Datos personales

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London, United Kingdom
Investigadora en el Instituto de Estudios Medievales y Renacentistas de la Universidad de Salamanca y en el Centro de Estudios Clásicos y Humanísticos de la Universidad de Coimbra. Doctora en filosofía por la Universidad de Salamanca (Febrero de 2008). Autora de cinco libros: "Una revolución hacia la nada" (2012), "Don Quijote de la Mancha: literatura, filosofía y política" (2012) "Destino y Libertad en la tragedia griega" (2008), "Contra la teoría literaria feminista" (2007) y "El mito de Prometeo en Hesíodo, Esquilo y Platón: tres imágenes de la Grecia antigua" (2006). Ha publicado varios trabajos en revistas académicas sobre asuntos de literatura, filosofía y teoría literaria. En su carrera investigadora ha trabajado y estudiado en las universidades de Oviedo, Salamanca y Oxford. Fundamentalmente se ha especializado en la identificación y el análisis de las Ideas filosóficas presentes en la obra de numerosos clásicos de la literatura universal, con especial atención a la literatura de la antigüedad greco-latina y la literatura española.

No es que esto sea Ítaca, pero verás que es agradable

No es que esto sea Ítaca, pero verás que es agradable

Si amas la literatura y adoras la filosofía, éste puede ser un buen lugar para atracar mientras navegas por la red.
Aquí encontrarás acercamientos críticos de naturaleza filosófica a autores clásicos, ya sean antiguos, modernos o contemporáneos; críticas apasionadas de las corrientes más "totales" del momento: desde la moda de los estudios culturales hasta los intocables estudios "de género" o feministas; investigaciones estrictamente filosóficas sobre diversas Ideas fundamentales y muchas cosas más. Puede que hasta os echéis unas risas, cortesía de algún autor posmoderno.
Ante todo, encontraréis coherencia, pasión, sinceridad y honestidad, antes que corrección política, retóricas complacientes y cinismos e hipocresías de toda clase y condición, pero siempre muy bien disimuladas.
También tenemos la ventaja de que, como el "mercado" suele pasar de estos temas, nos vengamos de él hablando de algunos autores con los que se equivocó, muchísimos, ya que, en su momento, conocieron el fracaso literario o filosófico y el rechazo social en toda su crudeza; y lo conocieron, entre otras cosas, porque fueron autores muy valientes (son los que más merecen la pena). Se merecen, en consecuencia, el homenaje de ser rehabilitados en todo lo que tuvieron de transgresor, algo que, sorprendentemente, en la mayoría de los casos, sigue vigente en la actualidad.
En definitiva, lo que se ofrece aquí es el sitio de alguien que vive para la filosofía y la literatura (aunque, sobre todo en el caso de la filosofía, se haga realmente duro el vivir de ellas) y que desea tratar de ellas con respeto y rigor, pero sin perder la gracia, porque creo que se lo debemos, y si hay algo que una ha aprendido de los griegos es, sin duda, que se debe ser siempre agradecido.

jueves, 15 de junio de 2017


Today, I publish this post with my heart absolutely broken and after crying myself to sleep, if I could get some…, last night. Yesterday we woke up to the most terrible breaking news, the massive fire that completely destroyed a huge tower block in central London.
Every update was more and more terrifying… At the beginning I thought it could be another terror attack but then, after further information, we all realized that it was even worse, because we very sadly know that we are all living under a permanent terror threat, but there is a more insidious threat, a nastier one, the one that comes from the failures and careless of our own political systems, the ones that define our existence day by day.
What we saw yesterday was hundreds of people left to die in a fire trap build by the City where they live and work and pay taxes. It has been too many mistakes so far in every tragedy we suffered in this country for the last few months. Too many people reports and claims being ignored until it was too late.
I am a Doctor in Philosophy and I came to this country running away from the academic corruption in Spain, so famous that there is no need to say more, and I came to the UK because I thought this could be a wonderful place to start over. I still think it and I really love London and the UK. I was in the UK before, when I came to Oxford for an academic visit while working in my Ph.D, and it was absolutely great. These last years I have been teaching and working on the translation of my books into English, laborious process, and I have been very busy with a proper philosophical task, I have been watching, collecting experiences and analyzing every aspect of my new home, reaching some times terrifying conclusions.
I am assisting to all the Brexit process completely amazed, because I am convinced about Europe being maybe the only hope for the working and middle class here on the UK. I watch everyday the adverts on the British TV of loans and credits cards with rates of 99, 129 or even 135 per cent interest. This is only an example of something that in Spain, for instance, is unacceptable, a pure example of the greed that reigns here and the lack of respect for the people that keeps this country going, wherever they come from. Let’s not talk now about the pensions and other basic workers rights… If you come from other European countries you are unable to believe what the government consider a public pension here in the UK, it is absolutely ridiculous, and no one seems to be asking for any changes. They seem to want people being force to appeal to charity, instead of giving them what they truly deserve.
I go to my work everyday and everyday I come home with the knowledge of something being really wrong with the education in this country, the disgraceful conditions in which teachers and the rest of the staff must work, and the bitter feeling of a total lack of interest and support from the government. Once again, seems that they simply do not care. It seems that lots of the children of this country are not meant to attend any higher or further education, that seems to be the hidden and unspoken governmental plan for them. 
The UK is struggling with a class conflict and it is about time that the whole system begins to be questioned from their very deep roots. This country works on the base of a terrible dialectics, charity versus privileges. What are needed in this country are rights, respect, decency and quality of life. The education must be something else than prepare our young people to fill future benefit claim forms. And I say “our” because this is now my country, it is the place I have chosen to give away everything I have to offer, it is the country where I pay my taxes and insurance number contributions and it is a country full of amazing people that do not deserve the situations they are going through lately.
Nowadays, to be honest, scares me the most the turning point we are living in politics in some of the western countries, justifying racist and xenophobic behaviour and coming back to speeches that remind too much to those given in Europe in the 30s, we all know with which results... I saw the Prime Minister talking about making public lists of foreigner workers, like a kind of public shame for the ones that are hiring them. I though then that it was only the beginning and that so much more was to come. Very few people seemed to take it seriously by then. I saw the same Prime Minister talking about the Islamic extremism as defined by their fight against our freedom, our life style and our human rights tradition (completely agree), and I saw her on the very next day saying that it is time for the UK to leave human rights limitations and boundaries behind…, precisely what makes our societies so rich and precious. I thought we have learnt our lessons in Europe…, now I start to doubt it.
Something better changes. When you see a resident crying because they were systematically ignored in their claims for security at their homes, when you see people burning alive with no way out, when you see that the refurbishment of their building only was due to the fact of being an ugly block in a very posh area, when you see the council saying that they did the right thing and that they gave them a more beautiful environment to live (or to die) in…, it makes you sick, so sick that hurts.
London belongs to all of us and yesterday we all died a little inside that trap that so many called home once.
No more excuses and no more lies. Someone needs to answer for those that lost everything, and even when the solidarity and support of the people living in this city has been amazing once again, it is not the only response that you would expect from a European or western country. In Europe we expect governmental actions and support, authorities taking charge and responsibility for what happened to their citizens. This people deserve compensations, they deserve their rights back (unfortunately no one could never be able of giving them back their families and loved ones), they deserve official responses, and they deserve, as some voices are asking today, that the people responsible for this massacre responds for their actions, not in the way of a civil report but in a penal court being judged for major crimes against the people of this city. I do not know why the do not already started to take some of the people involved into the police stations. 
The people from the Grenfell tower deserve to be subjects of rights, no charity projects. No one can understand, in a major tragedy like this one, the lack of official responses and actions in a country with a long democratic history. The people in the streets are the ones that are taking the lead of the actions, giving the supplies, the means and the money needed to support the victims. 
These London families were yesterday the tragic subjects of a very dark drama, and Great Britain does not look so great today, with an official response that you could expect from an underdeveloped country that does not have any resources, but never from a country in Europe. Where were all the authorities yesterday, whoever that is getting paid with the taxes and efforts of every citizen? They should be there from the very beginning, all of them, showing their faces.
A country that mistreats the working and middle class and the weakest ones is always at stake (they do not have to be necessarily poor, at least not before this tragedy, as some journalists are saying, some of them are simply middle or working class, even property owners that bought their flats with their work and effort), it is a country going no where and in permanent risk of total break down. It is time for the people to demand their rights back, and a big debate should be following the tears that today we are all sharing.
Yesterday’s tragedy should have never happened here. It is time for everyone to stand out and say it, and it seems that everybody starts to talk aloud at last. These people, these families, these kids, were set up to die in the most horrible way, probably for the only reason of not living in a building glamorous enough for Kensington and Chelsea, as some sources are pointing out.
If we carry on like always, something is really wrong with this system. If the perpetrators of this atrocity are not prosecuted to the very last one, we are living in a massive faulty political system.

