SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote

Lecture 9

 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XXVII-XXXV (cont.)


The insertion of the Novel of the Curious Impertinent at the end of part one of the Quixote may be explained by Cervantes’ intention of meshing both the forms of the chivalric romance and of the collection of Italian novelle. The result, though awkward, leads to the creation of the modern novel. This short novel seems to have been included by Cervantes as a way to publishing it in the same way. Reading the novel out loud, with all the characters gathered connects with the old tradition of reading literature out loud. The irony, however, is that this perverse love story is heard in the voice of the priest. González Echevarría interprets the novel trough René Girard’s theory of love always mediated by a third person who also works as a motivator. The story gives a contrasting mirror of literature to the young people at the inn who are involved in love stories about to culminate in marriage. Don Quixote’s interruption of the reading allows the court-like scene of reconciliations among the various couples and all restitutions which were made, as a reaffirmation of new social forms. Cervantes’ point is that mental life is made up of levels that mirror and distort each other.

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Cervantes' Don Quixote

SPAN 300 - Lecture 9 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XXVII-XXXV (cont.)

Chapter 1. The Insertion of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent [00:00:00]

Professor Roberto González Echevarría: I want you to ponder, over the next few days, what is commemorated on October 7, the next October 7, which will be next Wednesday. You get bonus points for your midterm. If you know it right off the top of your head already, you can tell me, if not, think about it and you may come up with it. It’s something very relevant to this course, and I can see that my TAs, the graduate students are also puzzled by it. You can go home and google it, and maybe it will come up, but we’ll talk about it on Tuesday, which will be the eve of the anniversary of? Okay.

We are going to talk today mostly, but not exclusively, about The Novel of the Curious Impertinent, as you can anticipate by the various triangles on the board. Cervantes was criticized in his time for the inclusion of this novel in Part I of the Quixote. He answered his critics through his characters, who speak about that criticism, chiefly a character called Sansón Carrasco — whom you will meet when you begin reading Part II very soon — and he also talks about it in the prologue to Part II, and Cervantes refrained from inserting any novels like this in Part II. So he took the criticism to heart. As I said in my last lecture, Cervantes was trying to combine the sequential kind of plot of the chivalric romance, one adventure after another, with the collection of stories in the style of Boccaccio. Boccaccio, I have mentioned him, I think, before, but if not, Boccaccio, Giovanni Boccaccio 1313-1375. If you’re a literature major you should know Boccaccio, or you should know at least about Boccaccio. His famous work is called the Decameron.

Now, not that the chivalric romances didn’t have convoluted plots, but the insertion of a novel like this was not one of its features. It is known that Cervantes contemplated the publication of a collection of stories to be called Semanas del jardín, Weeks at the Garden, and he did publish, in 1613, the collection of stories that you have, and from which you will read, called The Exemplary Novels, Novelas Ejemplares. This collection, as you will discover, does not have an overarching fiction involving character narrators leaving the city, fleeing the plague and gathering to tell stories, as in the Decameron. The overarching fiction in the Decameron is that all of these young people leave the city because there is a plague, they gather in a pleasant place, and they each tell a story every day, and that is the overarching fiction the Decameron. The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes does not have such an overarching fiction, it is just a collection of stories by Miguel de Cervantes with a prologue and so forth. Weeks in the Garden or Semanas del jardín does sound as it would have had that kind of a plot, meaning, overarching plot, meaning that characters would get together in a garden and tell stories. The point is that in the Quixote, Part I, Cervantes is attempting to mesh these two forms of narrative as I said. The result may seem awkward, but it is mostly really very innovative, and it leads to the creation of the modern novel, with this very loose structure of which this kind of insertion is possible.

Now, we saw how those commingling stories about Fernando, Dorotea, Cardenio and Luscinda, how those stories are correlated, and my colleague from the Department of Comparative Literature, David Quint, calls it “interlacing” — how these stories are interconnected — in a fairly recent book on Cervantes. And I proposed that they’re structured, they’re all structured, all of these stories, with its cuts, faults and gaps, was like a representation of human memory, human memory upon which fiction depends, and on which the vary makeup of the creative self of the author is based; memory. As we will see today and in the next class, the final resolution of the conflicts in those stories is a narrative tour de force, a veritable boast of artistry on the part of Cervantes. But The Novel of the Curious Impertinent does stick out as being very different, and apparently only tenuously related to the main plot and to the other stories from which it differs. Why is the story inserted here in the Quixote? You could say, is it padding, is Cervantes padding his novel, or does it have something to do with the intercalated stories that we have been discussing and that are about to be resolved?

First, let us go over how Cervantes does justify the inclusion of the novel at the most elementary level. The innkeeper, Juan Palomeque, reveals that he keeps a suitcase somebody left with some papers, and that he owns a number of chivalric romances. This is the second suitcase we find, the first was Cardenio’s, which the characters found rotted in the middle of the Sierra Morena, and it also contained writing, contained Cardenio’s manuscripts, and poems, and some shirts, and most importantly for Sancho, some money. A discussion ensues involving the innkeeper, his wife and daughter, and the priest about the value of those books the chivalric romances. This is a return to the scrutiny of the books episode earlier, and the scrutiny of the books, in fact, is mentioned by the characters. The priest wants to burn the chivalric romances as he did with Don Quixote’s, but the innkeeper will have none of it. Juan Palomeque, as he says, he’s not mad, he’s not insane, he knows that what those books relate happened a long time ago, not in the present, as Don Quixote does, he knows that it is not applicable to the present. In addition, he maintains the romances of chivalry provide entertainment when, at harvest time, the workers gather around at the end of the day, and someone reads out loud from one of them.

The tradition of reading out loud goes back to the Middle Ages, and to convents, and monasteries, and rituals of that kind and in such institutions. He says that it provides solace and rest, and relaxation at the end of work. The innkeeper’s wife and daughter, for their part, are found of the love scenes and they talk, particularly the daughter, about the love scenes that moved her so much. Juan Palomeque defends the veracity of the chivalric romances, saying that these books are published with the approval of the crown’s councils, they have the stamp of the crown council. How could the crown allow books of lies to be published? — Of course, he has a very primitive notion about printed books and so forth. He is corrected by others — the priest mostly — but to no avail, he still sticks to his guns, but no books are burnt. Juan Palomeque’s books are not burnt.

There will be soon another scene with a character who is the Cannon of Toledo — you will learn what the Cannon of Toledo or what a cannon is when we get to that part — in which the romances of chivalry will, again, be discussed but at a theoretical level, by a very well educated and well read characters like the priest, the Cannon of Toledo, and Don Quixote, and so forth. But here Cervantes seems to be emphasizing that the romances of chivalry do have a function in society; they furnish relaxation to the common people. It is foolish to take Cervantes at his word when he says that he has written the Quixote to demolish and banish romances of chivalry. There are people who still take him at face value on that, but, in fact, the Quixote, as with all parodies, is both a critique and an homage to the romances of chivalry, and it is, perhaps, the last of the romances of chivalry. So we must not take, I don’t think, Cervantes seriously when he says that he wrote the book simply to do away with the romances of chivalry — Remember, what I said before that by his time, essentially, the fashion of publishing them, anyway, had ended, but they continued to be read, at least, if we take the Quixote as evidence of their being read by the common people.

Now, then the innkeeper speaks about the papers in the suitcase and mentions the story, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent, which, he says, had been approvingly read at the inn. It had also been read out loud at the inn. It is in manuscript form. Much literature, including Cervantes’s own stories, still circulated in manuscript even after the development of the printing press, as printing was complicated and expensive. So you must not assume that once printing became available literature did not circulate in manuscript form any more. It did, and some of Cervantes’s work circulated in such fashion. Some of the stories that were later included in The Exemplary Novels, a book, had been circulating in this form. This is, then, another self-referential moment in the Quixote. It is, to me, clear, that it is Cervantes himself who left that suitcase there with the manuscript, and Cervantes is, again, winking at the reader; this is me who left this suitcase here. It is clear too that he has found a way to publish the story by inserting here in the Quixote. That doesn’t mean that he’s just padding the novel.

The long short story the novella or nouvelle, in the manner of Boccaccio, was a form with which Cervantes felt very comfortable, as you will discover when you read The Exemplary Stories, and as you have already discovered in these intercalated stories, that this sort of long-short story is a form that Cervantes favored. Now, let us not miss the irony, which is easy to miss — You have to read carefully, remember? Read for details — The irony that it is the priest who reads out loud The Novel of the Curious Impertinent. This perverse, twisted love story is told in the voice of a representative of the Church. This priest is a very complicated character, as you are discovering; he invents chivalric romances, and he is out in the fields chasing Don Quixote, and it is — to me — very ironic, that you have the priest reading this story. Cervantes loves these ironic games. It is the priest who at the end does a critique of the story and asks permission to have it copied later. Cervantes is engaging here in some self criticism, but also in some self praise, having one of his characters praise the story, with some reservation, but the priest praises it. This priest, as we have already learned, is also a literary critic, as we discovered in the episode of the scrutiny of the books.

Now, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent is the most blatantly literary story contained in the Quixote, the most artful and obviously derived from literary sources. The action is set in Florence and in a vaguely defined past. It is a time and place of fictions, not the present in which the Quixote takes place. It is drawn from known Italian sources, and written in the style of Boccaccio — whom you now know — and Bandello, Matteo Bandello — This course is under the ages of the literature major, that is Comparative Literature, so you are getting quite a bit of Italian literature here, which is inevitable — Matteo Bandello 1485-1561. He was one of the great short story writers already of the sixteenth century, much read throughout Europe, and, in fact, one of his stories inspired Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare, as you know, was very fond of reading Italian literature. In fact, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent is actually drawn from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso. I have mentioned Ariosto several times, but I will mention him again now. His famous poem is Orlando furioso. Ariosto is 1474-1533, and the Orlando furioso was published in 1516, then 1521, and 1532. It is a mock epic, as I’ve mentioned before, is a mock epic poem that Cervantes much admired, as we should know by now. So we have here these three Italian authors that Cervantes was indebted to. Other more distant sources have been found, but Ariosto is the obvious one. One very distant source of the story of a king, who wanted to put his wife to the test, and had somebody seduce her and so forth, the same story, but that is very remote, and the most obvious source is a fragment from the Orlando furioso. I underscore, again, Cervantes’s indebtedness to Italian Renaissance literature, as he was also to Italian Renaissance art, as I mentioned in my last lecture. Remember, if you have been reading the Casebook and your introductions, that Cervantes spent a good deal of time in Italy, which had been, of course, the center of the Renaissance.

Chapter 2. Girard’s Analysis of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent [00:20:18]

Now, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent has been variously interpreted, but the most apt analysis, the most — How could I say? — current analysis, the most accepted, is the one by René Girard. Now we have a French name. Girard was a French professor who taught in the United States nearly all of his life. His most famous book was called in the original Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque, known in English as Deceit, Desire and the Novel. The original, the first publication, was 1961. Girard’s whole theory revolves around the concept of triangular or mimetic desire. This desire is both external, what it applies to a novel and its sources, the previous books that it imitates, and internal, when it applies to the protagonist’s love relations. And, in fact, Girard will claim that all novels contain, the kernel of all novels, is this kind of mimetic triangular desire, and his book contains analysis of famous novels in the European tradition like Madam Bovary, Le Rouge et le Noir, and so forth. I much recommend his book.

Now, the story by Cervantes, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent, is crucial to the development of Girard’ theory, and indeed it may have inspired his theory, it is that important. Girard writes, and this, I know, is a little dense quotation translated from French into a little awkward English. I’ll read it very slowly so that you can follow it. He says:

“The existence of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent in the Quixote has always intrigued critics. The question arises whether the short story is compatible with the novel, the unity of the masterpiece seems somewhat compromised. It is this unity which I revealed by our journey through novelistic literature [his journey in the book through novelistic literature, in which he shows that this triangular desire exists in all of these novels]. Having begun with Cervantes, [he begins his book with Cervantes] we return to Cervantes, and ascertain that this novel is genius as grasped the extreme forms of imitated desire. No small distance separates the Cervantes of Don Quixote and the Cervantes of Anselmo, since all of the novels we have considered in this chapter as they show. Yet, the distance is not insuperable since all of the novelists are linked to each other. The simultaneous presence of external and internal mediation in the same work seems to us to confirm the unity of novelistic literature, and in turn, the unity of this literature confirms that of Don Quixote. One is proof by the other, just as one proves that the earth is round by going around it. The creative force of Cervantes is so great that it has been exerted effortlessly throughout the whole novelistic space. All of the ideas of the western novel are present in germ in Don Quixote.”

