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�Sor Aparición� and the Gaze: Pardo Bazán's Gendered Reply to the Romantic Don Juan

Joyce Tolliver

University of Illinois, Urbana

     Abstract: By means of a subtly gendered narrative structure, as well as a thematization of the sexual dynamics of the gaze, Pardo Bazán re-examines the valuation of masculine Promethean Romanticism. Key to her revision is an intertextual play with the Romantic don Juan figure. Anticipating contemporary theory and criticism, she reveals the misogyny inherent in the sexual search for subjectivity as epitomized in the biographical figure of Espronceda, who is fictionalized in the story �Sor Aparición� as Juan Camargo.

     Key Words: Pardo Bazán (Emilia), Espronceda (José de), Promethean Romanticism, gaze, don Juan, 19th century narrative, Spanish literature.

     The questioning of the criteria and processes involved in the formation of the literary canon of Spain's nineteenth century raises crucial issues of �quality� as well as the influence of attitude regarding social class and gender. (33) Romanticism serves as an aesthetic and ideological fulcrum on which rest works at either end of the continuum of canonicity. At one end we find the devalued Romantic sentimentality of such writers (often women) as Pilar de Sinués; at the other end we might place, for example, the work of Espronceda. Pardo Bazán's 1896 story �Sor Aparición� (34) implicitly challenges the privilege granted to the work of authors who, like Espronceda, cultivated what Kirkpatrick has termed a Promethean brand of Romanticism.

     Noël Valis has demonstrated how, in El cisne de Vilamorta, Pardo Bazán simultaneously lampoons the aesthetic of late Becquerian Romanticism and reproduces it herself in her own prose style. Eleven years later, Romanticism again becomes the author's target. But this time the focus is not aesthetic, but rather ideological. The implications of Pardo Bazán's critique go beyond the examination of the Romantic imagination, to a challenging of dominant sexual mores. It is important to note, in this connection, that it is not the entire Spanish Romantic movement which Pardo Bazán interrogates -much less the transitional Becquerian version- but rather one particular vein of it, for which �el orgullo... es la raiz venenosa� (298), a Romanticism that the narrator associates explicitly with Byron, and implicitly with Espronceda. Espronceda has frequently been called the Spanish Byron, and the two do indeed share the same Romantic ideology. The key characteristic of Byronic, or Promethean Romanticism may well be considered pride, or self-centeredness. As Susan Kirkpatrick explains:

           Besides basing their map of the psyche on the contours of desire, the Romantics made desire the core of an archetypal figure of the self. Linked to Prometheus and Lucifer, this figure provides an identity, a center, for images of the appetitive impulse and its struggle against a resistant world. (14)           

     In addition to embodying the Promethean figure in his personal life, as did so many Romantics, Espronceda repeatedly represented this figure in his poetry. In addition to the often-cited poetic voice of �Canción del pirata�, the protagonist of El estudiante de Salamanca (1836-1837) serves as a prime example. Félix de Montemar is incessently impelled by his own desire, which, like that of Byron's Childe Harold, is a thirst which �is intensified the more it is quenched� (Ross 45). He is also presented as a �segundo don Juan Tenorio� (I, 100). [395] The poem elaborates:

                               nada teme y todo fía                               
de su espada y su valor.
Corazón gastado, mofa
de la mujer que corteja,
y, hoy despreciándola, deja
           la que ayer se le rindió. (I, 106-111)

     Félix, the Esproncedian don Juan, is an implicit subtextual presence throughout �Sor Aparición�, as is the other canonical Romantic don Juan, that of Zorrilla. Both of these characters represent the Romantic rebel, who is, as Kirkpatrick notes, �one form of the Promethean self; the irrepressible energy of the rebel's desire, demanding liberty and power, bursts constraints of any sort, political, aesthetic, physical, and moral� (14).

     Common to both Romantic don Juan figures is the element of aggression and sexual domination. As Arias observes, �in Zorrilla's drama, sexuality is consistently and explicitly coupled with killing: the famous list of don Juan's accomplishments includes the names of his female victims alongside those of the men he has killed in duels� (181). In don Félix, the association of sexual seduction and death is even closer: it is his abandonment of Elvira, after seducing her, that causes her death. Were the indirect murder of a woman not enough to prove his aggressive virility, he also kills the brother who would avenge her death. For the Romantic don Juan, then, the desire to �conquer� women is not limited to the satisfaction of his libido. More important is the imposition of his own dominance, be it physical, psychological, or emotional. In �Sor Aparición�, this dominance is represented, in terms both of plot and of imagery, through a thematization of the dynamics of the gaze.

