This title uses, in English, my modified translation of a phrase from a 19th century text. That phrase is “un ojo conocedor” and my title is “That Discerning Eye: …”.
I discovered by chance (well, by reading U.S. slave narratives) that slaves and, I assume others, referred to the “discerning eye” as one that could see spirits. So this is the discerning eye in 19th century folk belief.
I further discovered that “that discerning eye” is a reference to the eye of God in 1 and 2 Corinthians. Also, in the Spanish Bible, people who know God, and distinguish between good and evil, “conocen.”
The ojo conocedor in the original text has a sense of discernment (making fine distinctions among races and colors), knowledge (racial knowledge), connoisseurship (amateur expertise in fine women).
I do not know that the author, Cirilo Villaverde, is referring to the discernment of spirits (although the idea of Cecilia Valdés as an evil spirit is interesting and fits with his attitude toward her). I am assuming, though, that he does know the Bible: God has an ojo conocedor, and those who know Him lo conocen. The Gnostics were also “conocedores.”
So: does all of this enrich my title and my discussion, or does it just mean I have inadvertently chosen a title whose meaning in English (from spiritualism African American folk belief) I did not know and cannot really tie to my argument?
I think the latter. In fact, the introduction to the book could be, or could begin with this discussion of the title. What do you think?