From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
12.1 (1992): 19-44.
Copyright © 1992, The Cervantes Society of America
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fter defeating the Knight of Mirrors (actually the Bachelor Sansón Carrasco), Don Quijote puts the tip of his sword above his prostrate adversary's face and orders him to confess that the knight he previously claimed to have defeated neither was nor could have been Don Quijote de la Mancha but was an illusion created by enchanters (II, 14)1. Part of the irony of that incident lies in the fact that the character who pronounces those words, Alonso Quijano, neither is nor can be Don Quijote either. The character Don Quijote is precisely an illusion, and the enchanter who created him is Miguel de Cervantes, whose supreme feat of magic is that his illusory hidalgo seems to depart from the order of reality as we generally know it by actually being not just more interesting than people in real life but more significant for a new understanding of the real world. Even when what Don Quijote sees is obviously a figment of his imagination, we as readers are more interested in what he sees than in what is really there. At times Don Quijote defends his perceptions with a surprising earnestness and lucidity: he explains the existence of elements of the real world that are incompatible
from Don Quijote have been taken from the edition by Martín
de Riquer; translations are mine.
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with his fantasies by claiming that they are illusions that enchanters have
maliciously created in order to confuse people. Hence, for example, the windmills
are not just giants but are giants cleverly made to look like windmills.
Don Quijote rebels against such deceitful illusions, and he does so on the
level of the very act of perception. When Don Quijote considers a barber's
basin to be the legendary Helmet of Mambrino in enchanted form, what he perceives
is not a barber's basin but a fabulous helmet that he has seized in battle
and that is worthy of his own identity as a knight and champion of the tradition
of high courage. So is an inn a castle, the packsaddle of a mule the fine
harness of a steed, a flock of sheep an enemy army, a water mill a fortress,
a rough peasant lass Dulcinea del Toboso, the Bachelor Sansón Carrasco
the Knight of Mirrors, etc. If they appear otherwise, Don Quijote thinks,
it is because they are enchanted, i.e., they have been transformed
into deceitful sensory images. It is evident that Don Quijote's tendency
to see a world that is subject to being subverted by sinister forces, instead
of a world of pre-given, neutral objectivity that is to be regarded with
optimistic impartiality, is not due to a simple incapacity on his part, for
Don Quijote is able to see what he alone sees and what others see as well.
As a result, it becomes more difficult to dismiss his delusions as mere
entertaining frivolity. Our attention naturally turns to the differences
between Don Quijote's perception of the world and that of everyone else in
the novel, the differences between in Riley's words poetic myth
and historico-empirical actuality (p. 170).
Criticism generally recognizes that in the Quijote Cervantes explores the dual character of human nature and the ethical and aesthetic implications of the relationship between human being's physiologically real and psychologically fantastic aspects. Per haps it is not too much to suggest that Cervantes introduced Don Quijote's obsession with enchantment and the complex process whereby Don Quijote sees what is there yet what is not there to serve as a clue to how his novel can be seen to convey a meaning. The prominence of the enchantment motif alone (it is the most frequent topic of discussion in the novel, being spoken of by Don Quijote and Sancho more than a hundred times [Predmore 75]) and the peculiarly esoteric manner in which Don Quijote regards empirical reality with suspicion because he considers ideal conceptions to be a basis for skepticism are themselves enough to imply that ideas on the subject of enchantment
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point to more than the fantastic and gratuitous delusions of a mind warped by romances of chivalry and to suggest that the concept of enchantment has a bearing on deep thematic dimensions of the novel. Critics have long noted, like Riley, that enchantment itself is an important thematic motif in the Quijote,2
studies of enchantment in Don Quijote have not related it to theories
of perception or knowledge nor attempted to interpret enchantment in broad,
figurative terms as we do, by regarding it as a metaphor for epistemological
realism. Actually, they have tended to be descriptions instead of
interpretations. If Ortega y Gasset's brief observations on windmills had
touched on the subject of enchantment instead of being confined to illusion,
they would be an exception in this regard. He sees Don Quijote's
abnormality to be the normal, human, cultural tendency to assign
a sense to things regardless of their materiality (pp. 143-44). Castro does
not explore the enchantment motif separately or analyze it in any detail.
When he does refer to it, he sees it as a means Cervantes used to introduce
the theme of the fallibility of the senses and the possibility of appearances
being interpreted differently by different individuals, i.e., as supporting
the ambiguous and relativistic conception of truth that he considers fundamental
to the novel as a whole (pp. 83, 390). Spitzer, like Castro, sees enchantment
as the condition for Don Quijote's seeing things differently from others
and, hence, as expressing the perspectivism advanced by Castro.