     Drawing primarily on Lacanian psychoanalysis, feminist critics and theorists have recently generated a substantial body of literature on how the gaze both affects and reflects power relationships between the sexes. (35) A key concern in the current elaboration of feminist gaze theory is the perpetuation within cinema and literature of a point of view which is imbued with masculinist scopophilia. This term, literally �pleasure in looking�, denotes a position of dominance which is maintained through the imposition of the gaze. Although these theories do not allow for a non-hierarchical gendered exchange of the gaze, and so are not universally applicable, (36) they seem particularly appropriate for an elucidation of �Sor Aparición�.

     From the first lines of the text, images of the eyes and of the gaze figure prominently in this text. (37) Through the bars of a convent gate, the anonymous narrator glimpses an aged nun. She is praying, prostrated, utterly immobile, seemingly inanimate. But when she suddenly sits up, the narrator is struck by her ardently luminous eyes. These eyes �delataban un pasado borrascoso; despedían la luz siniestra de algún terrible recuerdo� (295). Later, the narrator meets a loquacious elderly gentleman, who provides the means to unravel the enigma of the penitent's volcanic gaze, through his recounting of the story of Sor Aparición. This story, then, like so many by this author, constitutes a framed narrative.

     According to the embedded narrator (the elderly gentleman), the history of Sor Aparición's burning gaze revolves around a cruel, mortifying joke played on her in her youth, when she was known simply as Irene. Juan Camargo, a rising young Romantic poet, writes a poem to her, a poem which is so strange and so powerful that it triggers in Irene a sort of obsession with the poet. But after writing the poem, Camargo shows no signs that he is aware of Irene's existence, and finally goes off to Madrid. Irene and Camargo happen to meet again in the capital, and this time Camargo shows intense interest in the young woman. After months of relentless pursuit, Camargo succeeds in convincing the young Irene to visit him alone in his room, and manages to seduce her. Just when Irene is ready to give herself to Camargo, the poet rips back the curtains to reveal the young woman's body to the devouring gaze and scornful jeers of several of his cronies. After this utter humiliation, Irene retreats to a convent, where, as Sor Aparición, she spends her life in severe [396] penance. The embedded narrator concludes that, although God has forgiven her, she cannot forgive herself. The frame narrator, on the other hand, rejects this interpretation, suggesting that Sor Aparición is serving penance for two.

     That this story can be read as a criticism of the don Juan persona cultivated by many of the male Romantics is made quite explicit by the author herself. In the preface to Cuentos de amor, which includes �Sor Aparición�, Pardo Bazán specifies that her text is based on a real �broma infame, dada por uno de nuestros mayores poetas románticos� (11). Juan Paredes Núñez (267) flatly states that Camargo represents Espronceda. Plentiful evidence supports Paredes Núñez's assertion. If Espronceda's reputation for �calaveradas� were not enough, the text of �Sor Aparición� provides several hints.

     Camargo is referred to by the narrator as �el más genuino representante de la fiebre romántica; nombre que lleva en sus sílabas un eco de arrogancia desdeñosa, de mofador desdén, de acerba ironía y de nostalgia desesperada y blasfemadora� (296). Espronceda is, of course, the canonical Spanish liberal romantic, and was (and is) known at least as much for his outrageous personal behavior as for his poetry. His own friend Escosura calls him a �buscarruidos� (Alborg 290), while Ferrer del Río suggests, in the first biography of Espronceda, that the poet was (like his fictional creation) a nineteenth-century Don Juan Tenorio (Marrast 9). References in Pardo Bazán's text to Camargo's period of exile (297) and to his �aventuras políticas� (297) also align him with Espronceda. Camargo's �orgiásticas proezas a que aluden ciertas poesías blasfemas y obscenas, que algunos críticos aseguran que no son de Camargo en realidad� (297) find their parallel in a group of six poems reproduced in Cascales Morales's El auténtico Espronceda Pornográfico y el apócrifo en general.

     A sly, almost playful allusion to Espronceda and his Estudiante de Salamanca is suggested in the detail that when Camargo first notices Irene, he is home from studies in Salamanca. Another obvious clue that Camargo is the fictional representative of Espronceda is a not too-thinly veiled reference to Almendralejo, the town where Espronceda was baptized. The embedded narrator informs us that the fictional poet Camargo was born in �el pueblecito de A***, que ni tiene aguas minerales, ni santo milagroso... ni nada notable que enseñar a los que lo visitan, pero repite, envanecido: �En esta casa de la plaza nació Camargo� (296). The incident related in the story takes place at the very beginning of Camargo's literary career. The corresponding years in Espronceda's life, 1825 to 1827, are not well documented, so it is easy to speculate about his activities during this time. In fact, it is possible that Espronceda found himself in the vicinity of Almendralejo around this time, given that Escosura claims that his friend was involved in a political conspiracy in Extremadura during these years (Marrast 119-20).

