|The Medieval Bestiary In The Golden Age: Allegory And Emblem In Gracian's 'El Criticon'|
|Kathleen Sue Gaylord|
|University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign, 1986|
PhD dissertation at the University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign.
"The perpetual problems of pessimism versus optimism and Christianity versus secularity in El Criticon have always been issues without resolution. Many critics erroneously assume that because Gracian was a Jesuit and Spain a Catholic country that therefore El Criticon was an optimistic, Christian work. Through an examination of the role of the medieval bestiary and emblem literature in El Criticon, this thesis endeavors to prove that such a premise is unacceptable. The thesis begins with a definition of a bestiary as allegorized animal lore, although occasionally a bestiary author will omit the allegories. Allegory is the connecting point between emblem literature and the bestiary, its medieval ancestor. The emblematic procedure was already latent in the bestiaries which gave an animal's description and typological characteristics, omitting only the graphic representations of emblem literature. After an examination of representative theories concerning the question of optimism versus pessimism, the thesis then demonstrates the extent to which Gracian relied upon medieval bestiary tradition. A description of each major beast is given, followed by its Christian allegory, and Gracian's use of the beast in El Criticon. In most instances the medieval moral viewpoint is transformed into an illustration of the secular morality necessary for the exceptional man endeavoring to live successfully in this world. The culminating point in Gracian's use of beast lore is animal related grotesquerie whose point of departure is traditional beast allegory which is extended until at times it even becomes independent of its medieval ancestor. The treatment of beast related grotesque is divided into two areas: the relationship with the themes of carnival and mask and the creation of composite figures. Gracian's condemnation of vice through these techniques serves to illustrate for the reader the evils he must conquer in order to survive life's journey and arrive at the Isle of Immortality." - abstract