There are lots of things to say about so many aspects that should be deeply reviewed in this country but firstly, today, it was mandatory to talk about the horror we are suffering lately. We are experiencing the horror of realizing so many wrong things and assisting to so many unnecessary and terrible deaths. It seems more important for the government to close a deal to keep their own struggling power position going, rather than going to face the people they should be answering to..., but of course, Brexit comes first, because once the deal is done, we will be completely left alone on their hands. The last election showed clearly that this is not what the people want. Let’s hope that all this shameless will come to an end very soon, otherwise I do not see any light at the end of this dark path, tragically full of corpses.

sábado, 8 de octubre de 2016

Fate and freedom in Greek tragedy. Fragment

Medea and the Homeric heroes
Fragment of my Ph.D. “Fate and freedom in Greek tragedy” ("Destino y libertad en la tragedia griega"), deposited in 2007, presented in 2008, University of Salamanca

Euripides showed us in his tragedies the terrible responsibility and the casualties that come along with the citizenship and the state duties, moreover when someone can not find a way out in any of these figures. However, a tragic destiny can come hand by hand with dignity and heroism (as I argued before, not always happens this way), reason why Euripides gifted Medea with her own survival, as he did as well with Iphigenia. According the same principles he gifted his Agamemnon with our understanding, supporting his terrible facts with both strong political and moral reasons.

The main question is if his tragedies, those of enforcement of duty, finally resulted something so strange and far from Greek mentality that several scholars are not even able to recognize a classical tragedy on it. We find plenty of Medea’s kind in the Iliad, but one big difference from Homer: the Homeric heroes are males, she is not.

Achilles could have easily avoided Troy and enjoyed a long and quiet life. Hector was a family man, a keeper, a happy son, father and husband whose every need was fulfilled. He did not have any need of fighting Achilles and, consequently, dying for a lost cause. He risks it all: his life, his family, his country. He will lost it all. Why did he stay? Did the Fate fool him? Both, Achilles and Hector, knew their destinies, there are no surprising twists. Hector knows Achilles and the Greeks are going to destroy him, his family and his country. Achilles knew that Troy would mean a short, disgraceful but celebrated life (far from a quiet, happy but anonymous existence). In the Iliad, Fate and duty go hand in hand, no need of mysterious and impenetrable gods. Hector and Achilles know all the options, all their cards have been laid on the table for their knowledge, and they willingly choose to follow their duties, their political and military duties. They do what they do because the choose it. Actually, here relies the contrast among characters such as Paris and Hector. Paris chooses to be a lover not a fighter. He reveals himself as a coward on the battle field and following his feelings, not his duties, he jeopardizes his entire family and country.

However, Achilles has doubts, as Medea will have in Euripides’ play. Many times they are not quiet sure about doing what they know they must. Even Homer allows terrible anti-heroic words to be slipped out from Achilles mouth: he puts the human life over political and heroic obligations (IX, 401-405; 406-416). Patroclus’ reckless bravery reminds Achilles his debt with all Greece (XVIII, 97-106). Patroclus died because Achilles was not doing his job.

In an even worst situation we have Hector. His duty, his chosen destiny, means the destruction of his wife and son, as Andromache desperately reminds him (VI, 429-432). But Hector has already made up his mind, even when he despites his order of priorities (VI, 445-465). Hector disregards his love and his family because are on the way of his duty. To quit the fight is not an option, even when he knows the atrocious fate that is awaiting for his beloved ones.

Love is important in Homer, and so it is in Euripides (he puts in scene a marriage due to love, the love that Medea feels for Jason). Even in this point Euripides keeps it close to the poet. On the epic poetry, the tragedy does not relay on tricks, misunderstandings or ignorance, but on wisdom, on the knowledge about the miserable human condition, always on the edge (IX, 318-322).

Achilles neither does particularly like his life, but he does what he knows and what he must do. So does Medea. So Oedipus? I demonstrated that no. Oedipus is a puppet. He runs and runs to avoid his destiny, but everything in his life escapes to his control. Everything fools him. Does not matter how hard he tries. Medea is like Achilles, like Hector, not like Oedipus. “Medea” is a Homeric tragedy, hence the confusion of some of the critics. What if the main warrior in Homer, the most terrible killer, was a woman? That is what Euripides shows us. Medea murders her children in order to destroy her enemies, so did Hector. He leaves them to die while hurls himself into a lost battle, she killed them by herself.

Another clue about what Euripides owes to Homer is the archaic language that Medea uses, as well as the comparisons involving Medea and different animals. Instead the traditional comparison or women with bees, Medea appears as a lion, a proper Homeric and heroic metaphor. Only she deserves it from Euripides. Only she is the Homeric kind.

Medea and Achilles have totally accepted their places. Medea accepts her destiny as wife and mother when she became Jason’s partner and Achilles accept his destiny as a fighter, a Greek warrior. Likewise the both of them are going to quit their duties consequence of two acts of betrayal, Jason’s and Agamemnon’s acts. Only with the understanding of Medea under the Homeric pattern we can appreciate and notice her reasons and the freedom she achieves with her actions. On purpose, Medea abandoned her life to follow Jason as his partner. Also on purpose she will destroy him when he betrays her.

Let’s remember the lines 323-341 of the book IX of the Iliad. I am completely convinced that Euripides built Medea’s and Jason’s characters and relations following those of Achilles and Agamemnon. Jason and Agamemnon are a special kind of heroes: their victories and achievements are due to the intelligence and strength of others, Medea and Achilles. The same that Phoenix and Odysseus justify Achilles rage and understand him neglecting the fight (even when this is seriously debilitating the Greek army), Medea’s rage, actions and victims are totally justified by Jason’s violation of everything he sworn to her. Phoenix says it crystal clear (IX, 515-518).

I am no the first noticing this resemblance among Medea and the Homeric heroes, but  what I intend to demonstrate is that Medea is free only because her character is Homeric patterned, not democratic. For this reason Euripides needed a foreign woman. Medea is not Greek, but her culture does not seem so far from the Greek one (to bury the deaths, to honour the gods, to respect the vows). As Trojans and Greeks, they are different, but their cultures are pretty close. Even the moral of the story shows off Euripides’ accuracy to Homer: no human life is out of misery.

