Don Quijote de la Mancha
(a two-session master class conducted in Spanish)
It is not clear whether Miguel de Cervantes changed the world by writing Don Quijote de la Mancha, or if the world changed as he wrote it and the young, vibrant spirit of modernity just seeped in. The huge readership the book had immediately after publication in 1604—reprints, translations, fan fiction—suggests the truth lies somewhere in between. Cervantes had invented a literary form to describe the world’s ironies, and the world was ready to go with it. Don Quixote, the first—and ultimate—modern novel, is hilarious and philosophical, melancholic and delirious, grotesque yet full of moral content. Cervantes’ real gift to the world was the invention of a new form of freedom. The freedom to imagine, to be critical, to be whomever one wants to be.
In the first session of this master class, we’ll examine the novel’s prologue and chapters one through eight. That section, which most experts think was written as a novella complete unto itself, will serve as our introduction to Cervantes the man, to his world, and to the epic novel that follows. Then we’ll have a few months to read the complete text and meet again in the fall to unpack the amazing journey we’ve been on. We will think, we will laugh (often), and we will learn about the moment in which modernity—the mysterious way we experience our world—was born.
Álvaro Enrigue is the author of six novels and two collections of short stories. His novel Sudden Death, awarded the Herralde, Poniatowska, and Barcelona Prizes, was translated into English by Natasha Wimmer. Enrigue teaches literature at Hofstra University. His work as a critic has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review.