Discursive “Renovatio” in Lope de Vega and Calderón

Küpper, Joachim
Discursive “Renovatio” in Lope de Vega and Calderón, 2017
in Studies on Spanish Baroque Drama

DE GRUYTER MOUTON (Read online Open Access)

This book first appeared in German, in 1990. Since its argument touches upon questions of a more comprehensive nature, exceeding the specialist framework of scholarship pertaining to the Spanish Golden Age, it found readers from other disciplines – and from outside the German academic context – right from the start. Time and again, a number of international colleagues encouraged me to have it translated, so as to facilitate a reception beyond the confines of what has become a langue mineure in the second half of the twentieth century. Yet there were more urgent things to do; and then two attempts failed, because the translators capitulated before the task of rendering my German academic prose into the lingua franca of the present-day world. DS Mayfield, to whom I am deeply indebted, finally produced the text which is at the basis of the present edition. Let me also thank the copyeditor Samuel Walker, who took care of all the details that still required revision.

The study here submitted is not a translation in the strict sense. I tried to preserve the essence of the original, while deleting from the notes all those passages not immediately pertinent to the argument, since they refer particularly to scholarly discussions conducted within German Romance studies. The main text has been revised with the aim of disencumbering it from details that seemed inessential in retrospect; some of this material has been transferred to the notes, but most of it has been deleted.

I retained the title, including the Latin term renovatio, which might seem somewhat unconventional at first sight. It alludes to the political program of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. His attempts at re-stabilizing a society disintegrated by decades of internal strife were characterized by the propagation of a renewal of “traditional” Roman virtus. In its first phase, the success of this restorative strategy was impressive; but, as is the case in sixteenth and seventeenth century Spain, the renewal of philosophical, conduct-related, and literary paradigms from former times was finally not able to bring historical processes to a standstill.

As in the German original, I make ample use of neologisms based on Latin or Greek etyma that have already made their way into Western vernaculars. Moreover, I have preserved numerous single quotation marks, which are much more common in German than in English; these are used whenever I refer to expressions, concepts, or terms as they are generally understood in the textual corpora under scrutiny, seeing that it would be nonsensical to indicate a single specific reference. In order to avoid redundancy, I do not provide translations of quotes from Iberian texts; my reading is always (very) ‘close to the text’. Quotes from Latin (and occasional ones from Greek) are taken from well-known sources, the translations of which are easily accessible, if needed.

This book will be difficult to receive for readers who do not have any knowledge of the Christian tradition. It does not contain many passages that do not, in some way or another, refer to the Old and New Testaments (and specifically the Pauline epistles), to Origen and Augustine, to Thomas Aquinas, to William of Ockham, or to Erasmus of Rotterdam, Luther, and Descartes. I have come to realize, however, that the notion of central dogmatic concepts of this religion (such as original sin, for instance) has become more and more imprecise in recent decades – even in Western scholarly contexts. For this reason, I have added a considerable number of explanatory notes not contained in the original version.

Although already implied in the above paragraph, it should be stated explicitly that the light cast on an epoch separated from the present by at least 350 years is not informed – as has been customary in the humanities since the beginning of the nineteenth century – by an attempt at conceiving of the past as a stage in the development towards the present. Legitimizing the present by modeling it as the ‘consequential’ result of what was already latently ‘there’ (in more erudite terms: teleology) is an important approach to writing history; but such an identificatory attitude should not obstruct the comprehension of the past’s possible alterity. The worldview that is given expression to in Spanish Baroque dramas is certainly not apt to serve as a basis for present-day conceptualizations; but it may be highly useful, specifically in a period of rapid globalization and various ‘culture clashes’ linked to this process, for becoming aware of the extent to which the premodern stages of our own Western history differ from what we are used to taking for granted, from what we tend to consider ‘reasonable’ or to accept as ‘ethical’.

I have not incorporated a discussion of the research performed during the 25 years since the first edition; for, in substance, not much seems to have changed in this field over the last decades. This said, there are some very occasional hints at publications that appeared after the first edition of this book.

