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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 6. Translations and Transformations


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The central core of the quixotic principle, according to Ziolkowski, is the knight’s sense that things are changing utterly, and that his hold on his faith in the face of undaunting odds, is what distinguishes him from his fellow men, including Sancho Panza. His religious transformations reflect the struggle of religious faith and ideals in the increasingly secular modern west, a theme that flows on into the novels that imitate Don Quixote, such as those by Fielding, Dostoyevsky and Greene (1991, 8). As we saw in previous chapters, the precise content of that faith, whether orthodox Tridentine Catholic, Erasmian alumbrado or self-conscious converso, Cervantes’ faith and that of his avatar Don Quixote, is not easily determined, yet it is clear that the character depicts a Spanish consciousness that is balanced between the conquering faith of the Reconquest, unclouded by moral or theological complexities, and the emerging Counter Reformation. This chapter explores the theme of transformation, how the shift from one life- and faith-world into the next positions Don Quixote, his author and his reader, in a liminal space imbued with mystery, grace and sanctification, even if the meanings of those words remain in flux. ← 77 | 78 →

Translation as Transformation

The first volume of Don Quixote many times is considered an extended commentary on the nature of textuality, including the imitation of classical texts, the relationship between reading and writing and the role translation has...

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