Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 29

From Cairo To Camagüey: IBN Daniyal’s The Shadow Spirit ,

Sarduy’s Cobra , and Rojas’s Celestina as a Bawd Between

the Arab World and Latin America

Robert Myers

Comparative Literature Studies, Volume 56, Number 2, 2019, pp. 320-347


Published by Penn State University Press

For additional information about this article


[ Access provided at 12 Aug 2020 23:49 GMT from Harvard Library ]

from cairo to camagüey: ibn daniyal’s the shadow
spirit , sarduy’s cobra , and rojas’s celestina as a

bawd between the arab world and latin america

Robert Myers
There have been numerous studies of the transmission of literatures of the
medieval Arab world to al-Andalus, such as those by López-Baralt and
Menocal. There have also been various studies examining the transmission
of literatures from Golden Age Spain and Portugal to Latin America, such
as Roberto González Echevarría’s Celestina’s Brood. There have, however,
been almost no studies that examine continuities between the literatures and
cultures of the medieval Arab world and modern Latin America through
al-Andalus. Utilizing existing scholarship and an approach derived from
romance philology, this study examines the continuities between the shadow
plays of Iraqi poet Ibn Daniyal, written and presented in Cairo around
1300, especially The Shadow Spirit, which features a sexual go-between,
and Celestina, by Fernando de Rojas, published in Salamanca in 1499. The
study then looks at the intertextual links between Celestina and the Cuban
Severo Sarduy’s postmodern novel Cobra, published in 1972, which also has
a sexual go-between as a principal character, and the substantial affinities
Cobra shares with The Shadow Spirit. The study suggests that these texts,
and many others, can fruitfully be viewed as belonging to a centuries-long
translinguistic tradition that includes works from the Arab world, the Iberian
Peninsula, and Latin America.
keywords: Arabic, Latin American, al-Andalus, theater, modern

comparative literature studies, vol. 56, no. 2, 2019.

Copyright © 2019. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.


CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 320 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 321

Common Approaches to Comparative Readings of Latin American and Arab

Literature: A Brief Review

Despite the pervasive and centuries-long historical and linguistic links

between the cultures of Latin America and the Arab world, there have, until
recently, been few studies that have treated the literatures of the two regions
as belonging to a single transnational, transcultural, and translinguistic
tradition. In part because the two regions are separated geographically and
in part because literary studies developed primarily based on national and
linguistic boundaries, the traditions are largely treated as discrete entities by
scholars of literature of both regions.1 There have been numerous comparative
studies of cultural, literary, and political similarities between Latin America
and the Arab world, most focusing either on affinities associated with post-
colonialism, globalization, analogous effects of American imperialism in the
two regions or the cultural interpenetration resulting from the large-scale
immigration of Syrians and Lebanese to Latin America in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries.2 However, there have been almost no studies
examining the clear and profound literary and cultural continuities between
the two traditions that begin with analyses of Arabic literary texts from the
medieval period and trace their demonstrable influence upon Iberian texts
from the medieval and Golden Age period and the subsequent influence of
these Iberian texts upon modern and contemporary Latin American texts.3
There are numerous studies of such literary and cultural continuities
linking the Arab world, al-Andalus, the post-1492 Iberian Peninsula and
Europe more broadly, such as the groundbreaking works by Miguel Asín
Palacios, Américo Castro, Luce López-Baralt, and María Rosa Menocal.
There are also several studies demonstrating the pervasiveness of the links
between the literature of Golden Age Spain and that of modern and con-
temporary Latin America, most notably González Echevarría’s Celestina’s
Brood.4 However, one of the only recent studies that has provided a framework
for tracing literary continuities from the medieval Arab world, through al-­
Andalus and the Iberian Peninsula, to twentieth-century Latin America is
Ette and Pannewick’s ArabAmericas.5 This approach, like that used in much of
the scholarship by Menocal, López-Baralt, González Echevarría, and others
derives in large measure from the discipline of romance philology as practiced
by Ernst Robert Curtius, Erich Auerbach, and Leo Spitzer, and is based
on an examination of shared tropes, genre, forms, topoi and sources across
literary traditions and linguistic borders.6 One of the principal advantages
of such an approach is that it allows one to discern overlooked congruences

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 321 25/06/19 5:26 PM

322 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

in literary texts based on direct historical, cultural, and philological links

that often require one to reassess conventional understandings of literary
and cultural history.
One notable exception to the dearth of scholarship utilizing the
approach described above is Julia Kushigian’s illuminating study Orientalism
in the Hispanic Literary Tradition, which analyzes texts by Jorge Luis Borges,
Octavio Paz, and Severo Sarduy using Mikhail Bakhtin’s formalist method
in conjunction with an examination of shared themes, forms, and sources
in texts by these writers and those from the Arab world and various Asian
traditions. She also examines the direct engagement of each of these Latin
American writers with the Arab world and the East, either directly, in the
cases of Sarduy, who was a Cuban of Chinese descent, and Paz, who served
for half a dozen years as the Mexican Ambassador to India, or indirectly,
in the case of Borges, whose extensive studies of and writings about texts
from the Arab world and the East prefigured many contemporary debates
about universal and world literature. One of the key starting points of
Kushigian’s study is a rigorous interrogation of the appropriateness of
applying Edward Said’s critique of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
Anglo-French Orientalism to the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. She
suggests that using the term “Orientalism” in a de-historicized fashion that
fails to take into account the profound historical and cultural differences
that exist between, on the one hand, the French and British Empires, and,
on the other, the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America, impedes a nuanced
understanding of the particularities of attitudes toward the Arab world, the
Middle East, and Asian cultures that are manifested in literary texts from the
Iberian Peninsula and Latin America.7 Two significant differences between
Kushigian’s study and the one presented here are that her examination of
continuities excludes theater, which, as will become evident, is a crucial
component of the Arab–Iberian–Latin American tradition being traced in
this study, and that her analysis begins not with the literatures and cultures
of the Arab world and the East, but with the interaction of these cultures
in medieval Iberia.

Literary Texts of al-Andalus as Go-Betweens Linking the Arab World

and Latin America

The present study, which is simultaneously a cultural history and a story

of the transmission of a set of influential aesthetic and cultural ideas, takes

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 322 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 323

as its organizing trope a metaphor borrowed from the occupation of the

protagonist—if one can call her that—of one of its objects of analysis, a text
at once drama and proto-novel, a modernist closet drama8 avant la lettre
and one of the most radical and revolutionary works in world literary history,
Fernando de Rojas’s La Celestina, first published in Salamanca in 1499.9 The
text, originally published under the title Comedia de Calisto y Melibea, then
in 1514 under the title Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, and finally, in 1518,
under the title by which it has subsequently been known, La Celestina, is
a sui generis hybrid text written by a lawyer, scholar and Jewish converso.10
González Echevarría asserts that it is not only the “seed” of the modern
novel, as the noted Spanish critic Menéndez y Pelayo contends, but also that
it “inaugurates literary modernity by taking . . . to its very limits the radical
critique of all values subtending modern works. Celestina’s brood is, in that
sense, all literature written in the West since 1499.”11
Central to his thesis is a paradoxical claim that “Celestina,” meaning
both the childless character and the text in which she appears, simultane-
ously precludes and spawns a brood, most notably several innovative Latin
American prose texts written in the 1960s and 1970s that make explicit
reference to Celestina and /or the figure of the go-between: “La increíble
y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y su abuela desalmada,” by Gabriel
García Márquez (“The Incredibly Sad Story of Innocent Eréndira and her
Heartless Grandmother”)12; Cobra, by Sarduy13; and Aura14 and Terra Nostra,15
by Carlos Fuentes. Although this study will focus principally on Sarduy’s
novel, it will suggest that all of these texts share a number of thematic and
formal similarities not only with Rojas’s text but also with one of its most
important precursors, Tayf al-Khayal, << ‫( >>طيف الخيال‬The Shadow Spirit or
The Phantom),16 a shadow play written and performed in Cairo at the end
of the thirteenth century by Iraqi poet Ibn Daniyal.
As González Echevarría observes, Sarduy and his mentor the Cuban
writer José Lezama Lima are two of the most salient exemplars of an aes-
thetic style known as the “neo-baroque” or the “New World baroque,” whose
European roots derive primarily from the Spanish poet Luis de Góngora
y Argote. Similarly, Fuentes has described Terra Nostra, published in 1975,
three years after Sarduy’s Cobra, as a manifestation of the New World
baroque, and he has closely linked Aura, published in the 1960s, to Luis de
Góngora’s contemporary and rival, Francisco Quevedo.17 Not coincidentally,
as López-Baralt states, the noted Spanish critic Dámaso Alonso ascribes
many aspects of the baroque style associated with Góngora to his incorpora-
tion of elements of Iberian Arabic poetic traditions.18 Two significant clues
that Rojas’s text is likewise derived in large measure from Arabic sources

