From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
18.1 (1998): 4-23.
Copyright © 1998, The Cervantes Society of America
||HENRY W. SULLIVAN|
he purpose of this address
is to reopen the question of whether it is legitimate, even possible, to
psychoanalyze a literary character. The chorus of consensus, even among critics
styling themselves psychoanalytic critics, is a resounding no
to this proposition. The Cambridge scholar Maud Ellmann, editor of a
distinguished retrospective anthology of classic articles called simply
Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (1994), echoes the standard incredulity
in her highly competent Introduction, which concentrates on successive Freudian
and Lacanian readings of the Oedipal drama and its place, or role, in literature
and literary criticism. Taking Ernest Jones's famous psychoanalytic study
of a literary character Hamlet and Oedipus (1949) as her whipping-boy,
Ellmann finds absurd Jones's claim that: [Queen] Gertrude herself confirms
[Jones's] suspicion that Hamlet is a matricidal tragedy, closer to
the Oresteia than to Oedipus: for she is terrified that Hamlet
means to murder her when he invades her closet, speaking daggers, and the
ghost is forced to intervene to protect her from the prince's misdirected
vengeance (1994, 3).
According to Ellmann, Ernest Jones makes the fundamental error of treating Hamlet as a real person, vexed by unconscious impulses unfathomable even to the text itself (1994, 3). Jones defends this error, she argues, by protesting that the anguished prince has more vitality than the moribund majority of living people. True,
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she responds, but Hamlet has the disadvantage that he cannot contradict
his psychoanalyst. Unlike a real analysand, he cannot lie down on the couch
and free associate about his dreams or recapitulate the traumas of his
infancy (1994, 3). Resorting to italic emphasis, Ellmann goes on to
say: Amusing as it is to speculate about his early history, Hamlet
never had a childhood. Jones ignores the difference between a human
being made of flesh and a character made of words, and thereby overlooks
the verbal specificities of Shakespeare's text to focus on its universal
archetypes (1994, 3-4).
Taking Don Quixote de la Mancha as the literary exemplum by which to carry this polemical issue forward, I plan to cast doubt on such casual and, perhaps, unexamined use of terms like real person, real analysand, and a human being made of flesh. Invoking the theories of Lacan in particular, I shall argue that disregard for the Lacanian category of the Real; the ambiguity of the term persona meaning mask or guise in Latin; Ellmann's claimed status for some real analysand outside literature; the blurred biological difference between a human animal made of flesh, as against a human being made of language: all combine to skate over a series of distinctions that conveniently obscure what is actually at stake in the psychoanalytic process of the clinic or, with the proper terminological safeguards, in the exercise of psychoanalytic literary criticism.
Psychoanalysis, in Lacan's extension of Freud's discovery, is the scrutiny of human language as perforated by lack, desire, and the fundamental division of the subject. This same human language is the stuff of all prose fiction. In consequence, I shall argue for the case that there is only one human condition and only one signifying system of language. Further, invoking Umberto Eco's claims for the small worlds of fiction, I shall appeal to the celebrated novelist and critic's contention, according to which we may assume anything in the heterocosm (or fictional universe) that fails to contradict what we know about the historical universe, holds equally in both the fictional world and the empirical world of sense experience (Eco 1994a; 1994b).
We're never told by Cervantes that Rocinante inhales, for example, but we may assume that he does; we are never told that Rocinante defecates, but we may assume that he does eat the grass occasionally mentioned in the text and is, moreover, not a carnivore; we are never told, as I recall, that Rocinante had a tail, but the bronze sculptor responsible for the magnificent double equestrian statue of mounted Knight and Squire still standing today on the Plaza de España in Madrid obviously assumed that he did.]
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In a recent book, focused almost exclusively
on Part II of Cervantes's masterpiece, I have myself argued that the sequel
of 1615 is a salvation epic, in which Don Quixote and Sancho are made to
pass through a Purgatory in this life. The book's chapter 3 adduces abundant
theological testimony from sources in the Counter Reformation, especially
tracts of St. John of the Cross and the Spanish Jesuits, which sustain precisely
this Catholic view of one possible and perfect road to salvation. My chapter
4 undertakes the more controversial enterprise of reconstructing the hero's
transition from madness to sanity over the course of the 74 chapters that
comprise Part II, using a predominantly Lacanian psychoanalytic approach.
