Blog #6

June 20, 2011

Our gallant Don Quixote is worthy of continuous and memorable praise—which shouldn’t be denied me, either, for all the hard work and diligence I devoted to searching out the conclusion to this agreeable history; although I’m well aware that if heaven, chance and fortune hadn’t helped me, the world would have been left without the pleasurable entertainment that an attentive reader of this work can enjoy for nearly two hours (Cervantes 74).

In this passage, the “Cervantes” not smart character is trying to impress us and convince us that he is a brilliant researcher.  He praises himself for the hard work he has done, in addition to praising his story as such “pleasurable entertainment” that the world would have suffered a sore loss had he not written it.

However, by comparing the praise he deserves to that which Quixote deserves for being a gallant knight, the narrator creates a comparison between himself and the insane Quixote.  Just as Quixote has delusions of grandeur, our narrator has delusions of grandeur, which are evident in the overblown self-praise of the above passage.  Just as the crazy Quixote never really accomplishes very much, our narrator is not so accomplished as he claims to be.  And just as we wouldn’t trust Don Quixote’s word as the truth, even though we recognize that he believes that what he says is true, from this passage we are warned that we shouldn’t accept what our narrator writes as the absolute truth, despite the many times throughout the text when he tries to convince us that it is. The smart Cervantes is taking a jab here at the not-so-smart “Cervantes” by drawing this comparison, which “Cervantes” doesn’t catch.  “Cervantes” thinks that this passage will make the reader think highly of him, while Cervantes uses this passage to warn us against thinking too highly of the narrator.

Wishbone Don Quixote

June 17, 2011

This is the most totally awesome rendition of Don Quixote (and actually very close to the text), starring Wishbone as Sancho.  The beginning can be found in part 1 at about 2:38:

Part 2 begins with the windmills.  It then picks up again at 6:44:

And here’s Part 3, which starts with Quixote and then picks up again at 6:38 to finish the saga:


Blog #5

June 14, 2011

“In a village in La Mancha, the name of which I cannot recall, there lived not long ago one of those country men or hidalgos… His surname’s said to have been Quixada, or Quesada (as if he were a jawbone, or a cheesecake): concerning this detail there’s some discrepancy among the authors who have written on the subject, although a credible conjecture does suggest that he might have been a plaintive Quexana.  But this doesn’t matter much, as far as our story’s concerned, provided that the narrator doesn’t stray one inch from the truth” (Cervantes 25)

The narrator of Don Quixote is overt, because he refers to himself in the first person and tells us a little about himself in the prologue.  However, this narrator— or this “Cervantes character” that is projected onto the narrator—seems to give us contradictory information about himself and his story.  On the one hand, he seems quite unsure as to the details of his story.  He can’t be sure of the main character’s name (Quixada, Quesada, or Quexana), the name of the village in which he lived (somewhere in La Mancha), or even the exact time at which this story took place (“not long ago”).   Yet on the other hand, he claims that, as narrator, he “doesn’t stray one inch from the truth.”  How can this be?

When we discussed the definition of a narrative in class, we posited that a narrative answers the questions  “Who?” “What?” “When?” and “Where?”  What Cervantes is saying here when he assures us that he won’t stray from the truth is that even if he is a little iffy on the answers to the “Who?” “When?” and “Where?” questions, he will tell us exactly “What” happened.

But it is surprising that Cervantes is so iffy on the first four questions, because he seems to have researched his topic—he writes about “some discrepancy among the authors who have written on the subject,” indicating that he is well versed in the literature surrounding this story.  If so, how can he have forgotten some of the most basic details?

It seems that Cervantes is putting up a front, or rather two fronts.  First of all, we know that the real Cervantes must have been very smart to pen such a book as Don Quixote.  But from his “forgetting” details, and especially from the Prologue, in which he writes that he has a “barren and ill-cultivated mind” (11), he comes across as not very bright.  Then again, in the Prologue, Cervantes’ friend advises him to doctor up his manuscript in order to trick his readers into thinking he is erudite. The lines that seem to indicate that the narrator is erudite, such as the “some discrepancy among authors” line, are the lines that the not very bright projection of Cervantes writes in order to project that he is knowledgeable.  Thus, the smart Cervantes is projecting himself as a not smart man who is projecting himself as smart.

Blog #4

June 14, 2011

“The idea that this whole fabric of famous fabrications was real so established itself in his mind that no history in the world was truer for him” (Cervantes 27).  The diction of this line mocks the language of the sort of literature Quixote enjoys reading, and recalls the quote thereof cited on page 26: “The reason for the unreason to which my reason is subjected, so weakens my reason that I have reason to complain of your beauty.”  It is not just that the fabrications established themselves in Quixote’s mind, it is the 1) idea of the 2) fabric of 3) fabrications that established itself in Quixote’s mind.  Thus we have it that Quixote is living in a world that is three times removed from reality.