The freedom, in Greece, had been consolidated for a minority with the rise of the polis and its written laws. Those same laws swept and erased the old codes that raised the archaic Greek culture. During the democratic times, only citizens achieved freedom, and only the army, the new political army of citizens, granted the citizenship along with the political rights. In the tragic genre, only an author that believed enthusiastically in the Athenian system could have shown us the meaning of freedom. His characters fight to gain their freedom back. “Medea” is the tragedy of the lack and absence of political and personal freedom for a huge mass of the population, women for instance. Euripides articulates this tragedy through two different kind of heroes: the ridiculous Jason has it all only for being a male and Medea is a woman that decides to fight back because she has not been yet completely overridden by the democratic culture. She has not been educated in the moral and juridical Greek system, so she can return to the uses of the primitive world she came from. The Greek women chorus serves Euripides to demonstrate us how the polis has weakened women. They are not able to fight the injustice because they grew up in this system and this system has completely shaped their minds. A woman could not be free, because freedom was a man privilege in the old democracy. But Medea is not a democratic kind woman. Medea comes from other land, a legendary, a primitive land full of myths and heroes. A place where rules are still epic, non political, where freedom belongs to the winner and stronger, with no legal constraints.

Medea was always free. She was free when she decided to leave her original place, to betray her world and her family to helping and supporting Jason. She married him because she loved him. She was free when she embraced the democratic rules and way of life. She is free, at last, when she decides that she has enough of the democratic system. When Jason betrays and leaves her on her own, abandoned in a place where she does not have a way out, she decides to embrace again her primitive and pre-democratic values. When she plans her flight she does not behave as a beggar, she behaves as a warrior, as a political leader that must do her duty and look for political asylum because she is trapped in a hostile territory. Her criminal acts are her heroic duty, encouraged by a Homeric passion. She is fighting against a political system that wants to cancel her, she is a freedom fighter, and she is going to use her old weapons, the weapons that she decided to quit in order to fit in Jason’s world. To kill her children is her tragedy, so it was as well the tragedy of Agamemnon when he must sacrifice his daughter to Greece greater good. Equally it was Hector’s tragedy when he decided to abandon his family and to die by Achilles’ hands. They all will eventually destroy their families in order to accomplish their tragic and heroic duties, fighting for their countries, their laws, their rights and their freedom. This knowledge is the one that keeps them going, even if they are disgusted for the consequences of such a choices and obligations. Medea is not the jealous type, Medea is a woman that realizes that the democratic ways (Euripides is using Medea to send a message to Athenian democracy) are her conviction, so she turns back to the heroic ways, where the duty exceeds any love, even the dearest one. She does not destroy Jason because of jealousy; she destroys him because she must do it to regain her freedom. Because he took her to a place where she is nothing, where her rights are nothing, and he abandoned her in this place when he no longer needed her. And now, as a foreigner and as a woman, she realizes that there is nothing like freedom, that’s why in her soliloquy she contrasts the life of a wife with the soldier one, because she knows that she is now in a land where only soldiers can be free, not wives, even less a rejected wife. But being true that she can not possibly be a soldier, she is in fact a heroine, a warrior and a magician. That was her life before Jason and that is going to be the life she chooses again.

Williams is right (1993: 149-150) when he says that in Euripides, fatality has to do more with human actions, nor with mysterious and hidden necessities. Medea knows what she is doing, what she is loosing and what she is taking back. She acts according to her heroic duty, her past and her stolen rights. Barlow (1991: 44, 45) argues that the outcome of the play means a regression to the old gender stereotypes. I don’t think so. Euripides has Medea’s back till the end and to the last consequence of her actions, that is why he allows her to flee and survive all her enemies, giving her shelter in Athens. Euripides is using “Medea” to send a message to the Athenian democracy: Athens must protect Medea and look after her, because Medea is the image of an unfair political system. Medea is what Greece wants to forget, is the figure of all the people living in the polis like ghosts, with no say no rights and no future. Euripides, the philosopher, is warning Athens: Is not possible, not sustainable, to leave part of the population living as if they were not there. A democracy that gives up so many human beings unattended and unarmed is condemned because when there is no hope or justice for everyone, the barbaric demons of old and brutal days can rise again destroying everything, as Medea finally did. 

martes, 9 de agosto de 2016

Homenaje a Gustavo Bueno

Gustavo Bueno ha muerto, y su muerte ha sido llorada como creo que a él no le hubiese gustado: con falsos halagos y zalamerías que lo rebajan a ser uno más de esos a los que al morir se les tiran flores sólo por mera convención social.

Yo le conocí y empecé a tratar con 15 años. Era una ávida lectora de sus libros, le entrevisté siendo una alumna de Instituto, escuché tras la puerta en una de sus clases en la Universidad y, habiendo yo obtenido una de las más altas calificaciones en la Selectividad española, estudié filosofía sólo por él. Mi familia y yo comenzamos así una íntima relación que duraría años, y de la que guardamos muy gratos recuerdos. Fui con él a la televisión, a Sevilla, a petición de su esposa y de la Asamblea de huelga de Oviedo, y boicoteé mi carrera en Oviedo sólo por defenderle a él, por defenderle fanáticamente y a ciegas. Cuando fue acusado de plagiar a Gilbert Murray sólo yo contesté con un análisis filosófico de ambas obras, sin alusiones personales de índole alguna, solo ideas.

Tras la huelga de Oviedo me trasladé a finalizar Filosofía en Salamanca, donde quedé como investigadora para realizar mi doctorado, allí y en Oxford. Llevé, llevo y llevaré sus libros adonde quiera que voy. "El animal divino" es una de mi obras predilectas en la Historia de la Filosofía, si bien soy más crítica con otros de sus trabajos, como, por citar un ejemplo, su Ontología, que a mi juicio (y aquí creo coincidir con otras voces), debe más de lo que quisiera reconocer a los post-kantianos y post-estructuralistas. Como en "El rey Lear" yo siempre le admiré y quise, primero con la irracionalidad ciega de una joven estudiante, luego con el juicio sereno y más justo de una profesional que se Doctoró ya fuera del ámbito de la Escuela. Cuando publiqué mi primer libro vino mi expulsión. Yo no lo entendí y fue dolorosa. Ahora sé que el problema es que ni la independencia ni la iniciativa eran bienvenidas en la Escuela. Ellos no buscaban el sano y debido respeto que nace del conocimiento de sus obras y de otras obras de filosofía, ellos sólo buscaban la admiración ciega y acrílica que es hija de la ignorancia y que por tanto no conlleva respeto, valor o mérito alguno.

Bueno era brillante, pero no fue una buena persona y no presumía de ello. Las anécdotas que él contaba eran de su malicia, no de su bondad. La más mínima crítica, duda o independencia suponía la expulsión. Muchas mentes brillantes sintieron la presión de su bota y de las botas de sus elegidos. Todo esto sometió la Escuela de Oviedo a un proceso de selección ARTIFICIAL en la que para sobrevivir eran imprescindibles una fe ciega, una total ausencia de capacidad crítica y una absoluta ignorancia de todo aquello que no fueran los libros de Bueno, lo cual es lo más anti-filosófico que pueda imaginarse.

Cuando querían acabar con alguien no había límite en las bajezas. En mi caso, yo divulgué ya públicamente lo que uno de los responsables de la Fundación llegó a hacer con total descaro en una Corte española sólo para perjudicarme y para seguir fomentando uno de los mayores males de la Universidad española: el uso y abuso del trabajo de los investigadores, desprotegidos frente a los funcionarios que constituyen gran parte del gremio universitario en este país (y esto ya lo han criticado incluso desde fuera, aunque España sigue haciendo oídos sordos). Fomentó también la endogamia, el otro gran cáncer de la Universidad española, institución feudal que ellos consolidaron en Oviedo.

Bueno siempre dijo lo que pensaba y nunca dejó que ceremonias de cualquier clase, incluidas las mortuorias, cortasen su lengua. Nunca elogió a nadie por nada, y mucho menos por estar muerto, que es la nada más absoluta.

