La Cava: Romance and history in Corral and Cervantes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Though seemingly alien discourses, romance and historiography recurrently overlap with each other. However escapist the genre of romance often appears to be, its continual reinvention of itself is an implicit response to changing political and historical configurations. A conspicuous case in point is the transformation of romance in the early modern period. The early seventeenth-century work that is regularly thought to signal the obsolescence of chivalric romance and the emergence of the modern novel – Cervantes’s Don Quijote – is more than a penetrating critique of romance conventions. Cervantes is rightly credited with the brilliant use of romance constructs to expose the ongoing historical crisis of the Spanish empire. But the relationship between romance and history does not operate only in one direction. Several decades before Don Quijote, the historian Bernal Díaz presents Spain’s New World conquests and colonization as a continuation of the exploits of Amadís de Gaula – the protagonist of the work (discussed above in Chapter 11) that is often considered to be the first romance that is distinctly Spanish in origin. The long-standing interaction between romance and history in Spain begins well before Amadis de Gaula. Drawing upon a broad literary movement in Europe, a number of the earliest romances in Spain are "romances of antiquity," based on the legendary histories of early empires. The writers of such works evoke ancient historical figures and events in order to celebrate empowering myths projected upon the past by the medieval present, even while they invoke venerable Latin models in order to legitimate their own literary endeavors. In a sense, they present their own translation of learning (translatio studii) into romance as itself a testimony to the transfer of empire (translatio imperii). The formative translatio of the "matter of Rome" in medieval French romance is considered in detail in Chapters 2 and 3 of this volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRomance and History
Subtitle of host publicationImagining Time from the Medieval to the Early Modern Period
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781107337473
ISBN (Print)9781107042780
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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