I continue reading Girard: “And the idea of these ideas, the idea whose central role is constantly being confirmed, the basic idea from which one can rediscover everything is triangular desire.”

That’s the end of the quote. I’m sure this sounds very strange and obscure to you if you haven’t heard about it before, but I tell you, once you understand it, you may glean something useful about your love life. I said that reading the Quixote would provide lessons for living. When I was a graduate student this book was the rage, and everyone was interpreting his or her love relationships in terms of triangular desire. So, you don’t have to make any confessions at the end of the course but you might, if you want, tell me if this has helped you in any way understand your life. For Girard, desire is never spontaneous, it’s never a spontaneous one-to-one relationship but mediated, one desires a man or woman because he or she is desired by another. It is that presumed desire by the mediator that makes her or him attractive. I say “presume” because then the mediator’s desire must yet have another mediator to exist as such, and then there will be sort of an endless series of mediations, but we’re focusing on one triangle at a time. Jealousy, in other words, is a requirement for desire, for love.

You can now think of all of the novels you have read in which jealousy plays such an important role. Proust is full of jealous characters. Hence imitation of the mediator, the one of whom one is jealous, is of the essence, because of the belief that she or he is loved by the object of our desire — if you follow that. This is the mimetic part of desire, which may lead to desire for the mediator in the guise of desire for the original object of desire. That is, you love so much the mediator that you wind up loving the mediator, not loving the person that you thought you began loving. We’ll see some of that in The Novel of the Curious Impertinent. In the context of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent it works like this. We begin here and you have your handout for easy reference. Anselmo cannot love really Camila until he gets Lotario to love her. This is the gist of this man’s twisted desire, and why he must put her to the test. So Anselmo loves Camila, but once Lotario is inserted as the mediator. Then, eventually, when Lotario loves Camila, he does so — a second triangle — because she has loved Anselmo before. So we have these two triangles.

Now, this story may well reveal a hidden substory of the kind we have been finding, when characters tell stories, and the story may very well be, and it has been proposed, a homosexual love between the two friends, using Camila as the mediator, the third triangle, Anselmo really loves Lotario using Camila as the mediator. Nicolás Wey-Gómez has written a persuasive article, not only about that relationship between the two, but also showing that Anselmo’s illnesses, both physical, psychosomatic, are feminine in the medicine of the time, to underscore the nature of the relationship between these two. So I hope that you are understanding all of this and I hope it’s not ruining your love life, or your life in general, by realizing how complicated love can be.

Now, this structure sheds light on the intertwined stories that we have been discussing, and this is why I have these other triangles here on the board and on your handout, whereas where we have the Fernando, Cardenio, Luscinda triangle, in which Fernando loves Luscinda, really because she is Cardenio’s girl, or is going to be his girl. Eventually, and I suggested this in another class, there are intimations of a homoerotic relationship here between Fernando and Cardenio. Now, Fernando, when it comes to Dorotea, Fernando loses interest in Dorotea once he has possessed her, because there is no mediation, but he marries her, once she appears at the inn defended by Cardenio. So once Cardenio appears as a potential mediator, Fernando goes ahead and marries Dorotea. Now, Don Quixote’s mediations are the romances of chivalry and its heroes, particularly, Amadís de Gaula whom he imitates, as he also imitates Orlando in the Orlando furioso. The object of his love, Dulcinea, is a projection of the loves of those famous lovers, Oriana in the case of Amadís, Angelica in the case of Orlando, which is why he desires her, and in a way, invents her from their own constructions of her. And we will see her transformations as the novel progresses, which are remarkable, especially in Part II.

