Essay Book and Reference Guide
By EMRE GURGEN
A Good Reviewer Is:
A subject-expert, who, on the one hand, is open to well-reasoned analysis based on facts and evidence and logical inference, yet who, on the other hand, is closed to arbitrary assertions, or broad pronouncements, unrelated to the book. Most importantly, a good reader, to me, is someone who will value my work for its essential interpretative stance―placing more significance on what I say, how I say it, and why I say what I do, and less weight on what others have said, or wrote, or thought, about Don Quixote, before. In other words, I want an objective reader to evaluate my book for its intrinsic factual merits―no matter how strongly he, or she, advocates a different topic-stance. While I am not suggesting that an expert reader be “value-neutral,” what I am suggesting is that my theses be treated with objective fairness. In other words, I want a fair-and-balanced book reader to deal reasonably with all of my original viewpoints, despite his, or her, prior psychology about Don Quixote.
Essay 8: The Generation of the Renaissance in the Quijote: How the Spirit of Classicism, Chivalry, and Christianity Bypassed Medievalism and Led to Modernity.
Summary: Essentially, this essay on the Renaissance shows readers, in 14 ways, how Cervantes bypasses the ideas-and-practices of medievalism in the “Quijote,” replacing Middle Age thinking with modern civilized thought. First, I hypothesize that Cervantes moves readers away from the medieval practice of state-sponsored Church censorship, where men’s minds were stilled and their tongues were silenced, by restrictive authorities who imposed their own view of social morality—often at the point of a sword—to show readers how Cervantes transitioned Medieval society to Modern civilization by supporting principles of a free society (i.e. freedom of thought-and-speech). In line with this viewpoint, I reason that Cervantes show readers that privatized art-markets, through the invention of the printing-press, enabled artists to reach, and enlighten, the general public, directly. Second, I argue that Cervantes revives the ideas advanced by ancient Greek philosophers, like Aristotle, or Great Church thinkers, like Thomas Aquinas, to generate a sense-of-life governed by rational classic concepts. Third, I prove that Cervantes led to modernity by showing his readers the value of universal education, which he illustrates by populating the “Quijote” with learned figures from all social ranks. Fourth, I argue that Cervantes marks the smooth transition from medieval-to-modern thought by not only supporting Renaissance axioms of literary esthetics—i.e. a sense of proportion, symmetry, beauty, and perfection in writing—but also by satirizing medieval fiction, where ridiculous knight errants, perform unbelievable actions, in absurd tales of preposterous chivalry. Fifth, I infer that Cervantes supports modern-day realistic fiction over olden-day medieval literature by not only showing life-like people taking believable actions, with logical consequences, in believable spaces, but, most importantly, by having the Cannon of Toledo pontificate on the qualities of literary realism. Sixth, I reason that Cervantes shows his readers the scientific spirit of the new times that were coming by having many of his characters make concrete astronomical observations. Seventh, I prove that Cervantes instills in his readers the modern day spirit of individualism—i.e. primary focus on oneself and secondary focus on like-minded others—by having Don Quixote take properly selfish actions. Eighth, I conclude that Cervantes shifts society away from an earlier-and-worse savage condition to a latter-and-better civilized viewpoint by expressing the modern day spirit of a gentlemen: a person who is not only polite and self-controlled in his thoughts and actions but who, most importantly, is motivated by peace, not war. This is why, in my view, Cervantes transitions a warrior nobility based on fighting-and-aggression to a court society based on diplomacy and peace. Ninth, I illustrate how Cervantes notes the emergence of the modern Spanish justice system by integrating the emergence of a system of laws and judicial procedures governed by professionals and procedures, not ruled by arbitrary edicts, or capricious whims, issued by megalomaniacal dictators. Tenth, I infer that Cervantes moves readers away from a medieval, hierarchical, social system based on religious-and-political control, to a secular nation-state defined by the separation of church-and-state. Said differently, by elevating modern day vernacular—i.e. everyday words people use with their friends and among their generation—over clerical Latin, I