The Lacanian argument of this chapter 4 may be briefly reconstructed as follows. At the second novel's beginning, we are left in no doubt by the opening anecdote concerning the Graduate and the Seville madhouse, put in the mouth of the barber (DQ II: 1, 32-34), that Don Quixote is still thoroughly insane. I fully concur with Carroll B. Johnson that Don Quixote's special brand of lunacy would nowadays be termed paranoid psychosis, in line with Freudian or Lacanian nosology alike (1983, 27, 51). I also concur with Johnson in seeing the immediate, trigger cause of the hidalgo's insanity as the coming to womanhood, under Don Alonso's very eyes, of his nubile, teenaged niece, Antonia, described to us in the opening of Part I. But this dementia, precipitated by his round-the-clock reading of romances of chivalry, is, I would submit, a symptom not only of the repression of incestuous desire in the middle-aged or ageing, virgin male, but the symptom of a wider and deepening crisis which has been waiting to happen since childhood: paranoid psychosis, occasioned by foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father and the still unbroken tie, in unconscious fantasy, of incest with the mother. More of this presently.
Sancho's trick of presenting the ugly peasant-girl in Part II, chapter 10 as the real Dulcinea determines the balance of the second novel's trajectory: if she is enchanted, she must be disenchanted. This is the subject of Don Quixote's dream, deep in the Cave of Montesinos: a view separately supported by E. C. Riley (1982, 106, 111-12, 115-16), John Jay Allen (in a letter to me of 1992), and Diana de Armas Wilson in her recent article Cervantes and the Night-Visitors: Dream-Work in the Cave of Montesinos (1993). Although not even a character as agent in the novel, the sage Merlin (el sabio Merlín) becomes the place to which Don Quixote addresses his question about whether what happened in the Cave was true or false. Merlin, therefore, occupies the position of analyst in the sense of Lacan's
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supposed subject of knowledge or sujet supposé
savoir. His direction of the cure, in the form of impersonations
of the wizard on the Ducal estate, substitutes like the talking head, the
wise ape, Merlin's fashioning of the wonder horse Clavileño,
all shape the subsequent plotline of Part II.
The influence of Merlin in the position of analyst comes out most strongly in the fake wizard's disposition that Dulcinea be disenchanted through the penance of Sancho and the self-inflicted 3,300 lashes. In the role of martyr for his Master's desire, Sancho comes to teach Don Quixote about lack in the other. The Knight finds Sancho obdurate in failing to carry out the lashing, thus coming to stand between Don Quixote and the attainment of his Master's jouissance. The Knight must then ask himself the, for him, unimaginable question for a psychotic lacking in lack: what would the other want or lack, that I could provide him with, which would then bend him to my desire? The answer turns out to be money.
I view the Countess Trifaldi episode as a parodic, shaggy-dog allegory of Don Quixote's confrontation with his own emotional difficulties. I also regard the role of Altisidora in a special light. Though often characterized in the Cervantine critical literature as a brazen hussy, if not actually demonized, Altisidora may reasonably be viewed as an agent of divine Providence (Sullivan 1994). This is because her name is a Cervantine neologism, a Greco-Latin hybrid derived from the Latin Altissimus, meaning the Most High, and the Ancient Greek doron, meaning a gift (the neuter plural of which is dora). Hence, this sassy vixen's name means Gifts of the Most High and she would appear, in Cervantes's scheme of things, to be carrying out the will of God. This would not be the perception of the celibate, middle-aged Knight, however, who finds her sexual forwardness a source of fright [asombro] and some great disaster [alguna gran desgracia] (DQ II: 44, 753-54). This fear is enhanced by the pussy imagery of chapter 46, aptly entitled by J. M. Cohen The alarming cats and bells.
But, by Altisidora's counterfeiting of the entranced Dulcinea in her own fake death or suspended animation, she is one of several real women, in Carroll Johnson's expression, who deprogram Don Quixote about sex, his niece, and teenage girls in general. Indeed, to quote Johnson, she has a purgative effect on him, helping to accelerate the eventual cure of the Knight (Johnson 1983, 182). This cure is completed by the decoding of the signs, or mala signa of the cricket-cage and the hare pursued by greyhounds in chapter 73, interpreted by Don Quixote as signifiers for his never seeing Dulcinea
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again. Don Quixote then becomes disenchanted with Merlin's
prophecies, sees through his bogus authority and, just as in the case of
dropping the analyst at the end of the cure like a residue (un
déchet), recovers from his dementia and is plunged into the melancholy
inseparable from the end of any analysis.