Now, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent holds up a mirror, the mirror of literature to the young people involved in love stories that are about to culminate in marriage. It provides a contrast to the comedy like ending of the stories of Fernando, Dorotea, Cardenio and Luscinda. The Novel of the Curious Impertinent is not so much an admonition, though it is that too, as a lesson about the complexities of love and how no permanent stability can be achieved, particularly, not by marriage. It is also a wink at the reader, I think, a wake up call. I mean, can anyone — you will see one who does soon — but can anyone really believe in the sincerity of the permanence of Don Fernando’s conversion? Is it likely that Fernando will be a faithful husband? What about Luscinda? She was tempted once by money and status, and could be again. Literature teaches through pleasure a very harsh lesson. Ultimately, The Novel of the Curious Impertinent is about, in my view, the death instinct concealed within desire, co-evil, with it, with love. It is what Freud called the death drive. There is no stability where there is desire. The perfection of a socio-erotic situation of Anselmo, Camila and Lotario is a mirage, and an invitation to tragedy.

This is an even harsher lesson about the human condition. What the priest says at the end is that he finds the story well written, but he cannot believe — that the author has not shown — a real situation because a husband would never do that. That maybe young people in love before marriage would, but not a husband. What he’s saying there is something that is a given in all Golden Age Spanish literature, and the given is that everything that happens before marriage is the stuff of comedy, and everything that happens after marriage is the stuff of tragedy. This is not a lesson to be taken too seriously, but it’s something to be pondered, and I think that this is what the priest notices. He notices that this, to him, would not be possible for a husband to do, to subject his wife to this sort of test, but if it were among people not married yet, it may be. Of course, marriage is usually the ending of a comedy. Comedies tend to end in marriage because marriage is a return to stability; and in theater comedy is a return to an order that has been upset, whereas tragedy does not return to order. So this is what the literary side of that would be, whether it is applicable or not to life, it is for each one of us to discover.

Chapter 3. The Battle of the Wine Skins [00:34:58]

So now we move to the ending of all of these stories at the Juan Palomeque’s inn. Fernando accepts Dorotea after everyone pleads with him and a good deal surfaces about the concept of hidalguía, from hidalgo; hidalguía. He pleads her case with as much verve as Marcela did in an earlier episode and with a very thorough knowledge of Castilian law. She is lacking hidalguía — Dorotea — nobility, but hidalguía is passed on through the male line, not the female line, as we’ve mentioned here before. This is what she underscores in her own defense. Cardenio has his Luscinda, who has the hidalguía, but not the wealth Dorotea has. So there is, as I mentioned in the earlier class, sort of a crisscrossing here, a mirror image of the two women. That is, Dorotea has no nobility but has money, and Luscinda has very little money but she has nobility, and so forth. Luscinda, by the way, in the midst of all of this, had been kidnapped from a convent and brought to the inn in what turns out to be a side story not told in detail. These stories could be extended ad infinitum if you pursued every one of them, but remember, Luscinda had been kidnapped and she’s brought back for this ending.

Javier Herrero, whom I mentioned in the last class, and I mention him here, again, with respect and sometimes to disagree with good old Javier, who is a very — was, he’s retired now — a very competent critic and also, I should say, very Catholic critic, as you will understand from what I read here; there’s no sin in that. Javier Herrero interprets in this way the battle of the wine skins that leads to the resolution of the conflicts. He also has a kind of symbolic, sexual symbolic interpretation of the whole thing, but it’s good to hear it to correct it a little bit, but to learn from it. He says:

“The meaning of the battle against the wine skins is now clear [he has been expostulating]. Don Quixote is in a state of hallucination since he is really possessed by an intense dream and acting with closed eyes. Takes two superimposed wine skins which he saw in his room when he went to bed to be the giant Pandafilando and to behead him he cuts the head around, and pierces the body. The wine floods the room and fills the inn with its smell. Don Quixote has destroyed an erect penis [this is what good old Javier writes] and has filled the inn with the smell of wine. Don Quixote has certainly cut down the power of lust [I’m still quoting Herrero], this blood transformed into wine must certainly be taken as a sacramental symbol, a symbol of the mysterious power of the knight against the amorous pestilence. Metaphorically, the courage and courtesy of Don Quixote have vanquished the arrogance, cruelty and lust of Don Fernando. It is true that Don Quixote is wrong, that his adventures have created havoc, and morally, his motivation is mixed, but it is also undeniable that his courage, truthful and chaste, his foolishness, brings him blows and ridicule but his greatness makes him a worthy instrument of Providence.”