He also sees Don Quijote's tendency to substitute fantasies for a monotonous
and limited reality as expressing a healthy and heroic, although unrealistic,
rebellion against the established order (pp. 306, 292-93). Navarro González
sees the concept of evil enchanters as functioning to allow quixotic
belief to be sustained (p. 278). Likewise, Predmore characterizes enchantment
in the Quijote as being the principle by which Don Quijote explains
to himself the disturbing fact that people and things seem so often to be
what they really are; hence, it is a means of maintaining his illusions and
of explaining that for which he has no explanation (pp. 67-68, 77). Avalle-Arce,
on the contrary, sees enchantment as an intrusion that threatens Don Quijote's
willfully created ideal vision of the world (p. 374). El Saffar regards
enchantment as the means Don Quijote uses to protect what she terms his sanity
as he becomes increasingly confused at his inability to rely on sense-perception
and reason to explain the strange incidents that befall him (p. 111). Ihrie
distinguishes between enchantment in Part I, where it expresses Don Quijote's
assurance that his mistaken sense perceptions are accurate, and Part II,
where they are the means whereby he discounts accurate sense perceptions
as being mistaken (pp. 59-60). Like Navarro-González and Predmore,
Mancing considers enchantment in the Quijote to be a way for Don Quijote
to rationalize his defeats and thus to sustain his chivalric vision (p. 46).
Williamson recognizes that Don Quijote's madness does not involve a crude
distortion of visual perception and sees his distortions (presumably what
Don Quijote would attribute to enchantment) as a kind of perverse
misreading of everyday situations caused by a desire to make them fit his
chivalric obsession. Believing things to be superior to their actual
appearances, Don Quijote seeks to identify the [p.
22] romance potential concealed within the humdrum reality he is forced
to live in so as to draw it out for others to see (pp. 96-97). Eisenberg
notes that because of Don Quijote's insistence that enchantment changes
appearances, it is impossible to convince him that he is in error, just as
it is impossible to determine whether what one sees is reality or the product
of enchanters' distortions (pp. 171, 173).
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but studies of it have been mainly descriptive. The enchantment motif has
not been the subject of serious analysis or interpretation on a philosophical
plane, and the implications of exactly what Don Quijote himself thought about
enchantment have been overlooked altogether.
The usual interpretation of Don Quijote's idea of enchantment is that its function is primarily practical: it is a means that Don Quijote uses both to render his world more fabulous, like the world of the chivalric romance, and to defend that fantasy world from the encroachments of empirical fact. That view seems essentially accurate, but it would seem that the romances of chivalry provided no more to the enchantment motif than a point of departure. Richard Predmore, for example, has pointed out in his study on La función del encantamiento en el mundo del Quijote (1955-56) that Cervantes's use of enchantment in the novel is quite different from the part that it plays in the romances of chivalry. Not only is enchantment in the Quijote almost without exception the work of anonymous enchanters (whereas enchanters are completely identified in the romances of chivalry), in the Quijote enchantment serves specifically to make it possible for characters (Don Quijote and Sancho) to maintain their illusions, to evade responsibility, and to provide explanations where rational explanations are lacking (p. 77). Predmore observes that for Don Quijote himself enchantment has the function of defending his illusions from the need to reconcile them with the real world and that they accomplish that end specifically by changing appearances (pp. 66, 77-78). Perhaps criticism's reluctance to analyze Don Quijote's own notions about enchantment or to interpret enchantment in broad figurative terms (even if it is sometimes interpreted thematically) is another instance of what Américo Castro characterized in 1925 as criticism's established tendency to take the view that Cervantes's work is not problematic (p. 15). If a more ambitious study of enchantment in the Quijote were to prove revealing, it would certainly not be the first discovery of unexpected dimensions in
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what one critic has referred to as Don Quijote's gigantesca locura
The bizarre, seemingly farcical character of Don Quijote's behavior in relation to what he calls enchantment is certainly one of the most difficult features of that character to reconcile with an attempt to explain his thematic significance in serious terms. On the other hand, extravagant, quasi-grotesque motifs are not uncharacteristic of the manneristic literature of the High Renaissance. One thinks, for example, of the stark artificiality and archetypal, elegiac atmosphere of the Spanish pastoral romance, whose emergence was largely due to maverick intellectual, Neoplatonist influences. It is logical to associate the emergence of a doctrinaire subjective idealism in Renaissance literature with the vogue for Neoplatonism. Renaissance Neoplatonism is best known today as a somewhat localized if refreshing, secular moral idealism based on a spiritualized concept of sexual love. Actually, it was a source of a new, widespread independence of spirit and speculative rationalism, especially as it combined with nominalism and the voluntaristic teachings of St. Augustine. It was an entire metaphysical system, and it provided an alternative to the official, Aristotelian-scholastic tradition. What is often overlooked, however, is that whereas in the period prior to Renaissance humanistic learning a real knowledge of Aristotelian doctrines was restricted to members of the clergy, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are a period of intense interest in Aristotle, many of whose works were becoming available in translation for the first time (Bolgar 308-10). Hence, there was also an interest in re-reading Aristotle and in establishing the points of contact between his teachings and those of Plato.4 Renaissance
Francisco Márquez-Villanueva, La locura emblemática
en la segunda parte del Quijote, Cervantes and the
Renaissance. Ed. Michael D. McGaha (Easton, Pennsylvania: Juan de la
Cuesta, 1980), p. 106.
