Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Cervantes' Carnivalesque Ship of Fools in the Viaje del Parnaso

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2009), 86, (4), 503–520.

Abstract

Sebastian Brant's Das Narrenschiff (1494), or Ship of Fools, with its satirical galleries of fools in their vain quest for a utopian Narragonia, or Fools' Land, launches a vogue of paradoxical folly that found safe haven in numerous ports flanking the vast mare magnum of the literature on folly. Deeply rooted in the classical and medieval tradition of satire, the literary concept of paradoxical folly is lucidly articulated by Erasmus of Rotterdam in his Praise of Folly (1511). Ever the preferred tool of the satirist, and etymologically denoting that which is contrary or counter to (para) conventional opinion and expectation (doxa), paradoxical folly is intricately connected to the burgeoning motif of the ship of fools, which may be deemed a literary subgenre within the tradition of paradoxical folly and which serves as a venue for the expression of folly through irony, parody, and humour, all literary devices that aim to subvert and question established convention. Cervantes' Viaje del Parnaso, intricately tied both to the literature on paradoxical folly and to journey narratives, may well be the culminating and most significant port of arrival in the long trajectory of the counter-voyage traversed by the ship of fools subgenre.

Das Narrenschiff (1494), o La nave de los locos de Sebastián Brant, con sus viñetas satíricas de locos en busca de una utópica Narragonia, o bien tierra de locos, lanza una boga de locura paradójica, la cual encontró amplio amparo en el entorno del mare magnum que constituye la literatura de locos. Arraigada en la tradición clásica al igual que medieval de la sátira literaria, el concepto de la locura paradójica se articula lúcidamente en El elogio de la locura de Erasmo (1511). La locura paradójica etimológicamente representa todo aquello que va a contrapelo de la opinión convencional, además de entroncarse con el subgénero de la nave de los locos, el cual se basa en los motivos literarios de la sátira, la parodia y el humor carnavalescos. En su Viaje del Parnaso (1614), Miguel de Cervantes enmarca su sátira burlesca dentro de la fecunda tradición de la literatura de viajes al igual que de la literatura paradójica o de locos, así haciendo de su obra el sumo emblema de dicha tradición en letras hispánicas.

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Chiong-Rivero, Horacio