Herrero goes on:

“We see clearly that the spiritual movement has been completed by Don Fernando’s descent from lust and pride to a Christian humility and fraternity by which he raises his victims to the level of his affection, and now reunited in love, a common embrace is possible. The giant is dead and the true man, the Christian gentleman has replaced him, but which powers have brought about the conversion? Has it been the beauty, the tears, the truths of Dorotea? The priest’s persuasion? They certainly all have a part in it, but the text leaves no doubt that all these elements, together with Don Quixote, have been the instruments of Providence [with a capital P]. While men and women [he goes on] had been acting through the impulse of their passions, which brought them to the labyrinth of the Sierra Morena, not a reference has been made by Cervantes to Heaven’s will, but as soon as Cardenio meets Dorotea and is told that Don Fernando did not take Luscinda with him, he expresses hope that Heaven has decreed their salvation. From that moment on, their destinies began to escape from the darkness and confusion of the labyrinth. At the inn, the locus of social reunion and consequently of the transition from wildness to civilization, Luscinda, having been released by Don Fernando in the scene just as described, exclaims [he’s quoting Luscinda] ‘observe how Heaven by unusual and to us hidden ways has brought me into the presence of my true husband, and well you know by a thousand dear-bought experiences that death along can efface him out of my memory.’ [Herrero goes on]. Immediately and in the long scene of reconciliation all the participants claim that their meeting in the inn is not accidental, but on the contrary the work of Providence.”

The question to be considered is if the conflicts would have been solved without the intervention of Don Quixote — which I will speak about in a minute, I think that he was the agent, of course. In any case, Herrero winds up his article, which ultimately deals with the whole issue of marriage, which is so important in the Quixote and so important in the sixteenth century, and about whom the likes of Erasmus and Vives wrote, as he quotes them, and the Council of Trent, which is taking place — as you know, from reading Elliot — discussed — we will talk about again when we talk about Part II — about marriages and all of that, because marriage is at the core of social stability and social transitions in society; it is the way that society renews itself, so it’s crucial. So this is what Herrero writes, and it’s important because he’s bringing in first the Neo-Platonic notions of love derived from the courtly love tradition — that I think I’ve spoken about — against sort of certain movement in Spanish society and in sixteenth-century society, and philosophy in general, towards a more bourgeois sense of marriage — You remember, I think I’ve spoken about the courtly love tradition, the courtly love tradition, which is one of the great — how could I say? spiritual revolutions in the West, is the idea that the woman had to be adored at a distance, the love could not be consummated, usually, the love was for a woman who was unattainable preferably married, and the lover paid homage to the woman, and so forth. We still hear the echoes of the courtly love tradition in modern poetry, in Neruda, and Octavio Paz, and the great modern poets. Don Quixote is a courtly lover in that sense, an aged, out of fashion courtly lover, but that is what inspires his love for Dulcinea. Neo-Platonism, of course, was at the core of this courtly love tradition. So Herrero says the following, now that I think that I’ve placed this in its ideological context:

