ABSTRACT: This article seeks to understand the significance of Celestina (1499) as it moves through time. It contends that new meanings emerge when the context in which the work is printed and read changes. As the prologue to the Tragicomedia intimates, each new act of engagement brings to the fore meanings that may not have been intended or even conceivable at the point of its composition. Taking a synchronic and comparative approach, the article looks at the ‘horizon of expectations’ of Celestina’s reception in sixteenthcentury Spain and Italy, when at the height of its popularity. Focusing on the issues of self-knowledge and solitude, it contextualises their portrayal within ideological debates about the misery and dignity of man that circulated in the Renaissance and within an environment that was considering the possibility of disbelief. It juxtaposes Celestina against other contemporary texts involved in this supranational debate, such as Fernán Pérez de Oliva’s Diálogo de la dignidad del hombre (1546). It argues that, in this new horizon, Celestina’s portrayal of self-knowledge and solitude and its engagement with debates about the misery and dignity of man goes beyond its medieval origins.
Better late than ever, as it is usually said. I did not expect not to have an easy internet access during the colloquium and not to be able to live-tweet the sessions, nor did I think it would take me almost one week to find the time to write this short post. In any case, there were some interesting sessions on Celestina or Celestina related topics at the international colloquium “Los malos saberes – Das böse Wissen”, which took place last week (21st-22nd November 2013) at the Palais Walderdorff in Trier (Germany) and gathered together scholars working mainly on Early Modern topics, understood in a very broad sense. Papers ranged from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, as can be seen in the official programme, and forbidden and improper knowledge being the main topic of the colloquium, it was only natural that Celestina was one of the most mentioned works. These are the papers that, directly or indirectly, dealt with celestinesque problems, although there were further references to it:
“En torno a brujería y poesía”, Bernard Teuber (Ludwigs Maximilian Universität München): In this paper, Bernard Teuber described the evolution of the literary character of the witch through the characters of Celestina (Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea), Cañizares (El coloquio de los perros) and the “hechicera antigua” of Quevedo’s satirical sonnet “Hechicera antigua que deja sus herramientas a otra reciente”. He distinguished their literary and their realistic traits, and put them in relation with the perception of magic in their respective contexts. Moreover, he highlighted the literary influence of previous literary witches, be it classical (e.g. Canidia or Erichtho) or early-modern (Celestina in the case of Quevedo, for example, or the treatises on witchcraft in Cervantes). In all examples, witches were presented rather as literary characters than as real sorceresses. [Thursday, 21st of November, 15:30]
“‘Por lo que dixistes del leer lo bueno y del no leer lo malo, pues basta saber ser tal, para lo huir’: los peligros de la lectura imaginativa y la recepción de Celestina en el siglo XVI”, Amaranta Saguar García (DAAD – Universität Augsburg): As usual, Amaranta Saguar García approached the issue of the reception of Celestina from a strictly historical point of view. Following up with her ideas on the relationship between Celestina and the late medieval interpretation of the classical concept of imago agens, as explained in the paper she gave at the 2013 congress of the AHLM, she described the evolution of the perception of the dangers of imagination from the fifteenth to the sixteenth century, thus, of imaginative reading and too vivid descriptions of bad behaviour. When considered from this perspective, Celestina appears as a work that was written according to fifteenth-century ideas on the moral-didactic power of picturesque depictions of crime and sin, but was read with the sixteenth-century prevention of imagination. Moreover, she analised the role that the printing press could have played in discrediting imaginative reading, as well as the likely influence of the loss of reputation of the artes memoriae and of the meditatio humanitatis Christi in the sixteenth century [Friday, 22nd of November, 10:00]