Don Quixote (Lecture 4) Created on 13/02/2013 10:05:00 AM
Idea of imitation—discussion today (follow up lecture, from TAs on Monday):
Imitation – in Renaissance Literary Theory
• Imitatio: creative imitation of earlier works of art/literature by a modern
o Example: you learn to paint by imitating the great masters
• Exemplarity: presentation of a historical/fictional personage as a model to
follow for achieving appropriate forms of behaviour
o Ethical ideas are developed through observing exemplars
• Verisimilitude: Work of art/literature judged for how plausibly it reflects
ideal truths about how the world ought to work.
o Art ought to imitate/reflect what is conceived of as “truth”—not
necessarily “factual” or realistic, but more so in a sense of moral
conventions such as “the wicked are punished and righteous are
rewarded” (truth, as in the way things ought to be)
Don Quixote has, at this point in the story, been caged and captive because
of the “enchantments of some wicked sorcerer”. While they are on the way
home, they are overtaken by someone who is fascinated by Don Quixote,
asking the priest and canon about him, who proceeds to tell him that Quixote
has been driven mad from reading romances (Chapter 47).
First problem of romances: supposed to be instructive and entertaining—fail
to be instructive.
“...fiction is better the more it resembles the truth...fictional tales...must be
written to seem like the impossible things are possible...the person who flees
from plausibility...cannot accomplish this...”
A real work of literature ought to be educative and thus have many
Difference between Cervantes and Canon: Canon has straightforward belief
about imitation; Cervantes investigates imitation—the mechanisms by which
it comes operative in the world.
Don Quixote imitates the goals and desires of figure Amadis.
Don Quixote later proceeds to become mediator Sancho’s goals and
Scene where Sancho returns home and his wife asks him what he has
brought her—responds that he has brought back better than w