4 See Kristeller, Studies, Chapter 4, The Scholastic Background of Marsilio Ficino (pp. 35-97). Also, in Renaissance Thought Kristeller goes to considerable lengths to draw attention to modern scholarship's fallacy of not recognizing the presence of a flourishing tradition of Aristotelianism throughout the Renaissance period (pp. 33-47, 50-57, 61, 114-16), pointing out that Neoplatonism itself was a synthesis of Platonism, Aristotelianism, and stoicism (p. 51). He writes, We have learned through recent studies that the chief progress made during the latter fourteenth century in the fields of logic and natural philosophy was due to the Aristotelian, and more specifically, to the Occamist school at Paris and Oxford. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, university instruction in the philosophical [p. 24] disciplines continued everywhere to be based on the works of Aristotle; consequently, most professional teachers of philosophy followed the Aristotelian tradition, used its terminology and method, discussed its problems, and composed commentaries and questions on Aristotle. Kristeller attributes the emphasis on the importance of Neoplatonism and the neglect of Aristotelianism to historians' tendency to, like journalists, concentrate on news and to forget that there is a complex and broad situation which remained unaffected by the events of the moment (p. 34). In advancing the view that Platonist and Aristotelian influences coexist in Cervantes's writing, we do not, however, wish to suggest that Renaissance humanists did not attack the Aristotelian-scholastic tradition. Many of them did; on the other hand, Ficino did not (see Kristeller, Florentine Platonism and Its Relations with Humanism and Scholasticism, referred to by him in The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, p. 14), for Platonism and Aristotelianism coexist in his philosophy, as in León Hebreo's Diálogos de amor, (see Kristeller The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino 236 and Hebreo 314). Also, according to Hamlyn, the empiricist theory of knowledge developed by Aquinas is incorrectly attributed to Aristotle. Hamlyn points out that in De anima the context of Aristotle's discussion of sense-perception has been misinterpreted, since (unlike that of Plato) it is not epistemological but is intended to elucidate concepts of the philosophy of mind (that the acquisition of intellectual knowledge, like sense-perception, is a process from potentiality to actuality: see Hamlyn 17-18). Hamlyn's observations would seem to provide additional evidence for the view that there is less of an antagonism between Plato and Aristotle on epistemological concerns than is commonly thought.
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thought bears evidence of widespread interest in Platonist and Aristotelian
theories of knowledge and perception. That Cervantes was aware of those theories
is generally accepted by Cervantes scholars, largely on the basis of a quotation
from Book IV of La Galatea, where a character refers to that
opinion of the one who said that the soul's knowledge is the memory of what
it already knows and the other, better opinion of the one who
asserted that our soul was like a tabula rasa (el que
dijo que el saber de nuestras almas era acordarse de lo que ya sabían
. . . el otro mejor parecer del que afirmó que nuestra alma
era como una tabla rasa: p.
A concept that was especially important to Platonism, with which it originated, but was also important to Aristotelianism is the concept that ideas do not exist only as mental constructs but that they have a real, though non-material, existence in the physical world. Ideas are what make sense objects real in the sense of intelligible, i.e., objects of consciousness. In contrast to
critics have felt that the preference expressed in this passage by the unnamed
knight and friend of Darinto for the latter, Aristotelian theory over the
Platonist theory can be identified with a preference on Cervantes's part,
but such a view is pure speculation.
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the modern, empiricist epistemological conception of the possibility of
establishing a rational correlation of material nature viewed objectively
as a causal mechanism, Plato and Aristotle both taught that knowledge requires
transcending a mere awareness of sense-data, that to know is to have knowledge
of ideas, or concepts, which are the intelligible forms of objects in the
physical world. Whereas Plato maintained that there exists a separate, more
truly real world of ideal, universal forms of which particular sense objects
are imperfect reflections, Aristotle held that the objects of our senses
have real, external, independent existence and that it is in knowing particular
objects that we know the universal or ideal. The Aristotelian maintains that,
in perceiving, the mind abstracts ideas from sense objects, in which they
inhere. The Platonist sees ideas, or universals, as having an existence that
is separate from particular objects, which are themselves instances of universal
ideas: in perceiving the objects of the physical world the mind assigns ideas
to them by subsuming sense impressions under concepts. Thus, for Plato the
world that we know is a vast projection of universal and self-subsistent
mind. Not only is the spiritual faculty able to act on matter and organize
a world in which our ideals and values are objectively real, but mind's
preeminence is secure because matter cannot act upon mind or alter ideal
being. The entire Platonist metaphysic can be seen as an elaborate means
of emphasizing the creative and synthesizing capabilities of mind. Even in
Aristotelianism the mind does not assume a passive role in the perception
of objects but actively apprehends ideas or forms that are present in objects.