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 323 25/06/19 5:26 PM

324 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

are the fact that Celestina, like Umm Rashid (Mother Rashid, or Mother
Guidance) in lbn Daniyal’s play, is repeatedly referred to as “mother,” although
she, like her Arabic forebear, has no offspring and, more important, her
profession is referred to as that of an alcahueta—a go-between, bawd, pimp, or
pander—a Spanish word derived from the Arabic noun for a pimp or pander,
a qawwad<<‫>>قواد‬.19
What is being proposed in this study is that not only are the character
Celestina and Rojas’s eponymous text go-betweens, the Iberian Peninsula
and, more specifically, a number of its key literary texts—such as Don Quixote
and Entremeses (Intermezzos, i.e., short comic farces), by Cervantes; various
dramatic texts by Lope de Vega; and Libro de buen amor (Book of Good Love),
written in 1330 by Juan Ruiz, which were all, in part, products of al-Anda-
lus20––should also be seen as literary and cultural intermediaries between
Latin America and the Arab world. As will be elaborated, the genres that
Celestina and her “brood” spawned depended upon new and complex kinds
of contracts between audience and performers and between readers and texts
that one finds in incipient form in these earlier works.
Moreover, in a certain sense, as the author of this study, I am also acting
as a go-between, because, in addition to an analysis of cultural and textual
transmission, this is a study of omission ––an analysis of what has been lost
by not bringing together several large bodies of scholarship that should log-
ically be in much closer contact with one another but which, for historical,
linguistic and disciplinary reasons, have too rarely entered into dialogue
with one another. Those disciplines include pre-twentieth-century Arabic
literary, dramatic, and performance studies; medieval Hispano-Arabic
performance and literary studies; late medieval and Golden Age Spanish
literatures, including especially the works of Cervantes and the dramatic texts
of Rojas and Lope de Vega; and Latin American literature, especially some
twentieth-century texts from the so-called boom and postmodern periods.
As López-Baralt suggests, this latter group should also logically include the
works of the Spaniard Goytisolo among those of Latin American writers.21

A Philological Approach to the Comparative Study of Latin American

and Arab Culture and Literature

The approach that will be employed in analyzing this process of textual

transmission, beginning in the thirteenth century with lbn Daniyal’s The
Shadow Spirit and concluding in the second half of the twentieth century

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 324 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 325

with Sarduy’s Cobra, will, to borrow two terms from biology, be primarily
taxonomic, in the sense that it proposes new categories, rather than phy-
logenetic, since it does not assume a progressive and direct link between
materials. In other words, in the complex chain of textual circulation
described below, it would be fruitless to attempt to point to a single or a
few indisputable common ancestors for complex literary texts. Nonetheless,
what should rapidly become clear is that enough research concerning sources
and possible modes of transmission, frequently oral and performative in
the medieval period, has been done to establish fairly certain affiliation
among the texts I am linking here. (The connection between Celestina and
the works of Sarduy, Fuentes, and García Márquez cited above are patent
and widely accepted).
Moreover, one could argue, as I will, that, as well as obvious thematic
convergences, these texts employ similar and very complex rhetorical, textual,
and performative styles—whether written with the intention of actually
being performed or not—that are inflected with various kinds of literary
language. They also clearly derive from both “high” and “low” sources, use
elements from shared oral, theatrical, poetic, and prose forms and inten-
tionally mix and conflate these styles, often in analogous ways, as means of
masking, framing, and interrogating the concepts of identity and narrative
point of view. It is the persistence of these thematic and stylistic elements,
which mirror and comment upon a variety of shared historical and cultural
dilemmas, that constitute some of the clearest and most enduring cultural
links between Latin America and the Arab world.

From Mosul to Salamanca: lbn Daniyal’s The Shadow Spirit and Rojas’s

One logical starting point for this analysis is Mosul in 1262. Around that
year, when lbn Daniyal turned 14, he fled this Iraqi city, his birthplace, after
its recent sack by Hulagu Khan, the grandson on Genghis Khan. As Li Guo
points out in a recent study, Mosul, which is closely related to the Arabic
word musil <<‫>>موصل‬, or “crossroads,” was:

‘a meeting place’ of peoples, languages and cultures. The various

tongues—Arabic, Persian, Turkic, Kurdish, ancient Semitic (Aramaic,
Syriac, Hebrew)—were heard all over the town. The Tower of Babel,
metaphorically and physically, was just a stone’s throw away. The

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 325 25/06/19 5:26 PM

326 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

kind of linguistic infusion of non-Arabic and Mosuli elements into

classical Arabic and Cairene colloquialism [in the shadow plays later
written by Ibn Daniyal] is best characterized by himself [Ibn Daniyal]
as ‘the tongue of the shaykh Sasan.’22

Here, Guo points to lbn Daniyal’s characterization of the language used by

the characters in the plays he would write soon after in Cairo as “the tongue of
the shaykh Sasan.” This reference is to the supposed leader of the Banu Sasan,
a legendary assortment of rogues and tricksters that populate Arabic and
Eastern medieval literature, sometimes conflated with Roma people because
the Banu Sasan spoke their own argot called lugha,<<‫>>لغة‬, (language).”23
When lbn Daniyal left Mosul, he was part of a mass migration of
Iraqis fleeing Hulagu Khan and his forces. As Menocal notes in Shards
of Love, philology, as defined by Spitzer, Auerbach, and herself, is a his-
torically contingent study of the meanings of words in particular texts
that “not only begins with Babel and its exiles; it is devoted to them.”24
Moreover, Ette, in his introduction to ArabAmericas, points to “the degree
to which the experience of exile, of ‘separation,’ entered into the concepts
and research of a scholar [i.e., Auerbach] whose most important work
emerged from the experience of exile and was only successful because
this forced change of place [to Istanbul, i.e., the “East”] . . . made him
particularly sensitive to . . . the . . . worldwide dimension of literature.”25
It is not surprising to discover, therefore, that one of the themes of the
texts that constitute the continuum being examined here, as well as the
condition of many of the authors of those texts, is exile in one form or
another. As will be elaborated below, the milieu of linguistic and cultural
multiplicity in which lbn Daniyal spent his childhood, in the shadow of
the mythical Tower of Babel, provided only some of a dizzying array of
rhetorical registers he utilized in the plays he would write soon after.26 In
these texts, he used many of the most sophisticated and rarefied forms of
Arabic poetry, inflected with a range of non-Arabic languages, alongside
colloquial Arabic from Cairo and the argot of urban outcasts, criminals,
and supposed sexual deviants. Moreover, the shadow plays that he penned
virtually defy generic classification. This transgeneric quality––in which
erudite poetry, narrative, autobiography, and performance, including
verbal acrobatics, oral performance, stage directions for actual live pre-
sentation, bawdy humor, and metatheatricality merge and are frequently
indistinguishable––is key to understanding the links between these works
by lbn Daniyal and those created by Rojas in the sixteenth century and
Sarduy in the twentieth.

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 326 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 327

As Guo asserts, The Shadow Spirit, the first of the three plays, written
shortly before 1300, simultaneously contains elements of maqama <<‫>>مقامة‬
(poetic prose picaresque tale); autobiography; history; performed shadow
play; and a recycled diwan <<‫( >>ديوان‬collection) of poems in various Arabic
styles, including the qasida <<‫( >>قصيدة‬ode) and ghazal <<‫( >>غزل‬lyric).27 This
protean, multigeneric, and metatheatrical form of the text is mirrored in the
pansexual and sometimes scatological themes it contains, which are akin to
those found in The Decameron (1349), The Canterbury Tales (1387–1400), and
Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532–1564). Additionally, the maqama is clearly
one of the principal precursors of the Spanish picaresque novel.
Not surprisingly, a number of concepts that Bakhtin elaborates28 are
especially appropriate tools for analyzing lbn Daniyal’s shadow plays. These
include “grotesque realism” and the preoccupation with the body and bodily
functions; a “carnival view of the world,” that is, a vision of carnival as a rite
that breaks down barriers between performer and audience and allows and
accelerates the entry of the verbal and corporal language of carnival and street
life into literary texts and back into life; the dialogue between high and low
culture; the banquet as a celebration of a worldview that champions the body
and corporal life; and the role of laughter and mockery in literature. Guo,
who emphasizes both lbn Daniyal’s use of “high” and “popular” literary forms
and his incorporation of multiple languages and rhetorical registers into his
shadow plays, also observes that, “when it came to being funny, none played
it better than Ibn Daniyal. Cursing became an art form, by which the young
refugee strived for survival in the urban jungle.”29
The Iraqi poet and playwright was celebrated for his clever puns that
conflated and confused identities, mocked his adversaries and ridiculed those
in power, especially moralists. One of lbn Daniyal’s plays, al-Mutayyam wa
al-Dayi’ al-Yutayyim >>‫ >>المتيم والضايع اليتيم‬30 is set in the Husayniya quarter

of Cairo, which, according to Guo, was “bustling with vendors, pedestrians,

food sellers, and street performers and all kinds of ‘lowlifes.’”31 ‘Ajib wa
Gharib <<‫( >>عجيب وغريب‬The Amazing Preacher and the Stranger) is virtually
a vaudeville show of street performers that includes quacks, jugglers, fortune
tellers, animal trainers, and other assorted hucksters. Clearly in the case of
Ibn Daniyal, already renowned as a poet and panegyrist, the language of
urban Cairo poured into his plays and back out into the streets.
After being forced to flee Iraq, lbn Daniyal had lived briefly in Turkey
before settling in Cairo, where he simultaneously set up a practice as an
eye doctor and insinuated himself into court life and soon became one of
the most accomplished and celebrated poets in Arabic during the medieval
period. In the Arab world, he is renowned as a poet, and many of his verses

