Theologies of Transformation in Don Quixote
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.
Any author who takes on the quixotic task of writing a scholarly monograph is tempted to write a preface describing the lofty columns and soaring ribbed vaults of his or her work, citing inspiring cultural critics who serve as the mosaic tile beneath, and the grand idea toward which their work faces, as if it were the high altar of a Gothic cathedral. I’d rather take you on a tour of the undercroft, where the saints are buried, and where the prayers of hunchbacks and heroines, knights and knaves have been offered for centuries, and illumine for you the dank and moldy spaces where effigies and engraved marking stones are found. I have loved Don Quixote since graduate school in the 1980s, and there has always been something not only spiritual but prayerful about it. Both Alonso Quixano and Sancho Panza are fully formed spiritual characters, who incense their words with the folk sayings of Spain, as well as with Biblical archetypes and rhetoric. Now as I am completing my third year of seminary, and preparing, God willing, for ordination in a few months, I look at these two differently from how I saw them decades ago when I first met them. More than ever, I think, I’d enjoy meeting them in the undercroft for a zaque de vino y unas bellotas avellanadas to talk about Christian knights and “grave ecclesiastics,” and what love does to transform the heart. ← xi | xii →
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