Quint, David. Cervantes's Novel of Modern Times. A New Reading of Don Quijote.
David Quint comes to Don Quijote through his readings of Renaissance and medieval romances of chivalry. Although he refers to these texts as "baggy monsters" (ix), Quint explains that this first impression gives way to connections and correspondences. These links become more pronounced in Don Quijote, a work that charts the move toward a more modern world. In arguing for the artistic integrity and thematic coherence of Don Quijote (and particularly Part I, which seems to have disconcerted many seventeenthcentury readers with its proliferation of interpolated tales), Quint takes up an argument that the novel itself had brought up. As Alban Forcione has explained, the dialogue between Don Quijote and the Canon of Toledo is one "between the apologists for a type of artistry best exemplified by the chaotic fantasies of the romanzi and the advocates of a type of artistry which encompassed both certain aesthetic values of the romanzi and a classicist theory of poetry" (Cervantes, Aristotle and the Persiles, 1970: 91). For Quint, there is less of an opposition, since the romances, through interlacing, already established connections that will be reconstructed in a new manner in Cervantes's novel.
Quint's emphasis on unity foregrounds the question of how we are to read Don Quijote. Are we to view the perspectivism of the novel as a trigger to monstrous multiplicity? Is this perspectivism, as David Castillo argues, an aspect of anamorphosis based on the distorted sketches of the Renaissance where more than one object could be perceived? Or, are we to look for a structure of interruption as Anthony Cascardi claims? On the other hand, we could be guided by critics such as Jose Angel Ascunce Arieta, who searches for "nucleos seriados," or even go back to the canonical essay on the interpolated tales by Raymond Immerwahr and discover the order and mirroring of the stories. David Quint's arguments bring together both the perspectivist and the mirroring techniques. He includes the interpolated stories among the patterns of interlacing and underlines the unity of the text through "repetitions of motifs, parallel actions, and direct verbal echoes" (ix). Indeed, Quint considers that the story of Leandra in Chapter 51, almost at the end of the 1605 Quijote, "picks up echoes and details of all the other interpolated stories that precede it" (3). Replying to Edward Dudley, who considers Dorotea as key to interlacing (The Endless Text 1997: 233), Quint presents the Dorotea/Micomicona episodes/interpolations as a new version of interlacing. While Dudley studies Celtic myth, Quint uses the example of the Lancelot, in which differing threads of the plot reflect one another.
This author is not just interested in the formal structure of the work but views the 1605 text as reflecting a contextual move from feudal social formation to a more modern society. He discovers this shift in the transformation of the arms versus letters ideal into a more fluid view of careers; and in the vision of a chivalric kiss that later becomes tied to the pursuit of money. Both examples make use of interlacing to foreground links and echoes. In order to study in detail the progression towards the modern, Quint establishes two clusters in the novel, one labeled "Dulcinea" and the second "Micomicona." He devotes a chapter to each, showing how the interlacing of different episodes and interpolated tales pertaining to each category continues throughout the first part of the novel. While the first cluster deals with egotistic male imagination, the second, although based on chivalric ideals, points to social mobility and thus to the modern world. In a detailed chart, this critic shows how the two clusters alternate in the first two thirds of the novel, while the Micomicona one is much more prominent in the last third of the 1605 text. The novel thus points to the modern, a realm that does not belong to Don Quijote, who ends up imprisoned by his monomaniacal imagination. As Quint perceptively points out, the anachronistic knight is asked to choose between his two fantasies (the two clusters). In choosing Dulcinea, he shows his preference for the past over modernity. David Quint thus presents us with a most suggestive argument that brings together the architecture of the 1605 novel and its social significance.
The chapter on Dulcinea stresses that she is a construction of the fantasy. Quint extends this vision of the pastoral-Petrarchan poetic mistress to other characters such as Cardenio, Grisostomo and Anselmo. In an amazing feat of literary architectonics, Quint discovers multiple sustained parallels between the Cardenio story and the interpolated tale of the Curioso impertinente featuring Anselmo. The interlacing and the textual echoes used to narrate these tales suggest to Quint numerous and important insights. Indeed, the Anselmo story serves to demystify the story of Cardenio, showing him as he is, and not as he dramatizes himself to be. These two stories, according to Quint, further reflect upon Don Quijote's own project, and all these, in turn, are imitations of both the penitential Amadis de Gaula and the vindictive madness of the protagonist of Orlando furioso. Sorting out all these threads, Quint creates a tale as complex and compelling as that found in Cervantes. He reveals Don Quijote as a man who "loves in Dulcinea the image of himself as greater lover and knight: it is intense self-love" (36); meanwhile, Cardenio becomes "the hero of hurt pride and involuted ressentiment who will later populate the pages of Dostoevsky" (37). These feelings lead to male rivalries and to the making of women--including Marcela--into erotic idols (47).
While male self-love rules the Dulcinea cluster, the lure of riches is key to the Micomicona episodes that predominate towards the end of the 1605 Quijote. A most insightful reading of the Captive's tale shows that "The money that has been the means of action and desire in the story is not allowed to be their end" (73). While money becomes tainted with fantasy and miracle, the chivalric world is also contaminated by it, espousing marriage between different social classes. The social openness portrayed here goes hand in hand with the mix of genres. In order to foreground this element, Quint includes a clever discussion on genre mix as seen in the texts in the trunk found at the inn ("epic history, make-believe history, romance, novella, picaresque adventure" ). Indeed, Quint could have filled the trunk with other and more problematic genres, for the episode of the wineskins recalls not only a chivalric romance but also Apuleius' Golden Ass. This ancient romance is present throughout Part One, even in the tale of the Curioso impertinente, which mimicks the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius. Recently, Eric Graf has tied the Captive's tale in Cervantes to the Golden Ass. Thus, the whole question of The True Story of the Novel as brought out by Margaret Doody can be encountered in this enchanting trunk. Quint forcefully makes the point that it is in its capaciousness that Don Quijote informs the modern novel. This critic writes with precision and careful analogy, weaving and interlacing his arguments to show that Part One of the novel truly moves towards a more modern world, but ends in an impasse. The knight will cling to his pre-modern love for Dulcinea while attempting to reject the "rewards" of Micomicona.
Even while we may claim that some of the episodes he gives over to the Micomicona plot are actually forced to conform to it, we cannot but marvel at how David Quint shows the inversion of the two main threads of Part One in Part Two, for, in the famous episode of the Cave of Montesinos, it is Lady Belerma who stands for the feudal past, while the "enchanted" Dulcinea moves into the modern world "ruled by great capitalists like the Fuggers" (94). In yet another feat of analogical thinking, Quint clearly charts how many of the episodes of Part Two revisit those of Part One. Indeed, the extended visit at the Duke and Duchess's country palace, with all its adventures, recalls the many threads that come together at the inn in Part One. Quint also argues that the Don Quijote of Part Two is a changed man, moving from madness, lawlessness, and antisocial behavior to a kinder, gentler, wiser mode of being. And this critic ties this new Don Quijote to the project of modernity in his acceptance of a society "whose values and behaviour are monitored by the flow of money" (106).
There is much more that could be said of this appealing and suggestive new interpretation of Don Quijote. But it is for the reader to encounter the pleasures of the critical text, the magic of analogy, and the amazement of interlacing. Adding a dab of modernity and monetary practices to the whole project further enhances the value of this multi-faceted book. David Quint has produced an exciting and important new reading of Cervantes's novel.
FREDERICK A. DE ARMAS, University of Chicago
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|Author:||De Armas, Frederick A.|
|Publication:||Studies in the Novel|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2005|
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