As was the case for almost all German Romanists of my generation, my first field was French studies; my doctoral dissertation deals with Balzac and the question of realism. My second field was Italian literature; I published two books and a few articles on some classical texts written in that language. It was at the university of Munich where I – already an assistant professor as per the American nomenclature – was trained in Spanish literature. At that time, Ilse Nolting-Hauff, who taught in Munich, was the most eminent Hispanist in Germany; and she was an incredibly beautiful woman. Her fields were medieval courtly literature, conceptism, and Mannerism, including its manifestations in twentieth century literature. Ilse was an utterly worldly person; problems pertaining to theology and the history of religion were of minor interest to her. Yet, besides introducing me to the treasures of Iberian literature, she regarded my activities with favor and supported my research, although she was aware that I was writing a book whose focus was far removed from her own mindset; and she taught me a scholar’s single most important virtue: the love of working hard.

I dedicate this edition to her memory.”

Berlin, November 2016

Joachim Küpper. “Discursive Renovatio in Lope de Vega and Calderón”.

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Masterpieces of modern Spanish drama (1917)

Masterpieces of modern Spanish drama, edited, with a preface by Barrett H. Clark. Publisher New York, Duffield & company, 1917

  • The Great Galeoto, by José Echegaray, translated by Eleanor Bontecou
  • The Duchess of San Quentin, by Benito Pérez Galdós, translated by Philip M. Hayden
  • Daniela, by Angel Guimerá, translated by John Garrett Underhill

From the Preface:

The drama of Spain, early and modern, has in English-speaking countries been sadly neglected. It is a regrettable fact that one of the most gorgeous and passionate outbursts of national dramatic genius has received but scant attention from English readers. Cervantes’ name is at least not unknown to the great mass of readers in every language, but to the majority of English and Americans, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderon — to mention only the greatest of dozens of dramatists of the time — are a closed book. About fifteen Calderon plays are available in some form in English translation or adaptation, only two or three of Lope and, to my knowledge, not one of Tirso. Of the eighteenth century lesser lights I should venture to say that there is in English no translation. The case is the same with the dramatists of the early nineteenth century, if we except one or two notable translations and studies, like that recently issued by the Hispanic Society (a translation of Un drama nuevo). And yet this period saw a rebirth of the national spirit in the drama unequalled in any other country save France.

Barrett H. Clark.

The Poetics of Piracy. Emulating Spain in English Literature, by Barbara Fuchs

From the University of Pennsylvania Press:


The University of Pennsylvania Press published in 2013 a volume in the Haney Foundation Series (view table of contents) that explores the relationships between the early modern literature from England and Spain.

In The Poetics of Piracy, author Barbara Fuchs challenges the hegemony of a nationalist English literary history that all too often ignores the rest of Europe, particularly Spain.

With its dominance as a European power and the explosion of its prose and dramatic writing, Spain provided an irresistible literary source for English writers of the early modern period. But the deep and escalating political rivalry between the two nations led English writers to negotiate, disavow, or attempt to resolve their fascination with Spain and their debt to Spanish sources. Amid thorny issues of translation and appropriation, imperial competition, the rise of commercial authorship, and anxieties about authenticity, Barbara Fuchs traces how Spanish material was transmitted into English writing, entangling English literature in questions of national and religious identity, and how piracy came to be a central textual metaphor, with appropriations from Spain triumphantly reimagined as heroic looting.

From the time of the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada of the 1580s, through the rise of anti-Spanish rhetoric of the 1620s, The Poetics of Piracy charts this connection through works by Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, and Thomas Middleton. Fuchs examines how their writing, particularly for the stage, recasts a reliance on Spanish material by constructing narratives of militaristic, forcible use. She considers how Jacobean dramatists complicated the texts of their Spanish contemporaries by putting them to anti-Spanish purposes, and she traces the place of Cervantes’s Don Quixote in Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Shakespeare’s late, lost play Cardenio. English literature was deeply transnational, even in the period most closely associated with the birth of a national literature.

Recovering the profound influence of Spain on Renaissance English letters, The Poetics of Piracy paints a sophisticated picture of how nations can serve, at once, as rivals and resources.

Barbara Fuchs is Professor of Spanish and English and directs the Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies of the Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her Exotic Nation: Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain and “The Bagnios of Algiers” and “The Great Sultana”: Two Plays of Captivity are both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Professor Barbara Fuchs leads a great initiative in Los Angeles: diversifying the classics. As part of her work there are available online three translations of Spanish Golden Age comedies: