The Refractions of Cervantes’ Fictional Figure of Don Quixote in Cinematic, Literary and Therapeutic Narratives Across Cultures

Bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the Cervantes Monument, the Plaza de España, Madrid, Spain, December 5, 2008 | © Courtesy of Jorge Láscar/Flickr.
Bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the Cervantes Monument, the Plaza de España, Madrid, Spain, December 5, 2008 | © Courtesy of Jorge Láscar/Flickr.

In this blog post, Juan de Dios Torralbo Caballero briefly introduces Multicultural Cervantes, a special issue of Open Cultural Studies published in 2017, based on his foreword, that examines the work of Miguel de Cervantes through its multicultural appropriations.

A Guest Article by Juan de Dios Torralbo Caballero.


The commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ exitus (in April 1616) was, overshadowed by the scope of the programming marking Shakespeare’s decease, and even according to the British media (BBC or The Guardian), Cervantes did not receive the attention he deserves. The special issue, Multicultural Cervantes, recently published by Open Cultural Studies, seeks to highlight Cervantes’ impact on his contemporaries, other literary giants, filmmakers. It deals in particular with cross-pollination between Cervantes’ oeuvre and contemporary “quixotic” cultural expressions in prose and film that have been either little explored to date or are worthy of being revisited through new research lenses.

Two articles in this issue focus on rereading Cervantes’ narrative. Krisztina Kodó’s “The Delusion of Enchantment in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream” investigates the conceptual framework of magic and enchantment in the works of Cervantes and William Shakespeare by means of which both authors ironically commented on the flawed worlds in which they lived. The article by Suzanne LaLonde’s (“Don Quixote’s Quixotic Trauma Therapy: A Reassessment of Cervantes’s Canonical Novel and Trauma Studies”) presents a non-canonical reading of Cervantes’s masterpiece with the use of trauma theory. LaLonde argues that the hero engages in a form of therapy to overcome traumatic experience of ageing. He educates himself about emotions, listens to other stories of suffering and develops “empathic unsettlement” toward others.

Several essays trace the impact of Cervantes’s masterpiece on other writers. Dragoş Ivana’s article entitled “The Politics of Genre and Gender in Tabitha Gilman Tenney’s Female Quixotism” deals with the question of female quixotism in a transatlantic context. By focusing on the contextualisation of literature in American politics, it explores female quixotism as an interface between fictional events and the Federalist discourse on which they are predicated. Patricia Vilches’s article (“Cervantes, Lizardi and the Literary Construction of The Mexican Rogue in Don Catrín de la fachenda”) analyses descriptions of nationhood in Don Quixote and Don Catrín de la fachenda by the Mexican author José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi (1776-1827). Published posthumously in 1832, Lizardi’s novel deployed chapters and narratives from Cervantes’ work and adapted them to the socio-political circumstances of its time.

Two other articles investigate links between Cervantes and American modernism and postmodernism. David B. S. Beek’s contribution, entitled “Faulkner’s Quixotic Picaresque: Carnival, Tricksters, and Rhizomatic Intertextuality in The Reivers,” speaks to the confluence of early modern Spanish literary traditions with William Faulkner’s work, and, by extension, American literature. Javier Martín-Párraga’s article (“Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote and John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor: A Deconstructive Reading”) focuses, on the other hand, on the fundamental role that Don Quixote plays as an inspirer for the North American postmodernism. The author centres on a study of the novel The Sot Wed Factor, by John Barth and examines the concept of “wild writing” in the work of both writers.

Don Quixote has been a source of unending inspiration for filmmakers. J. A. Garrido Ardila’s “Don Quixote in Film (2005-2015)” offers an overview of Don Quixote’s presence in film and television in the period from 2005, the year that marked a surge in the interest in Cervantes’s oeuvre. The article lists 68 films and TV productions released in more than 20 countries, with Don Quixote as the main or secondary character. It also identifies four different categories or “uses” of Cervantes’ hero. By comparison the article by Esther Sánchez-Pardo, “Outshining Aura: How Modernist Film Refashions the Myth of Don Quixote,” explores the first complete sound film featuring Don Quixote, G. W. Pabst’s Adventures of Don Quixote (1933). The author looks at the filmic version of Don Quixote through the lenses of trauma studies, Roland Barthes’ semiological theory and the critique of rationality by the Frankfurt School. Finally, Erin K. Hogan’s “Don Quixote, Sweded by Michel Gondry in Be Kind Rewind (2008)” examines the quixotic character of a more recent filmic production, Michel Gondry’s film Be Kind Rewind (2008). She conducts an insightful exercise into film and literary criticism, noting major themes and tropes in Cervantes’ novel that cross over into Gondry’s feature. Her comparative close reading details how Gondry’s work relates to Hollywood and Cervantine classics through the lenses of imperfect cinema (García Espinosa) and Foucauldian semiotics.

Last but not least, Lania Knight’s article (“Cervantes, the Journey, and What It Tells Us About Becoming a Writer”) returns to the theme of reaching empathic unsettlement through writing and reading literature. Her article offers a fresh examination of the creative path of Cervantes and others writing in his wake to argue for the continuing relevance of fiction to understanding others amidst the current tumultuous political landscape.

Written by Juan de Dios Torralbo Caballero

Edited by Izabella Penier and Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Madrid: Bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the Cervantes Monument, the Plaza de España, Madrid, Spain, December 5, 2008 | © Courtesy of Jorge Láscar/Flickr.


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