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Jill Robbins, Chair 150 W 21st Street, Stop B3700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4936

Spring 2004


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44010 W
1:00 PM-4:00 PM
Batts 207

Course Description

The picaresque mode, as Peter N. Dunn has characterized it, contrasts a world of naïve trust and a world of watchful suspicion. This schizoid mentality represents a conscious sociological pronouncement by the authors of picaresque texts. Whether we characterize this viewpoint as socially modernizing, or sociologically cynical, it can be contrasted with the mentalities of personages in a variety of texts and genres that could be characterized as idealistic, in that they envision society as a universe governed by the rule of amity. Thus, Lázaro's autobiography, beginning with orphanhood and ending with a false marriage, loosely parallels and indeterminately parodies the career of the literary knight errant, a figure who complies with the ethical standards of the pastoral mode. While literary knights and shepherds embody idealism, whether expressed as passion or as altruism, the pícaro cannot permit himself the luxury of scruples or infatuation. He faces head on what the pastoral character evades: the insidious hazards of the marketplace, the pitfalls of social stratification, the perils of a deteriorating polity—in short, the downside of social modernity. This is not to say that social modernity automatically entails the expedient amorality of the pícaro. Only that it implies the consciousness of the problematic nature of morality. The pícaro, an alienated and solitary social climber, depends on the state and on an economy over which the state presides. His philosophy is the very opposite of courtesy, of gallantry, of chivalry, of amity. The latter, in many literary texts, is more than a code of etiquette. It is an idealized mode of living and thinking which regulates a utopic traditional world in which solitude is voluntary, in which etiquette is not merely a style of life, a matter of decorum, but a principle of social cohesion. For the pícaro, amity and its associated behaviors are status-affirming manners to be affected in pursuit of social mobility; for knights and shepherds, they are codes of honor. The pícaro is on his own, even amidst urban hordes, while the knight or the shepherd, even in solitary quest or on nocturnal watch, are ethically and economically autonomous, yet, paradoxically, enveloped within and guarded by a moral social reality. The pastoral, with its glorification of fellowship and service, steadfastly embodies ethical, political, and economic traditionalism. This credo could be defined as a sociological panic, a spooked self-awareness expressed through a nostalgic retreat into a retro-visionary regeneration of lost innocence. The sociological sensibility personified by the pastoral fears the approach of forces destined to drag the world across a dreaded boundary. The portrayal of an idealized social tradition, in other words, can only be conceived and accomplished by a modernity living in denial. This reactionary ethos emerges and crystallizes as a class-conscious imposture shielding against encroaching bureaucracy, precarious economy, invidious social mobility, codified legality. This set of attitudes, justifying and encouraging real-world hegemony and social predation, provokes, at the same time, resistance and disavowal in the form of political skepticism and of literary satire and parody.

Grading Policy

1 term paper, 15-20 pages (longer papers welcome): 50% 1 20-30-minute oral report ............ 15% 1 20-30-minute topical presentation ........ 15% 1 500-word précis for each major assigned text . . 20%


INCLUDES A SUBSTIANTIAL THEORETICAL COMPONENT (SEE “TEXTS”, BELOW) PRIMARY LITERARY TEXTS: 1. Lazarillo de Tormes 2. Mateo Alemán, Guzmán de Alfarache 3. Cervantes, “Rinconete y Cortadillo” and “El coloquio de los perros” 4. Quevedo, La vida del Buscón 5. Le Sage, Gil Blas de Santillana (versión del P. Isla) 6. Electronic reader of relevant selections. THEORETICAL & LITERARY-HISTORICAL WORKS: 1. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World and The Dialogic Imagination 2. Brooks, Peter. Reading for the Plot. Design and Intention in Narrative 3. Dunn, Peter N. Spanish Picaresque Fiction 4. Norbert Elias. The Court Society 5. Maravall, José Antonio. La literatura picaresca desde la historia social: (siglos XVI y XVII) 6. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression


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