Pues he aquí mi homenaje: le admiré, le seguí, le critiqué, le cité y cito siempre para bien o para mal, para discutir sus errores, que los tuvo y muchos, o para elogiar sus aciertos, que los tuvo y brillantes, y para hacer lo que se debe hacer con todo filósofo, usarlo críticamente. El otro día, incluso, les sentí profundamente a él y a Carmen, y, aún con todo lo que han hecho para intentar perjudicarme, sentí una inmensa lástima por la pérdida que supone para su familia, con el agravante de que los han perdido a ambos a la vez, lo cual es desolador.

Gustavo Bueno, insisto, era brillante, supo aprovechar como nadie las lecturas que hizo y era también un diablo, muy simpático a veces, cuyas maldades fueron infinitas, maldades que nadie menciona y de las que él se sintió tan orgulloso. Esta canonización a la que ahora pretenden someterle no encaja con el Bueno que yo conocí ni con la vida de la que parcialmente fui testigo. Su mayor maldad y su mayor error fueron fruto de su mayor ceguera: en su frustrada lucha por el reconocimiento (merecía mucho más del que se le dio) sólo él podía ser brillante, sólo él conocía la verdad y, en consecuencia, hubo de purgarse la Escuela hasta que sólo quedaran en ella quienes fueran capaces de perpetuar el pensamiento sectario, no el crítico filosófico. Él mismo allanó el terreno para que otros arrojaran la sal que pondría fin a lo que él creó y que pudo ser muy grande.

Yo nunca olvidaré lo que vivimos con él y seguiré haciendo lo que siempre he hecho, usarlo como se ha de hacer con todo el que pertenece a la Historia de la Filosofía, que no es poco.

Sinceramente, espero que la tierra le sea leve, más leve y generosa de lo que él nunca fue con nadie.

miércoles, 23 de diciembre de 2015

Feliz 2016/Happy New Year

"Alguien dijo que las deidades no se dignan siquiera cuidarse de los mortales que pisotean el honor de lo inviolable. No era ése un hombre piadoso. La maldición se revela en los frutos de las ilícitas osadías de quienes se muestran más orgullosos de lo que es justo, cuando en exceso sus casas rebosan sobrepasando la medida óptima. Tenga sin daño la riqueza, de modo que pueda bastarle, quien por su suerte ha logrado la sabiduría, pues no es un baluarte la riqueza para el varón que por buscar la saciedad da un puntapié al grandioso altar de la Justicia, para hacerla desaparecer" (traducción de Bernardo Perea).


And others will say that the gods don’t care at all if men desecrate the holy.

Such words are sacrilege!
And now it’s obvious to all, what punishment is paid for reckless pride that flies over the proper measure –when the overweening greed sends men to war so as to clutter with wealth their already over-cluttered palaces.
All things in moderation is best.
Contentment in sufficiency is best.
These show wisdom and good sense.
And the rich man who kicks the altar of Justice away from his sight no longer has protection from Greed. No, that man is driven by the goddess Persuasion, destructive daughter of Infatuation who makes men work against their better judgement. (Translated by G. Theodoridis). 


Happy New Year, Feliz 2016

To Justice, to Wisdom, to Freedom... Keys of Love and Happiness.
Por la Justicia, la Sabiduria y la Libertad...  Llaves de la Felicidad y el Amor.

lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2015

On sense and reference

Often, the most obvious things are the ones that become forgotten in the years. Something obvious could be, in example, that two texts that have the same reference could not have the same sense, and it is the sense the one that defines the deep significance of a literary work. I understand the literary facet of a work as the one that possesses, as the natural and colloquial language, a wealth of significance possibilities (the same possibilities that philosophical and scientific languages intend to avoid because of the ambiguities that come along with it). It is not the fiction what gives the literacy to a work (what happens then with the poetry?), it is not a particular aesthetic value, however the use of a language full of senses, avoiding simple and overrated references, as the vanguards, staying away of the clear, strict and restricted languages that science and philosophy require to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible.
Greek tragedy and philosophy had both a clear political vocation, but the strict philosophical concepts crash with the wealth of meanings implied by its literary articulation, even when both genres are dealing with the same ideas and conflicts.
Literature sacrifices this conceptual clarity in order to get livelier ideas that better embody the concepts. What for the philosophers is a concept, for the writers is a moment in a life, a character, a feeling. The sacrifice of clarity allows a better understanding of the complexity of real life, in which is not always easy to isolate the concepts from the feelings, the ideas from the facts of existence.
It is mandatory, talking about literary hermeneutics, to have these considerations in mind, specially referring to the question of the intertextuality (conceived as a game of references and senses, the rest is simply plagiarism).
Two texts, as I was saying backwards, can have the same reference but completely different senses. Is the loss of the sense what made classical literature became a simple and common reference, beautiful but meaningless. The loss of the sense is the death of a literary work. It has a lot to do with the conception of literature as a doxographical collection, and implies the isolation of the literature of the time and place in which was created.
It is in the sense of a literary work where we can find the most valuable interpretations, because the sense in something pragmatic and Praxis requires for its understanding lots of aspects of reality, not only the textual ones.
Let’s take a look at a literary sample: the Quixote. In this novel, we have an explicit reference to the classical myth of the five Ages, focused on the Golden one. We find the whole myth perfectly exposed in Hesiod’s works, as well as other classic authors. The sense of this myth on Cervantes novel is, in my opinion, one of the capital questions to analyze the Quixote. One of the most common lectures about Quixote speeches is the one that assumes that Quixote is an insane man with some moments of sanity, moments as the one in which the Golden Age speech take place. This thesis, the madman with moments of sanity, implies the reduction of classical tradition to a question of only references without any further consideration about senses or meanings.
A mad but well educated man capable of sensible behaviour for a while that articulates beautiful and powerful speeches basis on classical tradition, that’s the way that most of the critics consider Quixote. But it is not so simple.
The Golden Age myth on Hesiod was a literary artefact to criticize the heroic mentality, a way to claim for new values: the vindication of work as a new way of justice and religious behaviour. With the decline of the aristocratic values (Hesiod adds to the myth an heroic age that disappears on Ovid), the hard and faithful workers are now the leading role. Hesiod was ending the Homeric mentality by making it part of the degenerative process described in the myth. Cervantes, that is my thesis, comes back to the Golden Age dissertation in a very special context: a moment in which classical mythology and literature had become a common and beautiful place, an exercise of erudition without sense, and Cervantes wrote against that in the prologue of the first part of his Quixote (which demonstrates that he was aware about this matter). Only in a time when classical tradition had lost its sense and meaning it is possible to think that Quixote’s speech about the Golden Age supposes a sensible break from his usual madness.
Cervantes, and Quixote, uses the myth in a very particular sense, a sense that could not be understood by a literary criticism that considered the myths as something beautiful but death and meaningless. Quixote uses the myth to justify his own modus vivendi: not a crazy one, however the way of life of an elder man that is fed up with his life, a bored man that decides start to play with everybody.
Cervantes sense of the myth serves to demonstrate that our misunderstanding of the classical myths makes us believe that speeches about the Golden Age as the Quixote one are perfectly sensible and a sign of sanity. Quixote goes against his time, but only for fun, being selfish and taking advantage of the rights he possesses. In other words, Quixote fools everybody with his speeches and Cervantes fools those ones that think that such speeches are serious, rational and sensible, further than simple ingredients of a cheeky and bored man’s game.
If the critics consider these speeches as a sensible break in Quixote’s behaviour is only because at Cervantes time it was very established that late-Roman conception of Greek mythology as a beautiful compilation of tales and nothing more than tales. The quotation of Greek mythology was associated with sanity and erudition because no one thought about the sense and meanings that Greek mythology possesses. No one doubted about the rhetorical use of Greek mythology, but anyone that knows deeply the classical tradition, and I think that Cervantes did, realizes that myths were about politics and philosophy. Myths were stories politically orientated, full of meaningful differences depending on authors and versions. Myths were stories of justification with a high element of ideology and political convictions.
As a justification of his life Hesiod wrote his version of the myth, the same that Quixote uses it as part of his game. Cervantes was counting on this loss of sense of the classical tradition to disguise the deep significance of his novel: the critic of the nobility, decadent, corrupt and only concerned about his own interests: playing, wooing girls that would be left behind eventually (the story of Dorotea) and, at last, fooling the hope and dreams of people like Sancho.
Quixote speeches are the excuse, the cynic justification of a game, a game that was brilliantly pointed out by Torrente Ballester. Only who thinks that literature is meaningless could accept that Quixote use of mythology is no more than healthy erudition.
But if the classical tradition possesses a sense, as I think, then is mandatory to wonder about this sense, and is mandatory to find out the meaning of the Golden Age myth in Cervantes novel.
If Quixote uses the myth to seriously justify his labour as a knight, it would be crazy, because even the Greeks did not consider the myth as a true story and the myth served them to express political concerns and ideas. On the contrary, if Quixote is playing a cynical game, as I think, it seems right to consider that the Golden Age speech, as the one about Laws and weapons, is only a playful tool that only makes sense in the context of his game. In other words, he is being naughty and cheeky all the time, and that is it. He is not crazy sometimes and sane when he makes his speeches.
From this point of view, I think that Cervantes was pretty sure about how the critics wouldn't be able of this interpretation of his novel. The prologue of the first part becomes this way even more facetious, because Cervantes himself foresaw the superficial interpretations that he was expecting about his novel. I insist, only a pedant can consider sensible to use the Golden Age myth in the Spanish 17th century.
A more careful interpretation of Cervantes works turns out that the author understood perfectly the classical tradition, and he reflected this tradition perfectly in the rest of his works, as he demonstrated with his conception of the tragic genre, so close to the Greek one and so far from his Spanish contemporaries.
Rare is the author that doesn't put any idea in his work and even the most apolitical and neutral is, in fact, expressing a particular conception of men and society. In literature, as in life, is impossible to be neutral, and here lies one of the highest interests of classical literature: its sense can never be closed and every new version and lecture opens the discussion again.
The prologue to the first part of Quixote is a powerful lesson about how to read literature, a sarcastic lesson about how not to read the Greek classics, a claim against the reduction of classic literature to a meaningless compilation of names, tales and common places. Cervantes knew that all this tales had a sense, and he uses it in his novel with a very clear intention, but not obvious: Quixote’s game helps Cervantes to show a very cynical attitude with Sancho as only victim. Sancho will be the one, with his generosity, that will turn the Quixote’s world upside down. That is what Cervantes shows in his novel and is something that Torrente could not explain in his brilliant essay: Why Cervantes put on scene this game? Which is the cause and objective of writing a novel about and elder bored man that decides to start playing? The answer was always a fundamental key to the interpretation of the novel, and the answer is Sancho. Cervantes did it for Sancho and for all the Sanchos of his time, real heroes of a decadent Spain, as Gabriel Celaya pointed out in one of his brilliant poems.     


