García López, Jorge, Eugenia Fosalba, and Gonzalo Pontón. Historia de la literatura española. 2 La conquista del clasicismo, 1500-1598. Madrid: Crítica, 2013. pp 804. ISBN: 9788498926217.
García López, Jorge, Eugenia Fosalba, and Gonzalo Pontón. Historia de la literatura española. 2 La conquista del clasicismo, 1500-‐1598. Madrid: Crítica, 2013. pp 804. ISBN: 9788498926217. At least three reasons come to mind when I think about why I enjoyed reading this new history of sixteenth-‐century Spanish literature. First, the structure of the book proves, as we shall see, that the authors were very consistent in their emphasis on the relations between early modern literature, markets, politics, and ideology. The closing section of the volume contains meaningful excerpts of historical documents and works of literature that prove many of the points made throughout the book. Lastly, but certainly not least important, is the inclusion of a great bibliography, reflecting many scholars’ points of view from academic environments beyond Spain. After the prologue to the collection, and the introduction to the volume, there is a strategic explanation of the interrelation of European and Peninsular humanisms, the religious changes in the continent and Iberia, the presence and influence of the scientific revolution, and the evolution of political theories. This overview takes place in the first part of the book entitled “Intellectual Currents of the Sixteenth Century” by Jorge García López (15-‐102). Thought, religion, science, and politics form part of the explanatory framework throughout the book to present the connections between new literary genres and new social realities, and the ways in which culture was experienced, produced, and consumed. Some positive consequences of this social approach become explicit in the second part of the book “Esthetic enquiries and historical borderlines” by Jorge García López (103-‐90), such as the inclusion of chapters on “Soldiers and Pirates,” “Explorers and Conquerors: the New World,” “The Woman in the Renaissance Culture,” and “Heretics, beatas and wiches.” In a way these chapters, although sometimes insufficient, represent part of the vast criticism pointing at decentering the Golden-‐Age construct and opening windows to the tremendously complex realities of one of the global political conglomerates of the 16th century—the others being the Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal, Ming, and Portuguese political entities. The authors present 16th-‐century literature in Spain as a dynamic process of assimilation of the Greek and Roman classics, and the humanist and Italian uses of these new must-‐read authors (155). Of remarkable interest is their reflection on the material world of cultural products. There is pertinent thought on the economic necessities of the writers (146-‐52), on print, war technology, state administration (118-‐27, 170-‐ 83), vernacular linguistic politics (162-‐65), educational curricula (165-‐70), and women and cultural artifacts as characters, consumers, and writers (183-‐87). Without neglecting the social and cultural approach of the first two parts, the third section of the book, “Genres, Authors, and Works,” brings the importance of literary genre to the fore. The four hundred and fifty pages of this section are distributed in four subsections: essay (191-‐280), prose (281-‐336), poetry by Eugenia Fosalba (337-‐510), and theater by Gonzalo Pontón (511-‐640). The four sub-‐
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sections are articulated in a perfect way to show the connections between literature, society, history, and the book market. Furthermore, the inclusion of constant references to original documents makes this volume a pedagogical tool for students and professors at the university level. Specialists on early modern literature and culture will find this new history of the Renaissance literature in Spain quite refreshing and compelling. Furthermore, in the closing section of the volume, comes perhaps the most solid proof of the collection’s commitment to make a groundbreaking history of Spanish literature. In the “Supporting texts” section, nearly one hundred and thirty pages of excerpts from historical documents and literary sources are made available to the reader. The curious student can profit from the calls embedded in the volume to go from the text to the documents at the end. The achievements of this new history of the Spanish literature in the sixteenth century are numerous and they serve as a guide for future works in this genre. For instance, a more explicit discussion about the selection of the different critical approaches to Spanish early modern literature in the USA, Europe, and Latin America would have been enormously enriching for the reader. Besides this remark, I highly recommend this book since it provides a sound and clear perspective of the complexities of our literature during the sixteenth century, with an emphasis on the social and dynamic nature of the arts.