The Ingenious Knight of La Mancha and his Cultural Legacy: Four Centuries of Creativity Inspired by Don Quixote: (lecture 1 of 4)
Aneta Georgievska-Shine, professor of art history, University of Maryland
Don Quixote, the main protagonist of the eponymous novel by Miguel de Cervantes, is one of the most famous characters in the history of Western literature. A would-be knight errant enamored of chivalric romances, he ventures into the world in a quest for adventure only to become the butt of countless jokes on account of his delusions of grandeur. In his search for lost ideals, reality and fiction are interchangeable and indistinguishable, as epitomized by his fight with windmills and his infatuation with a common peasant girl whom he perceives as the noblest of ladies.
At the core of this satirical, tragi-comic fiction, is a deeply philosophical question: how well can we know the world or anything within it for that matter? Instead of an answer, Cervantes offers only a series of narrative situations, each one more preposterous than the other, as if to suggest that any hope of answering that question is an absurdist dream. This series of four lectures explores some of the most important aspects of the cultural legacy of this narrative - often called the first modern novel - which has inspired countless works by artists, writers, and musicians since its original publication more than four hundred years ago.
The Moment of Don Quixote: What was it that led to the creation of Don Quixote in the first place? Why was it written in Spain, around 1600? What does this novel tell us about the literary milieu of Cervantes? What do its themes and their treatment tell us about some of the cultural anxieties of his era? These are some of the questions Georgievska-Shine will be addressing in the first lecture of the series.
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