miércoles, 28 de octubre de 2015

Sartre on freedom: reflections on philosophy and literature

We are going to analyse in this essay the complex relation between philosophy and literature. I would like to share my ideas about how the literary analysis can lend a useful hand to philosophical research and I am going to prove that focusing on Jean Paul Sartre's Nausea (1938) as well as on two of his philosophical works: Being and Nothingness (1943) and Critique of dialectical reason (1960). Sartre's works and plays are the perfect sample of what literature means to philosophy.

Regarding Nausea, the first thing to emphasize is the genre that the main character chooses as vehicle of expression: a personal diary. Roquentin starts writing his diary moved by the numerous loose ends of his life. Something is missing in his life and he is intending to sort this out writing, and writing about himself and his day by day life.By now, Roquentin is not doing anything but the analysis of an existence, his own one, the same that Sartre will make some years later with the general existence of the human being in his philosophical work Being and Nothingness, where he is going to approach an ontology of Heidegger's Da sein (being there), as consciousness, body and action.

Let's stop at this point for a while. What I am saying is that a diary, at last, is nothing else than a perfect ontology of a very particular existence. It could be said that a diary is a perfect self-ontology, and the only real difference between both kinds of works, the diary and the strict philosophical ontology, is a matter of perspective: in the diary, even in a fictitious or literary one, the subject of the analysis is a particular life, with a particular world and very particular relationships, past and history. Is this particular life the one that acts as subject as well as researcher, he is the subject of his own work. In the ontology the subject becomes something abstract and general, is not an existence with name and surname, is the general idea of the existence, the general idea of the world around and the general idea of the different relationships that this existence could experience in life. This is going to be absolutely essential.

In both Sartre's works, the "decision" has always a leading role, as well as the "choice", following the most pure Heidegger's tradition. Let's focus now in Roquentin. His personal situation can be understood as the result of a very particular choice, the breakup with a past that can't be faced by him. Many of the reflections present on his diary are about his past: his travels or adventures, his ex partner Anny..., sometimes the past become so alive that certain confusion can be created in the reader. Roquentin needs to deal with his past. Like in Heidegger's Being and Time, all human life is the answer to a choice, and the truth about our existence relies on these choices and decisions, on a human being's project or, at last, an identity. Is our existence as free will entities which allow us to organize our lives according to projects, choices and decisions. This, of course, is the theory that we can find in Heidegger, but is really that simple? If it is so clear, why Roquenting is going through the nausea? What kind of trouble could be experienced for a human being that lives his own life as a perfect outcome of his true essence (freedom)?

The problems appear in the real life, not in the philosophical essays, because the particular life comes along with an essential contradiction: we think about ourselves as complete free beings but we are living in a world in which very few things depend on us. We think ourselves free in a highly deterministic world. Our idea of the essence (freedom) crashes now with the experience of our existence, and this contradiction that only shows of in the particular experience of life is the very root of the Nausea. Something is wrong with the philosophical theories, Roquentin knows it, or better, Roquentin lives it. This contradiction leads Roquentin to write his diary, he can't find a sense, he can't find a conciliation between essence and existence, between freedom and life, and maybe analysing every detail he can find some way out, who knows.

Let's examine now the nausea, because we have different kinds with different associated feelings. The nausea reveals something to Roquentin, but depending on the emerging truths we have different nauseas. We have the nausea that precedes the discovering of the existence that comes along, after premature upsetting feelings, with an experience of happiness and adventure, all fulfilling emotions. He feels like a novel hero, he is happy.

The existence becomes an intuition that can be only caught in a feeling, as Sartre will explain years later in Being and Nothingness. Now he discovers that human existence means possibility, here comes the main truth. The human being is plain possibility. Our plans and dreams are possibilities and are always threatened by the weight of what really is, the weight of the others and the circumstances. Now appears a new nausea, the one that says that possibility is no necessity, the one that discovers that my existence, as plain possibility, is purely a spare one. Now the feelings are terrible, upsetting and gloomy ones. Now nothing seems real, because there is nothing necessary attached to my existence.

Roquentin is stuck between the past and the present, his literary work is about the past, M. de Rollebon. Rollebon is a death figure, he needs Roquentin to be kind of a living, and Roquentin needs him to escape from his life. The Roquentin's problem is that he is trying to fund his existence in something that is not there, the past, he is trying to avoid the mandatory necessity of acting in the present. The mankind is forced to act constantly in the present. Sartre's ethics are pragmatic, the main category is the action, and there is no way of hiding from this fact, so, at the end, Roquentin must act and must decide. These are his choices:

-To give up his research about M. de Rollebon. Now the existence is surrounding him. He is bidding for the present, and now the present is overcoming him.