Other points raised in this Lacanian reading of Part II are that Dulcinea del Toboso's ontological non-existence, within the heterocosm of the novel, is explicable in terms of the, for some, controversial Lacanian axiom that oman does not exist (la emme n'existe pas). I also draw the irresistible implication that the non-existent non-relationship of Don Quixote and Dulcinea is an anticipatory novelization of the Lacanian proposition there is no such thing as a sexual relationship (il n'y a pas de rapport sexuel) (Fink 1991). My overall aim was to view the saving of the soul and the healing of the psyche as etymologically and semantically synonymous, and to construe ascetic theology as a divinized psychoanalysis and ascetic psychoanalysis as a secular theology. For both frames of reference, the ultimate ground is the void or zip (Presberg 1996).
As John Jay Allen warned me in a recent, friendly letter, the Total Relativity School would have a field day hearing Sullivan, the critic, claim that the Quixote had any fixed meaning whatever, let alone its being a salvation epic. This skepticism comes from the academic Left. From the academic Right come the misgivings concerning psychoanalytic criticism of the Cambridge Cervantes scholar, Anthony J. Close, who, having perused Grotesque Purgatory on loan in MS, concludes a letter to me of December 10, 1995 with the words: I hope you won't mind my having a go at you quite candidly in a letter. It is what you may expect from people like me in reviews (folio 2V). Immediately after this, the author adds a final sentence, squiggled out or placed sous râture, which can still be read as follows: Better that you should be forewarned privately so that you may take pre-emptive measures if you think that necessary (December 10, 1995, folio 2V). Whatever side one may eventually come down on, Close's critiques really push the question of Cervantes, literature, and psychoanalysis to the point where the ball is now solidly in the Freudian-Lacanian court.
On the aesthetic front, no one doubts that Don Quixote was written in accord with the canons of plausibility that prevailed in Cervantes's time. Such canons were certainly not coterminous with later, nineteenth-century standards of Realism. That Positivist Realism, in my view, rested on the false claim that the Real and reality are identical. But Cervantes's canons of verisimilitude were
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mimetic, to say nothing of their dimension of moral verisimilitude. His fictional
world does contain things that may be improbable, but it does not contain
anything fantastic and/or impossible. Secondly, the Spanish writer puts forth
the protagonist as what Aristotle, in the Poetics, had called a
human like ourselves, subject to the same constraints of time, matter,
and space as we are in the empirical world. The Quixote is, in the
phraseology of Charles D. Presberg, an unstable compound of poetical
and historical truth (1996).
I think the best way to follow Anthony Close's advice and take pre-emptive measures, after the irretrievable fact of the book's publication, is by making a psychoanalytic plea that clarifies why I believe human animals and human beings are not the same thing. I shall preface my discussion of the biological difference between a human animal made of flesh and a human being made of language with a review of the key Lacanian distinctions among the Symbolic, the Imaginary, the Real, and the Symptom.
The Symbolic, perhaps the easiest of the four registers to grasp, is the order of synchronic language, human culture and exchange: exchange of words, objects, gifts, money, debts, contracts, pacts, badges, tokens, honors, etc. The Symbolic is neutral and athematic, even though it imposes a weight of obligation on human subjects by the very fact of its existence. A good example of this would be the global telephone system. The system is neutral, in the sense that it can be used to send good or evil messages at the will of the caller, or to transmit information plain and simple. But we feel obliged to respond to the telephone when it rings, even though we do not know the identity of the caller. Another example of athematic, Symbolic obligation would be the impartial conventions imposed on drivers by the highway code.
The Imaginary is the order of a human, species-specific merger (originating in Lacan's mirror-stage between 6 to 18 months of age), during which the neonate takes on an identity (image) from its primary caretaker (usually the mother). In the 1970s, Lacan called it the order of the body. The Imaginary is as much the register of like and unlike as of like and dislike; of love and hate, rivalry, grandiosity, narcissism, fantasy, and so on. But, although first set down in childhood and then potentiated as part of the Oedipal drama, or what Freud termed in German the family novel (Familienroman) (Freud 1898; 1908; 1934-38; Laplanche & Pontalis 1967, 427), the Imaginary carries on over into adult life and continues to affect the way in which we interact with other people or relate to them, often at the level of unconscious perception.