     It is in this village that Camargo first notices Irene. He is just returning on a visit back home. As he enters the town on horseback, he happens to lift his eyes toward Irene's window, and sees her there. Camargo, fascinated by the eyes of Irene, stops his horse in order to look at the young woman. Camargo's first deliberate look at Irene is an objectifying one. In Sartreian terms, by placing the woman as object of his gaze, by positing her as Other, the man confirms his own subjectivity. It is entirely appropriate, then, that the narrator describes the motive of Camargo's pause under Irene's window as a desire to �re[-]crearse en aquella soberana hermosura� (296; my emphasis). Irene herself is also looking at Camargo when he looks up at her window. While Camargo's reaction is to fix his gaze, to reconfirm his own scopic subjectivity, Irene is frightened and embarrassed by Camargo's obvious desire. She quickly shuts the window and flees, showing the feminine �recato� which, following the eighteenth century's relative permissiveness, was imposed once again as an ideal of feminine conduct during the Romantic period (Martín Gaite 102).

     That night, Camargo writes a poem [397] about the effect produced in him by the sight of Irene and, wrapping the paper around a rock, throws it through her bedroom window. His writing incorporates the visual and the textual; his look at her is the substance of his poem. With the representation of Camargo's poetic composition, the fictional character comes to represent, not only the biographical Espronceda, but also the literary figure, thus providing a metonymical link with the lyric poetry of Espronceda.

     The narrator, rather than reproducing Camargo's poem textually, describes its content:

           aquellos versos... no eran declaraciones amorosas, sino algo raro, mezcla de queja e imprecación. El poeta se dolía de que la pureza y la hermosura de la niña de la ventana no se hubiesen hecho para él, que era un réprobo. Si él se acercase, marchitaría aquella azucena...(297)           

     This elliptical paraphrase of Camargo's poem is strongly reminiscent of a recurrent theme of Espronceda's poetry, which simultaneously captures the poetic voice's view of women and expresses what Kirkpatrick identifies as the primary paradox of Promethean Romantic desire:

           existing as a lack in relation to its object, desire can never coincide with its goal. So the Romantic desiring subject, represented as a rebel against the limitations of the objective world, fails ever in its quest to impose its own image on reality. (15)           

     In Espronceda's lyric poetry, this dilemma is frequently represented in the form of an inevitably unsatisfying erotic experience. In �A una estrella�, �Canto a Teresa�, and �A Jarifa en una orgía�, The beloved or desired woman stands for the object world that fails to correspond to the values imagined and desired by the lyrical, masculine subject� (Kirkpatrick 127). �A Jarifa� perhaps best exemplifies this dilemma:

                              Mujeres vi de virginal limpieza                              
entre albas nubes de celeste lumbre;
yo las toqué, y en humo su pureza
            trocarse vi, y en lodo y podredumbre.

     Camargo's poem reveals the solipsism inherent in this brand of Promethean Romanticism. As in �A Jarifa en una orgía�, its thematic focus is not the woman herself, but rather the anguish which she represents for the poet. Far from being an ode to Irene's purity and beauty as qualities external to the poetic voice (in the style of Espronceda's semi-classical �A la noche�), the poet focuses on his frustration that �no se hubiesen hecho para él, que era un réprobo� (297; my emphasis). Pardo Bazán's representation of the Esproncedian dilemma thus subtly shifts its focus. The anguishing disappointment presented in �A Jarifa� and other poems is due, not to the disillusion that erotic relationships with women will inevitably bring, but rather to the poetic subject's own self-absorption, his own all-encompassing appetite, which must destroy that which it desires.

     Central to the dynamics of desire, both in Camargo's poem and in Promethean subjectivity, is the Romantic male subject's inability to restrain his aggressive sexual impulses and thus (ironically) preserve the woman's desirability. The woman is desirable only if untouched, and the man inevitably must act out his sexual aggression toward her, thus destroying her desirability. So the only desirable woman is one who is absent, or unreal, or nonexistent. The woman as subject must then be destroyed in order for this dynamic of desire to function. (38) In his verses, �mezcla de queja e imprecación� (297), Camargo (and, along with him, Pardo Bazán) exposes the aggression which lies at the root of Promethean desire. This aggression is epitomized in the mode Camargo chooses to communicate with Irene: his words are wrapped around a rock, which he hurls through the window where Irene had first appeared to him. Camargo's rock duplicates the trajectory of the Esproncedian flight of fancy:

                               Yo me arrojé, cual rápido cometa,                              
en alas de mi ardiente fantasía


Yo me lancé con atrevido vuelo
fuera del mundo en la región etérea,
y hallé la duda, y el radiante cielo
            vi convertirse en ilusión aérea. (�A Jarifa�)

     Pardo Bazán's text, however, shows us [398] where that trajectory ends for the woman. Just as Camargo shatters Irene's window, Espronceda's brand of romantic desire shatters the possibility of female subjectivity.