We are reminded, however, that all reality is subjective, by the end of the sentence: “no history in the world was truer for him.”  Note that it does not say “seemed truer to him” or even “he believed the idea of the fabric of fabrications more than any history in the world,” but “was truer for him.”  This indicates that the plane on which Quixote thinks is not one that is irrational or even completely fantastic; rather, it is reality—for him.  Our reality may be different, but that does not necessarily mean that ours is more correct or true, just because it is true for us.

Maybe it wasn’t so much a fight as an argument.  But when I was four I had a leopard fur coat (very obviously fake) that I was inordinately proud of.  Walking outside with my brother one day I said, very snootily,

I have a fur coat and you don’t!”

To which he replied,

I have a four-year-old sister and you don’t!”

I thought about that one for a minute and quickly rejoined,

“Well, I have a fifteen-year-old brother, and you don’t!”

Then he went in for the kill,

“Well, which is better to have, a four-year-old sister or a fifteen-year-old brother?”

Now, what I should have said was, “A four-year-old sister and a fifteen-year-old brother are equal.  But I still have the fur coat!”

But I was only four.  So I hemmed and I hawed and I finally said,

“A fifteen-year-old brother.”

“Thank you,” he said.

Blog #2

June 13, 2011

When we first begin reading “She Lived in a Story,” it seems that Guillermo Segovia’s life is the “frame,” so to speak, and that Ofelia is bound in the story within the story.  But Ofelia turns this arrangement inside out when she writes,

I write that he writes a story that I live in (Samperio 60).

This line seems to switch the agency from Segovia to Ofelia– she is in control now, which seems to indicate that she must be the one who wrote this entire story from the beginning.  Of course, if we take a step back, Samperio is really the one who has written this entire story from the beginning.

But is he?  Maybe he is also fictional, living in our fictional world, which could be imagined by Ofelia.  Ofelia writes in the present tense– in a sense her writing is more immediate, more “real” than that of Samperio and of Segovia.  Segovia reasoned that actors “live in literature for a brief moment.”  If we are all really imagined by Ofelia, then perhaps we are the literature in which she as an actor can live for only a brief moment, which is why she writes in the present tense.  The ending of the story, when Ofelia meets Segovia, seems to belie this idea, as both Ofelia and Segovia seem to exist on the plane of the story and together they accept their “fatal destiny” (“fate”-al destiny?).  But in the last words Ofelia again emphasizes her agency, “I am willing,” thus again placing herself in the realm of the real.

Alternatively, perhaps what the story is saying is that there is no reality and that there is no beginning, but that every story is a story within a story, sort of like the saying, “it’s turtles all the way down.”  Everybody thinks his story is “reality,” but the reality is that there is no reality, and that nobody has any agency.

Blog #1

June 7, 2011

A writer creates an imaginary character based on people in real life.  Then, through his writing, he tries to bring the imaginary character to life.  Dramatization takes this one step further by bringing the imaginary character to reality.  Guillermo Segovia contemplates this process in “She Lived in a Story”:

In one way or another actors live the text; they do not embody anyone at all. In the theater they live in literature for a brief moment. In motion pictures, some of their moments endure with a tendency toward the infinite. Dramatists have written plays in an attempt to approach the ancient dream of the fiction writer: that human beings live in their texts. Thus, artistic creation transcends the imaginary level in order to achieve reality. In regard to my own concept, the movement is reversed; that is, reality moves toward the imaginary (Samperio 56).

This entire process of going from life to the imaginary back to life is actually reductive.  Writing inherently involves signifiers, reducing life into words– writing can never fully express being.  Thus, writing is reductive with relation to life.

Acting turns the signifiers back into reality.  But acting is also reductive with relation to text, because it negates the ambiguities of the text by concretizing them.  For instance, there could be a million different ways a person might read these words I am writing right now.  But if a person would actually read this aloud, he would bring to life just one way of reading these words, while eliminating the 999,999 other possibilities.  Drama, or life, can never express the infinite possibilities inherent in a text, just as a text can never express the infinite detail and precision inherent in reality.

The irony inherent in this discussion is that “She Lived in a Story” cannot be dramatized because nothing really happens in it.  There is very little action in it– sitting and writing a story is hardly an interesting action for an audience to watch– that would lend itself to either a film or stage adaptation.