However, what needs to be emphasized for purposes of the present study is
that in both Plato and Aristotle knowledge depends on the conceptual activity
of the mind and that in the Platonist theory of knowledge the mind not only
assumes an active role but a creative role: by means of what Plato calls
memory it supplies the concepts or memory-images that make sense
objects intelligible (Hamlyn 16).
We wish to suggest that Cervantes elaborated the enchantment motif in the Quijote in such a way as to make Don Quijote incarnate the Platonist concept of mind exercising its capacity to remake reality creatively. Cervantes illustrates that creative process by first setting up in Don Quijote's behavior the Neoplatonist, activist model of perception as an assigning of meaning on the basis of sense impressions. Cervantes then has Don Quijote greatly exaggerate the free activity whereby mind assigns to
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an object a concept that has ordinary descriptive reference by having Don Quijote first assign and then (applying an Aristotelian principle) abolish such a descriptive concept on the grounds that it is an illusion and finally proceed beyond the empirical realm altogether and, by projecting ideal values, replace the descriptive concept with another one, one that endows the object with mythopoeic significance. The process is rendered in vivid, dramatic terms by Don Quijote's having the idea that sense impressions (created by enchanters) are deceitful illusions, or phantasms an idea taken from Aristotelian-Thomist epistemology. When the eccentric hidalgo claims, for example, that the barber's basin he sees is the Helmet of Mambrino made by evil enchanters to look like a barber's basin, Cervantes is pointing out to us the fundamental, dissenting, nonobservant aspect of the process whereby the creative mind, willfully turning its back on the ordinary descriptive concepts with which we refer to objects, creates a metaphorical language that gives them new meaning and that posits new, more valuable ways of looking at the world. The broadly comical incongruity of seeing an ordinary barber's basin as a legendary helmet is a subtle means of acknowledging metaphor's characteristic tension between semantic congruence and incongruence (Ricoeur 146) and underscoring the deviant character of metaphorical language and of the creative faculty in general. The creative process as it is characterized by Cervantes is very similar to Gadamer's idea of concept formation (Weinsheimer 237-40, Ricoeur 147), referred to by Ricoeur in relation to his theory concerning the role of imagination in the creation of metaphor, which we shall discuss below. Don Quijote, himself an idea made real and a novel, highly suggestive metaphor, is, in part, a fictional projection of Platonist and Aristotelian theories of perception cast in psychological terms.
When considered in the light of the Neoplatonist theory of knowledge, certain of Don Quijote's attitudes vis-à-vis enchantment appear less paradoxical. In the Neoplatonist view, the ideal world of eternal essences, forms, or Ideas the intelligible world is concealed by the empirical world of appearances and change, the phenomenal world that can be known by the senses. Speaking to Sancho in the Sierra Morena mountains, Don Quijote
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says, There is a throng of enchanters always among us who change and switch everything and alter it according to their pleasure (andan entre nosotros siempre una caterva de encantadores que todas nuestras cosas mudan y truecan, y las vuelven según su gusto: I, 25). In a world in which sense impressions are misleading, what, one may ask, could be the basis of certainty? The answer to that question is given when the silk merchants whom Don Quijote has ordered to declare that Dulcinea del Toboso, Empress of La Mancha, is the most beautiful maiden in the world protest that they cannot pay homage to someone whom they have never seen, and Don Quijote says that if they saw her their confession would have no value: the essence of the matter is for you to believe, confess, affirm, swear, and maintain it without seeing her (la importancia está en que sin verla lo habéis de creer, confesar, afirmar, jurar y defender: I, 4). For Don Quijote what is real is what is true, but truth is not empirical knowledge, nor is it merely based on a non-rational fideism; it is cognizance of the real value of a suprasensible ideal. He tells Sancho, For me it is sufficient to think and believe that the good Aldonza Lorenzo is beautiful and chaste (bástame a mí pensar y creer que la buena de Aldonza Lorenzo es hermosa y honesta: I, 25). Truth here is not the mere fantasy of a wish-fulfillment dream it is a function of an epistemological and ethical freedom from the claims of the sensuous or material, a matter of axiological priority. One could wonder whether Don Quijote's censuring of empirical reality by claiming that it is mendacious and instead asserting the truth of the books of chivalry is not Cervantes's way of parodically inverting the humanists' practicalist intolerance of the books of chivalry on the grounds that they were mentirosos.6 Following the Platonist model, Don Quijote draws from memory the ideas, or memory-images, with which he supplants ordinary descriptive concepts, memory here being the fund of images that Don Quijote has gathered from the romances of chivalry. Nor can material being alter Don Quijote's fantasies, which seen in the Platonist perspective belong to the impervious order of ideal being.
