Thomas Pavel

Cervantes' «Don Quixote»: Ambition and Talent

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Modern Novel, Chivalric books, Parody, Idealist novel

While modern novels are presumed to discover something entirely new about human psyche, Early Modern writers were expected to develop existing approaches to human existence and work within available narrative sub-genres. Cervantes had the ambition of succeeding in most literary genres: poetry, tragedy, comedy, the pastoral, novella, and the idealist novel at a time when Heli-odorus' "Ethiopian Story", recently translated into modern languages, provided a new, exciting, model. "Don Quixote" belongs to a two-stage project, the first stage aiming to ridicule chivalric books, the second involving the writing of a Heliodorian idealist novel, "Persiles and Sigismunda". But since Cervantes' talent for funny, friendly narratives was greater than his ambition to write Heli-odorian novels, Quixote's success was greater than Persiles'. Does this success make Quixote the first "modern" novel? This parody of an older genre, interlaced with pastorals, novellas and idealist stories, should rather be called the first "unforgettable" novel.

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