reason that Cervantes removes the clergy’s language system from general discourse. Eleventh, Cervantes, I infer, also instills in his readers the modern-day spirit of intense hero worship by chronicling, and praising, singular achievements of great men from our classical past, like Augustus Caesar, for example, thus encouraging modern day readers to not only be brave in their souls but intrepid in their actions, as well. Twelfth, I reason that another modern-day concept Cervantes brings to light is the idea of social mobility, or, the concept that intelligent commoners can become gentrified by disciplined smart-and-hard work exercised over an appropriate period of time. To elaborate this concept, I reason that Don Quixote writes many letters and delivers many speeches to Sancho Panza, before, during, and after his governorship of Barataria, supporting concepts of modern-day social mobility, where people tended to achieve a fitting social rank more through their moral principles, ethical actions, intellectual abilities, and practical skills, then through unearned social rank because of their bloodline, lineage, and/or inheritance. Thirteenth, by harkening back to the golden Spanish age of the pastoral eclogue, I infer that Cervantes, as Dr. Echevarria said, shows that there is “an inherent optimism in the Renaissance because it is hoped that the revival of the classical past will reanimate the present and bring back a golden age.” Fourteenth, I reason that Cervantes shows readers how the modern-day spirit of moderate Christianity was a civilizing influence in the “Quijote,” since it pacified people’s baser violent urges. In all these ways, and more, I theorize that Cervantes skips medieval thought altogether, replacing the ideas-and-practices linked to the cruel Middle Ages with the values of kind modernity instead. −A life-sensation consonant with modern day republican democracy.
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Essay 6: How Cervantes Unites Christians and Muslims in Don Quixote De La Mancha: Bridging the Gap.
Summary: This essay shows readers that Cervantes makes a series of meaningful connections between Christians and Muslims by creating a Muslim philosopher, on the one hand, whom he credits with writing Don Quixote, and a Christian translator, on the other hand, who steps in-and-out of the tale to comment on the identity of its’ Moorish author. Essentially, I argue that by interfusing Christianity and Islam in this way, Cervantes replicates the translator’s mental shift in his readers so that they, like him, go from disparaging and distrusting all Muslims to forming a more positive opinion about some Islamic theologians. To deepen this analysis I claim two things: that Cervantes unwinds Christian typecasts for Muslims by addressing them, voicing them, and dissipating them, and that he thinks that individual Muslims should be judged by the content of their character―not as a collective force of harm. In keeping with my theme of religious unity I analyze the marriage of a Christian man and a Muslim woman with particular emphasis on how Christians and Muslims can pair-bond through intimate, romantic, relationships. In brief, this essay shows readers how Cervantes fosters a constructive relationship between followers of God and followers of Allah so that Christians and Muslims unite amicably.
Essay 7: The Formation of True Love In Don Quixote De La Mancha: How Characters Are Led Into Marriage For Romance Not Marriage By Arrangement.
Summary: My seventh essay shows readers how Cervantes replaces a medieval view of marriage―where the female is a house keeper, lust satisfier, and child begetter―with a modern view of romance typified by a joining of desirers and the merger of personalities. Accordingly, I argue that Cardenio and Luscinda’s true-love-passion (for example) or Basilio and Quiteria’s romantic courtship (for instance) not only undercuts the view that marriage is a master-servant, owner-property connection but also their union shows people that marriage should be a relationship of equals where each partner tries to please and advance the other. As a variation on the theme of true-love and marriage I show that economic marriages, like Camacho’s and Quiteria’s for example, motivated by a family fortune or political power, are dominated by mercenary, power-lusting tactics that create psychological instability among participants, while romantic marriages, like Basilio’s and Quiteria’s, lead to happiness for both conjugal partners. In this essay I also argue that men-and-women in Don Quixote choose their lovers for mental closeness, intellectual agreement, and philosophic mutuality (not for money) thereby meriting each other’s true-love.