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 327 25/06/19 5:26 PM

328 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

are still familiar to literate Arabic speakers. As Guo, Carlson, and Mahfouz
make clear, however, his contribution to literary forms other than poetry,
especially theater, has gone largely unrecognized until recently because
the other principal genre in which he worked, shadow plays, was ignored,
devalued, or unknown. More importantly, as Guo demonstrates in impres-
sive detail, the relationship between lbn Daniyal’s poetic oeuvre, written in
classical or “high” forms, and the shadow plays, a popular, or “low,” form is
quite close and indisputable.32 In fact, lbn Daniyal imports his poetic texts,
frequently with minimal alteration, directly into the shadow plays, most
notably perhaps in the case of “Ritha’ li al-Shaytan” <<‫( >>رثاء للشيطان‬Elegy
for the Devil), also the title of one of his best-known poems, which is inserted
in a dialogue between the hunchbacked title character of The Shadow Spirit
and his companion Amir Wisal (TAKT 17–20). In addition, the theme of
exile, clearly an autobiographical reference to lbn Daniyal’s own exile from
Mosul, appears repeatedly in The Shadow Spirit. The physiognomy of the
so-called hunchback, clearly alludes, as Guo points out, to the topography
of Mosul,33 and when the character first speaks he states directly that his
only motive for migrating from the Iraqi city to Egypt was to be reunited
with Amir Wisal (TAKT 13).
Although Rojas was not literally an exile, he was a Jewish converso and
thus exiled from his family’s religious and cultural traditions to such an extent
that his own father was called before the Inquisition and Rojas’s attempt to
represent him was rebuffed by the tribunal.34 Moreover, since Ferdinand and
Isabel effectively took control of all Spanish territory in 1492 and instituted
an exclusivist regime of expulsion and forced religious conversion, Rojas must
have felt himself a stranger in his own land, a position that is dramatized in
Celestina. The band of servants and outcasts in Celestina, published in 1499,
not only mirror the rogues and tricksters of the Banu Sasan whose language
Ibn Daniyal incorporates in his shadow plays, they provide a glimpse of
Spanish culture from below immediately after 1492. The text presents the
critical perspective of society’s outsiders as a means of offering a barely
veiled critique of the frivolousness of the Castilian aristocracy, especially
their elaborate courting rituals.
Rojas’s Celestina, written in Salamanca two centuries after Ibn Daniyal’s
play, shares—in addition to the figure of the bawd—an array of formal and
thematic similarities with The Shadow Spirit including the transgeneric qual-
ity of the text and many of the same themes and rhetorical devices. These
include the thematic congruence of the pleasure inherent in language and
copulation; the theme of monstrosity, including the implication that the text
itself is something monstrous; the theme of witchcraft; and the formal use and

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 328 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 329

theme of storytelling. For example, in The Shadow Spirit the body as erotic
object is compared, through the use of puns and similes, with language, and,
more specifically, letters of the Arabic alphabet. In Act 1 of Celestina, the title
character tells Pármeno, the servant of the lovesick aristocrat Calisto, that:

. . . el deleyte es con los amigos en las cosas sensuales, y especial en

recontar las cosas deamores, y comunicarlas: “esto hice;” “esto otro me
dixo”; “tal donayre passamos;” “de tal manera la tomé;” “assí la besé;”
assí me mordió;”“assí la abracé;” “assí se allegó.” ¡Oh qué fabla! ¡Oh
qué gracia! ¡Oh qué juegos! ¡Oh qué besos! “¡Vamos allá!;” “¡Bolvamos
acá!;” “¡Ande la música;” “Pintemos los motes [Cantemos] canciones,
[Hagamos] invenciones, justemos.” “¿Qué cimera sacaremos, o qué

. . . Éste es el deleyte, que lo ál, mejor lo hacen los asnos en el prado.

(LC 278)

(. . . Pleasure in sensual matters comes with friends, and especially

in telling every detail: I did this, She told me that, We trifled like
this, I took her this way, This is how she yielded, [I kissed her
like this, she bit me like that, I hugged her like this, she rubbed me
like that] What Talk! What pleasure! What games! What kisses! Let
us make riddles, sing songs, make things up, joust. What crest will
be our signal, what writing . . . This is pleasure . . . as for the other,
asses do it better in the pasture.[LCT 36–37])

The Shadow Spirit and the Arabic Roots of the Go-Between in Theater
and Prose

Obviously, the figure of the go-between in The Shadow Spirit is a key

aspect of this study not only because she reappears in Celestina and again in
twentieth-century Latin American fiction but because her character––a
diabolical seamstress who weaves stories behind the scenes, “stitches” couples
together, and sews up the ruptured hymens caused by her mischief––mirrors the
construction of the texts in which she appears. As Samuel G. Armistead and
James T. Monroe make clear in “Celestina’s Muslim Sisters,” there are a number
of plausible Arabic and Eastern sources for Rojas’s bawd.35 Most appear in oral
or written versions of Alf Layla wa Layla <<‫( ­>>ألفا لف ليلة و ليلة‬i1001 Nights),

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 329 25/06/19 5:26 PM

330 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

and Armistead and Monroe offer conclusive evidence that not only were oral
versions of the tales circulating in the Iberian Peninsula in the medieval period,
a written version of the outer frame tale was also readily available, and it is
reasonable to assume that Rojas knew about it or had read it. As Leyla Rouhi
points out, there are many European and Eastern texts with go-betweens ante-
dating Celestina that may have served as models for Rojas’s text, including Ruiz’s
multigeneric medieval text Libro de buen amor (Book of Good Love), which
contains the go-between trotaconventos.36 Nevertheless, there are a number of
specific reasons to believe that directly, or indirectly, The Shadow Spirit, by Ibn
Daniyal, is a key source for Celestina. As Armistead and Monroe write:

This play [The Shadow Spirit] has, as one of its main characters, an old
woman go-between, Umm Ras[h]id, who is so similar to Celestina
as to command our close attention. Just like the Spanish bawd, the
Egyptian Umm Ras[h]id is an all-rounder and multi-professional: She
is a seamstress, a perfume vendor, a cosmetic-maker, a gynecologist, a
sorceress, an associate of the devil, and a maker of magic potions, as well
as a go-between. Both women, too, preside over houses of prostitution
and both “have their measure of professional pride and self-respect.”
So close are both characterizations that it is hard for us to restrain our
enthusiasm for comparative studies as we contemplate them. Is there,
perhaps, some distant (or not-so-distant) genetic relationship between
these two texts? Do they perhaps revert to some common, now lost or
still unknown source? Or do they merely spring from a shared cultural
context of go-betweenery personally experienced by each author? If
the latter, then such a cultural context, embracing both Arabic and
Spanish, must have been a very close one.37

Much of Armistead and Monroe’s conjecture is based on Maria

Kotzamanidou’s article about the representation of the go-between in
Spanish and Arabic popular theater. In it, she points out that “the char-
acterization of the go-between in the Arabic play [The Shadow Spirit]
closely resembles Rojas’ Celestina.”38 For example, “Umm Ras[h]id and
Celestina gain access to the houses of women of rank by selling material
for sewing and skeins of thread.”39 This shared action is not an arbitrary
or superfluous aspect of Celestina’s character since her role as a seamstress,
as alluded to above, is intimately linked to her role as a go-between in
that, as she boasts, she has conducted over five thousand operations to
revirginize women by sewing new hymens on them, and, according to

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 330 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 331

Calisto’s servant Pármeno, she has even sold the same woman three times
to the French ambassador as a virgin (LCT 25). Another significant link
between the two characters also identified by Kotzamanidou40 is that both
Umm Rashid and Celestina are surrogate mothers for other prostitutes.
Celestina reminds Pármeno, whom she wishes to enlist in her scheme
to string Calisto along, that his mother: “que tan puta vieja era tu madre
como yo!” (LC 271) [“was as much an old whore as I”] (LCT 32), and
Umm Rashid tells the Shadow Spirit that Prince Wisal’s mother, who was
her friend and also apparently a prostitute, spoiled Wisal: <<‫يقه وضفر شعره‬
‫( >>أمه ما كان أمنعها ملا كان وصال بذلك الصلف والدالل يف تزويقه وتنطيف طر‬TAK 23) [“His mother
had no rival in lovemaking. She spoiled that conceited brat Wisal too
much” (TAKT 37)]. Kotzamanidou notes that, whereas the Arabic text
deals very overtly with male and female homosexuality, and Umm Rashid’s
husband is described as a homosexual who seduced Prince Wisal when
he was a boy, the only mention of Celestina’s husband is as a “comedor
de huevos assados” [“someone who eats grilled eggs.”].41 However, as she
points out, this phrase implies that he is a cuckolded husband or someone
whose testicles are cooked. Moreover, Celestina, like Umm Rashid, has a
wide range of sexual experience and proclivities, and at one point exhorts
one of her protégés, Areusa, who is ailing, to get into bed, whereupon the
bawd feels for the source of her ailment, exclaiming “qué gorda y fresca
que estás! Qué pechos y qué gentileza!” (LC 386) (“how fresh and plump
you are! What breasts, what grace!”)42 (LCT 106).
As Guo observes, The Shadow Spirit has embedded within it multi-
ple layers of metatheatricality, and its form continually enacts one of its
central metaphors: the play of illusion and reality. In The Shadow Spirit,
he writes, “the shadow play master is in a sense an alter ego of the play-
wright.”43 One also sees this complex metatheatricality in lbn Daniyal’s
play The Amazing Preacher and the Stranger. In that play “the protagonist,”
writes Guo, “confronts the shadow play master regarding the eternal ques-
tion of art imitating life. The lyric ends with the following: << ‫الشيخ دانيال‬
‫>>لكن إخواين ذوو أفضال قد حاولوا حقيقة الخيال وألزموين ذاك بالسؤال قلت لهم ذلك بامتثال مستغف ًرا ريب ذا الجالل يل ولذاك‬x44,
(“How to figure out the truth behind the shadow images? / People
pestered me with this question. / I told them: It’s all illusion . . . / I
ask forgiveness of Lord Almighty / on my behalf, and on behalf of
shaykh lbn Daniyal).” 45 As Guo further elaborates, at various points
in The Shadow Spirit Ibn Daniyal puns with the Arabic verb for act-
ing, khyl <<‫>>خيل‬, which means, among other things, “shadow” and to
“become the object of imagination, to appear,”46 that is, “to perform.”

