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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 Two: Research Tools: Between the Reader, the Book and the World


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Chapter Two Research Tools: Between the Reader, the Book and the World

1. Testaments and Styles of Don Quixote’s Reception: Literary-Theoretical Inspirations

Announced in the previous Chapter, the focus of my argument – that is, what values are actualised in various interpretations of Don Quixote (the character and the novel alike) – my research aims and my empirical material require a suitable theoretical framework. As I rely mainly on language sources, I suggest to delimit the question to: What values are actualised in the various readings of Don Quixote circulating in the humanities? A similar question was posed by literature theorist Michał Głowiński in his well-known study “Świadectwa i style odbioru” (“Testaments and Styles of Reception”). In it, Głowiński sought to fathom how Don Quixote was read by Polish Romantic poet Cyprian K. Norwid, whose impression upon reading the book inspired his famous poem “Epos-nasza. 1848.” Głowiński’s argument deserves to be quoted at length also because, as Wrocław-based Spanish studies scholar Piotr Sawicki claims, Norwid’s reading was a blueprint for later Polish interpretations of the knight-errant’s history161:

The poem is, obviously, something more than just a story of reading or a vignette from childhood, but that notwithstanding, it still is a poetic record of a concretisation of Don Quixote. The very title [“An Epic-Ours. 1848”] suggests its direction. Those familiar with Norwid’s ideas about the novel as a genre will not be surprised to see that...

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