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The Real is the hardest order to grasp, because
it is, ex definitione, radically ineffable, and one can never
say it except in bits and pieces. The Real is, in one measure,
the recalcitrance of created Nature to either Symbolic-order articulation,
and/or Imaginary-order representation. In Lacan's words, it is that
which resists symbolization absolutely (Lacan 1988, 66); or, again,
the Real is the domain of whatever subsists outside symbolization
(Lacan 1966, 388). It is the realm of trauma. We try to articulate and represent
the Real in language, but we fail, and our failures expose the Real of impasse.
The universe of created Nature existed long before the advent of human beings
or human language; human beings are entirely expendable at the cosmic level;
and the universe would continue to exist, Real and ineffable to nobody, if
human beings were to disappear from the planet altogether. In another measure,
the Real refers to the historical period of time past, before which no subject
can conceive of his or her own universe or subjectivity in any way (Fink
1995, 24-31). Yet again, it is the Real of the organism which eventually
decides when we die. Death belongs pre-eminently to the order of the Real
(Ragland [-Sullivan] 1984, 183-95; 1995, 84-114). By that, I also mean an
order of traumata and fixations that do not just disappear.
The Symptom, or fourth order, is that area of psychic life where all three of the above-mentioned orders coincide. In Lacan's model of the Borromean knot (see diagram), it is the hatched or shaded area at the center of the intersecting rings which is simultaneously and always an effect of the Symbolic, Imaginary and Real combined. Moreover, this symptomatic intersection is not generalizable, but necessarily peculiar to a given human subject and to no other: a concept which gives us a clue to the reasons behind what we loosely, or in quotidian psychological shorthand, call individuality and personality in the people we know well. The Symptom is not, therefore, a derogatory term of pathology but, rather, a descriptive term without any possibility of prescription.
From the above review, it emerges that the human being as an animal made of flesh (Ellmann), belongs to the order of the Real. The human subject made of language corresponds to the intermesh of being, founded in the Imaginary, and its subsequent, ego-splitting sublation into the order of meaning in the Symbolic. The human organism and the body, therefore, are not the same thing. What we commonly call the body is, paradoxically, an equivalence of the Imaginary. Indeed, as stated, the very idea of a body is an image that is formed in the Lacanian mirror stage, an image which furnishes a fundamental aspect of the structure of subjectivity.
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But Lacan broadened his original 1936 concept of the mirror stage in the early 1950s, no longer regarding it as simply a moment in the life of the infant (from around six months of age onwards), but viewing it as also representing a permanent feature of subjectivity, the very paradigm of the Imaginary order. It is a stadium (stade) in which the subject is permanently caught and captivated by his own image (Evans 1996, 115). In his 1951 article, Some Reflections on the Ego, Lacan wrote: [the mirror stage is] a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has a historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image (Lacan 1953, 14). Dylan Evans observes that, as Lacan further developed the concept of the mirror stage, the stress fell less on its historical value and ever more on its structural value (1996, 115). Thus, by 1956, Lacan could say in Seminar Four: The mirror stage is far from a mere phenomenon which occurs in the development of the child. It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship [of the divided ego] (Lacan 1994, 17).
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So it would be correct to say that the Imaginary
body is an interpretation made by the little subject of its own organism
in the order of the Real. And, one is tempted to add, rarely the twain shall
meet. Narcissus, after all, was enraptured by his own image in a pool, a
beautiful optical illusion, not by his own organism. Similarly, ideas about
what makes a body-image beautiful undergo constant revision and reinterpretation,
regardless of the empirical biological fact that homo sapiens sapiens
is an upper primate. The paintings of Rubens, to take an obvious example,
have notoriously given rise to the euphemism Rubenesque to describe
fat, even unlovely women. But Rubens's contemporaries thought these nudes
lusciously desirable. I, Henry Sullivan, don't happen to like skinny, oval-faced
women, who look too long in the shanks, but Modigliani obviously did or he
wouldn't have painted so many of them.
Body-images of males change with fashion too. Praxiteles and Phidias captured perfectly the musculature of the male organism in stone statues, but they did not depict their gods and Olympic athletes with a build like Arnold Schwarzenegger's. And male and female organisms, quite a different matter from body-image, are reproduced genetically, without Imaginary interpretation or any aesthetic, Symbolic intervention from their parents. Indeed, apart from the initial copulatory act which fertilizes an ovum, human animals, like any other animal, have remarkably little to do with their own reproduction. Moreover, human organs properly speaking (the heart, lungs, liver, kidney, etc.) function from womb to tomb as if the Imaginary and Symbolic orders did not exist, or despite the fact that they actually do. It is only at the level of the Symptom that the Real of the organism re-enters the picture. I am thinking of such things an outbreak of skin rash or hives in moments of mental trauma, psychosomatic forms of urticaria which then proceed to disappear as mysteriously as they arose in the first place.
