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The Long Shadow of Don Quixote

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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 Three: The Names of Don Quixote

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Chapter Three The Names of Don Quixote

“Don Quixote stands tall and keeps fighting.”

Michał Sobeski

“For you have spilt your face upon many.”

Cyprian Kamil Norwid

Writing “something like The Names of Don Quixote” was actually suggested by José Ortega y Gasset, who alluded to Fray Luis de León’s book Nombres de Cristo.239 Although the author of Meditations on Quixote analyses “Quixotism” as a characteristic of Cervantes’s literary style materialised in his brilliant novel, his formulation may serve as a handy catchphrase to display an array of old and new personal incarnations of the values of Quixotism.

My opulent, though by no means ultimately complete, research material can be divided into three groups. The first one contains manifestations of Quixotism as discerned in personalities – identities of people and literary characters. They include various (self)descriptions that boil down to declaring “X is a Don Quixote” or “I am a Don Quixote” (those are, of course, not so frequent in the humanities), but also “I am not a Don Quixote” or “I am a Don Quixote á rebours.”240 ← 91 | 92 → Sometimes the name of Don Quixote is given to a collective subject, such as a nation. This is the case in Ignacy Kraszewski’s novel My i Oni (Us and Them), in which the Poles refer to themselves as knights as opposed to the Muscovite soldiers – “soldats.” “You’re soldats’ children, we’re knights’ scions,”241 says...

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