Are there limits to the pursuit of realism in fiction? For Cervantes, at least, those limits are to be found somewhere in between three hundred goats and the bodily needs of Sancho Panza.
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.
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."
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.
The world is text. Mallarmé and Flaubert described this possibility at the end of the nineteenth century and Derrida proclaimed it again more recently. But now we can say that the world is literature. It is turning literary through the Internet.
Through an examination of W.G. Sebald, Professor Gray’s Katz lecture engages the conflicts between poetic technique and historical reliability that haunt contemporary German Holocaust literature.