     After hurling his verses through Irene's window, Camargo does the only thing he can do in order to realize the sentiments expressed in the poem: he avoids all contact with Irene. Finally, at the end of the summer, he leaves the village and goes off to Madrid. Irene, on the other hand, continues to be fascinated by Camargo's projectile poem: �Leyó los versos, no una vez, ciento, mil; los bebió, se empapó en ellos� (297). But, while she reads intensively, she does not read the poet's text perceptively. Ignoring the warning inherent in Camargo's exposition of the obstacle to their union -his own uncontrollable sexual aggression- she reads only the frustration the poet expresses at the impossibility of this union. It is this frustration, and this impossibility, which fuels her developing obsession for the poet. According to this obsessive logic, the more Camargo stays away from Irene, the more he demonstrates his desire for her, and the more she herself desires Camargo. Just as the sight of Irene incites Camargo to write his poem, so the sight of Camargo and the reading of his poem, provoke this obsession in Irene:

           No podía pensar sino en Camargo, a quien era aplicable lo que dice Byron de Lara: que los que le veían no le veían en vano; que su recuerdo acudía siempre a la memoria; pues hombres tales lanzan un reto al desdén y al olvido. No creía la misma Irene hallarse enamorada, juzgábase solo víctima de un maleficio, emanado de aquellos versos tan sombríos, tan extraños. (297)           

     Irene categorically refuses to identify her response to the man and his words as love. Rather, the sight of Camargo -like the gaze of Camargo- is imbued with power; it is a challenge, not an invitation. Irene's brief visual exchange with the poet results, not in the romantic cliché of love at first sight, but rather in a struggle. Camargo will not be reduced to visual object of desire of those who see him; rather, his image will dominate the imaginations of others. Thus Camargo is a sort of male Medusa; his gaze, conflated in Irene's mind with his writing, casts on her an evil spell. Pardo Bazán's text conjures up associations with Zorrilla's doña Inés here, both in the imposition of Camargo's figure on Irene's imagination and in her description of her textual seduction as a sort of �maleficio�. Inés uses similar images of evil enchantment and of poison throughout the play to refer to don Juan's influence over her, as well as to the seductive power of the letter he sends her. In fact, by the time Bridget delivers the letter to Inés, the so-called �beata� (II. v. 1096, II. ix, 1228) has already spoken so insistently of don Juan's charms that Inés is already fascinated by him: �desde que le vi, /... tengo a ese hombre / siempre delante de mí... / y aquí y en el oratorio, / y en todas partes, advierto / que el pensamiento divierto / con la imagen de Tenorio� (III. iii.1616-1631). Both women are presented as readers, then, like Leocadia of El cisne. But now the act of reading is represented in a radically different way than it is in the earlier novel, in which �reading becomes a creative act, for in recuperating words, we regain self� (Valis 316). The texts of Romantic seduction which Irene and Inés read serve just the opposite effect, ultimately undermining female subjectivity.

     In incessantly re-reading Camargo's poem, Irene also re-enacts the story of Psyche and Cupid, which Mandrell posits as �the underlying myth� of the don Juan figure (63). Cupid has been granted his wish to sexually possess Psyche, but only under the condition that she never see him. Irene does not, must not, �see� Camargo; his resistance to her gaze is so successful that it is his very absence which seems to provoke in Irene �eso que ahora llaman obsesión� (297).

     In an attempt to break this spell, to cure Irene's mysterious disease, her parents take her to Madrid, where there are fine doctors, cultural diversion -and, of course, Camargo. By now, Camargo is famous, not only for his poetry but also for his debauchery. When the poet happens to see Irene and her parents on the street of the capital, his visual dominance of her is assured. It is [399] upon noticing that Irene turns bright red at his sight, that he accepts her parents' invitation to visit them. Irene's parents, unaware of Camargo's reputation, are happy to see that the young man acts on his promise to visit, apparently causing Irene to revive. They encourage him to visit frequently, ingenuously thinking of him as a possible son-in-law.

