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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 5. Of Mystical Helmets and Sacred Balms


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In the last chapter we looked at the life of the Christian knight and how taking vows of chivalry echoed those of entering the religious life: solemn vows, vigils in the church, name changes and taking of the habit. Along with the hardships of battle and the life outdoors, Don Quixote engaged in imitation of the knight errant by demonstrating animosity toward clerics. In this chapter, we will engage a wide range of theological issues raised in Don Quixote, including faith, heresy, disordered affection, saints, relics, sacramentals, and the problem of truth and falsehood.

Most systematic theology textbooks from the Patristic era forward have begun their procession through the realm of theology at the point of revelation—indeed, most theologians hold that revelation is the defining factor for Christianity: “Revelation is the basis and content of Christian faith” (Thomas and Wondra 2002, 22). The personal nature of God, what humanity’s relationship is with Him or Her, and how to understand God’s self-disclosure in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures is the essence of theological inquiry (23). Don Quixote, however, sees theology as a branch of the “science” of chivalry: the knight-errant “ha de ser teólogo, para saber dar razón de la cristiana ley que profesa, clara y distintamente, adondequiera que le fuere pedido […] y, dejando aparte que ha de estar adornado de todas las virtudes teologales ← 59 | 60 → y cardinales […]” [“He must...

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