Aside from painting a picture of married life as a vehicle of love and emotional security, I show readers how Cervantes encourages parents to not allow their daughters to select their husbands among evil and base suitors―like Leandra’s father mistakenly does with Vicente De la Rosa―but rather to propose several good candidates and then give them free choice amongst these. In fact, I reason that Vicente de la Rosa and Leandra’s disastrous elopement shows readers that if they want to avoid been lured, and abandoned, by unscrupulous rakes for money they need to investigate the character of a potential boyfriend (or girlfriend) by: asking direct questions; scrutinizing subtle evidence; and observing how a potential mate handles different situations. Similarly, by referring to Marcela’s example in my critique I prove that remaining single and learning to support oneself is better than becoming the wife of a dissipated man.
Besides highlighting various love-spoilers in this essay―as is the case with the unnecessary love tests in The Tale of Inappropriate Curiosity―I show readers that men and women, like Don Luis, for example, or Dorotea, for instance, should win over their mates by fighting for them. Finally, I show that caring too much, as opposed to not caring enough―as is the case with Altisidora and Don Quixote―is a ruinous disease that is habit forming, causes frenzied and irrational actions that consumes a lover’s strength and wastes his substance. In brief, not only does this essay show readers how Cervantes tries to discover a new meaning of romantic love within a framework of old, tribal-customs, but, above all, this essay defines what true-love in Don Quixote is and is not.
Germano, William. Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious About Serious Books. 2nd Edition. Chicago: Chicago U P,
Leonard, Keith D.. Professor of English Literature. American University, Washington DC. Course Syllabus: 2006.
Rabiner, Susan and Alfred Fortunato. Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published. New York: Norton, 2002.
Trimmer, Joseph F. Writing With a Purpose. Short 11th Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
Essay 4: How a Female Peasant Makes Good In Society: Dulcinea as a Model of Inspiration for Aldonza Lorenzo and a Source of Encouragement for Don Quixote.
Summary: With easy opposite interpretations, hard to pin-down double meanings, madness, humor, mistaken identification, and unreliability, Cervantes makes it very difficult to recognize that a simple farm girl, like Aldonza Lorenzo, can become an exulted princess, like Dulcinea Del Toboso. But if one examines Don Quixote closely, and argues intelligently, he can make a persuasive case that Cervantes shook the stagnant class structures of his times by presenting a new model of female social agency: a liberated woman who relies on virtue and ability and prowess to get ahead in life not on birth circumstances, or ancestral lineage, or inherited wealth or any other type of unearned status. As a variation on this theme I argue that Dulcinea reshapes Don Quixote’s world by portraying what it means to be a perfect lady so that other women strive to match her example. As part of this line of reasoning I show readers how Dulcinea inspires Don Quixote’s value quest, gives him the strength he needs to defeat several foes, succours him during times of dejection, and restores his tranquility of mind and emotion, all by taking on all of the charms and perfections of a lady’s highest attainable standard without embodying any female flaws.
Essay 5: The Role of the Picaresque Conversion Narrative in Don Quixote De La Mancha: Criminal Reform.
Summary: My fifth essay analyzes how chronic adult offenders, like Senor Roque and Gines de Pasamonte, can reform their core characters to take on the qualities of a refined essence. To dissuade future, or present, criminals from pulling scams and taking scores, I argue that Cervantes shows his readers how dangerous and unsettled and unglamorous a criminal’s lifestyle is. To prove that crime does not pay on an existential and aspirational level, I argue that Cervantes persuades people to become upstanding citizens―not underworld figures―by showing individuals that a life of crime leads to desolate isolation at the intellectual and emotional level. With nothing to look forward to but long prison stretches, grinding physical labor, or the prospect of being executed for his crimes, I show how Senor Roque’s criminality warns ordinary people that if they break the law then ultimately they will suffer. Through the examples of Senor Roque and Gines de Pasamonte I critique the characteristic thought patterns of a criminal, so that people not only see early indicators of precriminal traits in themselves but also so that they learn to spot, and therefore avoid, criminal types altogether. By presenting the view that Cervantes exposes the cons, the hustles, and the deceptions of various malevolent trickster figures, I show how he warns readers away from certain categories of obnoxious people who devise secret, cunning, and often complicated schemes to cheat people out of their money and property. Besides showing people why bad men should take-on the qualities of a purified soul, this essay also claims that if Spanish society violates the rights of its citizens, then brave heroes, like Don Quixote, are justified in taking direct action against the state to combat overpunishment. By freeing a chain gang of prisoners who are tortured, beaten, and enjailed for minor crimes, Cervantes shows readers that if the state thwarts justice, in the name of enforcing it, than it is up to people, like Don Quixote, to create a fair-and-balanced mode of objective impartiality based on individual moral justice. In sum, while the main thrust of this essay turns on the question of how criminal characters can reform their inner natures, part of my analysis focuses on how justice can be formed in an unjust society.