     Six months pass, and although Irene is �fascinada, trastornada, como si hubiese bebido zumo de hierbas� (298), Camargo has not managed to add her to his list of conquests. The relationship which Irene's parents perceive as a growing love is, in fact, a continuation of the challenge which Camargo initiated when he first paused to turn his objectifying gaze on Irene. The narrative discourse frames this period explicitly in terms of struggle, clearly indicating who is the more powerful:

           La honesta resistencia de la niña fue causa de que los perdidos amigotes del poeta se burlasen de él, y el orgullo, que es la raíz venenosa de ciertos romanticismos, como el de Byron y el de Camargo, inspiró a éste una apuesta, un desquite satánico, infernal. Pidió, rogó, se alejó, volvió, dio celos, fingió planes de suicidio, e hizo tanto, que Irene, atropellando por todo, consintió en acudir a la peligrosa cita. (298)           

     The use of the word �niña� to refer to Irene underlines not only her innocence and sexual immaturity, but also her lack of power, her defenselessness against the �desquite infernal� plotted by Camargo and his friends. Now, the sexual aggression already contained in the poet's long look at Irene is exposed. The Romantic gaze which, in other contexts, signals �love at first sight� is revealed here as a gaze which destroys, a gaze whose source is pride -the male's desire to confirm his own subjectivity, at the expense of converting the woman into an object.

     Still, Irene misreads Camargo's gaze, and this misreading leads, ultimately, to the total relinquishment of her own subjectivity: �A la segunda cita se agotaron las fuerzas de Irene; se oscureció su razón y fue vencida. Y... confusa y trémula, yacía, cerrando los párpados, en brazos del infame� (298). A comparison of this passage with the corresponding lines from the story's original edition (1896) suggests that Pardo Bazán rewrote this last sentence in order to emphasize Irene's vulnerability and passivity. In the later version, the phrase �confusa y trémula� substitutes for the original �expirante de felicidad�. The degree of Irene's victimization is highly ambiguous in the earlier version; this ambiguity has effectively been removed through the later revision.

     In the narrator's own terms, then, Irene is defeated: the use of the passive voice in the expression �fue vencida� emphasizes her final objectification. Irene's defeat is signalled not only by the vulnerability of her physical position, but also by the closing of her eyes. When Irene relinquishes her own gaze, she would move out of what Irigaray calls the �dominant scopic economy�, in which woman �will be the beautiful object� (25-26). Nevertheless, Irene's closing her eyes in reality marks, not an escape from domination, but rather the finality of her own conversion into object.

     Irene forgets that, as Camargo's poem made clear, the obstacle impeding any sort of intimate contact between Irene and the poet was in fact her own sexual innocence, her untouched condition. When Irene finally makes herself available to Camargo, she is no longer desirable. When she blindly entrusts herself to Camargo's domination, she falls prey to the fate prophesied in his poem. He betrays her trust, not only to convert her into object of his own desiring gaze, but also to convert Irene's surrender into spectacle. As the text makes explicit, he accomplishes this by exposing her body, her sexual vulnerability, her very self, to the voyeurism of his cronies:

           Cuando Irene... yacía... en brazos del infame, éste exhaló una estrepitosa carcajada, descorrió unas cortinas, e Irene vio que la devoraban los impuros ojos de ocho o diez hombres jóvenes, que también reían y palmoteaban irónicamente. (298)           

     The detail of the curtains in this passage contributes metonymically to the creation of a strong theatrical context. Camargo's conquest, like those of Zorrilla's don Juan, [400] is theater, and Camargo is in complete control of the curtains. (39) Irene is explicitly positioned as a commodity, an object which the conqueror presents to his male friends in order to confirm to them his own masculinity. The implicitly homosexual (homosexual, to use Lacan's pun) nature of Camargo's pose of romantic love is revealed. After all, Irene has not even been desired for herself, but rather as a trophy, a confirmation of Camargo's phallic potency. Irene functions as a painfully clear representative of the phenomenon of �women on the market�, to use Irigaray's phrase (170-91). She is a commodity to be exchanged among men -in this case, as an object of visual pleasure for the male voyeurs.

     The elderly male narrator superficially condemns this commodification of the woman, chiefly through the modifiers he employs in relating this episode: �estrepitosa, impuros, irónicamente�, along with the verb �devoraban� and the highly charged �infame� used to qualify Camargo, and his �carcajada�. The narrator's sympathies with Irene are further emphasized by the use of focalization through the eyes of Irene in order to recount the crucial moment. Rather than seeing what Camargo and his cronies see, we are presented with Irene's vision of the devouring eyes of the youths. Nevertheless, immediately after the climactic scene, the focalization quickly shifts:

           Irene se incorporó, dio un salto, y sin cubrirse, con el pelo suelto y los hombros desnudos, se lanzó a la escalera y a la calle. Llegó a su morada seguida de una turba de pilluelos que le arrojaban barro y piedras. (298)           

     Now we see Irene from �outside�; we are watching her, rather than sharing her point of view. The narrative technique employed here begins to indicate the subtle voyeurism inherent in the narration of this incident. This voyeuristic attitude is confirmed when the male narrator explains, in just one sentence, how it is that he himself knows this story, which he presents as the key to the enigma of Sor Aparición: �jamás consintió decir de dónde venía ni qué le había sucedido. Mi padre lo averiguó porque casualmente era amigo de uno de los de la apuesta de Camargo� (298). The story of Irene, then, has been passed down in a patrilinear fashion, from father to son. The father, in turn, had learned it from his male friend, who was in fact one of the eight or ten youths whose �impure eyes� �devoured� Irene. Hence the original source for this story is not Irene herself, but rather that of a man who participates in her destruction.