The project of this paper, then, is to call into question the automatic assumption that real person means only a biological human mammal who has, or had, a historical existence. What is at stake is the virtual psychic reality of personae in literature whose life extends beyond the time of their literary creation into an indefinite posterity. It is possible, if improbable, that a man suffering from a form of insanity like that of Don Quixote should exist in our empirical world. Despite such possible improbability, Cervantes's novel is, nonetheless, cast in biographical form: the text spans the time from his fall into madness until his death. The riddle concerns what sort of life we are talking about here. Let me suggest a convenient
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example. I dare say there are not as many people round the world on
the eve of the third millenium who have heard of King Philip II of Spain
as there are people who have heard of Don Quixote de la Mancha. We
could perhaps make something out of this to prove that the pen is mightier
than the sword. But more interesting to me is the exercise of distinguishing
between the King and the Knight as a real person and not
a real person.
This distinction can be made as follows. King Philip II of Spain lived from 1527 to 1598 and was a real person. Don Quixote de la Mancha lived from 1556 to 1615, in Cervantes's diptych novel, and was not a real person. Don Quixote admittedly has an Imaginary body in Cervantes's fiction, frequently referred to; and the protagonist's persona, either in his personality as hidalgo or as deranged Knight, is the locus of his Symbolic-order discourse as a speaking subject. But, whereas no one for a minute claims that the Knight was a human organism, everyone takes it on trust that the King of Spain was. Perhaps only a daring New Historicist would advance the theory that King Philip II was a fiction invented by his doctors and a conspiratorial mafia of historiographers, all intent on hoodwinking posterity.
But I would put it to this audience that any attempt to write a theological and psychoanalytic account of the career of Philip II would present dilemmas similar to those thrown up by the psychoanalysis of literary fiction, even though the Spanish monarch was the so-called real person and Don Quixote was not. This is also the dilemma of a thoughtful biographer trying to get inside the mind of any dead author or historical figure and wondering what made him tick? All the material for the King's psychoanalysis would have to be mediated, as in a novel, through language and imagery: letters, diaries, royal decrees, contemporary accounts, paintings, marble busts, statues, and the like. The problem lies in the fact that the only method of recuperating human culture is through the medium of human culture itself. It is always referring to itself.
What happens, then, when we subtract the dead organism of history from the real person Philip II or, to quote Ernst Kantorowicz, remove one of the King's Two Bodies, the body mortal (1957, 7)? In the analytic clinic, it is not the organism of a human mortal that is treated, of course, but the human subject. For disorders of the organism, we seek help from a physician and the apparatus of medical science. According to Lacan, the human subject on the couch is a speaking being who has been captured, through her acquisition of speech, by the world of meaning: the big Other. Her
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unconscious itself, in one of the most famous of Lacanian axioms, is
structured like a language. So, where language, Imaginary representation
and Symbolic articulation are concerned, it does not matter whether the dead
organism of the past is present or not, any more than the presence of the
motionless, reclining organism on the couch matters for the purposes of
psychoanalysis. The personae of a real person or a fictional
character belong solely to the Symbolic and Imaginary orders.
My claim in this paper is that we also risk creating a false distinction if we divide off the world of lived speech, being, and meaning the conveniently designated real world from the heterocosm of fictional worlds. Novels and plays can only be fabricated from human language and the same signifying system of Imaginary-being-within-Symbolic-meaning which we use in life, however asymmetrical and duplicitous that system may prove. It is not self-standing Nature, or Aristotle's physe, which is being imitated in novels like Don Quixote, but the human condition as constituted by language and culture. And this same human condition language and culture is the domain proper of psychoanalysis.
In my view, we have allowed ourselves to be persuaded by materialist philosophies and the rise of experimental science over the last three and a half centuries that real is a synonym of visible, tangible, or mensurable. For Lacan, the order of the Real is precisely none of these things, nor can we even say it except fragmentarily. The ineffability of the Real can, however, be captured in fiction, and this fact goes a long way towards explaining literature's uncanny power to mesmerize and hold us while we read, or play on our mind even when we have finished reading. Indeed, I would offer this power of literature to move readers in the unconscious as one definition of the sublime: the raising of the object a that forms our connection with the Real to a plane of utterance captured in the immortal amber of words.