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Emre Gurgen, a first generation U.S. citizen fully fluent in Turkish, has an English Bachelors from Penn State and was a master’s candidate in literature at American University in Washington D.C. During school he worked as a legal assistant at a DC law firm, for several years, before becoming a freelance paralegal following his certification from Georgetown University and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. Now, he works as a freelance paralegal, contracting out his services, from time-to-time, to finance his life. In the future, he plans to become a doctoral candidate, at a fitting university. To prepare, he is writing a manuscript, based on books such as: “Winning the Ph.D. game; Writing for Tenure and Beyond; First Order Principles for College Teachers; The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career; Writing for Academic Publication; Persist and Publish; The MLA Guide to the Job Search; The Complete Academic: A Career Guide to Success; The Literature Review; The Clockwork Muse; Successful Dissertations and Theses; Teaching Literature: The Independent Educators Guide, and more. In the future, he hopes to earn a scholarship, to a fitting university, were, in fulfillment of a writing grant, or, as a function of a research assistantship, his tuition will be waived.
Essay 1: Good Politics in Sancho Panza’s Governorship: How an Intelligent Commoner Refines Into a Good Governor Through a Series of Jokes That Turn Earnest.
Summary: My opening essay analyzes how a man of the people, like Sancho Panza, can become a great town governor. Contrary to the popular view that Sancho Panza’s governorship is a maniacal farce staged by two depraved aristocrats to ridicule a bumbling country peasant, I claim that while Sancho Panza begins his administration as the butt of everyone’s jokes, eventually he turns the tables on his tricksters by being an effective town leader. By delivering objective legal opinions, by arresting transgressive lawbreakers, by budgeting state finances effectively, by reducing the amount of illegal gambling in the town, and by dealing with criminals fairly, Sancho Panza confuses his jesters by showing them that he can be a good civil governor despite their antics. In other words, to prove that Sancho Panza’s governorship is not a sinister joke created by royalty for a chuckle―but rather is a gubernatorial simulation designed to test his mettle in office―I show how he is taught by others to: maintain his identity despite gaining power; reject bribery and corruption while in office; repel idle gossip from disappointed office seekers; budget his time wisely as lord governor; foster the traits of a fair merchant; and, lastly, balance firmness with charisma, so that he is serious yet approachable. Additionally, I argue that Don Quixote prepares Sancho Panza for political office by coaching him about how a statesman should speak, eat, and dress, in formal court society. In short, this essay turns on the question of how an ordinary Spanish peasant, like Sancho Panza, can evolve to a higher mental, emotional, and temperamental level so that he qualifies to govern civil affairs.
Essay 2: Cervantes’s Treatment of Religious Extremism: The Opening of a Free Society.