-The close of his past.Now he needs to face the most important loose end of his life, and this is Anny. Does he want Anny in his life or not? Here or gone, but not both, Roquentin must make up his mind about her. After meeting her, he realizes that she is definitely settled down in the past, and he, on the contrary, has decided to move on and to live and act in the present.

His journey from the past to the present is finished now. The diary finish with a new choice, now his life is first and he is going to be the hero of his work, the protagonist of his writing.

Sartre in Being and Nothingness make a diagnosis, a right diagnosis about the essential contradiction between essence (freedom) and existence, a contradiction that is a real no way out in Sartre first philosophy, but lets look twice, Is that the same idea that appears in Nausea? I say no. In Nausea, Roquentin finds the solution to this contradiction. In Nausea, Roquentin realizes that he can act and decide and live, even when he can't design every detail of his life. Roquentin discovers that his freedom is not a fake freedom, is not a freedom that relies in a pure acting and deciding in the mere nothingness, his freedom is a real one, a freedom that must have placed in the real world and immersed in lots of different realities and existences. Roquentin overcomes the Nausea, he overcomes the existentialism, he overcomes Sartre's theories in Being and Nothingness. Roquentin make the journey from Idealism and existentialism to Marxism or, better, dialectical Materialism, even when Sartre is not ready yet to make the same journey in the philosophical theory. His philosophical work is already left behind by his play, five years before publishing.

In Nausea we have the way out when Roquentin realizes that his freedom resides in living and acting in the present, it is true that the present is never custom made, but we can tailor our own life even we can't change our circumstances. We must act in a deterministic reality, but we must and we can act. Our projects, dreams and actions can have sense in a world that is not under our control. We can control the way we move and act in the moment we are forced to live. As Roquentin says, maybe is possible to justify our own existence, maybe we can dare to be a little more happy...

Roquentin now understands: the nausea was a necessary stop in the journey from idealism to the design of an authentic existence, a present one, meaningless like all the eventualities, but full of meaning for ourselves and for the others, depending on how many of our projects we get to turn real. The ones that avoid or reject the nausea are living fake lives (professionals, lawyers, there are several samples in Sartre's novel), because they are living the dream of the idealism, they think about their lives in terms of the pure free will and unconditional choices. Lies and illusions. The nausea opens our eyes to the real freedom and the real choices, those that occurs in an otherwise deterministic world. In Nausea we have the overcoming of idealism, as I said, but we have as well the journey from ontology to ethics, from theory to action.The diary finish with a choice, with a commitment to action.
Nausea and Being and Nothingness are works from the same period in Sartre's philosophy, but in Nausea Sartre's idea of freedom is more similar to the one that he is going to explain in a 20 years after work: Critique of Dialectical reason (1960). This is an amazing anomaly, a wonderful one. How can it be that Sartre showed ideas in his 1948 play that he wouldn't be able to identify theoretically until two decades after? Looks like the literary approach (personal, biographical) to the idea of freedom put him on a path that he would not realize in theory till several years later.

At last, I have my answers. It seems that the relations between philosophy and literature are not only important regarding the impact in the public/receptor, as Plato, Aristotle and Schiller analysed before. The relations between philosophy and literature are something more essential, more deep, because the literature can really help to bring light to some of the darkest philosophical ideas. The difference between philosophy and literature is the difference between ontology and biography, between the being there and the existence of a named being one, even if is a fictional one. The literature not only makes more clear the philosophical ideas, moreover literature helps to shape philosophical ideas, and there is no better sample than the idea of freedom, as I will see in further articles, being this idea the one that I focussed on my Ph.D.

martes, 6 de octubre de 2015


In this article, I intend to present a comparative lecture of three of the most fundamentals versions of Prometheus Myth, the hero (or villain, it depends on the one you ask to) that stole the fire, as a technical resource, from the gods to give it as salvation to the mankind.

Our first stop must be Hesiod and his perspectives of the myth in "Theogony" and "Works and Days". In his works, the use of this myth serves to reassure the importance of Zeus as vigilante of Cosmos and Justice. Zeus itself embodies the order and the Justice and he gives us for granted the reward that comes from a quiet, hard-working and devoted life. Prometheus is a rebel that fooled the Gods. His attempt for improving human life by stealing and defeating the divine laws and powers only could bring suffering and disgrace (Pandora and the necessity of hard work). The technical knowledge only can bring misery and pain to the mankind. Prometheus is a real sample of the dangers that comes along with pride and impiety. Hesiod, as every other writer, was a son of his times. Technology had just begun its development and the poet is not able to face the changes that the new classes of artisans and traders was about to bring to Greece. Prometheus doesn't fit in the old school view of the world, he meant a violent irruption, embodying the radical new ways in politics and production, and the radical social and economic differences that came from those. He is seen as the root of every evil, and nothing  more evil than the hunger of knowledge and progress, moreover if this hunger breaks through undermining the gods will. Prometheus is the revolution of the technicians and Hesiod was right when he foresaw that this was going to lead to multiple alterations, alterations that, obviously, he disliked. Actually, the importance that the tyrants were about to give to traders and artisans will eventually change forever the western world, and this take us straight to the tragic version of the Myth, because when the revolution reaches the political structure, the tragedy becomes the most powerful Greek tool to look for the answers or, at least, to deal with the questions.

Only one play remains from the trilogy that Aeschylus dedicated to Prometheus (I defended in my first book the thesis of Aeschylus as original author of the "Prometheus bound"). We are now in the fifth century, in the climax of Athenian democracy and pan-Hellenic euphoria, after the Persian war. In Aeschylus age, the hesiodic fears became one of the main roles in the new political organization (is with the tyrants when the future democratic mentality starts to be shaped), and these new circumstances were asking for a new order: Democracy. Prometheus still is a rebel that took the wrong way but he is not evil, he is the solution, the answer, the new class fighting for the necessary changes that needed to be promoted. Prometheus faces Zeus absolute power, he faces a God that pretends mankind to remain ignorant, a puppet on the god's strings. Zeus is wrong, so does Prometheus. Both must learnt, that's the aeschilean dialectics: there is always a third path. Prometheus must learn that there is another way to grant the progress (not tyranny but democracy), a way supported by the law, not forced by revolutions, crazy, stubbing and suicidal way, as Prometheus is about to find out by himself. Zeus must learn indeed that his power requires a fair and moderate execution, or will come to an end (yes, even the gods can fall if they don't learn). Zeus and Prometheus must work together, the old world must deal with the new times in order to the foundation of a new order, a new state. This conciliation is on the basis of the new democratic system. Prometheus is only a mandatory stop in the journey, and democracy is going to configure everything like if was new, with unknown meanings and senses: gods, laws, myths, costumes, rights, freedoms, war...

