González Echevarría starts out by commenting on what he calls the two overarching plots of the Quixote: the story about the writing of the novel, and the story about the mad hidalgo. The first is based upon several levels of narratives that distance Cervantes from his own creation. He does so as the painter Diego Velázquez in Las Meninas which shows multiple incomplete perspectives of the same work, portrays the work behind the scenes of creation, it includes the viewer in the painting as well as the author, as another character, not in a central position, but in an oblique one. With their techniques, both Cervantes and Velázquez present the limitations of human knowledge. The madness of Don Quijote is present in the two episodes that González Echevarría comments upon afterward. The episode with the goatherds connects the ideal world (inside the hidalgo's mind) and the real world of the goatherds. Their human kindness becomes a human quality in the novel displayed by many regardless of social origin. The story of Marcela and Grisóstomo follows. Here Cervantes portrays their socio-economic world while at the same time he defends their free will above everything else.
- González Echevarría, Cervantes' Don Quixote: A Casebook, pp. 63-124
- De Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancja, introduction by Roberto González Echevarría
- Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716, chapter 2
The course facilitates a close reading of Don Quixote in the artistic and historical context of renaissance and baroque Spain. Students are also expected to read four of Cervantes' Exemplary Stories, Cervantes' Don Quixote: A Casebook, and J.H. Elliott's Imperial Spain. Cervantes' work will be discussed in relation to paintings by Velázquez. The question of why Don Quixote is read today will be addressed throughout the course. Students are expected to know the book, the background readings and the materials covered in the lectures and class discussions.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 75 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Fall 2009.