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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