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 331 25/06/19 5:26 PM

332 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

The term, as Guo observes, is freighted e­ tymologically in Arabic with

implications of sexuality, tawdriness, and seduction:

In light [of the fact] that the sex appeal of the performer––actor,
“player,” and seducer, all in one––was evidently part of the game, we
may be on safe ground to assume that he /she would step out from
behind the curtain to “act out” for the audience from time to time.
We also may assume that he /she would play the speaking and singing
parts, executing the task of multiple, often cross-gender, voice over.47

Tellingly, one of the examples Guo offers for this technique of cross-­gender
voice over in The Shadow Spirit is Umm Rashid’s “monologue about the
events that took place in her ‘house.’”48 It seems especially important to point
out that, although Celestina has infrequently been performed, the rhetorical
style of multiple shifting identities, as evidenced, for example, in the play’s
Iago-like asides, closely resembles the one that had been developed in lbn
Daniyal’s shadow play. As is elaborated below, one also sees an analogous
formal structure of theatricality and shifting identities in Sarduy’s postmod-
ern novel Cobra.
Although Arabic versions of lbn Daniyal’s plays, including The Shadow
Spirit, are in the collection of the Escorial Library in Spain, those manu-
scripts almost certainly arrived in the country more than three centuries after
Celestina was composed, and there is no evidence that Rojas’s voluminous
personal library in Salamanca contained copies of the Iraqi poet’s plays.
Moreover, there is not a great deal in the way of extant textual evidence of
shadow plays and performances in medieval Spain. Nevertheless, there are
a number of reasons to believe that popular performances similar to those
written and presented by lbn Daniyal in Cairo in the late thirteenth cen-
tury, and more specifically shadow plays, also existed and were performed
extensively in the medieval Iberian Peninsula.
One example is the eleventh-century text book al-Akhlaq wa al-Siyar
<<‫—>>األخالق والسير‬translated into Spanish as Los carácteres y la conducta––in
which Ibn Hazm of Córdoba describes watching a shadow play and compares
it to the world: “It consists of figures mounted on a mathana, a wooden beam
which turns around with rapidity. A group of figures disappears while another
becomes gradually visible.”49 In his renowned treatise on love, translated into
Spanish as El Collar de la paloma: tratado sobre el amor y los amantes and into
English as The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab
Love—lbn Hazm also devotes an entire chapter to the importance of the
figure of the go-between in amorous matters.50 Shmuel Moreh, in his study

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 332 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 333

of performance in medieval Arab Spain, offers more persuasive evidence of

the prevalence of the shadow play in the Iberian Peninsula long before Rojas’s
text when he cites an elaborate description of the shadow play from the middle
of the twelfth century by the Andalusian poet Ibn al-Arabi, who analyzes its
effect on the audience in terms of an analogy with the relationship of Adam
and early man to God in the Bible.51 “There were,” as Moreh writes in another
study, “certainly many kinds of dramatic entertainment in Andalusia.”52
In several articles devoted to the analysis of zajals (ghazals in transliter-
ated Arabic) and other Hispano-Arabic poetic forms pervasive in medieval
Iberia, Monroe reminds the reader that these verses were oral texts that
were written to be sung, and some poets, like the renowned twelfth-century
writer Ibn Quzman, were noted for mixing “high” and “low” genres in ways
similar to those employed by lbn Daniyal in his shadow plays.53 More sig-
nificantly, in his analysis of lbn Quzman’s zajal no.12, Monroe asserts that
the poem is an elaborate metaphor based on a description of a shadow play
with drummers, reed players, sword dancers, singers, vaudeville acts with
animals, and a cross-dressing boy covered with a veil, taffeta, and amulets
from Babylon. The virtuosic “director” of this musical and verbal enactment
of a shadow play is, asserts Monroe, the poet lbn Quzman himself.54 In
addition to linking the shadow plays described in this zajal to El coloquio
de los perros (1613) (The Dialogue of the Dogs) and other later prose works by
Cervantes, Monroe also points to what may be the earliest extant reference
to a shadow play in the Iberian Peninsula: the eleventh-century poet Ibn
Shuhayd’s description of his teacher’s gait as “staging the Jewish puppet,”
a reference to a stock character in shadow plays.55 Moreh also points to
a twelfth-century description of various forms of entertainment in the
Andalusian town of Ubeda that includes jugglers, sword dances, a play, and
shadow plays.56 Charlote D. Stern states that “Since shadow puppets were
known in medieval Iberia, it is conceivable that lbn Daniyal’s plays or others
like them were mounted on the Peninsula. The Shadow Play, for instance,
features an old bawd Umm Ras[h]id, who anticipates Fernando de Rojas’s
Celestina by 200 years.”57
Equally intriguing for this study is a recent article by Federico Corriente
that traces the history of puppetry in the Iberian Peninsula from shadow
theater in the “Islamic tradition” during the medieval period to the appearance
in common usage of the word “títeres,” or puppets, in the sixteenth century,
especially in Cervantes’s El retablo de las maravillas (1615) (The Marvelous
Puppet Show; literally The Altar [or Stage] of Wonders).58 Corriente not only
traces the etymology of the word títere and other Spanish terms for pup-
pets and puppeteers to Arabic and the parlance of the Islamic shadow play,

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 333 25/06/19 5:26 PM

334 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

he offers ample evidence that the shadow play arrived early in the Iberian
Peninsula and was presented from the eleventh until the sixteenth century
when, under Christian domination, shadow theater was slowly replaced
by puppets with strings that appeared on a stage. Corriente also points to
connotations in Arabic for the word “actor” in the medieval period of “sod-
omite,” and he points particularly to cross-dressing male actors played, as
he writes, by “homosexuals.”59

The Hispano-Arabic Literary and Theatrical Roots of Sarduy’s Cobra

Although one cannot establish an unequivocal link between The Shadow

Spirit and Celestina that demonstrates that the former text directly influenced
the latter, there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that lbn Daniyal’s
shadow plays, especially The Shadow Spirit, are vital precursors in the cre-
ation of the discourse of the go-between, particularly in theatrical form,
that appears two centuries later in Rojas’s text. It is, as previously suggested,
much easier to establish the clear links between Celestina and Cobra (as
well as with Aura and Terra Nostra, by Fuentes). Such links do not, in turn,
establish that Sarduy’s novel was “influenced” by lbn Daniyal’s play. In fact,
there is no evidence of which I am aware that either Latin American writer
knew about lbn Daniyal. Unlike their contemporary, the twentieth-century
Spanish writer Goytisolo, who, as López-Barralt discusses, very consciously
incorporated allusions to a range of ancient and contemporary Arabic texts
and motifs into his novels as an assertion of his and Spain’s ongoing affinity
with the Arabic literary tradition,60 Sarduy, in Cobra and his other novels, and
Fuentes in Aura and Terra Nostra, manifest their relationships to the Arab
world, the legacy of al-Andalus and the East quite differently from Goytisolo.
In Cobra,61 Sarduy, who, like a number of Cubans, was ethnically part
Chinese, subsumes the East in a whole range of Eastern myths, practices,
and cultural elements, ranging from tantric sexuality to Tibetan monks.
According to González Echevarría, Sarduy is less concerned with directly
addressing the Arabic legacy in the Iberian Peninsula than in linking the future
of Latin America, and more specifically the Indies––whose name is derived
from Columbus’s mistaken notion that he was sailing east to India—to the
very real East with its future of “chaotic cities filled with misery and violence,
where primitive cultures subsist and are reborn.”62 In that sense, Sarduy, in
Cobra, is, in part, critiquing what he perceives to be Octavio Paz’s ahistorical
mythification of the Far East.63 Nevertheless, one of the novel’s key settings

