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Humanities 2017, 6(2), 28; doi:10.3390/h6020028

“Against the Dog Only a Dog”. Talking Canines Civilizing Cynicism in Cervantes’ “coloquio de los perros” (With Tentative Remarks on the Discourse and Method of Animal Studies)

Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Academic Editor: Joela Jacobs
Received: 1 January 2017 / Revised: 17 April 2017 / Accepted: 19 April 2017 / Published: 13 May 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Narratology)
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Abstract

Deriving its designation from the Greek word for ‘dog’, cynicism is likely the only philosophical ‘interest group’ with a diachronically dependable affinity for various animals—particularly those of the canine kind. While dogs have met with differing value judgments, chiefly along a perceived human–animal divide, it is specifically discourses with cynical affinities that render problematic this transitional field. The Cervantine “coloquio de los perros” has received scholarly attention for its (caninely) picaresque themes, its “cynomorphic” (Ziolkowski) narratological technique, its socio-historically informative accounts relating to Early Modern Europe and the Iberian peninsula, including its ‘zoopoetically’ (Derrida) relevant portrayal of dogs (see e.g., Alves, Beusterien, Martín); nor did the dialog’s mention of cynical snarling go unnoticed. The essay at hand commences with a chapter on questions of method pertaining to ‘animal narration’: with recourse to Montaigne, Descartes, and Derrida, this first part serves to situate the ensuing close readings with respect to the field of Animal Studies. The analysis of the Cervantine texts synergizes thematic and narratological aspects at the discourse historical level; it commences with a brief synopsis of the respective novellas in part 2; Section 3, Section 4 and Section 5 supply a description of the rhetorical modes of crafting plausibility in the framework narrative (“The Deceitful Marriage”), of pertinent (Scriptural) intertexts for the “Colloquy”. Parts 6–7 demonstrate that the choice of canine interlocutors as narrating agencies—and specifically in their capacity as dogs—is discursively motivated: no other animal than this animal, and precisely as animal, would here serve the discursive purpose that is concurrently present with the literal plane; for this dialogic novella partakes of a (predominantly Stoicizing) tradition attempting to resocialize the Cynics, which commences already with the appearance of the Ancient arch-Cynic ‘Diogenes’ on the scene. At the discursive level, a diachronic contextualization evinces that the Cervantine text takes up and outperforms those rhetorical techniques of reintegration by melding Christian, Platonic, Stoicizing elements with such as are reminiscent of Diogenical ones. Reallocating Blumenberg’s reading of a notorious Goethean dictum, this essay submits the formula ‘against the Dog only a dog’ as a concise précis of the Cervantine method at the discursive level, attained to via a decidedly pluralized rhetorical sermocination featuring, at a literal level, specifically canine narrators in a dialogic setting. View Full-Text
Keywords: Cervantes; Novelas ejemplares; El coloquio de los perros; Novela del casamiento engañoso; Siglo de Oro; Early Modern Age; cynicism; Diogenes of Sinope; Montaigne; Derrida; Animal Studies; rhetoric; animal narration Cervantes; Novelas ejemplares; El coloquio de los perros; Novela del casamiento engañoso; Siglo de Oro; Early Modern Age; cynicism; Diogenes of Sinope; Montaigne; Derrida; Animal Studies; rhetoric; animal narration
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Mayfield, D. “Against the Dog Only a Dog”. Talking Canines Civilizing Cynicism in Cervantes’ “coloquio de los perros” (With Tentative Remarks on the Discourse and Method of Animal Studies). Humanities 2017, 6, 28.

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