In Part I of this third volume of his attempt to interpret Spanish literary culture, Professor Green shows how Castile extended its political, religious, and intellectual influence into new territories, forging with them a bond of common culture. He comments on Spanish Renaissance philologists and on the state of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew studies in Spain, as part of her intellectual expansion, and reveals how Spain achieved a “disciplined conformity” in religion by means of great sacrifices, producing through this new-found spiritual unity her greatest masterpieces.
Part II shows us that Spain scorned the secular culture of other nations, preferring religious and ethical problems to those of science and technical philosophy. Yet she made valuable contributions to European thought in the philosophy of law and in the modernization of metaphysics. Feeling the universe had a moral order which served divine purpose, Spaniards continued to be “naturally and obviously Christian” (p. 227); nevertheless, they managed to assimilate often opposing philosophical currents such as those of Augustinianism, Aristotelianism, Skepticism, Pantheism, Platonism, and Stoicism. Spain generally rejected the idea of a present or past cultural inferiority and compared favorably her Renaissance achievements with those of the ancients and Italy. Professor Green finally remarks on the relationships between literature and society and on the human values of the cultural creation of the Spanish Renaissance.
Green saturates his work with statements such as “It is not the purpose of this section to document,” “In later chapters we shall perceive,” and “their names will concern us later.” Equally annoying are “But let us return to our chronological review” and the like. He gives us dozens of titles with brief remarks about each to exemplify a particular subheading, for example, “Suicide” (pp. 204-224), a practice which, while revealing his scholarship, gives the entire work a disjointed and fragmented effect.
Nevertheless, Green is capable of forceful statements. For example, he declares that “. . . it is impossible to think of the period of the Spanish colonial regime—as it has so constantly been thought of by serious scholars—as three centuries of theocracy, obscurantism, and barbarism” (pp. 69, 336). Throughout, in one way or another, he concludes that scholars such as Américo Castro and Arturo Torres Ríoseco are wrong, or at best only partially right, whereas he has proved to his own satisfaction that he is correct. Indeed, he has included eleven of his own articles in the bibliography to bolster his beliefs. The many footnotes reveal the author’s erudition without convincing the reader.
This reviewer sadly admits that he feels like the last person on the block without a color television set, for he cannot understand the wide critical attention given this book or concur with the contention that it is a remarkable or original work.