So, having attempted to debiologize human subjects in the fashion described above, much as Lacan's theories have debiologized the theories of Freud, I trust that my reasons will have become clearer for seeing the psychoanalysis of literary characters as not only a possible enterprise, but a legitimate one. This is why I am not convinced by my Cambridge colleague's observations that run as follows: I find that your addition of three or four preliminary chapters to Don Quixote, Part I [Sullivan 1996, 116-17], filling in all the kind of psychic family history that Cervantes deliberately excludes obsession with nubile niece, inability to wean himself away from his
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mother, erasure of paternal presence is naked psychologism, a conversion
of Don Quixote into a flesh-and-blood analysand (letter of December
10, 1995, folio 2R). I would take issue with three difficulties here: 1)
the reappearance of the by now familiar flesh-and-blood analysand;
2) any critic's claim actually to know what Cervantes deliberately
excludes in his fiction; and 3) an understanding of the psychotic's
unbroken psychic bond to the mother as Don Quixote's inability to wean
himself away from his mother.
In the first place (as I have set the issue out above), when an analysand goes for analysis, it is not his flesh and blood that the patient wishes his doctor to analyze. It is his psychic pain, from which he is seeking some yearned-for measure of relief. As regards weaning the Cervantine protagonist away from his mother, this is, of course, no claim of mine. Weaning, it will be observed, is a process solidly located in the order of the Real of the organism. Lacan's strict definition of need, as against desire and demand, belongs to this realm. Need can be summarized as those requisites of the organism without which it could no longer survive. These include fluids, food, warmth, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on (Sullivan 1996, 184). Weaning involves precisely such an organic transition: gradually replacing the suckling's fluid food-source from the mammary glands with a solid food-source rendered soft and easily digestible by human culinary art. Here again, I see our Modern Age obsession with materialist philosophy, the natural sciences, and neo-Positivistic empiricism, as the circumambient influences making it easy for certain people to confuse the origins of psychosis with some putatively bad experience undergone during the weaning process.
The critical posture with which I disagree most of all, however, is the British scholar's claim to know the kind of psychic family history that Cervantes deliberately excludes (my emphasis). How can any critic in the year 1997 possibly know what Cervantes deliberately excluded or included in his novel? Such a claim would represent a position of apodictic omniscience to which even the most foolhardy of Lacanians would never aspire. I prefer instead to invoke Umberto Eco's claims for fictional possible worlds, according to which the protagonist would have any and all genealogy that is not precisely denied by Cervantes in the text. Cervantes nowhere states that Don Alonso, the hidalgo, was not born of woman; that he was not sired by a father surnamed Quesada, Quejana, Quixano or, more probably, Quixada; that he never had a paternal grandmother; that his great grandfather was not the fifteenth-century real person, Gutierre de Quixada, whose rusty armor he refurbishes; that
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he did not have a sister or brother who was the parent of Antonia Quixana,
his niece, living under the hidalgo's roof as his ward. Not only does
Cervantes not deny any of this, he actually specifies all of these details
in the text, barring only some explicit reference to Don Quixote's mother
or father. But we can assume his parents' existence, I would submit, as virtual
psychic realities in Cervantes's heterocosm of fiction.
And the very omission of explicit reference to mother or father invites comment, especially given Don Quixote's clamorous statement to the Canon of Toledo about Gutierre Quixada from whose stock I am descended in the direct male line (DQ I: 49, 438). The novels of chivalry regularly opened with a parade of the knight's lineage, emphasizing his noble or illustrious parents. The picaresque novel Lazarillo de Tormes (1554) begins with a spoof of this convention, when Lázaro makes a point of cataloging the plebeian nobodies who gave birth to him. The hidalgo, however, seems like an orphan. The Name-of-the-Father is purposely confused by Cervantes (Quesada, Quejana, Quixada, Quixano) and he is missing in the hero's lineage. Who knows what woman raised him? Presberg, the author of Adventures in Paradox: Praising the Folly of Truthful Tales in Cervantes's Don Quixote, has suggested the paternal grandmother mentioned in the text as a possible candidate. When he was a child, the Knight explains that his paternal grandmother would invariably compare every dueña whom she happened to observe to Quintañona (Sullivan 1996, 117). As Presberg points out: That name refers to the fictional character of Arthurian romance, only as retold in the Spanish ballads, who acts as a bawd in the adulterous union between Lancelot and Guinevere. The vividness of the protagonist's memory suggests that such monologues were a frequent occurrence during his most impresionable years. Joined to the conspicuous silence about his parents, that memory also suggests that it was the paternal grandmother alone who raised the hidalgo, probably because both his parents, and his grandfather were dead. It thus seems likely that our hidalgo of the opening chapter grew to adulthood with no male models of behavior. (Exit moral exemplarity and Lacan's Law of the Name-of-the-Father) (Adventures in Paradox, MS, ch. 6, 22).
