Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Zoraida's White Hand and Cervantes' Rewriting of History

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2005), 82, (5), 569–586.

Abstract

The intercalated 'Captive's Tale' (Don Quijote I, 37–42), has been analysed from a variety of perspectives: issues of verisimilar fiction and historical truth, the armas y letras topos, Cervantes' own experience in captivity, Moorish culture and its representation, and, more broadly, Christian versus Muslim ideology and empire. The current interest in hybridity — in racial, political, and religious terms — provides an instructive angle from which to contemplate the dazzling polysemy of this intercalation, at the same time gesturing toward a model for understanding the hybrid nature of the Quijote as a whole. Cervantes invites us to consider the complex hybridity constituted by the Mediterranean world as he initially presents the Muslim woman Zoraida and her anatomically mysterious white hand. In this densely conceived tale, Cervantes stages the insoluble tensions of a hybrid identity in terms of subjectivity, race, politics, and religion — the epistemologically challenging 'laberinto de muy difícil salida'.

La historia intercalada del cautivo (Don Quijote I, 37–42) ha sido analizada a través de diversos puntos de vista: desde cuestiones de verosimilitud y verdad histórica, hasta el topos de armas y letras, la propia experiencia de Cervantes como cautivo, la representación de la cultura morisca, y, de manera más general, el conflicto entre las ideologías cristiana y musulmana y el imperio. El interés actual por la hibridez — ya sea racial, política o religiosa — ofrece un enfoque instructivo desde el cual se puede contemplar la polisemia deslumbrante de esta intercalación que, asimismo, indica un modelo para comprender el carácter híbrido de la totalidad del Quijote. Cervantes nos invita a considerar la compleja hibridez del mundo mediterráneo al presentar por primera vez a la musulmana Zoraida cuya mano blanca constituye un misterio anatómico. En esta intricada historia, Cervantes pone en escena las tensiones indisolubles de una identidad híbrida en términos de subjetividad, raza, política y religión — el desafío epistemológico del 'laberinto de muy difícil salida'.

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Brownlee, Marina