The gypsies in Western literature / by Frank Timothy Dougherty
Includes bibliographical references (p. 337-344)
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The subject of this dissertation is the representation in Western literature of the Romany people, various tribes and groups such as the Kalderash, Lowara, and Manouche who collectively have been known under variations of the words "Egyptians" and "Atsingani" since their appearance in Western Europe in the fifteenth century. It is inexplicable that Comparative Literature, in its already long existence as a field of inquiry, has until now passed over the gypsies in literature, a classically comparatist topic. Placed generally under the rubric of "Literature and Society," and by definition of international dimensions, the gypsies have had considerable impact on some genres, especially the picaresque, have come to be identified with the driving spirit behind the Romantic movement, have given rise to types, such as the Romany spitfire, themes, such as the young man who runs off to join them, and devices, like baby-stealing, and display at every turn the fundamental importance of influence and analogy in the history of literature. This study is both descriptive and evaluative in nature. Its primary focus is the gypsies' intervention in prose fiction, and its structure is chronological. Cervantes was for centuries the most important writer to deal with gypsies, and as such merits an inaugural chapter all to himself. He received all that had gone before him, transmuted it, and launched gypsy-oriented stories and themes that are still with us today. His influence is visible in the works of many of the seventeenth and eighteenth century picaresque writers. It is hardly surprising that these observers of the lower echelons of their respective social orders should have taken realistic stock of the wanderers in their midst long before gypsiology came into being. Works of Pechon de Ruby, Luna, Espinel, Alcala, Grimmelshausen, Scarron, Head and Kirkman, Carew, Fielding, and Almeida are studied in the second chapter. In gypsies as in so much else related to modern literature, Walter Scott is a watershed. As discussed in the third chapter, he greatly expanded the literary possibilities of gypsies by permitting them, in Guy Mannering and Quentin Durward, status as serious characters in the novel. Shortly after Scott, and across the English Channel, Esmeralda, Carmen, and their ilk became the Romantic rage, and their creators originated the idealized perception of gypsies still in evidence today. Works of Goethe, Pushkin, Hugo, Sue, Merimee, and Sand are examined in chapter four. In an era of moral crisis some Victorians felt it important to heed traditional gypsy wisdom as well as to materially aid these degraded folk. Both currents are found in the work of Eliot, Meredith, and Arnold, all of whom are studied in the dissertation's fifth chapter. All foregoing literary fashions involving gypsies are to be found in the twentieth century. Nevertheless, two innovations set it apart from that which has gone before. One is the appearance of gypsies in literature written by gypsies, and the other is the appearance of gypsies in literature of a political nature. Both phenomena reflect rising political consciousness, especially in the post-World War II period, among the world's gypsies. Gypsies continue to be attractive to lingering Romantics, like Vachel Lindsay, and aesthetes, like Virginia Woolf, both of whose works are appraised in chapter six. More significant is their role in socio-political literature; consequently, works of Vicente Blasco-Ibanez, Tennessee Williams, John Arden, and Stefan Kanfer are scrutinized in the same space. A more appropriate ending to this study hardly could be found than evaluation of the examination of the effects of the Holocaust on the gypsies that is Kanfer's novel The Eighth Sin (1978).
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