Important meditations about the nature of literature and the real take place in the chapters commented on in this lecture. Reality appears strange enough even to Don Quixote in the episode of the corpse, where death becomes a presence. Don Quixote appears aware that his adventures are being written as we read them. His relationship with his squire is further developed in the episode of the fulling hammers. Mambrino's helmet exemplifies the modern radical doubt about the power of the senses to grasp reality, while the episode of the galley slaves represents a satire of autobiographical writing. Cervantes portrays a society that the sixteenth-century reader recognized as his own, in which Ginés de Pasamonte, a low-class slippery criminal and author, represents the new generation of writers who break with the strictures of Renaissance mimesis. The descent in social status of the author, Ginés, appears to be accompanied by an increase in inventiveness and a rise in the importance of the author. This episode is a meditation on the creation of new genres, such as the picturesque, not derived from the classics but from experience, as well as on the topic of perspectivism.
- González Echevarría, Cervantes' Don Quixote: A Casebook, pp. 125-161
- Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716, chapter 3
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.