Summary: My second essay analyzes how a society, like Spain, can rid itself of religious extremism so that people are free to think and act as they like throughout their lives. To prove that Cervantes created a novel where freedom of belief could have full range of expression, I argue that a priest purposely saves most of Don Quixote’s books because they contain works of the human mind that do nobody any harm. To show how Cervantes satirized religious abuse in Spanish society, I challenge the idea of original sin or the notion that a person is cosmically unworthy to enjoy their lives and must therefore preparetheir wicked soul for the afterlife by mortifying their flesh. By showing the extremes that Sancho Panza goes to to avoid whipping himself―like pinning Don Quixote to the ground to avoid lash strokes or whipping a birch tree instead of his back―I show how instincts of self-preservation supersede warped impulses of self-punishment. As part of my overall effort to undercut religious extremism, I show how the Holy Inquisition’s symbols of condemnation and shame―like a frock with flames painted on it or a cone used as a dunce cap―is mocked by Cervantes as part of his aim to shift 17thcentury Spain away from a religious shame culture to a pagan honor culture. To cast further doubt on religious mysticism, I show how religious miracles, like the Balsam of Fierbras, for instance, have no magical properties whatsoever, despite Carolingian legend that says that because Christ was embalmed in this magical formaldehyde the potion can magically restore one’s health. By showing readers how Don Quixote wretches, writhes, and sweats after quaffing this quack potion, and how Sancho Panza becomes violently ill after ingesting this nostrum, I show how dubious miracle cures can harm people greatly. Later, I argue that individuals can enjoy their lives on earth without sinning even if they make love before marriage―like Don Fernando and Dorotea, for example. Next, I show how the Holy Brotherhood’s ability to enforce religious laws in the countryside is greatly undermined by Don Quixote when he fights, eludes, and overturns these clerical officers of rigid discipline. Finally, I show how Cervantes criticizes countrywide expulsions of whole groups of people because of their religion―like the Moriscos from Spain, for example―so that people are aware of the historic dislocations caused by an extreme brand of faith. Lastly, I explain how Don Quixote’s attack on a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary expresses the authors’ skepticism towards the immaculate conception of Christ. While I claim that knocking down Mary’s statute is not an attack on religion’s values per se, I do maintain that this act of aggression calls into question Roman Catholic adulation of her. Finally, I argue that Cervantes replaced, or at least hybridized, the moral code of religion, with the moral code of paganism, so that strength and honor and heroism are valued as the best within men, not blind faith, or self-sacrifice, or an unquestioning obedience to God.
Essay 3: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s Relationship: Foils That Evoke The Best In Each Other.
Summary: My third essay analyzes how opposite character types―like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza―can enhance one another’s mental and emotional qualities by checking-and-balancing one another’s temperament. Essentially, I argue that Don Quixote’s lofty idealism complements Sancho Panza’s hard-nosed practicality since it teaches him to project long-term moral values when making concrete ethical decisions. In turn, I show how Sancho Panza’s practicality enables Don Quixote to: feed himself during his travels; pay at roadside inns when “dream-questing;” field dress his wounds when injured; and recover his mental and physical energy by resting. Next, I show how Sancho Panza’s visual, auditory, and olfactory identifications help Don Quixote identify the reality of his surroundings, especially since he recognizes inns as inns and people as people, thanks to Sancho Panza. In short, I show all the ways that Don Quixote’s sidekick helps to contain, or reverse, his master’s delusional folly by transmitting objective reality to him. Later, I argue that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza teach each other to be brave and steadfast, not rash or cowardly, to reach a happy medium of courage together. Afterwards I analyze how Don Quixote’s book learning and literacy complements Sancho Panza’s oral wisdom and illiteracy. Basically I show that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza enhance one another’s awareness and understanding of life through written knowledge, on the one hand, and witty proverbs, on the other. In sum, I contend that Don Quixote’s high-ideals fosters Sancho Panza’s moral compass, while Sancho Panza’s practical skills teaches Don Quixote to live in hard reality.
Don Quixote Explained focuses on eight topics: how Sancho Panza refines into a good governor through a series of jokes that turn earnest; how Cervantes satirizes religious extremism in Don Quixote by taking aim at the Holy Roman Catholic Church; how Don Quixote and Sancho Panza check-and-balance one another’s excesses by having opposite identities; how Cervantes refines Spanish farm girls by transforming Aldonza Lorenzo into Dulcinea El Toboso; how outlaws like Roque Guinart and Gines Pasamonte can avoid criminality and why; how an inter-religional unity is established inDon Quixote by having a Christian translator and a Muslim narrator work together as one; how Cervantes replaces a medieval view of love and marriage―where a woman is a housekeeper, lust-satisfier, and child begetter―with a modern view of equalitarian marriage typified by a joining of desires and a merger of personalities; and, lastly, how Cervantes bypasses savage medieval thought with civilized modern concepts.