     The male narrator, then, presents Irene's story sympathetically, but is himself enmeshed in the same sort of scopophific dynamic which not only destroyed Irene's name, both figuratively and literally, but also annihilated her very existence. The old gentleman explains the enigma of Sor Aparición's volcanic gaze by �reading� Irene's history there: �Tiene un no sé qué en los ojos... Lleva escrita allí su historia� (296). For him, Irene's history is the story of her downfall, her passage from a valuable object of desire to discarded merchandise (a �ruined� woman). For this man, the eyes of Sor Aparición tell the tale of the cause of her severe penance:

           Cuentan -pero serán consejas- que una vez llenó de llanto la escudilla del agua. �Y quién dice a Ud. que de repente se le quedan los ojos secos, sin una lágrima, y brillando de ese modo que ha notado usted! Esto aconteció más de veinte años hace; las gentes piadosas creen que fue la señal del perdón de Dios. No obstante, Sor Aparición, sin duda, no se cree perdonada, porque, hecha una momia, sigue ayunando y postrándose y usando el cilicio de cerda... (298)           

     For the embedded narrator, then, the history written in the nun's eyes is that of a woman who wrongly trusted; the key to the mystery of Sor Aparición's gaze lies in her own �sin� of sexual vulnerability. The uncanny burning gaze of the elderly nun is testament to her own guilt. For Irene has exposed herself, to the jeers of the male bohemian Romantics, to the mud and stones of the �pilluelos�, who have already absorbed the vicious ideology which blames a woman for her own sexual victimization.

     It is only when the embedded male narrator has offered his own brand of closure to the story of Irene that the female gender [401] of the frame narrator is revealed. The textual marking of gender is, in fact, so subtle that the casual reader might easily miss it, as it is encoded only in the morphology of the adjective �admirada� in the text's penultimate sentence: �-Es que hará penitencia por dos- respondí, admirada de que en este punto fallase la penetración de mi cronista� (298). This linguistic indication of the frame narrator's female gender -the only one in the entire text- occurs in the very sentence in which she rejects the male narrator's interpretation of sor Aparición's story.

     As Lanser notes, unmarked gender in a narrative voice is often assumed to be male (18). In the case of a story by Pardo Bazán, in fact, this assumption may be entirely justified, given the frequency with which she employs frame narrators whose gender is marked as male. Thus, upon reaching this point in the narrative, readers may find themselves �surprised by gender�, to paraphrase Fish. The gender difference between the two narrators now takes on added significance, especially as it is revealed precisely at the textual moment which introduces the two narrators' conflicting interpretations of Irene's story.

     The elderly gentleman subtly reproduces the stance of the poet's cronies, passing on Irene's history as the story of a woman who foolishly allowed herself to be exposed. The structure of the framed narrative itself, told by the male narrator, thus duplicates the positioning of a woman as object, as merchandise exchanged among men. The difference is that the mode of exchange has shifted. While the original transaction was visual, voyeuristic, now the transaction is verbal, textual. But the female narrator rejects the patriarchal textual exchange offered by her interlocutor. She puts Camargo back at the center of the enigma, situating him at the heart of the mystery: ��Piensa usted que sor Aparición no se acuerda del alma infeliz de Camargo?� (298).

     The �caballero machucho� offers, finally, nothing more or less than the old story of the abandoned woman's weakness, so central, as Lipking points out, to the don Juan legend. According to this interpretation, Irene, as sor Aparición, has internalized the sadistic, annihilating gaze of Camargo and his voyeuristic friends, turning it inwards, in a sort of continual masochistic �self-examination� in which she always finds herself lacking. Her penance is never enough; �no se cree perdonada� (298). But according to the woman's interpretation, this gaze by no means looks inward, nor is it fixed on the ethereal. Images of violence, destruction and passion, even suggestions of the diabolic, predominate in her description of sor Aparición's eyes:

           conservaban, por caso extraño, su fuego, su intenso negror, y una violenta expresión apasionada y dramática... Semejantes ojos volcánicos serían inexplicables en monja que hubiese ingresado en el claustro ofreciendo a Dios un corazón inocente; delataban un pasado borrascoso; despedían la luz sinestra de algún terrible recuerdo. (295)           

     Sor Aparición retains, in her gaze, the instance of scopic sadism of which she was a victim. It is the �terrible recuerdo� which produces the sinister light in the ancient nun's eyes; the penance she does is not for herself (or at least, not only for herself); it is for Camargo. Her eyes still reflect all the passion and violence of the encounter. After forty years of weeping, after sixty years of martyrdom, still there is no resolution, no salvation -for Camargo. The problem, then, is not a woman's transgression, a woman's lack of �purity�, but rather the attitude of sexual dominance, the objectification of women, which was inherent in Camargo's posturings of Romanticism.