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 334 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 335

is Tangier, which is the object of a quest by Cobra so that she can undergo a
sex-change operation. As González Echevarría puts it, Tangier “represents the
realm of transformations, more specifically the hinge at the border between
East and West, where the differences between the realms are played out.”64
However, Tangier appears to also represent a realm of pure play—in some
cases drug induced—and limitless theatricality. It is also significant that, in
addition to ostensibly portraying the adventures of a stage performer, Cobra,
like Celestina and The Shadow Spirit, is composed largely of dialogue.
One of the most obvious parallels between Cobra and the shadow
plays of lbn Daniyal is the description of performers with whom the
Cuban transvestite shares the stage at a café in Tangier—who recall
the parade of hucksters, riff-raff, animal trainers, and street performers
in The Amazing Preacher and the Stranger. Sarduy begins by describing
Cobra: “era una tanguista y mamboleta platinada, con mucho khôl sobre
los párpados, un lunar en la mejilla y dos buscanovios . . . Cantaba un
mambo en esperanto”(C 93). (“[Cobra] was a platinum blonde tango and
mambo dancer, loads of kohl on her eyelids, a beauty mark on her cheek
and two lovelocks . . . She sang a mambo in esperanto.” [CT 60–61]).
He then describes the other performers, “La precedían las Dolly Sisters,
mellizas hormonadas, un niño marroquí avezado en la danza india, la
Cherche-Bijoux y la Vanussa, canadienses gigantescas prognáticas que
entre foquitos rojos intermitentes y burbujas de jabón doblaban siempre
a desatiempo, sus propios discos” (C 94–95). (“She was preceded by the
Dolly Sisters, hormoned twins, a Moroccan boy inured in Indian dance,
the Cherche-Bijoux and Vanussa, gigantic prognathic Canadians who
among endless red spotlights and soap bubbles dubbed, never in time,
their own records.” [CT 62]). Within this description Sarduy interjects
an elaborate footnote describing the chorus:

[*Nota 1] Formaba el coro la Divina––una guachinanga cubana,

antaño lanzada por Juan Orol––, la Adivina––que en el entreacto
tiraba el tarot, el tute y los caracoles––, la Di Vina––bailarina napol-
itana de ascendencia austríaca, nacida en Puerto Rico y procedente
de Caracas––y Lady Vinah––diz que noble inglesa venida a menos
con la pérdida de plantación de té en Ceilán. (C 94)

([Footnote] The chorus included the Divine Her––a slanty-eyed

Cuban launched yesteryear by Juan Orol––the Diviner––who at
intermission tossed the tarot cards, and the conch shells––the Di
Vine (. . . er . . .)–– a Neapolitan dancer from Caracas, of Austrian

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 335 25/06/19 5:26 PM

336 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

ascendance and born in Puerto Rico—and Lady Viner—so-called

noble English lady come down in the world after the loss of her tea
plantation in Ceylon. [CT 62])

During her performance Cobra “meneaba la cintura al ritmo de Pérez Prado”

(C 95) (“wiggled her hips to a Perez Prado mambo” [CT 62]), but imme-
diately after, the novel’s author, in uppercase letters in parentheses, exhorts
the reader to provide his or her own soundtrack with the music of Egypt’s
most renowned contemporary diva: “(OIGAN A UMM KALSUM)” (C
95) (“[LISTEN TO UMM KULTHUM]” [CT 62]).
The description of Cobra’s sex-change operation in Tangier must
rank as one of the most preposterous and hilarious passages in contem-
porary literature. It is performed by Dr. Ktazob—a skilled seamstress like
Celestina who has already provided Cobra’s arch rival, the drag performer
Cadillac, with an enhanced male member—without the benefit of anes-
thesia and with Cobra’s double, Pup, whom the reader may interpret as
a physically manifested projection of his penis, feeling the effects of the
surgery and succumbing (the operation is magically undone in part two
of the novel, when Cobra again is referred to as “he”). Sarduy’s novel
constitutes the final demolition of the Western tradition of courtly
love—itself derived largely from Eastern sources—in a gleeful frenzy
of onanistic subjectivity, a process that has as an antecedent the savage
mockery of heterosexual coupling in lbn Daniyal’s The Shadow Spirit in
scenes such as Prince Wisal’s wedding ceremony at which he discovers
that the bride whose beauty Umm Rashid has so lavishly praised is in
fact a grotesque hag.
Catastrophe, and more specifically the image of explosion, manifested
explicitly in the text through reference to the Big Bang theory, is central to
Sarduy’s aesthetic. As González Echevarría notes, catastrophe for Sarduy
always takes the form of a journey, a separation, the departure from an island,
a seeming allusion to his own departure from the conservative provincial town
of Camagüey in the interior of Cuba, from which he hailed, to Havana, and
eventually to Paris, where he settled after Fidel Castro came to power.65 In
historical terms, the recurrent image of the Big Bang obviously also refers
to the Cuban Revolution, which was for Sarduy as catastrophic a rupture
as Hulagu Khan’s sacking of Mosul was for lbn Daniyal and Isabel and
Ferdinand’s conquest of Spain was for Rojas.66
The episodes in the Arab East, Cobra’s theater troupe, and the theme
of catastrophe and exile are but three of a number of aspects in Sarduy’s
novel that uncannily echo The Shadow Spirit and lbn Daniyal’s other

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 336 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 337

shadow plays. These include, for example, a preoccupation with names

and naming, especially totemic names or names associated with characters’
occupations and stage personae. Whereas Sarduy gives his characters camp
names that allude to high-end commodities (e.g., Dior and Cadillac), or
contemporary literary celebrities (e.g., Sontag), lbn Daniyal’s characters’
names refer tongue in cheek to their functions in the sex trade. For exam-
ple, the female prostitutes mourning the departure of Satan include Qadib
<<‫( >>قضيب‬Penis Sucker) and Narjis <<‫( >>نرجيس‬Narcissus), and a male
prostitute is named Tawus <<‫( >>طاووس‬Peacock). In The Love-Stricken
One and the Lost One Who Inspires Passion, a matchmaker named “Swap”
appears who offers his services to a male suitor who is trying to woo a
beautiful young man he has seen at the baths.
In Cobra, the Lyrical Theater of Dolls is, of course, itself a bordello,
albeit a male bordello that is a theater of fetishes, headed by a character
called Señora, or “Madam” in the English translation of the novel—an
enabler who is a clear allusion to Rojas’s Celestina, and thus, indirectly, to
her precursor in The Shadow Spirit, Umm Rashid. For obvious reasons, the
characters in Sarduy’s novel, like those in The Shadow Spirit, are obsessively
focused on the body. Moreover, both works are laden with extreme and
gratuitous descriptions of sexual fetishes and perversions. For example, in
Cobra, referring to the preferences of the bordello’s clients /audience, Sarduy
writes: “sabían las malhadadas quién era foot adorer y ante quién había que
bailar una javanesa en traje de Mata Hari y poniéndose un lavado” (C 15)
(“the poor wretches knew who was a foot adorer and for whom one had to
do a Javanese dance in Mata Hari costume while having an enema” [CT
6]). In The Shadow Spirit, Prince Wisal offers a long rebuke to his penis in
which he describes a litany of sexual practices, culminating in descriptions
of his couplings with various animals:

‫ فرتاين إليهم أتعال بعد ربط األحجار يف‬... /‫ولقد كان يعرتيني إنعاظ فأغشا األتان بني الدواب‬
ً ‫غري أين قد كنت قورت‬/‫ونكحت الكالب أيضً ا ولكن يف الفواخري تحت تلك القباب‬/‫األذناب‬
(TAK 38) 67.‫حذ ًرا عند ذاك يك أتوقى كل ناب يف حده غري ناب‬/‫ثم صريته لها يف الرقاب‬

(I used to stand behind a female donkey and insert my penis in its

After tying its tail with stones.
I even coupled with bitches of dogs,
In potter[y], underneath arches.
But I used to cover

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 337 25/06/19 5:26 PM

338 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

The bitch’s neck with a shield.

I feared that when I would ejaculate,
The bitch would bite me with its sharp canine teeth
I copulated with almost any easily-caught creature,
Whether walking or crawling on earth. [TAKT 58–59])

In Sarduy’s novel, the references to drugs, concoctions, and the pharmacy

are pervasive. For example—in what seems simultaneously a parody of the
practice of female foot mutilation in China, Celestina’s repair of hymens with
needle and thread and an allusion to the Spanish bawd’s pharmacy—Cobra
engages in elaborate attempts to shrink her feet:

[B]uscaba sin tregua los zumos, el elixir de la reducción, el jugo que

achica––. En las gavetas de una consola y sobre un diván turco se
abrían robustas alcachofas que iban ganando una vellosidad blanca; en
vasos de Lalique el formol conservaba raíces machacadas y cogollos,
bagazos en que habían quedado prendidas grandes hormigas rojas.
Búcaros y globos de lámparas, al revés, protegían de la luz la germi-
nación de los cotiledones; una motera de nácar conservaba semillas
en alcohol, otras, de carey, manteca de majá, resina de caoba y nuez
vómica. (C 30)

([R]elentlessly she sought the saps, the elixir of reduction, the juice that
shrinks. In a chest of drawers and on a divan robust artichokes opened,
a white down gradually covering them; in Lalique glasses formaldehyde
preserved crushed roots and sugarcane knots, bagasses in which large
red ants were caught. Earthenware vessels and round lamps, upside
down, protected the germination of cotyledons from light; a mother-
of-pearl vanity case preserved seeds in alcohol, others, of tortoise shell,
snake butter, mahogany resin and nux vomica. [CT 17])

Señora and the others in the bordello accuse Cobra of “bruja, de yerbera, de
criar en su cuarto un jabalí” (C 31) (“witchcraft, of weed dealing, of breeding
a wild boar in her room” [CT 17]), but Cobra eventually brews a remedy
that is so effective that it shrinks both herself and Señora into dwarfs. In
one of an endless series of doublings and repetitions in the novel, Señora
then develops equally bizarre concoctions so that Cobra’s dwarf, Pup, will
grow to a sufficient size to replace her as the star performer of the Lyrical
Theater of Dolls.