The mechanism whereby Don Quijote misconstrues the contents of the physical world is not triggered by faulty sense perception but rather is conditioned by the combative aspirations of
Forcione 13 for bibliography on criticisms of the books of chivalry, as well
as his discussion on pp. 13-27.
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his moral will. He sees his mythical world as being under assault by forces that would debase it and trivialize it by imposing the banality of a literal empiricism conditioned purely by sense impressions, factuality, and practical interests. In Don Quijote's view, sense impressions are something to be risen above; they are not, we repeat, phenomena to which he is blind. When Sancho will not agree with his claim that he has been placed in a cage by enchanters, Don Quijote tells him confidently (as though he were addressing superficial readers of the novel), You, Sancho, will see how you are mistaken in your understanding of my misfortune (Tú, Sancho, verás cómo te engañas en el conocimiento de mi desgracia: I, 48). He does not deny that he sees himself in a cage. He says, I see myself caged (yo me veo enjaulado: I, 48). What he denies is that he must willingly accept the dictates of sense knowledge and be reconciled to them. He denies that the empirical fact should take precedence over a moral priority and that the mind's capacity to project a different reality must be subordinated to natural necessity, a claim which he considers false and misleading, a malicious fabrication intended to confuse the moral sense by placing it under a spell. He says,
I know and am persuaded that I am enchanted, and that is sufficient for the safety of my conscience; for I would be greatly burdened if I thought that I was not under a spell and allowed myself to be in this cage lazy and like a coward, defrauding those who are distressed and in need of the help I could give them (yo sé y tengo para mí que voy encantado y esto me basta para la seguridad de mi conciencia; que la formaría muy grande si yo pensase que no estaba encantado y me dejase estar en esta jaula perezoso y cobarde, defraudando el socorro que podría dar a muchos menesterosos y necesitados de mi ayuda: II, 49).
In implying the existence of an antithetical relationship between the moral will and empirical fact, Don Quijote's incongruous attitudes hint at the author's suggestion that, in general, the enthusiasm and integrity of subjective motivation can depend, to some extent, on an artificial and even self-conscious denial of outward reality. Except towards the end of the novel, Don Quijote is invulnerable to depression because he refuses to take seriously those threats that a less heroic cast of mind might find intimidating. He is grandiose in his projections but modest in what he actually requires to satisfy his demands of life. The reason
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is that his truth is conative, based on the strivings of the will, and hence
independent of the actual realization of
values.7 The reality that Don Quijote opposes,
that he sees as being perpetrated against him by his enemies the enchanters,
and that he denounces as unreal, is the reality of a commonplace natural
necessity that, when asserted in absolute terms, would obviate moral strivings
by rendering them not just inviable but meaningless.
As Américo Castro has pointed out, the Neoplatonist theory of perception was skeptical, rationalistic, relativistic, and antidogmatic (pp. 82-90) in, we might add, much the same way that poststructuralist theories are today. Castro held that in writing the Quijote Cervantes was reacting against an authoritarian dogmatism that was based on the scholastic-empiricist claim that sense-perception plays a necessary role in providing us with reliable knowledge. In contrast, Castro maintained, Cervantes's novel offers an innovative, prismatic vision of life's complexity, of a world where reality is unstable and wavering and is full of uncertainties, deceitful appearances, and problematic differences of opinion and in which knowledge is relative, differing according to the point of view of the individual observer. Castro believed that for all his geniality, the stability of his moral vision, and notwithstanding the restrained character of his skepticism, in the Quijote Cervantes presents a Weltanschauung that is impressionistic, relativistic, and ambiguous. Not only is a basin a helmet, it is also a basin-helmet (pp. 75-122). Spitzer characterized what Castro called relativism as perspectivism. The Neoplatonism that these critics have perceived as underlying Cervantes's outlook is not moral idealism but the speculative and critical rationalism of Neoplatonist epistemology. We wish to suggest that within that same, general Neoplatonist framework, Cervantes developed the enchantment motif originally furnished to him by the novels of chivalry and that he did so as a moral idealist as well. As we shall see, Cervantes added to his synthesis the concept of the phantasma, which comes from the Aristotelian theory of perception a concept that today we know as the principle of transcendental-phenomenological reduction set forth by Husserl. Husserl intended that principle to be a means of suspending our ordinary awareness of objects in order to make