Maud Ellmann, it will be remembered, was amused by Jones's fundamental error about Hamlet because, as she emphasizes, Hamlet never had a childhood (1994, 3). But, in The Limits of Interpretation (1990; 1994), Umberto Eco had unwittingly answered her objection four years earlier. He opens his chapter 4 on Small
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Worlds with these words: It seems a matter of common sense to
say that in the fictional world conceived by Shakespeare it is true that
Hamlet was a bachelor and it is false that he was married. Philosophers ready
to object that fictional sentences lack reference and are thereby false or
that both the statements about Hamlet would have the same truth value
[Russell 1919, 169] do not take into account the fact that there are
persons gambling away their futures on the grounds of the recognized falsity
or truth of similar statements. Any student asserting that Hamlet was married
to Ophelia would fail in English, and nobody could reasonably criticize his/her
teacher for having relied on such a reasonable notion of truth (Eco
1994, 64; my emphasis).
Now, just as it is a reasonable notion of truth to state that in Shakespeare's fictional world Hamlet and Ophelia were not married, it is an equally reasonable notion of truth to state that this same Hamlet had a childhood. Shakespeare nowhere specifically asserts that he didn't. By the same token, it is an equally reasonable notion of truth to state that the hidalgo of rural La Mancha had a mother and a father, whatever their fate, since Cervantes nowhere specifically denies this either. What we are told by Cervantes, and this is the fundamental datum of Parts I and II alike, is that the Knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha, is mad. As a madman, he resembles some unfortunate persons in this real world of ours, but, by the same token, he is dissimilar to most other humans.
If, as readers, our wonder about his strange and deranged humanness is an illegitimate feeling, are we not being forbidden from reading the novel? Indeed, to hit the critical ball back into the opposing court, if we accept Peter Russell and Anthony Close's funny book argument, then the only way to read Cervantes's masterpiece is as a diverting seventeenth-century parody of the romances of chivalry. All subsequent readings, i.e., the whole reception history of Don Quixote from at least the late-eighteenth century to the present constitute some kind of colossal Romantic, perhaps pre-Romantic blunder: an implicit invitation not to read Cervantes's novel at all except within the limitations of one historical time and place.
But we read Don Quixote and wrestle with its meaning anyway. Charles D. Presberg, makes the point that when the fictional small world takes a particular, finite fix on the real world, and this is aesthetically successful, then the heterocosm resonates with the infinite. Or, as he puts it, citing Raúl Galoppe (1994, 1995), the novelist has hit the aleph in the sense that José Luis Borges intended the term:
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namely, a transfinite cardinal numeral or used as a noun in
combination the aleph-null and aleph-zero, meaning the smallest transfinite
cardinal numeral, or the cardinal of the set of positive integers (Galoppe
1994, folio 11).
Presberg has come independently to my recent book's conclusion that speculation on the perfect marriage and the perfect career form the double thematic of Part I of Cervantes's novel, and that the double thematic of the perfect death and the perfect road to salvation inform the subtext of Part II. But, in an arresting stroke of insight, he shows that the worldly themes of marriage and career in Part I are the same, but divinized, in Part II. The eight troubled couples' quest for the perfect marriage of Part I becomes divinized in Part II as spiritual marriage, or beatitude, in the fusion of the immortal soul with God: amado con amada / amada en el amado transformada (Rivers 1966, 139). Similarly, the quest for fame and wordly glory in Part I the immortality of his deeds to which Don Quixote de la Mancha constantly refers becomes in Part II the pursuit of salvation and heavenly glory. This thesis would certainly lend strength and a greater inner cohesion to the interpretation of Part II as a salvific Purgatory in this life, as well as throw light on how Cervantes resolved the dilemma of writing a sequel to Don Quixote that had to be simultaneously different and not different from the bestseller of 1605.
