860: The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes by Steven Wagschal

by Gerard


860.9: Wagschal, Steven. The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2006. 191 pp. ISBN 978-0-8262-1696-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 860: Literatures of Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • 860.9: History and criticism

Spanish literature from the 16th and 17th century is some of the most intriguing, most fun, and most exciting that has ever been written. New techniques, new philosophies, and new cultures all combined to form works that revitalized the populace and helped to expand imaginative writing. Steven Wagschal’s Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes focuses on a few writers of this timeframe and how they interpreted both the cultural and emotional landscape of the region. His main focus is on the titular emotion of jealousy. Jealousy in Spain was different from that in other regions in Europe. It was a widely-varied, highly refined topic, so much so that Lope de Vega (1562-1635) wrote six whole plays with jealousy in the title. Oddly enough, Wagschal uses philosophical frameworks from Descartes and Freud to examine the Spanish works. He does, however, wisely incorporate the works of Valencian scholar Juan Vives as well. While Wagschal’s theses are varied, they do take into account the beginning of Spain’s decline as an empire, new humanist teachings, and a more detailed reading of the works of Cervantes, Vega, and Luis de Gongora y Argote.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any serious lit-crit, but this one was a good way back into the field. Wagschal’s writing is crisp and insightful without being drowned in jargon. He does a good job in parsing out the various shades of jealousy during this period of Spanish writing. If you’re a fan at all of Cervantes and his works, then this one might form a sort of companion piece to get deeper into the field. For me, I had not heard of either Vega or Gongora, so it was quite an immersive and educational experience. It’s probably not on the top anyone’s to-be-read list, but it’s one of those books that will give you back the effort you put into it.