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The Long Shadow of Don Quixote


Magdalena Barbaruk

The author traces the resurgence of Don Quixote in the contemporary humanities. In the aftermath of World War II, the figure underwent the most radical re-interpretation since Romanticism. These changes speak volumes about our culture. Drawing on the theoretical framework of the specifically Polish variety of cultural studies, this book makes Don Quixote a patron of cultural reflection. With culture conceptualised as performative, Quixotism is «the cultivation of the soul,» an axiotic space which forms human ways of life across epochs. In this way, the history of culture can be re-written as a history of values frenzy, bibliomania or evil.


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Chapter Four Bibliomania: The Adventure of Reading


“Writing and reading as ways of life…” Michał P� Markowski “You killed me! – you taught me to read!” Adam Mickiewicz “To read is to wander� Reading is wandering�” Pascal Quignard 1. Don Quixote in the Age of Reading There are many reasons – convincing, ample research material and general criti- cal consensus – to consider bibliomania the chief distinctive feature of Quix- otism� What is bibliomania actually, and why does it appear in the history of culture so powerfully and frequently? The term bibliomania is employed by Wojciech Nowicki in his study Awatary szaleństwa. O zjawisku donkichotyzmu w powieści angielskiej XVIII wieku (The Avatars of Madness: On Quixotism in 18th-Century English Novel)� He discusses “Don-Quixotades” – a convention popular in England in 1742–1801, in which authors made Cervantes’s work their structural and generic model� Besides a protagonist called Don Quixote, Nowicki’s major criterion for classifying a text as a Don-Quixotade is, crucially, bibliomania� Bibliomania is “the protagonist’s frenzy precipitated by excessive reading and/or ruminating on the books read�”370 Nowicki judiciously notices that the book-craze itself is too old and universal a motif to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that a given text imitates the Span- ish novel (“novels with an eponymous protagonist” are evidence enough, he be- lieves), as the topos of an insanity-inducing book appears as early as in the Old Testament� Kohelet admonishes that “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh�”371 Yet in research anchored in different...

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