Now that we have the political and tragic answer to the myth, is time for the philosophers to speak out their minds, here comes Plato and his "Protagoras". Prometheus stole the fire, it is true, but this was never the key to human survival, not at least in Plato's era, now the things  are complicated so far. Plato lived in a consolidated democracy and Prometheus is not as useful as he was any more. Now his heroism is anecdotal, he brought indeed the technical knowledge but this is not enough. The technical wisdom and the arts are now perfectly assimilated by the democratic system and the philosophers are in a rush to find the key of the social and political perfection, inside (women, slaves, foreigners, citizens) and outside the borders of the City-State (Sparta and  and other political civilizations as the Persians). In this situation, the discover of fire is meaningless and now the political skills are the leading and urgent ones. In the platonic play his point against Protagoras is not about Prometheus, both agree in his loss of significance. The dialogue evolves into a political discussion: the political virtues, and not the technical skills, are the ones that are going to compromise the survival of the Athenian world's conception. The way of teaching and learning such skills, the way of making everyone involve in the "polis", is going to be the root of the conflict between philosophers and sophists. The technical skills are essential, it is true, but this is not the problem any more. Its meaning and social relevance and economic utility is settle down and now they need to get the same equilibrium and balance regarding the status of the citizenship, its meaning, its importance, its scope and range. Is at this point where the analysis is more urgent, because the govern of the City-State is not threatened by the technical power, now the enemy is the very politics itself, inside and outside (the right to be citizen, the politics of other empires and cities). And the enemies are so powerful that even the tragedy starts to focus on that topics (like Euripides and his concern  about those ones that are not being assimilated by the democratic system, that is Media's tragedy).

The myth of Prometheus is about the technical assimilation in the Greek world and about the evolution of its treatment depending on the social and political stages. In Hesiod, Prometheus, as the technical skills, is seen with fear and distrust, as long as is something new and revolutionary. In Aeschylus is a tyrannical hero that needs to learn the democratic ways to become part of the system. In Plato, we can say that they had another problems at the moment.

Always that the technology evolves fast and in threatening ways, the men turn their eyes to this myth, that constitutes a powerful tool in the reflection about science and its social consequences. It is not strange that another great version of the myth came along in the nineteenth century by the hand of Mary Shelley, but in complete accord with the hesiodic version, just a modern update on the old epic lecture. When mankind faces technical advances and science, the first answer is always full of fear (Hesiod, Shelley), but as we learnt from the Greeks, it becomes the moment when we need to put ourselves together and to give an answer to technical and scientific knowledge: a political answer (Aeschylus) or a philosophical one (Plato). At the end, the men, as political and social animals, need to assimilate every progress into a deeper consideration, where our own success as society lies down.

Science and technology are not evil tools but are not the ultimate answer as well. These are only essentials elements of our evolution, but are not the end of our problems or the close of our history, political and social. As humans, the answer that we demand is always a political and philosophical one, because there is always a moment, as Plato taught us, when we realize that scientific and technical progress are mere tools that require a further discussion about its use and meanings, and there will be always a fundamental question that remains the same time after time, although the circumstances may change: how can we build a righter and fairer society besides all the tools that we achieved in our journey? Schiller told us that the most advanced use of science, reason and technical abilities does not come hand by hand with the most fine society. Often, the men search for salvation in the wrong places. We still think that science and technology are the ultimate answers and we forget about philosophy. Bur the history always takes us back to Plato and the necessity of wondering about our political existence. The most essential question is still asking from us to do our best, and is a question that never will be obsolete: how do we take every tool, every skill, every advance, every knowledge, in order to learn to live with each other avoiding the most senseless destruction and brutality.

sábado, 16 de mayo de 2015

Sobre los ataques a mi web, a mi FB y a mi blog

Ahora que las cosas están un poco más calmadas, quiero compartir los sucesos que han tenido lugar en el comienzo de este año. Jesús González Maestro y quienes le protegen (Rosa Navarro por ejemplo: en los vídeos que se encontraban en youtube sólo aparecían los testigos) decidieron emprender una batalla para impedir que toda la documentación acerca del juicio sea pública.

Primero atacaron los vídeos en youtube alegando derechos de imagen y privacidad...) y acto seguido Jesús González Maestro me envió un burofax en el que se me exigía retirar todo documento, vídeo o comentario que tuviera que ver con el juicio y me amenazaba con su equipo de letrados (son asombrosos: no lograron salvarle de lo que hizo pero consiguieron que no tuviera consecuencia alguna. Da gusto poder usar el dinero ganado como profesor de una Universidad pública para cometer acciones penosas y pagar luego lujosas protecciones). Se me daban siete días para retirarlo todo. Se atacaba mi Facebook, mi blog, mi página web y los vídeos colgados en youtube (que estaban siendo bastante populares y con muy interesantes comentarios). Se puede consultar toda la documentación en mi web. No se pierdan la carta del señor González, tras leerla sobran las palabras.


Desde aquí, deseo expresar mi más inmensa gratitud a la asociación Manos Limpias que se hizo cargo del caso y que envió una pronta respuesta al señor González. La web con toda la documentación sigue en marcha y a día de hoy ya no puede quedar ninguna duda de que yo dije la verdad, mis documentos y pruebas son clarísimos y en ese juicio lo último que hubo fue justicia y por eso hay mucha gente interesada en que se tape lo ocurrido (empezando por el acusado y siguiendo por sus testigos). En fin, quizás algún día España cesará de ser ese pedazo de tarta que se reparten entre sí distintas mafias... Así lo espero. Mientras tanto, sólo nos queda seguir luchando para que nadie pueda ignorar lo que ocurre.

martes, 7 de abril de 2015

Greek Tragedy and Spanish Golden Age Theatre: Reading the tragic genre Part four


On the translation of “El medico de su honra” by Gwynne Edwards

“Similarly, Brenan’s suggestion that Calderon approved of Gutierre’s murder of Mencia can be shown to be erroneous, for what he shows us is the process whereby a man who is basically good and loving is destroyed by an inflexible ideology” Edwards, Introduction, xxi.

Edwards is one of the scholars that consider a mistake the thesis that I held in this paper: that Calderon supports the crime. The question is that, with the purpose of defending Calderon from this mistake, the critics are manipulating the play, and Edwards translation is the perfect sample.

On the following lines I quote the Spanish text, the Edwards translation and a completely literal translation that follows the Spanish words. As anyone can see, the textual evidences that can be argued against Edwards view of the play, are completely vanished in his translation: lines that disappear, words that change substantially, the sense of the play becoming another… Edwards, by the way an excellent translator, seems to do a reinterpretation about some aspects of the play that can sustain other thesis (that no supports his own reading). 

In his version, his English version, Gutierre’s jealousy is not vile, despicable or wrong, no; he is only a man that gets worried about his honour.

In his version, Mencia’s blood is guilty, and Leonor accepts Gutierre in the condition of that he killed a guilty woman, and, of course, she doesn’t say that the crime doesn’t frighten or amazed her… These few changes modify completely the sense of the play: not even Calderon dares to say that Mencia’s blood is guilty; his vision of Gutierre is not so naïve as the one of his defenders.

Spanish text
Edwards translation
Literal translation

Gutierre, mal informado / por aparentes recelos, / llegó a tener viles celos / de su honor;


Rey- Dásela, pues, a Leonor, / que yo sé que su alabanza / la merece.

Don Gutierre- Sí la doy. / Mas mira, que va bañada / en sangre, Leonor.

Doña Leonor- No importa; / que no me admira ni espanta. /

Don Gutierre- Mira que médico he sido / de mi honra: no está olvidada / la ciencia.

Doña Leonor- Cura con ella / mi vida, en estando mala. /

Don Gutierre- Pues con esa condición/ te la doy [...]. (vv. 2940-2951).


My master is, as you well know, Aman suspicious of his honour, and of hiswife, Mencia, in particular.


King: Then give your hand to Leonor. Her reputation merits it.

Gutierre: So be it, with the reservation that It has been cleansed with guilty blood.

Leonor: On that condition I accept it.

Gutierre: Do not forget. I have already been

The surgeon of my honour. It is

A skill, I promise you, that lasts forever.

Leonor: If I am ever sick, Gutierre, do

Not hesitate to cure me.

Gutierre: Then here’s my hand, my dear”.


Gutierre, that handles wrong information, became despicably jealousy by his own mistrust and suspicious mind about his honour


2940 King: Give it, then to Eleanor,
I know that she is worth it.

GUTIERRE: Yes I give it.
But look, which is bathed
in blood, Leonor.