For Close, there is no pain involved in Part II: certainly no Purgatory in this life. The cruel japes to which Don Quixote and Sancho are submitted on the Ducal estate are just good, clean fun, or what he has recently termed seemly pranks (1993). This strikes me as a perplexing insensitivity to what Diana de Armas Wilson once termed the second novel's appalling darkness, and what Charles Lamb in 1833 and Friedrich Nietzsche in 1875 also characterized as a bitter tale (Lamb 1980, 346-47; Drake and Finello 1987, 27). In the concluding paragraph of that recent article, Anthony Close writes the following: All the qualities which Cervantes finds meritorious in the episodes in the Duke's palace their lavish and ingenious device, their aristocratic cachet and pedigree, their solicitation of the two heroes' credulity, the wit and style of their performances, and the communal merriment that all this brings tend to be seen as blemishes by his modern critics. The purpose of this article has been to remove any grounds for assuming that Cervantes shares this distaste. The burlas in the palace are all that good burlas should be. Cervantes would hardly have expended such lavish and ingenious artifice on them if he had not thought so (Close 1993, 87).
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But Presberg's theory of the
divinizing of worldly themes in Part II, as set out in his
forthcoming Adventures in Paradox, provides new counter arguments
against this position and grist for my own mill. If we share his view that
ascetic theology is divinized psychoanalysis, and ascetic psychoanalysis
is secular theology, then the worlds of soul and psyche are reunited in a
way that they have never been united since the Lutheran Reformation and the
schism of Western Christendom. Christian theologians were, during the slightly
extended millenium stretching from the time of the Church Fathers in late
Antiquity to the death of Francisco Suárez in 1617, the leading
intellectuals and thinkers of their age. By the same token, the only discipline
in the post-Modern era that takes the psyche psyche or soul
seriously as the scientific object of its study is psychoanalysis. I would
add, particularly the Lacanian, language-based variety. And indeed, in the
Écrits, Lacan did not reject the theological parallel with
psychoanalytic treatment; psychoanalysis is, in Lacan's words, a long
subjective ascesis (1977, 105). So, it seems appropriate to me not
only to take theological doctrines of Purgatory seriously in reading Part
II of the Quixote, but also to take seriously the most recent discoveries
of the Freudian-Lacanian tradition in what might properly be termed post-Modern
psychoanalysis. In both cases, we are talking about the soul in pain. And
the Don Quixote of Part II is a soul in pain.
I shall close this paper by trying to sum up my differences with Ellmann, Close, and similarly minded thinkers. Without actually realizing it, I suspect many people mean by the expression real person something akin to: a still-living motile cadaver, born on a given date, which bears or bore a name. This would certainly be closer in concept to Lacan's order of the Real, construed as the organism of the human mammal in its descent from created Nature. But nothing of real humannness is accounted for here. Human being, mind, and meaning are constructed in the subject's own lifetime, as we know; and if they are constructed, they can also be analyzed. I submit that the same set of observations apply, mutatis mutandis, to virtual psychic realities embodied in literary personae, where body does not mean an organism in the realm of the Real: virtual psychic realities created by great novelists in the heterocosm of fiction.
Finally, to make an end to this polemic, I shall recall that Freud said, in Analysis Terminable and Interminable (1937) (the work
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paraphrastically giving the title to my own talk): [if] one is prevented by external difficulties from reaching this goal [of the end of an analysis], it is better to speak of an incomplete analysis rather than an unfinished one (SE 23: 219; Freud's emphasis). There is no risk, in my view, that we have finished analyzing Don Quixote de la Mancha, or that we ever will. The status of that question will always remain incomplete.
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. 1995. Letter to the author of December 10.
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. 1995. Essays on the Pleasures of Death: From Freud to Lacan. New York: Routledge.
Riley, Edward C. 1982. Metamorphosis, Myth and Dream in the Cave of Montesinos. Essays on Narrative Fiction in the Iberian Peninsula in Honour of Frank Pierce. Ed. R. Brian Tate. Oxford: Dolphin: 105-19.
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Smith, Paul Julian. 1988. Writing in the Margin: Spanish Literature of the Golden Age. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Sullivan, Henry W. 1994. Altisidora: ¿Cómo Regalos del Más Alto acelera la cura de Don Quijote? Actas del XI Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas (Irvine 1992). Ed. Juan Villegas. 5 vols. Irvine: U of California-Irvine, Department of Spanish & Portuguese. 2: 86-93.
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|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|