Cervantes' Fictions and the Early Modern Historical Imagination (seminar)

Cervantes’ Fictions and the Early Modern Historical Imagination

Fall 2015 Semester Seminar
For scholars and imitators alike, the character Don Quixote’s “true history” continues to fascinate as meta-fictional puzzle. In the work that propelled the book about the writing of the book into international circulation, Cervantes has often been credited with inventing the modern novel. Yet Cervantes’ rehearsals of the rhetorical conventions and epistemological challenges of historiography, along with keen attention to his own historical present, suggest that much is lost by reducing this fascination to burlesque or mimetic realism. Along with the romances, pseudo-histories, spurious chronicles, and epics often cited as inspiration for Cervantes’ writings, seminar participants will look to Old and New World histories the author surreptitiously devoured and mimicked. By taking the novelist’s engagement with history seriously, the seminar will reconsider the provenance of his “inventions,” his parodic and satiric agendas, and the relation of novels to the writing of history. Readings, both in Spanish and in translation, will focus primarily on Don Quixote I and II, the Novelas Ejemplares, and Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda as meta-historical fictions.
Director: Mary Malcolm Gaylord is Sosland Family Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. Beginning with The Historical Prose of Fernando de Herrera, she has written widely on early modern Hispanic literature, poetics and historiography. Her current projects explore transatlantic intersections of historical and literary imagination in Cervantes and Renaissance and Baroque poetry.