     The female narrator's comment calls to mind, of course, Inés's salvation of Zorrilla's don Juan. This comment apparently would put sor Aparición in the same class as the Romantic heroine who saves the soul of a libertine through the power of love. This would seem to be consistent with earlier implicit comparisons between the two characters. However, it is important to note that the earlier textual evocations of the Inés figure -the text as evil spell, the domination of the seducer's image over the female imagination- emphasized the utter impotence [402] of both characters. Both Inés and Irene are powerless to resist the domination of the men who would destroy them. Sor Aparición, likewise, is incapable of salvaging the soul of the �réprobo�.

     Under scrutiny, further comparison between doña Inés and sor Aparición breaks down. Zorrilla's text suggests at several points that don Juan sincerely loves Inés; it is this love which saves him, finally, with the help of Inés's sacrificial intervention. �Sor Aparición�, however, at no point indicates that Camargo has any redeeming moral features. The aged nun's incessant attempt to save the soul of the �reprobate� must be as fruitless as that of Elvira to save Félix de Montemar.

     How, then, to interpret the significance of Irene's penance? Numerous textual indications suggest that the sixty years dedicated to the self-mortification and weeping are to be interpreted as incongruous exaggeration, a key characteristic of irony. (40) Here, the incongruity lies in the futility of sor Aparición's penance for Camargo, as well as the lack of correspondence between Irene's �sin� and her penance. Even within the cultural and literary tradition of female martyrs and penitants, which serves as another subtext for Irene's story, this penance seems highly exaggerated. (41) Her fantastically copious tears surpass those even of Mary Magdalene, with whom a comparison is also suggested in the detail of her public stoning, the last recounted event of her life as Irene. (42) When the outraged crowd is ready to stone Magdalene, Christ intervenes and reminds those who would punish the woman of their own sins. In contrast, not only does no one step in to assist Irene, but her public ostracism comes at the hands of children, and precisely at the moment when she desperately needs shelter. Magdalene's tears are for Christ; sor Aparición's, for the unrepentent Camargo. Further, when the nun's tears suddenly dry up, the male narrator suggests that �las gentes piadosas creen que fue la señal del perdón de Dios� (298). Davis notes that, according to the medieval notion of tears as an outward symptom of inner grace, Magdalene's weeping was a sign that she was touched by God. Attention to this tradition would suggest that it is, in fact, her weeping itself which indicates that Irene has been forgiven for whatever sins she may have committed. When her tears suddenly dry up, they are replaced by the volcanic, even sinister gaze, the sign of her attempt to save Camargo's soul. Her eyes have been dry and burning with this volcanic passion for twenty years now, and they continue to burn. This second penance, then, on Camargo's behalf, has not yet had any effect, after twenty years.

     Sor Aparición's story also echoes that of St. Mary of Egypt, subject of an extensive medieval narrative poem. Like Mary Magdalene, St. Mary of Egypt dedicated her early life to prostitution and sexual promiscuity. After her miraculous conversion, she spent her remaining years in penance, surviving over forty years alone in the wilderness. When her cadaver was discovered, she was buried by the monk Zosimus and revered as a saint. (43) Irene's �sin�, like Mary of Egypt's, is a sexual one. But she enacts a penance more severe even than that of the woman who devoted her entire secular life to the satisfaction of her own sexual desires. The implicit comparison between the two penitants (and their penitence) seems to be a clear case of ironic exaggeration.

     Finally, Irene functions as a literary reflection of the martyred heroine of María de Zayas's �La inocencia castigada� (1647), who, like Zorrilla's heroine, is named Inés. The protagonist is imprisoned in a tiny, dark cell after she is seduced while literally under a voodoo-like spell. She, like sor Aparición, is punished for a sexual sin of which she was the passive victim. The seduction of Zayas's Inés was, in fact, complete, unlike Irene's. Nevertheless, the title of Zayas's text explicitly comments on her protagonist's innocence. The image of sor Aparición's tear-ravaged face also suggests an allusion to Zayas's doña Inés. The latter's face is characterized by the presence of �dos surcos cavados de las lágrimas� (287), just as the narrator comments of Sor Aparición that �los dos surcos de las mejillas [403] que de cerca parecen canales, se lo han abierto las lágrimas� (296). (44) Given the many similarities between �Sor Aparición� and �La inocencia castigada�, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Pardo Bazán, following Zayas, tacitly points toward the innocence of her protagonist. If Irene/sor Aparición is indeed innocent, then all her penance must be for Camargo.