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 338 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 339

In Act One of Celestina, Pármeno offers his master Calisto an even

more elaborate description of the go-between’s laboratory:

Y en su casa fazía perfumes, falsaba estoraques, menjuy, animes,

ámbar, algalia, polvillos, almizcles, mosquetes. Tenía una cámara
llena de alambiques, de redomillas, de barrilejos de barro, de vidrio,
de arambre, de estaño, hechos de mill faziones. Hacía solimán, afeyte
cocido, argentadas, bujelladas, cerillas, llanillas, unturillas, lustres,
luzentores, clarimientes, alvalinos, y otras aguas de rostro, de rasuras
de gamones, de cortezas de [e]spantalobos, de taraguntía, de hieles,
de agraz, de mosto, destiladas y açucaradas.(LC258–260)

(And in her house she distilled perfumes; she perfected storax, bezoin,
resins, ambergris, civet, powders, musk, blackberry blossoms. She had
a room filled with alambics, small retorts, little pots of clay, glass,
copper, and tin in a thousand shapes and sizes. She made corrosive
sublimate, a variety of face paints, waxes, little paddles for smoothing
them on, lotions, polishers, smoothers, cleansers, whiteners, and
enhancing waters from root of asphodel, bark of sienna, dragontea,
gall, grape pits, and wine, distilled and sweetened. [LCT 25])

Not only do the lists of concoctions in Sarduy’s novel allude to these descrip-
tions of Celestina and her supposedly diabolical practices with the herbs and
forbidden brews that she uses in her role as a go-between, they are also a clear
reference to Jacques Derrida’s influential essay “La pharmacie de Platon.”68 The
essay, a seminal text of deconstruction, analyzes Plato’s “Phaedra,” in which
Phaedra debates Socrates about the value of the oral versus the written and
Socrates disparagingly refers to the written text as a “pharmakon.” Through
an elaborate analysis of the various contradictory meanings of “pharmakon,”
Derrida asserts that the Greek word means, among many other things,
both “poison” and “medicine,” and in so doing interrogates the notion that a
metalanguage exists outside of a text that can establish its definitive meaning.
Derrida’s critical writings, like Roland Barthes’s, with whom Sarduy studied at
the Sorbonne, obviously inform Sarduy’s novel, especially in the sense that both
of the French critics posit the notion of writing as a kind of playful, untethered
textuality.69 In his introduction to Celestina, González Echevarría also explicitly
links the Spanish go-between to Plato’s “Phaedra” and to Derrida’s essay:

Celestina . . . is the mistress of eros and of language at the center

of this collapse of meaning . . . Celestina may be said to stand

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 339 25/06/19 5:26 PM

340 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

for Logos-turned textuality, and to have in her background the

mythic Pharmakon that Jacques Derrida so masterfully analyzed
in his ‘Plato’s Pharmacy.’ She is the Socratic figure presiding over
the banquet in her brothel as she and her disciples discuss love in
a scene that appears to be a parody of the Symposium and, sacri-
legiously, of the Last Supper, which would make her a grotesque
Christ figure. Like the Pharmakon, Celestina wounds and cures
by stitching hymens, and in the end she dies a violent death as the
scapegoat of the story.70

Like Celestina, and, in many respects Ibn Daniyal’s The Shadow Spirit, the
subject of Cobra is writing itself. In a footnote in Cobra,71 Sarduy sneers
at the magical-realist writers of the so-called Latin American boom, a
group that includes Fuentes, García Márquez, and others whom Sarduy
sees as slaves to mimesis. By situating Cobra within the framework of the
critical theories of Derrida, Barthes, Tel Quel and French poststructural-
ism, and negating his connection to magical realism and contemporary
Latin American boom writers, Sarduy is emphasizing both his status as
a self-fashioned, transcultural exile in his adopted home, Paris, and as the
creator of a new kind of novel.
By placing Cobra beside both Celestina and Ibn Daniyal’s shadow play,
one can begin to detect not only a synchronic transnational tradition in
which, as Menocal suggests, the medieval is already postmodern,72 but also
a coherent yet hybrid, transgeneric, translinguistic congeries in which high
art is virtually indistinguishable from Rabelaisian earthiness, courtly love
is synonymous with lust, sex with the most debased eroticism, and theater,
prose, and poetry are overlapping genres. The fact that alchemy, the art that
Cobra and Celestina both practice to lure sexual partners, is simultaneously
imbued etymologically with insinuations of the East and so directly related to
conjuring up reality through writing and performing reinforces a revelatory,
although not altogether surprising, link between poststructuralism and the
aesthetics of Ibn Daniyal’s medieval shadow plays.
It is, for example, instructive to discover a litany reminiscent of both
the one used to describe the pharmacy of the drag queen and go-between
in Cobra and of the one used by the bawd in Celestina that is offered by
Prince Wisal in Ibn Daniyal’s thirteenth-century shadow play to describe
the professional paraphernalia of Umm Rashid:

‫هذا‬ ... ‫والبخور‬

... ‫يخلو‬ ‫وأصنافهذاالطيب‬
‫وجيبها ال‬ ‫املقصوروالبخور‬
‫الخامالطيب‬ ‫املقصورمقاطع‬
‫وأصناف‬ ‫الخام وتبيع‬
‫مقاطع الدور‬
‫الحراير يف‬ ‫الدورعىل‬
‫وتبيع‬ ‫ يفتطوف‬...‫العقيدةاير‬ ‫تحكم‬
‫تطوفعىل الحر‬
‫وصوفة‬ ‫االباط‬ ‫برسم‬ ‫وجيارة‬ ‫وخطاط‬ ‫مغربية‬ ‫وجوزة‬ ‫واإلسفيداج‬ ‫والحمرة‬ ‫والزجاج‬ ‫اللبانة‬ ‫من‬
‫تحكم العقيدة والحمرة واإلسفيداج وجوزة مغربية وخطاط وجيارة برسم االباط وصوفة مطيبة وأدهان مرطبة‬‫يخلو‬ ‫ال‬ ‫وجيبها‬

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 340 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 341

‫كل بني‬
‫إبليس بني‬
‫املساحقات اللطاف‬
‫الخفاف الظر‬
‫وهي من‬
‫والزجاج من‬
... ‫مرطبة‬
‫مطيبة وهي ن‬
... >>
(TAK 23) (TAK 23) ‫يديها كل يوم‬

(She is skillful with needlework . . . She spends most of her time

visiting houses to sell jewelry, tailored dresses, all types of perfumes,
and incenses . . . Her pockets are always stuffed with chewing gum,
perfume bottles, lipsticks, lotions, powder, kohl eyeliners, armpit
scented deodorant, perfumed handkerchiefs, and a variety of creams
and skin lotions. She is a nice lesbian who entertains several other
lesbians . . . Every day Iblis [Satan] kisses the floor underneath her
feet. [TAKT 36])

The monstrous is also an all but ubiquitous theme in Cobra, manifested

most visibly in the form of the dwarf, Pup, a character who, to the attentive
reader of the tradition I am tracing here, evokes the hunchbacked narrator
of Ibn Daniyal’s play. One sees the continuity between The Shadow Spirit
and Cobra not only in the raw language used and the persistent focus on
the body, sexuality, the diabolical, and pharmaceutical, but also most clearly
in the preoccupation with language itself. Not only do both texts employ a
range of rhetorical registers from the most erudite to the most vulgar, both
texts relentlessly comment on the malleability of language and engage in the
kind of textual jouissance celebrated by Barthes. Similarly, Rojas in Celestina
elevates verbal pleasure above carnal pleasure and makes clear that engaging
in the latter without the former reduces copulation to nothing more than a
strictly animalistic activity. Sarduy in his novel utilizes a variety of strategies
that manifest the ways in which a kind of textuality that separates signifier
from signified and undercuts conventional narrative form can, like nonpro-
creative sex, verge on pure erotic pleasure. His text repeats, withholds, elides,
puns, proliferates, and alludes as he mixes the mundane with the erudite
within the context of a male bordello that is also a theater and moves from
West to East, from male to female and back again, from neo-baroque to
baroque, in a postmodern rendering of the picaresque novel that is also a
1970s drag show.
The Shadow Spirit manifests an analogous jouissance of textuality in
Umm Rashid’s ironic panegyric, in which she praises Prince Wisal’s future
bride (who turns out to be a hideous, ancient crone) by comparing parts of
her body to letters in the Arabic alphabet:

‫شكلها نون‬
‫جرى‬ ‫وحاجبها يف‬
‫عطفه حسن‬ ‫ميم‬/‫نون‬
‫وصدغها‬ ‫ومبسمها‬
‫حس ًناشكلها‬ ‫فقدها ألف‬/‫اوين‬
‫وحاجبها يف‬ ‫ملرآه الدو‬
‫ومبسمها ميم‬ ‫تحارحس ًنا‬
‫قلم الباري فأبدعه خ‬
‫ومقلتها صاد وطرتها من شعرها سني‬ ‫الباريسني‬
‫فأبدعه‬ ‫(منقلمشعرها‬TAK
‫صاد وطرتها‬ 25) ‫ وصدغها عطفه واو ومقلتها‬/

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 341 25/06/19 5:26 PM

342 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

(Poets become speechless and perplexed when they seek to describe

her beauty.
Her waist is as pretty and slim as the [Arabic letter] alif <<١>>
And her mouth is like [the letter] meem <<‫>>م‬and her
eyebrows take the shape of [the letter] nun <<‫>>ن‬
Her temple and the flap of her ear look like [the letter] wow <<‫>>و‬
Her eyes, each looks like [the letter] sad <<‫ >>ص‬and her
forelock is just like [the letter] sin <<‫[ >>س‬TAKT 40–41])

Ironically, Prince Wisal, who is duped by Umm Rashid’s lavish description

here, much as Calisto and Melibea are seduced by Celestina’s descriptions of
each of them to the other, has himself just offered a warning about the mal-
leability of language: ‫ وأفواه الشعراء متج الشهد وفيها إبر النحل‬... ‫رب بيان بسط عذ ًرا وإن من البيان لسح ًرا‬
(TAK 22) (“Rhetoric can simply justify wrongdoing. Eloquence and rhetoric
have the power of magic. They enthrall listeners . . . Poets’ honeyed verse
might hide the sting of bees.” [TAKT 34])
González Echevarría concludes his introduction to Celestina by point-
ing to the “sarcasm, sacrilegiousness, crudeness, unmitigated mocking of
humanity, and disregard for generic conventions”73 of Rojas’s text, a com-
bination of elements he finds only in other Spanish and Spanish-language
verbal and visual texts. “I cannot,” writes González Echevarría, “conceive
that Celestina could have been written by a Frenchman or an Italian, much
less by an Englishman or a German. Perhaps there is something, after all,
essentially Spanish in Rojas’s masterpiece.”74
As this reading suggests, however, many of the elements that González
Echevarría finds in Celestina and in its “brood” in Latin America, including
in Sarduy’s Cobra, are already present in Ibn Daniyal’s shadow plays and
other medieval Arabic and Hispano-Arabic texts.
As this study also makes clear, it is certainly conceivable that Celestina—
or a compelling embryonic version of it in a popular theatrical form—might
have been written a couple of centuries before, not by an English or German
writer, but by an accomplished Iraqi classical poet who was commissioned
to write shadow plays in Cairo. Moreover, by placing this Arabic medieval
Celestina beside Rojas’s work and several that the latter helped to spawn
in contemporary Latin America, one can begin to perceive a transgeneric,
translinguistic, and transnational literary and artistic tradition that stretches
from thirteenth-century Mosul and Cairo to twentieth-century Cuba, with
the hybrid, multigeneric texts of al-Andalus such as Celestina as indispensable

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 342 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 343

The virtue of this kind of reimagining is that it creates a framework for

reassessing an entire corpus of texts from what have heretofore been largely
treated as three separate and largely distinct literary and cultural traditions.
One could, for example, undertake similar studies that examine the extent
to which the poetic texts and honor plays of Lope de Vega derive from lit-
erary formulae in earlier Eastern poetic, prose, and theatrical texts, and the
reemergence of analogous structures and topoi in the writings of García Lorca,
who in turn influenced major modern Latin American writers such as Pablo
Neruda. Or one could look at the profound influence of Eastern frame tales on
Cervantes’ The Dialogue of the Dogs and Don Quixote, and analyze the continu-
ities of this influence in Alejo Carpentier’s El arpa y la sombra (The Harp and
the Shadow), the novels of García Márquez and the stories of Borges. Such
genealogies and textual cartographies could constitute a new kind of tradition
that would include writers such as lbn Daniyal, lbn Hazm, lbn al-Arabi, lbn
Quzman, Ruiz, Rojas, Cervantes, Goytisolo, Fuentes, Sarduy, Borges, García
Márquez, and many other Arab, Iberian, and Latin American writers. One of
the signal characteristics of this transnational tradition would be a seemingly
ceaseless propensity for reimagining dramatic and narrative form.

robert myers is a professor of English and director of the Alwaleed

Center for American Studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB).
He is a playwright and cultural historian whose interests include modern
and contemporary literature and theater and arts from the United States,
Latin America, Europe, and the Arab world. With Nada Saab, he trans-
lated Baghdadi Bath, by Iraqi playwright Jawad Al Assadi; The Dictator, by
Lebanese playwright Issam Mahfouz; and Rituals of Signs and Transformations
and The Rape, by Syrian playwright Saʿdallah Wannous. He produced The
Dictator in New York and the other three plays in Beirut. He and Nada Saab
also edited and translated Sentence to Hope: A Wannous Reader (Yale, 2019),
and a critical anthology of plays, Modern and Contemporary Political Theater
from the Levant (Brill, 2018).

The article is in memory of María Rosa Menocal.
1. Notable exceptions include Christina Civantos’s, The Afterlife of Al-Andalus: Muslim
Iberia in Contemporary Arab and Hispanic Narratives (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2017) and
Ottmar Ette and Friederike Pannewick, eds., ArabAmericas: Literary Entanglements of the
American Hemisphere (Frankfurt: Vervuert Verlag, 2006). Of particular pertinence to this study
is Civantos’s metaphor of a translinguistic tradition as “translation,” that is, “the mediation of

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 343 25/06/19 5:26 PM

344 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

language and . . . narratives of identity, while recognizing that the translation of the past into
new narratives involves struggles . . . that are linguistic, cultural, and political” (10).
2. In Ella Shohat and Evelyn AlSultany’s, Between the Middle East and the Americas: The
Cultural Politics of Diaspora (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013), the focus is
principally on “the idea of the Middle East” in the Americas (18). In her introductory essay,
Shohat does utilize Walter Mignolo’s “Occidentalism,” in contrast to Edward Said’s Orientalism,
as a model to examine “continuities and discontinuities between early Iberian expansionism
and latter-day nineteenth century, largely British and French, imperialism” (50).
3. In Between Argentines and Arabs (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2006), Christina Civantos
offers instances of the circulation of tropes and literary imagery between the Arab world and
Latin America. Although she does not link these images and tropes explicitly to the Iberian
Peninsula, she insightfully exposes the paradox, for example, of Domingo F. Sarmiento’s
transposing his experiences among Algerian Bedouins to describe and denigrate gauchos in
the Argentine pampas at a time in which he himself had never visited the pampas.
4. Asín Palacios, El Islam cristianizado. Estudio del sufismo a través de las obras de Abenárabi
de Murcia (Madrid: Editorial Plutarco, 1931); Castro, The Structure of Spanish History, trans.
Edmund L. King (London: Oxford University Press, 1954); López-Baralt, Huellas del Islam
en la literatura española: De Juan Ruiz a Juan Goytisolo (Madrid: Hiperión, 1985), translated
by Andrew Hurley, Islam in Spanish Literature: From the Middle Ages to the Present (Leiden,
NL: E. J. Brill, 1992); Menocal, The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten
Heritage (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987); and González Echevarría,
Celestina’s Brood: Continuities of the Baroque in Spanish America (Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 1993).
5. In his introduction, Ette cites Auerbach’s model of literary studies based on thematic and
formal continuities and his call to return to “pre-national medieval culture” and “the realization
that the mind is not national” (Ette and Pannewick, eds., ArabAmericas, 22). The volume itself,
however, is principally focused on general and subjective examples of the influence of Latin
American and Middle Eastern literature on each other, as opposed to chronological continuities
and demonstrable links.
6. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953); Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality
in Western Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press1953);
Spitzer, Linguistics and Literary History: Essays in Stylistics (New York: Russel & Russel,
1962 [c.1948]).
7. Julia Alexis Kushigian, Orientalism in the Hispanic Literary Tradition: In Dialogue with
Borges, Paz, and Sarduy (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1991), 1–17.
8. For an analysis of the relationship between modernism and closet drama see Martin
Puchner, Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-Theatricality, and Drama (Baltimore, MD: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 2002).
9. Fernando de Rojas, La Celestina o Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (edición, introducción
y notas de Peter E. Russell) (Madrid: Clásicos Castalia, 2007). Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden,
Celestina (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009). All further references are to this
edition, and are included in the text as LC or LCT (translation).
10. Roberto González Echevarría, Introduction to Celestina, trans. Sayers Peden, xiii–xxvii.
11. González Echevarría, Celestina’s Brood, 10.
12. Gabriel García Márquez, La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y su abuela
desalmada. Siete cuentos (México, D.F.: Editorial Hermes, 1972). Trans. Gregory Rabassa as
“The Incredibly Sad Story of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother,” Innocent
Eréndira and Other Stories (New York: Harper and Row, 1978).
13. Severo Sarduy, Cobra (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1972).
14. Carlos Fuentes, Aura (México, D.F.: Biblioteca Era, ca. 1962).
15. Carlos Fuentes, Terra Nostra (México, D.F.: Joaquín Mortiz, 1975).
16. Tayf al Khayal, hereafter TAK, is translated both as The Phantom, in Li Guo, The
Performing Arts in Medieval Islam: Shadow Play and Popular Poetry in Ibn Daniyal’s Mamluk