7 On moral
value-being's independence of realizability in a volitional act, see Scheler
|30||BRYANT L. CREEL||Cervantes|
possible a transition to a reflective attitude. In making Don Quijote a fictional
vehicle of the Neoplatonist theory of perception and introducing the
Aristotelian-Thomist principle that sense-impressions, or phantasmata,
are dream images, delusions, Cervantes elaborates the enchantment motif on
a scale that leaves the materials he received from the novels of chivalry
Indeed, it is hard to see how Cervantes could have relied on the romances of chivalry alone for the idea of an appearance that is illusory because of its limiting, material particularity and for the idea of rendering such an appearance significant, as Don Quijote does, by abstracting it from the conditions of concrete individuality and altering it in order to apprehend it in terms of a broader, more universal frame of reference. Plato had held that knowledge is always of the self-subsistent universal; all we ever really know about the sensible world is our idea of it through judgement by the mind, since reality consists of mind, not matter. It was Aristotle who, in De anima, originally posited the view that sense-knowledge and intellectual knowledge are essentially distinct: the former recognizes only matter itself with its individual qualities while the latter has for its object the essence of material things. Intellect depends on sense-perception because forms have a being only in things. Hence, intellectual knowledge follows upon sensation. The active intellect makes sense representation, or phantasma, capable of being known in a universal, intellectual likeness through a process of abstraction (De anima 431a-432a, pp. 139-45). Thomas Aquinas also distinguished between a) appearance, or phantasm, the sensory image that results from the body-sense experience of a material thing yet without our awareness of such a sensation (i.e. without intelligibility, understanding); b) material intelligence, or sensing such an image only in its particularity, i.e., passively and knowingly experiencing only the sensation of the individual image; and c) active apprehension of things in their universal aspects: dematerializing a thing so as to see beyond its particularity and understand it conceptually, spiritually (Summa Theologica, Question 79, articles 2-3, pp. 149-57).8
Américo Castro has proven that Cervantes was influenced by the
Neoplatonist theories of Bembo, Erasmus, and Castiglione (pp. 85-90). What
evidence is there that Cervantes was familiar with Aristotelian-Thomist
epistemological theories distinguishing between sense-experience and
intelligibility and could have had them in mind when he elaborated Don Quijote's
ideas on the subject of enchantment? In general, the premises of the
[p. 31] present study are consistent with Forcione's
thesis that through the figure of Don Quijote (his ideas and actions), Cervantes
sought the liberation of art from the mimetic theories that dominated
the mainstream of literary theorizing of the sixteenth century (p.
121) and that were based on a misreading of Aristotle's Poetics (pp.
45-48, 346). In the Poetics Aristotle distinguishes between a historical
and factual truth (the proper subject of historiography) and an ideal, aesthetic
truth (the proper subject of poetry). Thus, even if Cervantes had not had
access to the details of Aristotle's ideas on epistemology, the concept of
a creative mental activity that is independent of the factuality of sense-data
would have been present to him. However, it is more than likely that Cervantes
was well aware of the theories of perception of Aristotle and Aquinas. Whereas
Américo Castro, for example, felt the need to document probable traces
and definite evidence of Neoplatonic thought in Cervantes's writings, in
Renaissance Spain la filosofía aristotélica predomina
ampliamente sobre la platónica (Aristotelian philosophy
predominates widely over Platonic philosophy: Fraile I, 231).
Aristotelianism was the official philosophy in sixteenth-century Spain
(Abellán 173). It would have been difficult for Cervantes not to know
about such theories, even if his knowledge came more from conversations than
from reading. There can be no doubt that he was interested in the subject.
Yet his knowledge may well have come from reading as well. There is a reference
in the Quijote (I, 47) to the Súmulas by Gaspar Cardillo
de Villapando, an important textbook in Spanish universities. The
Súmulas is not a discussion of De anima
but a presentation of Aristotle's theories in logic; however, the same author
wrote a commentary on Aristotle's De anima entitled Apologia
Aristotelica adversus eos, qui aiunt sensisee animam cum corpore extingui
published in Alcalá in 1560 and in 1569 (Solana 112-16,
Díaz-Díaz 146-47, Abellán 176-79). Yet the most famous
commentator on Aristotle's De anima was Pedro Martínez Brea,
who published his In libros tres Aristotelis De anima Commentarii
in Sigüenza in 1575. Let us recall that Castro (p. 106) believes Cervantes
