The picaresque, translation, and the history of the novel
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AuthorPérez Fernández, José María
TranslationPicaresqueHistory of the novelEnglish prose fiction
Pérez Fernández, J.M. The picaresque, translation, and the history of the novel. En: Curso "La comunicación intercultural eurasiática en las condiciones del proceso de Bolonia", Centro Mediterráneo (Universidad de Granada), 24-28 junio de 2013. [http://hdl.handle.net/10481/28072]
The picaresque novel as a generic category originated in the Spanish sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It then spread all over Europe, exerting a particularly important influence towards the end of the seventeenth, and above all the eighteenth century in Germany, France and England. Given its status as one of the founding narrative discourses of modernity, it appears inextricably tied to the emergence of the novel: hence its importance when it comes to an assessment of the origins and evolution of certain varieties of European late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century prose fiction. The fate of the picaresque after the eighteenth century is subject to controversy, but there is no doubt that its influence and presence diminished. Like the concept of the picaresque itself, the role of the international picaresque in the development of prose fiction must be studied in parallel with different national traditions that addressed similar concerns and responded to the same early modern stimuli. The picaresque crystallizes in its plots and in its language concerns and paradoxes that are inherently modern and transnational. These include the moral, political, and economic foundations for the values that regulate the relations between the early modern self and society. The main concerns of the picaresque include poverty, vagrancy, crime, prostitution and in general the struggle of individuals for material survival and social legitimacy in a social environment which upholds lofty ethical standards as it also requires the reckless pursuit of self-interest for mere survival. Its autobiographical, first-person narrator also brings to the foreground the paradoxes of narrative representation, and the intricate strategies that the picaresque devices to verbalize all these concerns constitute founding moments in the history of the novel. Students and researchers will find that, after a general survey of the existing scholarship, the best model for an approach to the picaresque is one that contemplates it as part of a larger network. This heterogeneity requires an interdisciplinary approach that must include literary theory and semiotics, the history of translation, cultural and gender studies, as well as social, political and economic history.