The Philosophy of Don Quijote without Don Quijote

McCallister, Timothy Aaron, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
PadrĂ³n, Ricardo, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Gerli, Michael, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

This dissertation proposes a reading of the interpolated tales of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (1605) drawing from sixteenth and seventeenthcentury inquiries into the nature of literary truth. By considering the Canon of Toledo's discourse on literature at the conclusion of the interpolated tales to be an invitation to interpret the preceding tales on the terms he suggests, I subject them to the full scrutiny of neo-Aristotelian criticism. The neo-Aristotelian movement, spurred by the publication of the first critical text of Aristotle's Poetics in 1548, generated intense public debates among preceptistas, the commentators on the Poetics, and resulted in a series of treatises in Latin, Italian, and Spanish, a number of which are assimilated in the Canon's discourse. Central to the Canon's critique of the chivalric romance genre, and, more broadly, to preceptista theories, is the demand that imaginative fiction exhibit verisimilitude, or literary truth. Based on my reading of the most influential preceptista treatises, I define verisimilitude as conformity to one of three kinds of fictional realities: to reality as it can occur (metaphysical verisimilitude), to reality as it has occurred (historical verisimilitude), and to reality as it ought to occur (universal verisimilitude). I then show how Cervantes takes advantage of the diminished role of Don Quijote in the interpolated tales to model each kind of literary truth. In elaborating on the interpolated tales' reflection of universal truth, I argue that the melodrama that involves Cardenio, Dorotea, Luscinda, and Don Fernando and the Captive's Tale represent a coherent teleology in which God rewards the protagonists of these stories with marriage and good fortune irrespective of their merits. I then contrast these tales with "El curioso impertinente." In this tale, I suggest that Cervantes pits a Scholastic epistemology, articulated by Lotario, against an empiricist epistemology, ii articulated by Anselmo. In treating love, faith, and ethics as constructs susceptible to empirical proof, Anselmo gives the tale its own teleology, where the individual sets himself up as the universe's ultimate purpose. I conclude by showing how the Neoplatonic theory of beauty, articulated by philosophers such as Ficino, Ebreo, and Castiglione, allows Cervantes to accentuate his appeals to universal truth.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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