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Fighting Windmills

Fighting Windmills: Encounters with Don Quixote

Manuel Durán
Fay R. Rogg
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Fighting Windmills
    Book Description:

    Cervantes'Don Quixoteis the most widely read masterpiece in world literature, as appealing to readers today as four hundred years ago. InFighting WindmillsManuel Durán and Fay R. Rogg offer a beautifully written excursion into Cervantes' great novel and trace its impact on writers and thinkers across centuries and continents.How did Cervantes write such a rich tale? Durán and Rogg explore the details of Cervantes' life, the techniques with which he constructed the novel, and the central themes of the adventures of Don Quixote and his earthy squire Sancho Panza. The authors then provide an insightful, panoramic view of Cervantes' powerful influence on generations of writers as diverse as Descartes, Voltaire, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Twain, and Borges.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13496-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
    M.D. and F.R.R.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the second half of the sixteenth century an idea was born in the mind of a little-known writer from Alcalá de Henares, east of Madrid. He was of modest means, but well-read and blessed with an extraordinary imagination. His idea was to pluck a middle-aged bookworm from his humble, impoverished surroundings and drop him into the world of evildoers and damsels in distress, where he would try to make things right in accordance with the then outdated rules of chivalry, about which he was very knowledgeable. His name was Don Quixote of La Mancha. The writer was Miguel de...

  5. Part One

    • 1 Cervantes
      (pp. 15-41)

      Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547 in the Castilian city of Alcalá de Henares, a city that boasted a relatively new but already famous university founded by Cardinal Cisneros. Alcalá “was the very focus of Renaissance Spain. More than any other place it symbolized the intellectual exuberance and the ideological fervor that characterized that country until it turned in upon itself in the 1560s, after the triumph of orthodoxy and traditionalism at the Council of Trent. In no more appropriate town could Cervantes have been born.”¹

      Miguel inherited from his father, an itinerant surgeon always in debt, an incurable...

    • 2 Experimenting with Existing Narrative Tools
      (pp. 43-55)

      Throughout his literary career, Cervantes delighted in experimenting with different narrative models popular in the sixteenth century, at times improving them, parodying them, imitating them, and reinventing them. There were three main types of novels whose style and themes Cervantes could tap into: the romances of chivalry and the pastoral and picaresque novels. Each of these genres had been solidly established by the time he started to write his masterpiece and each of them is linked to him in some way. The many works published at the time have been defined by these predictable literary conventions because readers wanted and...

    • 3 Constructing Don Quixote
      (pp. 57-81)

      Because there were few ancient Greek and Roman models to imitate in the field of fiction, Renaissance writers were forced to be original. In his effort to conceive the modern novel, Cervantes showed ambition, imagination, and tenacity. His novel is one of the longest produced in his generation, and it is the most audacious in terms of its structure and its characters, which seem so spontaneous that we do not think of them as an author’s creation as the novel unfolds before us. No wonder, then, thatDon Quixotehas influenced profoundly so many other works in the following centuries....

    • 4 A Look into Cervantes’s Masterpiece
      (pp. 83-126)

      The celebrated first chapter ofDon Quixoteinvites the reader to enter the life of a humble country gentleman, describes his possessions, his rural routine, but more important, his obsession with books of chivalry. Further, we are told that he has a young niece, a housekeeper, a horse, a greyhound and that he is a friend of the village priest and barber, both versed in books of chivalry. The gentleman, obsessed with reading books on knighterrantry, decides to become a knight and improvises the making of a suit of armor. He renames his horse and chooses a peasant girl who...

  6. Part Two

    • 5 Cervantine Sallies into Eighteenth-Century France and England
      (pp. 129-163)

      By the eighteenth century much had changed in Western Europe’s literary scene. The novel was becoming more fashionable, although critics were still hesitant to treat it with respect because of Aristotle’s influence. But his dominance as the supreme organizer of Western thought was beginning to wane. English literature had flourished with Shakespeare, Milton, and John Donne. The plays of Corneille, Molière, and Racine dominated the French stage. In Spain, the glorious literary period known as the Golden Age endured until Calderón’s death in 1681.

      Cervantes’s novel continued to gain fame with readers throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. New editions...

    • 6 An Abbreviated Look at Cervantes in Nineteenth-Century France, Russia, and Spain
      (pp. 165-189)

      In the nineteenth century there were several literary movements, each one a reaction to the previous one. In the early part of the century, there was a shift away from the Enlightenment’s reasoned approach to life to a more subjective, individualistic, and sentimental stance, the mark of the Romantic writers. The next significant movements are realism and naturalism, which depend, respectively, on close observation of life and an explanation of human destiny as the result of genetic inheritance and environment. For example, Zola took a notebook with him to write down descriptions of people and places he saw, comparable to...

    • 7 Don Quixote and the New World: TWO AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
      (pp. 191-217)

      The Romantic movement was not exclusively a European literary and intellectual phenomenon. In the Americas, writers responded to the same stimuli. Although lacking the experience of the Middle Ages with its castles, knights, and fabled dragons, America possessed parallel spiritual affinities: an individualistic spirit, a love of liberty, and an admiration of nature. The vast frontier awakened in many people a sense of adventure and the potential for discovery of new places and encouraged the freedom they needed to develop their individualism. The Americas were ripe for the Romantic movement in literature and the arts.

      One example is Herman Melville...

    • 8 Sightings of Cervantes and His Knight in the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 219-247)

      The twentieth century has introduced new ways of telling a story through film, television, and the Internet, which break with traditional forms. Now books are made into films or television series or seen as DVDs. Technology has provided us with new visual means to communicate a tale. In spite of these innovations, Don Quixote, a character born as the Renaissance faded, and Cervantes’s literary devices continue to play an important role with contemporary writers.

      Don Quixote was influential in the twentieth century in his own country. At the turn of the century he came to symbolize Spain, which had reached...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 249-256)

    Don Quixotespeaks to us and has inspired so many of the novelists that flourished after its publication because the hopes and doubts expressed in its pages, emblematic of Cervantes’s times, are universal. Indeed, today we are still enthralled by the same high hopes and tormented by the same nagging doubts.

    Mark Van Doren alleges thatDon Quixote“enjoys the reputation of being perhaps the best novel in the world. Not that its author ever speaks of it as fiction. He says it is history, or if you like biography; and he does not even claim credit for its composition.”¹...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 257-263)
  9. Index
    (pp. 264-276)