to have had a good command of Latin. Martínez de Brea señala
las diferencias entre el apetito sensitivo, que sólo atiende al tiempo
presente, y otro intelectivo que atiende al presente, pasado y futuro
(points out the differences between the sensory inclination, which
only notices the present, and the other, intellective inclination, which
notices present, past and future: Abellán 179-80). Even if Cervantes
had not read or heard of the epistemological theories attributed directly
to works by Aristotle, he was sure to have heard about or read Thomas Aquinas's
important elaboration. The sixteenth century was the golden age of Thomism
both in Spain and Italy. The principal faculty positions in theology were
reserved by universities (even in Alcalá de Henares) for the teaching
of Thomist doctrine. As Bell observes, at the time those obstinate
questionings of sense and outward things were in the air of Europe
(p. 118). Cervantes did not use philosophical terminology or explicitly broach
the issues [p. 32] discussed in this study: he
used the language of fiction. As Américo Castro notes, Cervantes
was not a philosopher, but dramatized in his works, especially in the
Quijote, one of the central problems that caused unrest in modern
thought in the dawn of the formation of the great systems (p. 89, my
translation). With a perspective different from our own, Robert Felkel has
published an interesting article in which he argues that Don Quijote's
madness is a paradigm of intellection's failure due to deficiencies
in sensory perception and the associated processes as they are described
in Aristotelian-Thomist theories of perception (Aristóteles,
Santo Tomás y la percepción sensorial en el
|12.1 (1992)||Implications in Quijote's Idea of Enchantment||31|
Thus, in Platonic and Aristotelian-Thomist epistemology, as for Don Quijote, immediately-given reality-phenomena, empirical reality as such, cannot be the object of actual knowing. Aristotle and Aquinas held such phenomena to be given as
|32||BRYANT L. CREEL||Cervantes|
meaningless appearances, or phantasms (phantasmata), which must be rendered intelligible by the activity of the mind. If one sees Cervantes as having drawn on principles of Platonist, Aristotelian, and Thomist epistemology for the way he conceives details of Don Quijote's actions and ideas in relation to enchantment, Cervantes's specific adaptation of those theories would seem to have taken him well beyond the simple scheme of psychology based on bodily humors in Huarte de San Juan's Examen de ingenios. Cervantes first devised a psychology corresponding to the concept of a knowledge of Forms that is actually antithetical to an empirical factualism and then broadened the scope of intelligibility to draw on ethically-charged poetic myth, thus reaching beyond mere cognition to include the aesthetic and ethical modes of apprehension as well.9 He then personified sense-impressions as malicious enchanters whose spells or enchantment manifested as a superstitious respect for empirical truth-claims (a full endorsement of epistemological realism) enslave their victims and make them believe in sensory images, in phantasms. Don Quijote sallies forth into the world of fiction as the iconoclast of realistically-circumscribed, empirical truth-claims to whose categorical malice eventually he himself heroically succumbs. Of course, whatever malicious distortions of reality Don Quijote imagines himself to experience he sees as being presented to him as illusions, so the reader may choose to remain on a literal level and dismiss them as meaningless fantasy. As Don Quijote himself states after wrecking the puppet show of Maese Pedro (actually the fugitive Ginés de Pasamonte in disguise), These enchanters who pursue me merely place figures as they are before my eyes, and then they turn them into what they want them to be (estos encantadores que me persiguen
a discussion of the relation between ethical and aesthetic values, of how
there is a series of aesthetic qualities that are bound to the ethical conduct
of persons and are conditioned by it, see Hartmann 2, 403-405.
|12.1 (1992)||Implications in Quijote's Idea of Enchantment||33|
no hacen sino ponerme las figuras como ellas son delante de los ojos,
y luego me las mudan y truecan en las que ellos quieren: II, 26, my
emphasis). In Don Quijote's view, the realities that he has perceived have
been transformed into illusions, into elements of the mundane reality that
everyone else sees. What can be seen to start out as a humorous probing of
the way in which desire can loosen a person's grasp on reality
and then becomes a contest between an aesthetics based on empirical reality
and an aesthetics that is based on illusion and validates the free play of
the imagination (Forcione 341, 339-48), assumes, for the non-literal-minded
reader, the broad, allegorical dimensions of an epic struggle between the
right of a disruptive, ideal truth to insist upon the validity of its claims
and the right of a factual truth to repudiate those claims once and for all
as idle fantasy. That same opposition shifts to the arena of reader response,
as the reader is faced with a decision as to how to interpret the novel.
