny of an absolute monarch, in the figure of Ferdinand VII, completely devoid of any enlightened values. For a long time, in popular sentiment at least, the chaos into which Spain fell in the nineteenth century was read back into the previous century. The serious scholarship carried out in the last half-century in Spain, France, Britain and the United States has completely transformed the situation. The many pioneering books that have uncovered rewarding aspects of the period are now joined by the present work, which builds on a solid base of previous scholarship. The men of the Spanish Enlightenment of the last quarter of the eighteenth century were not inconsiderable figures, of wide diversity of interests. Ideological, philosophical, moral and aesthetic concerns cannot and should not be separated, and it is the special strength of Jose E. Santos's book that he brings these aspects together. He is also concerned, rightly, to assess the degree to which the problems addressed by Enlightenment writers anticipate issues of modernity; the link he finds between the two is the incipient struggle they share between rupture and continuity with the past. He makes wide but discreet use of modern cultural theorists, especially Foucault, Adorno, Bakhtin, and Habermas, to reinforce his cogent arguments. He is firm and in my view undoubtedly correct in his assumption that Spain is not different in essence from the rest of Europe, however distinctive its individual historical circumstances were. He limits himself essentially to three of the outstanding figures, Jovellanos, Cadalso and Forner, while drawing systematically on other material to provide essential background. His penetrating study has the merit of integrating the three writers into a coherent pattern to illustrate the cross-roads of conflicting and contradictory directions faced by the Spanish Enlightenment. Dr. Santos takes as his point of departure, or "defining instrument," the quintessential eighteenth-century concept of the "pursuit of happiness," extremely familiar in the English-speaking world thanks to the American constitution. The sense of "happiness" is much broader in scope for the Enlightenment than for the modern world: it embraces such attributes as material well being, moral balance or order, measurable progress, being at one with the world. For Jovellanos, in particular, it had a special relevance and was an important constituent part of his personal ethos, linked with his unquenchable optimism and drive. In Jovellanos more than any other, as Dr. Santos indicates so well, is embodied the plenitude as well as the fragility of the Enlightenment. The plenitude comes from the breadth of his interests and from his multiple reformist endeavors, economic, educational and fiscal, all of them imbued with a strong sense of legal tradition, harking back to the medieval Partidas. It culminates in his "Elogio de Carlos III," in which a consciousness of his age's achievement and potential is tempered with caution. Santos brings out very well how the underlying conflict between the autocratic cast of the monarchy and the reformist spirit came into the open in the next reign. The persecution and exile Jovellanos suffered did not however quell his steadfastness; and he has a new set of trials, discussed in the next chapter, to face with the French invasion. A second strand in all three writers, well analyzed in the second chapter, is the concept of nationhood, which is in apparent conflict - a deviation, in Santos' words - with the universalistic values of the Enlightenment. Two major controversies arise from Spanish hypersensitivity. First, Montesquieu's criticism of Spain in the Lettres persanes (N[degrees] 78) is satirized by Cadalso in his Defensa de

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