Don Quixote’s Quixotic Trauma Therapy: A Reassessment of Cervantes’s Canonical Novel and Trauma Studies

Suzanne LaLonde


Published Online: 2017-11-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0022

This article presents a non-canonical reading of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s canonical novel Don Quixote. Using a trauma theory lens (from both cultural studies and psychiatry) to understand the pre-Don Quixote character Alonso Quijano, this research first advances several new arguments as to why Quijano appears to have endured a traumatic experience of ageing. Instead of interpreting his obsessive behaviour as madness, it is argued that he engages in a form of both individual and collective therapy consisting of reading to educate himself about emotions; engaging the body in adventures; listening to others’ stories of traumatic suffering; and stimulating “empathic unsettlement” toward others and his previously traumatized self, one of the main critical suggestions advanced. This article takes an original turn in trauma studies too by putting forward that Quijano’s therapy is effective because it addresses the “central dialectic of psychological trauma.” He embarks on an imaginative and collective adventure of self-identity, transforming himself into another who is exempt from the traumatic experience; he knows without knowing and speaks without speaking. His trauma therapy occurs outside the reality of trauma or inside the “unreality” of creative expression, and this is how he endures a traumatic experience of ageing.

Keywords: Don Quixotetrauma studiestraumapost-traumatic growthempathic unsettlement

Featured Image Credits:Chandler Hilken


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