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Comparative Literature Studies 43.4 (2006) 537-544

Reviewed by
Shannon M. Polchow

University of California, Riverside

Cervantes's Novel of Modern Times: A New Reading of "Don Quijote." By David Quint. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. xv + 188 pp. $19.95.

Ekphrasis in the Age of Cervantes. Edited by Frederick A. de Armas. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2005. 241 pp. $50.

Love and the Law in Cervantes. By Roberto González Echevarría. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. xx + 292 pp. $50.

In Cervantes's Novel of Modern Times: A New Reading of "Don Quijote," David Quint provides an analysis of the Quixote based on Spanish society's move toward capitalism. Although many view the numerous interpolated tales as haphazard and unwarranted additions, Quint argues to the contrary. Through the use of interlace, Cervantes adds thematic unity to his work. [End Page 537] Each tale reflects societal changes in early-modern Europe by examining the progression of a feudal society into a newly emerging, monetary-based modern world. 

The opening chapter, "Cervantes's Method and Meaning," proposes that one encounters central thematic motifs dispersed throughout the interpolated tales. To exemplify his position and familiarize his reader with interlace, Quint briefly examines the arms versus letters motif, assessing the age-old dichotomy that exists between the chivalric and religious vocations. As Don Quixote often reflects, knights-errant may aspire to become emperors or archbishops through their prowess at arms, and this thematic thread is picked up by the curate and the barber as they enlighten Sancho about possible outcomes. In an example of Quint's idea of displacement, this thematic motif surfaces again in the interpolated tale, "El curioso impertinente." As Lotario questions the benefits of Anselmo's disastrous experiment, he distinguishes soldiers from clergy. While both strive for the glory of God, the former also seek glory among men. Later, Don Quixote will make the distinction between the religious and humane letters, separating the two as disparate vocations, a distinction noted by the captive when he and his brothers must select from three vocations: the clergy, the military, or secular learning. 

As Quint contends, and masterfully demonstrates, such interlaces run throughout the Quixote, connecting the interpolated tales to the main narrative thread. The burden of his text is to demonstrate the unity that exists in Don Quixote—the idea that the interpolated tales expose the "arrival of a modern world reshaped and increasingly dominated by money," thereby reflecting the societal shift from feudalism to capitalism (17). Quint accomplishes this primarily through the examination of two collections of interlaced narratives: the "Dulcinea" cluster and the "Princess Micomicona" cluster.

Chapter 2, entitled "Dulcinea," presents the first of these clusters. The protagonist creates an idealized female in the form of Dulcinea in order to legitimize himself as knight-errant. He realizes that every knight needs the love of a lady, and, for Don Quixote, Dulcinea fulfills this role. Her creation serves to satisfy the knight's own egotistical desire to emulate his literary models. The Dulcinea cluster will be characterized by the domination of male egotism and the subsequent victimization of an idealized female. This can be seen in the tales of Cardenio, Don Fernando, and Luscinda; Marcela and Grisóstomo; and Anselmo and Camila. The men in these tales are driven by erotic desire based on codes of love and honor, but when these codes are supposedly violated, their intense passion mutates into jealousy. For example, Anselmo from "El curioso impertinente" finds contentment in knowing that Camila "attempts suicide" for his sake. Grisóstomo dies because he believes [End Page 538] that someone else has won Marcela's affection, and Marcela is left to defend herself against the enraged masses. According to Quint, these tales represent a "markedly old-fashioned love" (53) based on a "premodern, feudal mentality," a mentality in which "self-aggrandizement by overcoming one's rival in love or in battle is...


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