González Echevarría starts by commenting on three of the returns and repetitions (characters who reappear and incidents that, if not repeated, recall previous incidents) that take place at the end of part one of the Quixote and which give density to the fiction: the galley slaves, Andrés, and the postprandial speech or the speech on arms and letters. Don Quixote's insanity not only gives him a certain transcendence, but also shows the arbitrariness of laws, which causes their rejection by society and other characters' insane behavior. González Echevarría comments on the intersection between literature and history before moving on to the captive's tale, the culmination of those intertwined stories, in which religious conversion overcomes social barriers and transcends the neo-platonic convergence of opposites in Renaissance plots. With his creation of Don Quixote, the first hero-fugitive from justice in the Western tradition--a "highway robber," as the officer of the Holy Brotherhood calls him--Cervantes has created the first important novelistic protagonist drawn from the legal archives. His is the case of the insane hidalgo who set out to act out chivalric fantasies and in the process committed a series of crimes. And yet, he is the agent of Providence.
- Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716, chapter 5
- De Cervantes, Exemplary Stories, "Rinconete and Cortadillo"
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.