Why does the Quixote have such common currency today? González Echevarría believes that the Quixote is about the effect that literature has on its readers and about the creation of literature. Its story does not belong to any previous tradition but it is a new story, and this act of invention by a fifty-year old man, Cervantes, is in itself part of modern literature. González Echevarría comments on why the creation of this work was possible in the Spain of the seventeenth century and, after making some important distinctions between the concepts novel and romance, chivalric romances and courtly romance, explains that the Quixote is the first novel because it portrays the clash between the protagonist and his setting for the first time. He then talks about the Quixote's precursors in the picaresque novel and the beginnings of realism. The lecture ends with a thorough commentary on the prologue, its intentions and meanings, along with the concepts of authorship, the legitimation of literature, and ultimately, self invention.
- González Echevarría, Cervantes' Don Quixote: A Casebook, pp. 3-33
- Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716, chapter 1
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.