Scholars at Wright



Don Quijote

Don Quijote
 was published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, respectively. It was written by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra. Cervantes was born in 1547 and died shortly after the publication of Part 2, in 1616.

Cervantes was born the fourth child of a barber-surgeon in a famous University town, Alcala De Hanares, near Madrid. Despite this auspicous site of birth, Cervantes never attended University and lived a life of poverty and adversity. He fought in the Spanish army, losing the use of his left hand thorugh injury. He longed for a secure and exciting post in the Spanish government, perhaps administrating one of their new territories across the ocean. Instead, he landed a cell in a royal prison, owing to the shady dealings of his banker.

It is theorized and supported somewhat by the text that the beginnings of Don Quijote were within the walls of the Royal Prison of Seville. Don Quijote is considered the first modern novel because of its use of dialogue, characterization, and unreliable narrative. The titular character is a landed gentleman who, in old age, decides that he is destined to be a great knight as in the popular novels he reads. He takes off across the countryside with his "squire" Sancho Panza, inventing a new identity and many "adventures" for himself. Don Quijotelampoons firstly the popular literature of the day, sensationalistic and soapy stories of Knights Errant.

On deeper levels, the book casts a critical eve on many of the social injustices and prejudices that existed in Cervantes' day. All throughout, Don Quijote is entertaining and funny, with humor both scatalogical and sublimely ironic.

Many scholars consider Don Quijote the first modern novel, because of its flowing dialogue, perspective shifting and its unreliable narrator. Miguel De Cervantes wrote many other texts, mostly near the end of his life. He considered his novel Persiles his masterwork. He was also an accomplished poet.

The Norton Critical Edition of Don Quijote used for the lectures contains contemporary writings from other Spanish authors, other writings by Cervantes, and fifteen critical essays, including one authored by Professor Anne J. Cruz titled "Don Quijote's Disappearing Act."


Professor Jack Weiner presented information recounting the political, geographic, cultural and religous background of the Spain of Cervantes' time. Religous persecution was prevalant, including inquisitions and thorough searches into the genealogies of citizens to determine their Christian heritage. Weiner indicated that Cervantes himself may have descended from the "New Christians." These were late converts from Judiasm and Islam and were viewed in a less desirable light than "Old Christians," who could ostensibly prove a lack of Moorish or Jewish blood in their family lines. Weiner also summarized Cervantes' travails during his life, his military exploits, injuries and his failed attempts to land civil service jobs.


Professor Frederick de Armas discussed the five literary models for Dulcinea present in Cervantes' text, as well as the symbolic nature and historical import of Quijote's white shield in the story. He presented a visual display of contemporary artwork as well as historical pieces, tying them in with selected descriptions from the work.


Professor Anne J. Cruz gave a talk affirming the validity of Don Quijote's personal reality, essentially concluding, "who are we to judge?" She maintains that if Quijote's reality makes him happy, it is no less valid than our own "personal realities." She noted the change in perspectives towards Quijote's reality throughout the obok. At first, Sancho Panza regarded Quijote's reality with disbelief. As the story progressed, however, it turned out the Panza was the strong supporter of Quijote's invidual reality, while Quijote himself became less and less convinced of it. Cruz maintained that Quijote represents the first modern novel in its use of unreliable narrative.


Professor Peter Kaye presented the example of Mambrino's helmet as representing the several schools of academic thought on Don Quijote. Kaye's categories for these schools are: the Barber's Basin school, which holds that Quijote was a deluded fool. The basin that Quijote came upon in his travels was nothing more than a basin. The Mambrino's Helmet school affirms the validity of Quijote's personal reality. While it may appear to others to be a simple basin, to Quijote it was a legendary helmet. This is enough to indicate his personal reality. Further, others would become convinced of the helmet's reality through the force of Quijote's will. The Post-Modern school says that the whole being of Quijote is nothing but language. The character of Quijote searched the world in order to prove his books right, thus relegating supposedly physical things like the basin/helmet also to the realm of language.

To register or for inquiries, email Professor Edward Mogul at 


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Scholars at Wright