- Editors’ Introduction:Don Quixote at 401
This celebratory issue offers good evidence that the centennial of 2005 did not exhaust critical commentary on Cervantes's major text. What happened before and after that 400th anniversary year confirms something we knew already—that commentary is endless, and that this is particularly so when its subject is a work like Don Quixote. The festivities began in 2004, reached their apogee in 2005, and have continued throughout 2006. Three commemorative years have been required to recognize Cervantes's contribution to the Western narrative tradition in proper fashion.
It is a distinct pleasure for the guest editors to contribute to this event by assembling the present selection. The articles brought together here do not pretend to offer the last word, in any sense, but each contributes in some small way to a more complete picture of the work under scrutiny. Robert Bayliss will remind us in the lead article that the Quixote invites a wide range of readings, overtly in the 1605 prologue but also implicitly by self-consciously undermining its own authority, by its changes of register, its hesitancy to privilege any single narrative voice, and by the indeterminacy so evident throughout. It is not surprising, therefore, that we have today in Quixote studies a plethora of approaches and "misreadings" that circulate largely unchallenged in the marketplace.
Two studies deal with aspects of translation. Salvador Fajardo compares the original story of Marcela and Grisóstomo to its anonymous rendering into French, published in 1609. He analyzes the social climate that favored certain types of rhetorical display in French and explains why the translator may have been prompted to add other segments from the Quixote, creating a miniature anthology. Álvaro Ramírez grounds his essay in historical considerations also, buttressed by some theoretical notions, pointing out that "by the time Cervantes writes Don Quixote, Europe is awash in a sea of [End Page 379] translations." He goes on to suggest that the figurative translation of Cide Hamete's manuscript from Arabic into Spanish resonates in interesting ways within this context and, furthermore, that it can be seen as a parody of the Bible, which is literally available to us only in translation.
John Beusterien's essay is a nice complement to that of Ramírez, for both draw upon Baudrillard and both have to do with the creation of discerning readers. It focuses on a much more immediate past and on implications for the present and future of reading, but it too is text-based and wide ranging. His linking of the Cave of Montesinos adventure to the CAVE virtual-reality technology of our own day—with Plato's cave ever in the background—is suggestive indeed, for it seems likely that Cervantes's narrative has more in common with the postmodern than with the modern. It is not an anesthetized materialist postmodern, however, but one where suffering and death are very much in evidence, one where the mind and the spirit continue to have a place.
Judith Stallings-Ward also addresses the Cave of Montesinos episode, which is certainly one of the high-water marks of Don Quixote, Part II. She finds compelling parallels with—and probably direct influence from—Erasmus's Enchiridion militis christiani. The question has been whether Cervantes could have known this work firsthand, and most have assumed that he did not. Stallings-Ward shows, however, that it is likely that both he and his readers would have had access to the Enchiridion, or Manual for the Christian Knight. The weapons that come into play are, of course, spiritual ones, not material objects, but they lend themselves to humor and irony nevertheless in this subterranean, and perhaps subconscious, adventure.
The contributions of Sarah Raff and Brittany R. Powell treat aspects of British and American literature, respectively. Raff writes of the Quixote in relation to the didactic novel in eighteenth-century Britain, while Powell studies the impact of Cervantine comedy and the Bakhtinian grotesque on Faulkner's Snopes trilogy. Raff points to the dangers of quixotism and to the fact that the seductiveness of the printed page may resonate in the comportment of readers...