ELEANOR: It doesn't matter;
not admire me or scares.

GUTIERRE: Look that I have been the doctor
of my honour.It is not aforgotten

LEONOR: Cure with it
my life in being bad.

 GUTIERRE: On  that condition
I give it to you.


1 Many authors exercise a political definition of the tragic genre. Only to mention, by way of example, the following: Jaeger (1933 / 1954: 248), Murray (1940 / 1954: 29), Luis Gil (1988), Carlos García Gual (1988: 182-183), Adrados (1992: 4, 5), Trapp (1996: 82), Pelling (1997: 224), Parker (1997: 146), Vidal-Naquet (2001 / 2004). I refer, for a detailed justificaci6n, to the first chapter of Varela Álvarez (2008).

2 While Lope himself considers as a tragicomedy his play “the Knight of Olmedo”, “The punishment without revenge” was conceived, I insist, by the author as a tragedy. The difference would hinge on the non-fictional origin of the story, although the author does not hesitate to modify following the first Aristotelian principle which differences the history from the tragedy according to this judgement: the History tells the particular facts while the Tragedy tells the facts as should have been. Lope is moving between the new and old art, between the comedy and the tragedy and what make the difference and serves for distinguishing between tragedy and tragicomedy is not the level of the characters, or the outcome of the play, but the historicity of the argument. It's a historic fact, taken from written sources; this is something that Lope makes clear. On the contrary, this kind of historicity is not found in plays as “The Celestina”, for example». (Ynduráin, 1987: 148). (Translation by Violeta Varela Alvarez).

3 The dedication and the preface do not appear in Kossoff edition (1985).

4. For a discussion about the sources of “the punishment without revenge” I refer to Kossoff (1985: 20 and ff.).

5 “If the protagonist, before facing his own death, has to humbly regret about all the mistakes in his life, he can be a Saint, but not a tragic hero ". (MacCurdy, 1989: I, 180).

6 It has been pointed out how such tragedies, which would be after the undermining of revenge, are connected with the reign of Felipe IV and his interest for loving affairs, as well as the adjustment to the courtly taste. (Ynduráin, 1987: 150).

7 I entirely agree with MacCurdy (1989: I, 178) and the thesis that emphasizes the incompatibility between Catholic values and the tragic perspective: « Catholicism, according to several critics, is mainly the value that avoids the tragedy, because the true tragic experience is not going with the essential optimism of the Christian faith».

8 I disagree, consequently, with Ynduráin (1987: 151): [...] It seems that there is a progression from revenge to punishment, through discretions, secrets and prudence: the one replaces the other, with all that it implies. Lope, is even pleased to lead the reader or listener into a revenge fact to, at the last moment, with one master swerve, frustrate that expectation and replacing it with an act of punishment, new and different, an unexpected outcome in any case.

9. Actually, Lope would have been pointed out, on more than one occasion, as the responsible for the extinction of the tragic genre in Spain. «On the contrary, Agustín Montiano, in his “discourse on the Spanish tragedy”, does not hesitate to claim for the Spanish a natural inclination to the tragedy: "the cause of this tragic, serious and great inclination, would be discovered in the Spanish mentality, that naturally prefers the tragic circumspection;»» The pity that excites; the authenticity that exercises; the benefit that produces and the rationality that keeps; opposite to unsuitable triviality, the insensitivity of the soul, the impossible facts, the useless activities, the disruption of the speech: and this, not only when it is possible to discern what’s best, but even when the tendency to goodness is hidden». Montiano, inveterate classicist by the way, considers Lope de Vega the responsible for the denaturising of the Spanish propensity to tragedy» (MacCurdy, 1989: I, 176). Same opinion would be shared by Martínez de la Rosa (apud MacCurdy, 1989: I, 177).

10. I do not believe that the outcome of the play can be considered ironic (O'Connor, 1982: 788-789). The end of the play is a happy ending and is even facetious. The attitude of Leonor, the King and Gutierre communicate an absolute satisfaction about the new marriage, and the young woman, that feels confidence in her own virtue, doesn’t seem to fear anything about her future marriage with a man who is able of such a brutal act.

11 Life, in the tragic experience, is an insignificant value, but a value after all. If life is not absolutely essential, its sacrifice would be meaningless. 

12 we disagree, consequently, with O'Connor’s opinion regarding to the treatment of the honour in the play: «In some way, he demonstrates [Calderon] how the honour is divorced of the virtue, its traditional source, as he describes what kind of resorts the man will use to protect its place in the social hierarchy. [...] In “The doctor of his honour” Calderon is interested more in the human problems that underline the obvious troubles caused by an unreasonable consideration of the honour» (1982: 785).

13 O'Connor says (1982: 784): “The Prince Don Enrique behaves boldly, without worrying about the problems that he provokes to Mencfa. He abuses of his position and of his royal powers, he refuses as well to consider the situation that she describes... Mencia shall be the innocent victim of this egomaniac prince, although she had already been before when she was forced by her father to marry don Gutierre». It is true, but this fact does not mean the existence in the play of any sort of social critic. Enrique's attitude serves Calderon for, through the figure of the King, the demonstration and enunciation of a doctrine in which the honour is the only fundamental only value.

14 «In this paper I propose to broaden the traditional conception of the drama by the inclusion, basically, of other problems: those that concern the relations between men and women» (O'Connor, 1982:783).

15 We must remember that Leonor refuses to marry don Arias because she believes that this union could serve as a confirmation to old suspicions (vv. 1755-1784).

16. Again, we disagree deeply with the interpretation of O'Connor (1982: 786-787): "At the end of the work, the marriage between Leonor and don Gutierre emphasizes the victimisation of women by men." We have just seen the sacrifice of Mencia due to the honour- and with his hands already bathed in her blood, the high priest of honour extends the link of marriage to Leonor, previous victim and, in this terrible scene, likely candidate for a new victimisation. [...] With the murder of the innocent Mencia and the victimisation of the naive Leonor, Calderon reveals the acceptable traditions of his society; a society established on a false and destructive pattern, the need of the subordination of women to the male power and privilege. To carry out ineluctably with this debt of honour, serves Calderon to reveal tacitly those horrible assumptions of a society dominated and driven by men».
I do not see anything naive in the behaviour and the character of Eleanor: is vindictive (she wants that the evil caused by Gutierre reverts in himself VV. 1007-1020); It is clever (knows that a marriage with don Arias will not return her previous social position); It is cruel (she tells to Gutierre, in the face of Mencia’s corpse, that if she acts badly, Gutierre can apply the same medicine to her): she takes an approving look on the murder of Mencia (Mencia introduced doubts in the honour of her husband and she deserved the punishment, but Leonor, on the contrary, considers herself as a virtuous woman whose dishonour was due to a misunderstanding and for this reason she accepts Gutierre with the confidence possessed by those that believe themselves better); and, finally, she does not feel any pity or sorry for Mencia (she couldn’t care lees and she says it clearly: the crime does not frighten or amazes her, as well as she is not worried about the bloody hands of her future husband). Calderon performances for sure a horrible act, but it doesn’t mean that he makes a critical approach. Finally, it is true, as O'Connor says (1982: 787), that Leonor represents the exposed situation of a woman without males in the family that can protect her, but it is not true that Calder6n intends to denounce the indefensi6n of Leonor: what Calderon shows us is that even the more humble and unprotected vassals can expect relief and protection of their King.



For the translations:
Lope de Vega, Three Major Plays, Gwynne Edwards, Oxford University Press (2008).
Calderon de la Barca, Plays: one, Gwynne Edwards, Methuen Drama (2000).

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