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 344 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 345

Cairo (Leiden, NL: Brill, 2012), and as The Shadow Spirit, in Marvin Carlson and Safi Mahfouz,
Theatre from Medieval Cairo: The Ibn Daniyal Trilogy (New York: Martin E. Segal Theatre
Center Publications, 2013). All further references are to Carlson’s and Mahfouz’s translation
and are included in the text as TAKT (translation). The original shadow plays used in this
article, including Tayf al Khayal, are collected in Muhammad Ibn Daniyal, Three Shadow
Plays, ed. Paul Kahle, critical apparatus by Derek Hopwood (Cambridge, MA: E. J. W. Gibb
Memorial, New Series, no. 32, 1992).
17. “Carlos Fuentes. The Art of Fiction No. 68,” interview by Alfred Mac Adam and Charles
E. Ruas, The Paris Review 82 (1981), accessed July 10, 2016, https: //www.theparisreview.org /inter-
views /3195 /carlos-fuentes-the-art-of-fiction-no-68-carlos-fuentes; “On Reading and Writing
Myself: How I Wrote Aura,” World Literature Today 57, no. 4 (1983): 531–39. doi:10.2307 /40139102.
18. Luce López-Baralt, Huellas del Islam en la literatura española: De Juan Ruiz a Juan Goytisolo
(Madrid: Hiperión, 1985), 215.
19. Hans Wehr, “‫ قواد‬Qawwād,” A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, ed. J. Milton Cowan,
3rd ed. (Ithaca, NY: Spoken Language Services, 1976), 795. Qawwad is etymologically closely
related to the words Ibn Daniyal uses to describe Umm Rashid in The Shadow Spirit. In Guo’s
translation, Emir Wisal (literally “Prince Mating” or “Prince Copulation”) describes Umm
Rashid by saying, “She guides [johns] more efficiently than a pimp,” which, according to Guo
literally means “she leads better than a leading rope (miqwad).” Qawwad <<‫>>قواد‬, which like
miqwad, derives from the verb <<‫“ >>قود‬q-w-d,” means “to lead, lead by a halter, to conduct,
guide, engineer, drive . . . steer (e.g., an automobile), pilot (e.g., an airplane), to pander, pimp.”
Guo, The Performing Arts, 184.
20. I am treating al-Andalus as a cultural entity that did not cease to exist with the expulsion
and forced conversion of Jews in 1492 and of Muslims in the subsequent century.
21. López-Baralt, Huellas del Islam, 190–191.
22. Guo, The Performing Arts, 6.
23. Encyclopedia Iranica. 1998, accessed February 2, 2016, http: //www.iranicaonline.org /
articles /banu-sasan-a-name-frequently-applied-in-medieval-islam-to-beggars-rogues-charla-
tans-and-tricksters-of-all-kinds-alleg. Donald Kenrick, Gypsies: From the Ganges to the Thames.
(Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire, 2004), 82. See also: C. E. Bosworth, The Medieval
Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, vol. I–II. (Leiden, NL:
Brill, 1976). C. E. Bosworth “Jewish Elements in the Banū Sāsān,” Bibliotheca Orientalis 33,
no. 5–6 (1976): 289.
24. María Rosa Menocal, Shards of Love (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994), 119.
25. Ette and Pannewick, eds., ArabAmericans, 22. Especially instructive is Ette’s point that
Auerbach’s critical tradition of philology continued in and helped to define the work of
Edward Said, who wrote extensively on exile. See Said’s “Reflections on Exile,” Granta: After
the Revolution, Essays and Memoir, no.13 (1984), https: //granta.com /reflections-on-exile /. Early
in Said’s career, Ette also notes, he co-translated, Auerbach’s seminal article “Philology and
Weltliteratur,” The Centennial Review 13, no. 1 (1969): 1–17.
26. In addition to Guo, see Marvin Carson, “The Arab Aristophanes,” Comparative Drama
4, no. 2 (2013): 151.
27. Guo, The Performing Arts, 109–19.
28. M. M. Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington, IN:
Indiana University Press, 1984).
29. Guo, The Performing Arts, 14.
30. The play is translated by Guo as The Charmed and the Charmer and by Mahfouz and
Carlson as The Love Stricken One and the Lost One Who Inspires Passion.
31. Guo, The Performing Arts, 14.
32. Ibid., 109–119.
33. Ibid., 5.
34. For an extensive analysis of the effect of Rojas’s status as a converso on his writing, see
Stephen Gilman, The Spain of Fernando de Rojas: The Intellectual and Social Landscape of La
Celestina (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972).

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 345 25/06/19 5:26 PM

346 C O M P A R AT I V E L I T E R AT U R E S T U D I E S

35. Samuel G. Armistead and James T. Monroe, “Celestina’s Muslim Sisters.” Celestinesca
XIII, no. 2 (1989): 3.
36. Leila Rouhi, Meditation and Love: A Study of the Medieval Go-Between in Key Romance
and Near Eastern Texts (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1999).
37. Armistead and Monroe, “Muslim Sisters,” 12.
38. Maria Kotzamanidou, “The Spanish and Arabic Characterization of the Go-Between
in the Light of Popular Performance.” Hispanic Review 48, no. 1 (1980): 95.
39. Ibid., 96.
40. Ibid., 101.
41. Ibid.
42. Ibid., 100.
43. Guo, The Performing Arts, 6.
44. Ibid.
45. Ibn Daniyal, Three Shadow Plays, 89.
46. Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 268.
47. Guo, The Performing Arts, 97.
48. Ibid.
49. Kotzamanidou, “The Spanish and Arabic Characterization,” 93.
50. ‘Ali ibn Ahmad Ibn Hazm, The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab
Love, trans. A. J. Arberry (London: Luzac and Company, 1953), 73–75.
51. Shmuel Moreh, “The Shadow Play (Khayāl Al-Zill) in the Light of Arabic Literature,”
Journal of Arabic Literature 18, no. 1 (1987): 48.
52. Shmuel Moreh, Live Theatre and Dramatic Literature in the Medieval Arab World (New
York: New York University Press, 1992), 111.
53. James T. Monroe, “Prolegomena to the Study of Ibn Quzman: The Poet as Jongleur,”
Romancero y Poesía Oral (proceedings of El Romancero Hoy: Papers of the Second International
Symposium on the Hispanic Ballad, Seminario Menéndez Pidal, Madrid: Gredos /Catédra.
Poética editorial Vol. III. Madrid: Sánchez Romeraldo et al., 1979), 77–129.
54. Ibid., 41.
55. Ibid., 99.
56. Moreh, Live Theatre, 35.
57. Charlotte D. Stern, “The Medieval Theatre: Between Scriptura and Theatrica,” in The
Cambridge History of Spanish Literature, ed. David T. Gies (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge
University Press, 1993), 119.
58. Federico Corriente, “Del ‘teatro de sombras’ islámico a los títeres, pasando por los ‘retablos
de maravillas’,” Revista de Filología Española 94, no. 1 (2014): 39.
59. Ibid., 44. Corriente surmises that the same zajal no.12 by Ibn Quzman that was analyzed
by Monroe is an early example of a description of this cross-dressing tradition.
60. López-Baralt, Huellas del Islam, 182.
61. Severo Sarduy, Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana (1973), trans. Jill Levine as Cobra
(New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975). All further references are to this edition and are included in
the text with C or CT (translation).
62. González Echevarría, Celestina’s Brood, 231.
63. For two very different views on Octavio Paz’s relationship with India, see Julia Alexis
Kushigian, Orientalism in the Hispanic Literary Tradition, and Alejandro A. González-Omerod.
“Octavio Paz’s India,” Third World Quarterly 35, no. 3 (2014): 528–543, , accessed June 30, 2017,
http: //www.tandfonline.com /doi /full /10.1080 /01436597.2014.895119?mobileUi=0&
64. González Echevarría, Celestina’s Brood, 224–25.
65. Roberto González Echevarría, La ruta de Severo Sarduy (Hanover, NH: Editorial del
Norte, 1987), 5.
66. The ascendance to power in 1959 of the regime of Fidel Castro, whose overt anti-homo-
sexual policy Sarduy perceived as a threat, led directly two years later to his decision to remain in
France in exile, which in turn became a motif that pervades his writing. Encyclopedia Britannica
Online, accessed August 19, 2018, https: //www.britannica.com /biography /Severo-Sarduy.

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 346 25/06/19 5:26 PM C

A B A W D B E T W E E N T H E A R A B W O R L D A N D L AT I N A M E R I C A 347

67. Ibn Daniyal, Three Shadow Plays, 38.

68. Jacques Derrida, “La pharmacie de Platon,” Tel Quel 32–33 (1968): 1+.
69. Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and
Wang, 1975).
70. González Echevarría, Introduction to Celestina, xxv.
71. Sarduy, Cobra, 66.
72. María Rosa Menocal, Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric (Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1964), 36–37.
73. González Echevarría, Introduction to Celestina, xxvii.
74. Ibid.

CLS 56.2_04_Myers.indd  Page 347 25/06/19 5:26 PM