Books that may compete with, or complement, Don Quixote Explained are thus:
1) Cervantes’s Don Quixote (125 pages, Anthony, J. Close, Cambridge University Press, 1990).
Given the visibility and profile of this scholar, coupled with his dominance in the field of literary criticism, his work may appear to compete with Don Quixote Explained. However, if one reads both books for accessibility he will realize that Dr. Close’s book is written more for specialized academicians steeped in esoteric knowledge while my book is written more for intelligent nonprofessionals who are reasonably well informed. Since Dr. Close’s book draws on contextual literary analysis (like German Romanticism) uses abstruse words (like scansion, metonymic, and antiphonal) and relies on little known historical references (like the plight of the crypto-Jews) his focus is narrow and specialized, while my book, on the other hand, has broader critical significance. Since my book is structured logically, according to the rules of rational discourse―displayed by an overarching thesis, precise language, and good syntax―it does not “go technical” on readers as Dr. Close’s book sometimes does. In a word, since Dr. Close relies on: particularized knowledge for meaning; academic speak for significance; and coded language for understanding―his work is too advanced for generalists, while my book, on the other hand, is more universal in scope. Simply put, Dr. Close’s book is more a flow of academic thoughts with no unified thesis, while my book, on the other hand, makes clearly defined arguments of broad cultural significance.
The topics that Dr. Close analyzes in his book range from Don Quixote’spremises, structure, and themes to the personalities of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to the basic burlesque formula in Don Quixote to the narrator’s persona and significance. Though my book is similar to Dr. Close’s book in that we both analyze Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s relationship at length, our two books are different enough, in content and focus, to inform readers from different perspectives. Given that my book: does not situate Don Quixote in the context of existing literature; examine the structure of part I and II of the novel; analyze the paradoxes of Don Quixote’s disillusionment; or examine the popular reception ofDon Quixote as a landmark of world literature: points of real convergence between our two books are of limited scope and depth. In conclusion, though Dr. Close’s academic book does not compete with my trade book directly, its very existence proves that there is a market for Don Quixote criticism within English departments.
2) Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Miguel de Cervantes. (296 pages, Harold Bloom general editor, Chelsea House Publishers, 2005).
Blooms Modern Critical Views is a prime example of an essay collection that is more a survey of past reactions to Don Quixote and less a development of specific themes within the book. While Dr. Bloom’s book is useful because it recites expert critiques of Don Quixote from a variety of unique perspectives, most, if not all of his essays, pass from one topic to another to the next over a wide field of vision. Instead of focusing on one main idea per essay, as my book does, this anthology develops several lines of reasoning that diminishes the coherence of a unified interpretation. My book, on the other hand, includes: a “variety of clear and uniquely insightful theses; a set of complex arguments smoothly and logically explicated; thorough and expert analysis with no useless summary; excellent use of evidence including references to and quotations from the text that are interpreted rather than merely cited; paragraphs that are unified, coherent, fully developed and in logical order; and lastly, sentences that are not only grammatically correct, but stylistically superb, especially in terms of clarity.”
Since portions of Dr. Bloom’s book focus on Cervantes’s other works like―his pastoral romances (La Galatea), his poetry (Journey to Parnassus), his moral tales (Exemplary Novels), and his plays (La Numancia)―most of his essay collection does not compete with Don Quixote Explained directly.
Though Dr. Bloom’s remaining four essays analyze: Don Quixote’s mini-narratives; the relationship between Don Quixote ideals and illusions; the symmetry of realism in Don Quixote and Ulysses; and the role of chivalry in the book, our two works are different enough, in content and focus, that there is little, if any, overlap between our two books.
Most importantly, the ongoing success of the category of Quixotic literary criticism denoted by Dr. Bloom’s book shows great demand for these books, therefore it is wise for prudent editors to continue to introduce new and innovative books in this realm.
3) Cervantes’s Don Quixote. (160 pages, Harold Bloom, general editor, Chelsea House Publishers, 2001).
