As we approach the end of the novel, Cervantes compresses and combines elements from different types of romances (morisco, Greek, pastoral) in what seems to be an attempt to create a new literary genre; the modern novel. In the episodes in Barcelona, the prank with the talking head makes literal the figure of prosopopeia; Don Quixote's visit to the printing shop explores the very origin of the book; the sign the boys hang on Don Quixote's back also reduces him to language. Avellaneda's misreading of the Quixote coincides with that of the dueñas who punish Sancho, and is also ironically represented in Altisidora's dream. By taking literature to its limits, by incorporating Avellaneda's book into the Quixote, by rejecting bookish knowledge in favor of experience, Cervantes seems to point to the idea that there is no position from which to stand outside of the world of fiction. The only way out would be through a voluntary act of the will, equivalent to the one Don Quixote makes after being defeated by the Knight of the White Moon.
Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469-1716, chapter 10
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.