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Theologies of Transformation in Don Quixote


Pamela H. Long

This text examines the character of Don Quixote, the book describing his fictional exploits, and their implications in the theological realm as well as in the fictive, using Gónzalez and Maldonado’s definition of theology as "la explicación de la realidad cósmica" ["the explanation of cosmic reality"], including the identity and nature of God. The first chapter examines the implications of the basin-helmet in El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de La Mancha, in context with the historical and theological developments of the end of the sixteenth century. The second chapter looks first at the religious climate of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in Spain and the rest of Europe to tease-out the theological and ecclesiastical preoccupations that undergird much of the content in Don Quixote. The third chapter examines a few details from the life of Miguel de Cervantes in order to place him within the historical and literary context examined in the second chapter, and the fourth chapter examines chivalry as a mode of religious life. The fifth chapter then approaches various other characters, events, and discussions in the novel that carry religious content, and the sixth considers transformation, transubstantiation, and translation, using the topos of the baciyelmo as a metaphor for Cervantes.

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Chapter 1. Reading Don Quixote through a Stained-Glass Window


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In the second part of Don Quixote, the Ingenious Gentleman is informed of the existence of a book recently published, bearing his name, or rather soubriquet, and containing the story of his knightly deeds. Sansón Carrasco, a recent college graduate who has taken minor orders, apprises his neighbor of this amazing volume, assuring him of the book’s success, and commenting on its quality: “Finalmente, la tal historia es del más gustoso y menos perjudicial entretenimiento que hasta agora se haya visto, porque en toda ella no se descubre, ni por semejas, una palabra deshonesta ni un pensamiento menos que católico.”1 Don Quixote’s reaction to Sansón’s evaluation of the work does not hinge on the words “gustoso” nor “entretenimiento” nor even on the word “católico,” but rather on the word “historia.”

A escribir de otra suerte—dijo don Quijote—, no fuera escribir verdades, sino mentiras; y los historiadores que de mentiras se valen habían de ser quemados, como los que hacen moneda falsa; […] En efeto, lo que yo alcanzo, señor bachiller, es que para componer historias y libros, de cualquier suerte que sean, es menester un gran juicio y un maduro entendimiento. […] La historia es como cosa sagrada; porque ha de ser verdadera, y donde está la verdad está Dios, en cuanto a verdad; pero, no obstante esto, hay algunos que así componen y arrojan...

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