Unlike complex academic tomes written for hard-core literary scholars,Cervantes’s Don Quixote appeals to general interest readers because it: uses comprehensible language from a precise intellectual viewpoint; advances and defends a variety of interesting theses through well-reasoned, thought-provoking, arguments; translates a mass of academic speak into an accessible message of sorts; and picks provocative topics of universal importance. The difference between Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Don Quixote Explained, is that my book: incorporates a wide-variety of broadly significant themes from intellectually defensible viewpoints; provokes reasonably well-informed generalists with several unique lines of reasoning; chooses a broad array of challenging theses of broad commercial appeal; shows what is lacking in existing interpretations by noting the flaws of past treatments; draws together the book’s “raw data” to support my primary claims; and, most importantly, relates its thematic stance to people’s everyday lives. Instead of arguing by declaration, as Dr. Bloom’s book sometimes does, my book relies on textual proof for support.
Topics covered in Cervantes’s Don Quixote include: the authenticity of dialogue between Sancho Panza and Don Quixote; how the hero protagonist and his squire change one another through mutual listening; Don Quixote’s will to survive in a difficult external world; the asceticism of the book’s frequent cruelties; the ambiguous relations between words and deeds in Don Quixote; the representation of ordinary reality as continuous gaiety; and Don Quixote’s literary madness as a triumph of comic wisdom.
4) Fighting Windmills: Encounters with Don Quixote. (191 Pages, Manuel Duran, Fay R. Rogg. Yale University Press, 2006)
In my view, Fighting Windmills outshines all recent works about Don Quixotesince its straightforward language, its precise imagery, and its creative depiction of Cervantes’s life, moves readers to agreement. Not only is the expression ofFighting Windmills intelligible for ordinary laymen, its style may also compel general academics to take a closer look. Scholars of Spanish history, for instance, interested in learning how Cervantes’s biography shaped Don Quixote’s creation may benefit from reading a straightforward explanation of his life-and-times, while students of philosophy and intellectual history, on the other hand, interested in understanding the ideological trends that influenced 17thcentury Spain, may also benefit from reading an intelligent critique of the Renaissance’s intellectual landscape. While Fighting Windmills has much to offer scholars in fields other than English Literature, the main difference betweenDon Quixote Explained and Fighting Windmills is that my work is a straight-line explanation of only the primary text, without analyzing side issues, whileFighting Windmills includes background discussion with less focus on Don Quixote itself.
Besides analyzing Cervantes’s autobiography in a creative and enlightening way, Fighting Windmills investigates how Cervantes incorporates preexisting chivalric, pastoral, and picaresque styles in his works; how he experiments with technique, language, and character development in Don Quixote; how the views of past critics enhance our present understanding of Don Quixote; and, lastly, how Cervantes’s narrative techniques, and literary devices, were adopted by later prominent writers. Instead of getting to an all-controlling thesis right away, as my book does, Fighting Windmills opens by summarizing, in different terms, what goes on in the novel, as a way of segwaying into an interpretive argument of sorts. As usual, deep analysis of Don Quixote does not begin until page 129, and even then the authors focus on how Don Quixote compares with other literary books. Again, what my book does not explore, and what Dr. Duran and Dr. Rogg’s book does, is how Cervantes autobiography is a mechanism for interpreting how and why he wrote Don Quixote. In short, while Fighting Windmills begins strong and yields some useful insights, eventually it draws attention away from Don Quixote by focusing on other comparative novels.
5) Cervantes and Modernity: Four Essays on Don Quixote. (131 Pages, E.C. Graf. Bucknell University Press, 2007).