     The ancient nun's Sisyphean penance on behalf of her seducer also conforms to additional conceptions of irony. Kaufer (�Irony�), Tanaka, and Muecke all suggest that speakers who use irony address themselves to a bifurcated audience, one of which �identifies with the ironist's literal meaning, the other with his ironic meaning... It is clear that this first audience delimits his victims, the second, his confederates� (Kaufer, �Irony� 96). Pardo Bazán's remarks on this story, included in the Preface of the Cuentos de amor, clearly imply this sort of bifurcation in the readership of this revised version of �Sor Aparición�:

           De �Sor Aparición� se espantó mucha gente. Releo el cuento despacio y no puedo explicarme tal horror, sino por la crueldad de lo real que palpita en él. La narración pienso que está hecha en términos bien honestos, con el mayor recato y decoro posible; además, he modificado la historia y presentado a la infeliz enamorada del burlador Camargo cuando ejercita la más rigurosa y ejemplar penitencia. Tantos años de mortificación y de lágrimas la impuse, que deben de bastar para sosiego del más asombradizo. (11)           

     The author implicitly separates the audience of these words, published in Cuentos de amor, from that of the version published several years earlier. Yet the present tense used in the phrase, �deben de bastar para sosiego del más asombradizo� implies that her present audience may include �el más asombradizo�. Her audience is divided, then, into her confederates, who will not be shocked by the story -except for one aspect of it, which I will discuss in a moment and those who will be placated by the �tantos años de penitencia� which the author �imposed� on her character. Clearly, those who are satisfied by Irene's long penance are those who assume that she does, indeed, have some sin to expiate; this audience is implicitly the target of Pardo Bazán's ironic closure. The story, then, is still called �Sor Aparición�; the narrative of a penitent nun with a shocking past is more likely to be accepted than the story of the sexual sadism of one of the country's literary heroes. But, while the title of the story is �Sor Aparición�, the very last words of the text refer to �el alma infeliz de Camargo�.

     For the author, the only thing shocking about the story is the �crueldad de lo real que palpita en él -that is, the verisimilitude-and the truth- of Camargo's /Espronceda's sexual sadism. This, the core of the story, is, of course, still shocking to contemporary readers. Students who read this brief story regularly display strong reactions to it, which are more intense when they discover that the real-life model for Camargo is Espronceda. But the strongest reaction has come from those who connect the incident to current sexual norms on their campuses. Camargo's/Espronceda's �broma infame� still forms part of the standard repertory of sexual �pranks� in American fraternities: National Lampoon includes essentially the same �game� in a supposedly humorous article detailing �Dumb Frat Games Acted Out by Authentic Dumb Frat Guys...�. (Hyatt 43); the Daily Illini also mentions this stunt in an editorial on sexual exploitation in the fraternities. It does transform the way we think of Promethean Romanticism when we picture Espronceda as a date-raping frat boy.

     To save the soul of such a person (Camargo, but, implicitly, Espronceda as well), then, would require a penance superior to that of the Magadalene, superior to that even of Mary of Egypt. Doña Inés spent a mere five years in purgatory and brought about the repentance of the diabolic don Juan in only one night, but sixty years have not sufficed to save Camargo; sor Aparición's gaze still burns with �luz siniestra�. Thus, just as Camargo throws back the curtains to reveal the vulnerable body of his most recent conquest, so Pardo Bazán exposes the misogyny at the core of the nation's most revered Romantic poet. By exposing Espronceda, she implicitly [404] unveils the sexual hostility inherent in the masculinist search for sexual subjectivity, so fundamental to the Promethean Romantic imagination.

     In the interplay of the two narrative perspectives, the differing masculine and feminine interpretations of Irene's story, Pardo Bazán �writes beyond the ending� of the Romantic story of sexual aggression and seduction, to use du Plessis's term. The female narrator rejects the voyeuristic, patrilineal transmission of Irene's story offered her by the elderly �gentleman�. Likewise, Pardo Bazán rejects the patriarchal transmission of a literary ideology that commodifies and ultimately destroys women, in the name of literary lionization. In other words, Pardo Bazán challenges the ideological bases of the �gentlemanly� formation of the literary canon, as we are beginning to do now, a century later. (45) Pardo Bazán's criticism targets Espronceda in particular, but also, by extension, those who glorify art that pursues masculine subjectivity at the expense of women's identity. This predatory ideology, �Sor Aparición� suggests, is, like Espronceda's own don Juan figure, perhaps beyond saving.


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