Great Books 102: Renaissance to Modern

Comedy and Conversion in Cervantes' Don Quixote

Overview

Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is widely regarded as the world’s first novel. Dostoevsky remarked that it is “the final greatest utterance of the human mind.” Written by a poor veteran of the Battle of Lepanto, Don Quixote opens with a statement of the goal of the book: to destroy the authority and influence of books of chivalry. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Cervantes’ view of chivalry is much more complex. The comedic adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his squire Sancho Panza culminate in conversion and a profound turn to the everlasting.

Lecture

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Recommended Reading

Discussion Questions

  • Does Cervantes truly seek to destroy the authority of chivalric books?
  • What does Sancho’s loyalty teach the reader about friendship?
  • How does Don Quixote encourage a focus on the most important things in life?

Q & A Session

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Stephen Smith is the Temple Family Professor in English Literature at Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Dallas.