“Against a sentimental and Neo-Platonic tradition, which made of woman a goddess, Cervantes takes the side of the conjugal love presented by Erasmus and Vives [Erasmus of Rotterdam, I will speak more about him in the following classes; he was a very important sixteenth century humanist and so was Vives], which allows man not only to enjoy the legitimate pleasure of the sexual union but to help each other to fight against the inevitable weakness and imperfection of the human condition. By emphasizing the social civilizing aspects of marriage, Cervantes was closer to the new doctrines of reform than to the Renaissance ideals of love [he’s thinking of Petrarch and Garcilaso and the poets that I have mentioned before]. Indeed, with this attacks on the pastoral and by the story of El curioso impertinente, [The Novel of the Curious Impertinent] Cervantes is precisely marking his distance from the great aristocratic tradition of the Renaissance and joining the new, to a great extent bourgeois, Christianity which descended to the south of Europe from the low countries. In opposition to Amadís, Palmerín, Belianís [these are the chivalric heroes of the chivalric romances], the new bourgeois lover is not a knight, but a Christian gentleman. Such love, as we have seen, has two elements. It is Christian and the activity of Providence and the priests show the role that God and his Church play in its growth, but it’s also gentlemanly, both Cardenio and Don Fernando become through love, not only Christians, but Christian gentlemen. Courtly love brings the knight to madness, but Christian love saves him. Such a rescue is metaphorically expressed in our story by the great classical myth of the labyrinth, lost in the wilderness of the Sierra Morena their lives twisted into the intricate maze of the labyrinth on the brink of being devoured by the minotaur of lust and madness, Cardenio, Luscinda, Dorotea and Fernando are finally rescued by Don Quixote’s courageous battle, and by the civilizing force of an Erasmian church. Divine Providence, in fact, has provided as Ariadne, the saving threat.”

That’s the end of the quote, which I hope now you can understand given the background that I gave you about. All of this sounds fine, and it is instructive, particularly the references to Erasmus and to Vives, until we take into account the hilarious convolutions and the mixture of madness, dreams and lies that bring about the resolution of the conflicts. The conflicts have been solved by Don Quixote’s intervention, but how can such a ridiculous figure be the instrument of Providence, with a capital P? They have been solved by Don Quixote’s agency because they are truly worldly conflicts, involving tensions of a world in social flux, where the older values, let’s say the values of the Renaissance, the values of courtly love, no longer hold sway. Don Quixote embodies the mixture of values in transition, so he can mediate in the various conflicts and solve them. He would not have been able to do so if he had been a real knight, nor had he been an ordinary man of his time. But to say this is not to do justice to the multilayer plots unraveling in these episodes.

I am mostly struck by Cervantes’s inventiveness, by the wild yet disciplined imagination at play, which cannot, I think, be reduced to this providential scheme that Javier offers. Don Fernando is at one level Pandafilando de la Fosca Vista, a giant. Remember, the rhyme, Fernando, Pandafilando. The figure of Pandafilando, though invented ad hoc by the priest, is presented as an effective factor in the outcome of the conflicts, as are Tinacrio the Wise and Princess Micomicona, although not real and grotesque, not real in relation to the fiction of the novel, this whole ensemble exists and performs on a level not unlike that of the characters who invented them, who invented this whole ensemble. The story of Pandafilando is like a dream version, a recognizable distortion of Dorotea’s real conflict — if you remember when we went over it — the story of Pandafilando is like a dream version, as I repeat, of Dorotea’s real conflict. Remember, again, the hidden meaning of Micomicona, over which I will go again, in her name there is an allusion to mimicry, to representation, to mimesis, to the very process by which she was invented. Does Micomicona not in a way represent representation itself? I mean, she is the representation itself talking place before our eyes. Are all of these inventions of characters by other characters similar to Cervantes’s invention of his own characters in the Quixote and this is what this whole thing is telling us?

This is what is truly dazzling about the resolution of all of these conflicts, that they do unravel at every level sort of simultaneously. That is to say — and this is what you have on the back of your triangles, and I have here on the board — all of these levels, Don Quixote’s dream, which is Don Quixote, Pandafilando and Micomicona, he cuts the head off of the giant, he thinks, in the dream. The meta-fictional creation by the priest, the story that the priest invents, and that Micomicona then performs, meaning Dorotea. Don Quixote, Pandafilando, Micomicona, Tinacrio, all these characters in that novel that the priest and Dorotea invent, and then, there is the fiction of the novel, which is Don Quixote, Don Fernando, Dorotea, and so forth. All of those levels sort of collapse together and the conflicts are resolved by Don Quixote slaying the giant; that is, cutting and bursting poor Juan Palomeque’s wine skins, to his horror.

