If Shakespeare’s greatest characters quake to their very core with the realization of what they cannot see, or lose their reason altogether when they finally grasp how little they understood, Cervantes crafted an entirely new way of writing around his characters’ limitations and the incompatibility of their different perceptions of the world.
His novel contribution to fiction derives from a fascination with how characters perceive and misperceive situations.
Through the writings of Adorno, finding echoes of Hegel in the music of Beethoven.
For my last post on Cervantes and his “invention of fiction” before handing in my finished manuscript, I wanted to return to one of the most influential interpretations of his work in the twentieth century: that of Michel Foucault.
Critics have long held that, even if Cervantes was at least somewhat aware that his work would be successful, this was only because he knew it was funny, and hoped that, in reading it, as he famously wrote in his first preface to Don Quixote, "the melancholy would be moved to laughter, and the merry made merrier still."
My last post, aligning Don Quixote with Descartes and the birth of modern philosophy, elicited some terrific responses, for which I am very grateful. One response, though, claimed that I had to misinterpret both Cervantes and Descartes in order to make my point, and that this proved I was under the sway of postmodernism, much like the Comp Lit department at Stanford, where I received my PhD.
Popularly known as the father of modern philosophy, René Descartes won that title ostensibly by rejecting traditional modes of intellectual inquiry largely associated with commentary on prior texts, and replacing them with the first attempt at a kind of radical phenomenology.
In early 1614 a royal censor named Márquez Torres was reading the manuscript of the second part of Don Quixote, to be released the following year, when he got into a conversation with some visiting dignitaries in the company of the French ambassador.
Over the past few years I have used this space mainly as a sounding board for ideas and arguments that I worked into my book In Defense of Religious Moderation. Looking back over those posts I can see the progression of the project, even down to the change of title, and relive some of the debates that informed it and criticisms that enriched it.
In a recent NPR piece TV critic Eric Deggans cites shows like "Hell on Wheels," Sons of Anarchy," "Dexter," and "Breaking Bad" as evidence of a proliferations of television programs featuring "characters the audience likes and wants to see succeed, even though they act an awful lot like villains.
William Egginton is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches on Spanish and Latin American literature, literary theory, and the relation between literature and philosophy. He is the author of How the World Became a Stage (2003), Perversity and Ethics (2006), A Wrinkle in History (2007), The Philosopher's Desire (2007), The Theater of Truth (2010), and In Defense of Religious Moderation (2011). He is also co-editor with Mike Sandbothe of The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy (2004), translator of Lisa Block de Behar's Borges, the Passion of an Endless Quotation (2003, 2nd edition 2014), and co-editor with David E. Johnson of Thinking With Borges (2009). His most recent book is The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered In the Modern World (2016).