Spring 2015 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Cotter, Sean
Discipline and Number
LIT 4348 Section 001
MW Time 11:30 AM - 12:45 PM
Course Title
Don Quixote in World Literature

Description of Course:

"It is so true, Senor," said Sanson, "that I believe there are more than twelve thousand copies of this history in print today; if you do not think so, let Portugal, Barcelona, and Valencia tell you so, for they were printed there; there is even a rumor that it is being printed in Antwerp, and it is evident to me that every nation or language will have its translation of the book." (Cervantes 474--75, trans. Grossman)

This 1615 prediction, from the second part of Don Quixote, has been borne out over the four centuries since the publication of Cervantes' novel. Translated many times into many languages, Don Quixote is both a great novel and an international cultural event. Why has this work proven so compelling to readers from vastly different cultures and time periods? How has the work changed as it travels from place to place? This class will focus on a detailed reading of the entire Quixote (in its most recent English translation), examining its themes, characters, and combinations of tragedy and comedy. We will examine the ways in which Cervantes makes his story at once emotionally compelling and intellectually fertile, such that the bare structure of a thin, misguided old man on a horse, a stout companion on a donkey, and an imaginary romantic quest can continue to inspire the most divergent interpretations imaginable.

The story of a man who goes insane as a result of reading, Don Quixote is also a meditation on the question of the after-life of texts in the world, in particular, their intertextuality. The novel is a book about the books from which it comes, as well as a book that inspires later authors. We will read one poem from which Cervantes drew, Orlando Furioso, and three novels he influenced, from three different countries (England, France, the United States) and three different centuries (the 18th, 19th, and 20th). What lets the Quixote transcend the conditions of its creation? How do these authors' recreations of the Quixote change the way we read their works? Do we call them influence, inspiration, or theft?

Required Texts:

Ariosto, Ludovico. Orlando Furioso, trans. Guido Waldman (Oxford UP, 2008). 0199540381
de Cervantes, Miguel. Don Quixote, trans. Edith Grossman (Ecco, 2003). 0060934344
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary, trans. Lydia Davis (Penguin, 2011). 014310649X
Sterne, Lawrence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (Penguin, 2003). 0141439777
Toole , John Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces (Grove, 1987). 0802130208

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

attendance, an essay, a mid-term, a final exam

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