Chapter 4. Don Quixote’s Interruption [00:50:25]

It is a stroke of genius, that the process of restitution will be motivated by Don Quixote’s nightmare which comes to interrupt the reading of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent, and the point, incidentally near the end, which is when it’s about to unravel, when that novel is about to unravel, another case of these interruptions. In the dream, Don Quixote completes the story of Princess Micomicona; that is, Dorotea’s predicament translated into the language of chivalry, like Don Quixote’s psychotic delusion — Remember, about Queen Madasima having had an affair with this surgeon, which was his version of Luscinda being deflowered by Don Fernando. Now, this version of Dorotea’s imbroglio true to the name she assumes is a grotesque parody of her story. I go back to what I have just said. Remember, that “mico” means monkey, Micomicona is “the twice monkey” with an augmentative like that — remember the augmentative in “segundón” that I mentioned “segundo, segundón” from “second,” “segundón” is a big second. “Grande, grandulón” in Spanish, lummox, for a lummox, and so forth. “Mico-micón,” there’s an augmentative involved there. Micomicona — Remember, monkey see monkey do and all of that? — She’s a big blown up distorted copy of Dorotea, this is what Micomicona is.

The ending of Dorotea’s story in that register is what breaks off the reading — as I mentioned — of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent. That story will be resumed and comes to its very tragic ending while those of Cardenio, Luscinda, Dorotea and Don Fernando will have a purely comic one, happy endings, as I mentioned, with marriages are typical of comedy. This is yet another intersection of the two stories here, with the accent on section, on crossing, on cutting. The ending of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent reveals its artificial literary quality when the reading is concluded and, as I’ve mentioned, the priest remarks, as I said, that it doesn’t sound right for a husband to have done, so that it’s not good mimesis, and then there follow the court like scene of reconciliations among the various couples and restitutions made, including restitutions to the barber who’s basin was — you haven’t gotten there but you will see that there are a series of restitutions to all of the characters who have been injured or damaged or harmed in some way. The inn becomes like a court of law where these restitutions are made. Now, I want to quote Javier Herrero in a positive light now, and he is right, in the sense that the values are changing and there is sort of an emerging bourgeois sense:

“It is true [he says] that Neo-Platonism associated with the tradition of courtly love was still the accepted poetic and artistic vehicle for aristocratic sentiment. But through the influence of Christian humanism and as an expression of the strength of the new bourgeois, the preoccupations with secular life and above all marriage replaced the stylized conventions of chivalry and the austere ideal of monasticism.”

This may be true, particularly if we take into account all of the economic and legal background that I have given you about the relationship between these characters, the fact that Fernando is a segundón and is not going to inherit much of the state, which makes him very anxious, the fact that Dorotea runs a farm and has money and all of that; it does give the impression that there is a kind of a bourgeois sense of marriage and stability that is replacing the old idea of the Neo-Platonic ideals contained in this aristocratic versions of love in the poetic traditions.

The idea also seems to be that to cure the characters in the real world of the fiction where they live they also have to be cured in their dreams and inventions, which is one of the overall plot strands now being resolved in the Quixote, he’s the only one missing here. I mean, everyone is going to be sort of cured of his or her dreams, hallucinations, and so forth, but Don Quixote still has not. But they have to be cured of those hallucinations, as well as their situation has to be stabilized in social terms. The priest, the barber and the rest of the characters engage Don Quixote as his level of madness, in part because they are also mad in their own ways, we have to realize this. What are the priest and the barber doing traipsing all over Spain after the knight? Remember what I said before about the priest, this is a very strange priest who is a reader of romances of chivalry.

What has become of the priest’s duties at church or the barber’s customers, we ask? They too have left normal lives, as Sancho has, he left his wife and children, to engage in an insane quest after an insane man. The point is that life, mental life, is made up of levels that mirror and distort each other, and that literature appears to emerge from this interplay. The creative mind of the author is capable of reflecting or expressing the multilayered essence of that mental life. After the captive’s tale — about which we’ll be talking in the next class, fascinating, very entertaining captive’s tail based on Cervantes’s own life — the priest and the barber and the others will send Don Quixote home. They will cage him and send him home in a return that will still engage them in further adventures. The end of Part I is near, and we will get to it next week.

[end of transcript]

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