Teaching Literature: Canon, Controversy, and the languageandliter LITERATURE Teaching Literature: Canon, Controversy, and the Literary Anthology Barbara Mujica Georgetown University

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  • Teaching Literature: Canon, Controversy, and the Literary AnthologyAuthor(s): Barbara MujicaSource: Hispania, Vol. 80, No. 2 (May, 1997), pp. 203-215Published by: American Association of Teachers of Spanish and PortugueseStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/345879Accessed: 28/09/2010 15:09

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  • TEACHING LITERATURE

    Teaching Literature: Canon, Controversy, and the Literary Anthology

    Barbara Mujica Georgetown University

    ABSTRACT: Anthologies have evolved from literary collections of the Middle Ages, reflecting changes in scholarship, attitudes, and pedagogical needs. Their use brings up questions of canon, content, pedagogical apparatus, types, and focus. Although postmodernist critics reject the notion of canonicity, anthologies con- tinue to be popular teaching tools.

    Key Words: anthologies, teaching literature, canon

    nthologies of Spanish and Portu- guese literature have been around for centuries. Ever since King Den-

    nis of Portugal (1259-1325) compiled the Cancionero de Ajuda, editors have been gathering together literary selections into collections. The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries produced the Canzionero portoghese da Vaticana and the Canzionere portoghese Colocci Brancuti, which contain cantigas de amigo and de escarnio, and the fifteenth produced the earliest Castilian poetic anthology, the Cancionero de Baena (1445), a collection of courtly poetry, which was followed by the more inclusive Cancionero de Estifiiga (c. 1460-63). These anthologies, which combined into one vol- ume songs and lyric poetry by several dif- ferent poets, or sometimes by just one, ini- tiated a long-lasting tradition. Early in the sixteenth century, ballads began to appear in collections, such as the Libro en el qual se contienen cincuenta romances, published in Barcelona around 1525. The Antwerp printer Martin Nucio launched a trend with his Cancionero de romances around 1548. Collections of poetry, and later of plays, were published throughout the Golden Age.

    Early anthologies, however, were quite different from those produced later on. In a study of the development of anthologies in early modern England, Barbara M.

    Benedict distinguishes between antholo- gies and "miscellanies." Anthologies in the modern sense are historical surveys of lit- erature, that is, compilations of canonical texts; miscellanies, on the other hand, are diverse writings pulled together from con- temporary, fashionable material (3). Benedict points out that the term "miscel- lany" comes from the Latin miscellane, meaning "a dish of mixed corn." A miscel- lany is a medley, an unordered gathering of writings on the same topic or of the same genre, rather than a selective compilation. Miscellanies were, and sometimes still are, created by editors with an eye toward sales. Their object was not to canonize certain texts or authors. In fact, early compilers sometimes solicited contributions from the general public and published them anony- mously (Benedict 7-9). The medieval cancioneros, like today's collections of writ- ing by women or minorities are closer to the miscellanies tradition.

    "Anthology," in contrast, is from the Greek word for "collection of flowers," a term implying selection. The very format of an anthology prompts canon formation, for while a miscellany invites short, discon- nected readings, an anthology invites pro- longed study. Anthologies convey the no- tion of evolution (the succession of literary movements) and hierarchy (the recognition of masterpieces). They create and reform

  • 204 HISPANIA 80 MAY 1997

    canons, establish literary reputations, and help institutionalize the national culture, which they reflect.

    Golden Age Spain did not produce true anthologies because it lacked two elements essential to the genre: a large, diverse vol- ume of printed literature and an extensive reading audience able to buy books and devote time to them (Benedict 14). It was not until the eighteenth century in England and the nineteenth in Spain that conditions were propitious for the flowering of the modern anthology. At that time, the compi- lation of texts began to pass from the do- main of booksellers and editors to that of scholars. With the professionalization of lit- erature, the anthology became a vehicle through which a cultural elite could incul- cate critical literary values. "As anthologies reprint material in different settings and according to different principles," writes Benedict, "they strip it of its historical and political contexts. Texts become dehistori- cized, depoliticized, and hence 'timeless,' immortal..." (6-7). Such works become in- stitutionalized into a canon that helps define the national culture. They are taught to school children, perpetuating the nation's sense of collective identity.

    In Spain, the Biblioteca de Autores Espafioles was instrumental in this process. Started in 1846 under the direction of Carles Aribau and Manuel Rivadeneyra, the BAE provided the most extensive collection of Spanish literature then available. It included collections of works representing a variety of writers and periods. By 1880, when pub- lication ceased for the first time, the BAE had published 71 volumes. After Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo took over as director of the series in 1898, the BAE made tremen- dous strides. Editions such as those of the Cr6nica general,' by Menendez Pidal, and the Libros de caballerias, by Alonso de Bonilla, contributed immensely to the na- tional consciousness of a Spanish literature. Taken as a whole, the series formed an ex- tended anthology, significant not only be- cause of its breadth and textual accuracy, but also because each volume included in- troductory studies and notes, thus making

    it an important tool for the scholar and stu- dent. In this sense, these books became the forerunners of the modern teaching anthol- ogy.

    The intellectual climate in late nine- teenth- and early twentieth-century Spain gave rise to a cornucopia of general and specialized anthologies, such as Men6ndez y Pelayo's Antologia de poetas liricos castellanos (1890-1908). Since the late eigh- teenth century, when August and Friedrich von Schlegel and then J. N. Baihl de Faber focused their research on Spain, German scholars had compiled anthologies. Follow- ing Btihl de Faber's Floresta de rimas antiguas castellanas (1821-25) and Teatro anterior a Lope de Vega (1832), both pro- duced in Germany, Wilhelm Junemann pub- lished Historia de la literatura espafnola y antologia de la misma (1921), also in Ger- many. Equally significant are the contribu- tions of the French Hispanist Raimond Foulch&-Delbosc, founder of the Revue Hispanique (1894-1933) and the Biblioteca Hispainica. As editor of the Biblioteca, Foulch&-Delbosc prepared or oversaw 80 critical editions of major Spanish works, including a Cancio-nero castellano del siglo XV. Early in the century, several antholo- gies of Latin American literature were also compiled, among them Miguel Rivas' El libro de oro de la literatura hispanoamericana: antologia de los mejores poetasyprosistas de nuestra habla, precedida de un resumen hist6rico de la literatura espafiola (1933).

    The spirit of investigation spurred the publication of a plethora of histories of Span- ish literature. Projects such as Men6ndez y Pelayo's Historia de las ideas esteticas en Espafia (1883-84) and Origenes de la novela espafiola (1905-10), as well as Menendez Pidal's numerous studies of the medieval epic and romanceros, contributed greatly to the development of the consciousness of a Spanish literary history. Historia de la literatura espaniola (1898), by the British Hispanist James Fitzmaurice Kelly, and Foulch&-Delbosc's Manuel de l'hispanisant (1920-25), prepared in collaboration with Barrau-Dihigo, became important sources

  • TEACHING LITERATURE: CANON 205

    of information for students. The anthologies of the late nineteenth

    and early twentieth centuries, produced by academics, were used as teaching tools in secondary schools and universities in Spain and also found a market among the cultured reading elite. Designed for Spaniards, they generally included introductions and notes but did not offer extensive guidance to the non-native student. As Spanish literature increased in popularity as a subject in Ameri