The primary difference between my book and Dr. Graf’s book is: the degree to which we focus on Don Quixote; the way our two books are written; the arguments we make; and how our reasoning impacts readers. Though, occasionally, Dr. Graf makes “spot-on” insights that help readers understandDon Quixote itself, unfortunately his wisdom is often hidden amongst much background discussion. For this reason, his book is more an explanation-driven analysis of what people have thought about the book before, while my book makes serious arguments about Don Quixote from start to finish. Additionally, Dr. Graf uses obscure words that only scholars with “million word” vocabularies will use or understand―like endogenous and interpellation and callipygian, for instance. Also, sorry to say, Dr. Graf’s book shuttles between so many different types of viewpoints that he never really explains provocative themes in a focused or satisfying way. While there may be one sentence, among many, that casts light on the specifics of Don Quixote’s universe, in general, his critique shifts from points about prior criticism to points about the enlightenment to points about other books to points about intellectual history to points about philosophy―with no real connection between these points. Though Dr. Graf promises to take-up several illuminating themes; like Cervantes’s treatment of Moors and Islam; his attitude toward sexuality and women; and his defense of the Morisco population in southern Spain, the bulk of his analysis focuses on enlightenment painters; what other critics think; or the meaning of Don Quixote’s imagery. Why, I wonder, does this gentleman not rely on his own excellent analysis more of the time rather than citing the recycled ideas of others for validation? Maybe by including everyone else’s thoughts, and little of his own, he is saying: “I am part of the ‘in-group’ here, and this is the proof.” While, in my view, it is appropriate to value and incorporate the analysis of expert intellectuals who we respect and admire, to interweave such a complex nexus of outside sources just to get tenure does not really contribute anything new or insightful or significant to the field. In short, I think that Dr. Graf is more concerned with exhibiting his own extensive literary erudition and is less concerned with shedding light on Don Quixote itself. I am sure he could this; he doesn’t though.
In my view, rather than being inclusive, Dr. Graf’s book is exclusive.―By forming sentences that are half-English and half-Spanish people who do not understand Spanish will not fully comprehend what Dr. Graf says.―By making comparisons between novels such as Don Quixote and The Golden Ass or Don Quixote andCandide, people who have not read all three books will not understand the connections that he makes.―By quoting four different translations―Thomas Shelton’s (1923), J.M. Cohen’s (1950), Francisco Rico’s (1998), John Rutherford’s (2000)―readers who wish to trace Dr. Graf’s facts to verify his arguments will have difficulty doing so.―Lastly, by citing an abundance of other texts, like the Koran, for example, or classics by Dante or Hobbs or Feijo, for instance, he jolts the attention of readers unfamiliar with all these books. While this comparative aspect may interest a handful of hard-core literary scholars with wide-ranging academic erudition, ordinary people may not understand, or appreciate, his intertextual analysis. In my view, the ideological complexity of Dr. Graf’s Quixotic analysis limits who will understand and appreciate his critique. Those eager to comprehend Don Quixote in simple terms will find that Dr. Graff draws attention away from his arguments with all sorts of side references. Sources that he mentions, yet does not really develop, include: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty; Candide and Other Stories by Voltaire; Good Morning Afghanistan by Ellen Knickmeyer; Unity and Multiplicity by Randy K. Schwartz; The Muslim Discovery of Europe by Bernard Lewis; and Renaissance and the Baroque Poetry of Spain. In my view, all of these side-references―along with a scattershot critical structure―off-puts discerning readers who want to understand Don Quixote itself.
Another difference between my book and Dr. Graf’s book is that he discusses what others have said about Don Quixote―often couching his arguments in opposing views―while I, on the other hand, develop my own outlook, with specific allusion to the book. When I do bring in outside research, I do so selectively, in a manner that substantiates my own claims. At any rate, by explaining, and/or refuting, what others have said about Don Quixote, Dr. Graf voices the views of: the historicists, who contend that the Renaissance is irrevocably different from the present; the post-modernists who object to the temporary injustices of Western Civilization; and the neo-Marxists, who view modernity as imposed by an imperialist cultural decline. While, occasionally, Dr. Graf challenges these views with reasoning of his own, more frequently he repeats opposing views, without adding any original, provocative analysis. I, on the other hand, focus on my own “system-of-ideas,” in the positive, instead of refuting what past scholars have said, in the negative. Therefore, my views are defined, and explained, in and of themselves, intrinsically, rather than being metered by alternative viewpoints. In conclusion, Dr. Graf deals with critical thoughts that flow around Don Quixote, while I focus on the direct contents of the novel.
Don Quixote Explained
The Story of an Unconventional Hero
By Emre Gurgen
Word Count: 85, 574 (Manuscript Complete)
Table of Contents