The objects that Don Quijote substitutes for ordinary elements of everyday life are always values that he must struggle for or disvalues that he must struggle against. He considers to be in a state of enchantment and deceitful appearance that which has a finite utility value that is, relatively speaking, merely materially intelligible and has no bearing on moral aspirations. As a proponent of knightly heroism, Don Quijote is primarily concerned with the ethical struggle and character-values. For him empirical facts alone lack reality because they lack moral significance, a perspective, as we have seen, that is reminiscent of the Platonic distrust of sensory perceptions and of the Aristotelian-Thomist depreciation of sensory, material intelligence as the passive experience of an isolated image that is in itself an unintelligible appearance because of its inability to refer to anything beyond itself. Cervantes's debt for Don Quijote's belief that it is the ideal alone that is real would, we repeat, be to Plato, for whom the forms of things in the physical world subsist non-materially as expressions of a noumenal or intelligible world. Don Quijote artificially transforms material knowledge, expels the iconoclastic phantoms of a literal factuality, and liberates meaning by transforming objects, remaking reality in conformity to what he perceives to be the claims and predicative demands of universal moral interests. He connects the aesthetic vision with the seriousness of the ethical struggle (Hartmann 2, 328) by dematerializing things, suspending their posited reality,
|34||BRYANT L. CREEL||Cervantes|
conferring upon them a poetically transcendent universality, and making them intelligible not only cognitively and passively, but with a new ethical impress, as factors in the creation of values. It is often impossible to know what conscious motives prompted the work of an author who lived centuries ago, but in Don Quijote's peculiar psychology on the subject of enchantment Cervantes may well have intended to encapsulate some of his own views on the nature of artistic creation. If Don Quijote's idea of enchantment is emblematic of some of Cervantes's ideas concerning art, the possible connection of the enchantment motif to the theories discussed would support the view developed by Castro, Forcione and others, that Cervantes regarded poetic art largely as a mode of apprehension and would suggest that he viewed aesthetics not merely as a science of forms but as a cognitive and epistemological domain as well.
One sign that philosophical inquiries into the essential nature of artistic creation are, in our own day, acknowledging the importance of epistemological issues is that some recent theories concerning the cognitive, semantic value of metaphor (the central poetic figure) address points similar to those discussed here. The most paradoxical element in Don Quijote's concept of the way enchantment works is his self-conscious acceptance of the truth-value of perceptions that he himself recognizes as deviating from empirical fact. His attitude seems to be summed up in the words with which he tells Sancho quite candidly that the way he sees Dulcinea is the way he imagines her, whether it is the truth or not:
I imagine that everything I say is true, without anything being added or left out concerning either her beauty or her eminence, and Helen doesn't equal her any more than Lucretia approaches her, nor any other of the famous women of past ages, Greek, barbarian, or Latin (yo imagino que todo lo que digo es así, sin que sobre ni falte nada, así en la belleza como en la principalidad, y no la llega Elena, ni la alcanza Lucrecia, ni otra alguna de las famosas mujeres de las edades pretéritas, griega, bárbara, o latina: I, 25).
Don Quijote simply denies what is in his factual experience and replaces it with a cherished vision. As a guide to making decisions in everyday life, such a modus operandi must be impractical to say the least, as Don Quijote discovers. However, the mental
|12.1 (1992)||Implications in Quijote's Idea of Enchantment||35|
process that Paul Ricoeur considers to lie at the center of the poetic
imagination is remarkably similar. Ricoeur's theory incorporates Husserl's
principle of the phenomenological suspension of presuppositions about the
nature of experience and what is distinctly reminiscent of Coleridge's view
that imaginative synthesis is preceded by a stage at which the fixed, definite
character of images is dissolved. For Ricoeur imagination begins with the
subject's turning his back, as it were, on conventional modes of thought;
it is a negative making oneself absent to the whole of things,
for to imagine is to make oneself absent to the whole of the world
(p. 152). Metaphor, specifically, is a deviant predication, a
semantic impertinence (p. 143). Once imagination has succeeded
in suspending the direct reference of thought and emotion to the objects
of our ordinary discourse and the literal emotions of everyday life (vs.
poetic emotions), it performs its next task, that of applying synthetic insight
to the projection of new possibilities of redescribing the world. Image
as absence is the negative side of image as fiction, and symbolic systems
have the power to remake reality (pp. 155, 152, 145).
The question of whether it is possible to alter reality to some degree or even fundamentally, or if it is possible to create new reality by altering the way in which it is perceived (the supposition that was so powerfully censured by Marx and Engels in their critique of Feuerbach (German Ideology) and that underlies the difference between naturalism, or the picaresque, and what Lukács refers to as realism, which is actually just more romantic than naturalism) this question is what is ultimately at issue in Cervantes's complex presentation of the way Don Quijote conceives of enchantment. As Mark Johnson notes of Ricoeur's emphasis on the imagination's role in the creation of meaning (imagination's semantic feature),
The underlying issue is whether reality is objectively given, so that, as knowers, we can only stand apart and comment on it, or whether we have a world only by virtue of having a language and system of value-laden concepts that make experience possible for us. This, as Ricoeur and many others note, is not a question limited to metaphor it is a fundamental ontological and epistemological issue (p. 41).
Johnson is aware that the way one judges the value of symbolic images (and their associated emotions) for making truth-claims will depend on the concept one has of truth: is it descriptive of an objective reality that exists in itself and would exist even if
|36||BRYANT L. CREEL||Cervantes|
there were no minds to be aware of it, or is truth the linguistic manifestation of cognitive processes that are experienced as we encounter our world not passively, but by means of projective acts influenced by our interests, purposes, values, beliefs, and language? (Johnson 41) Clearly the latter alternative, which is the nominalist view i.e., that our means of formulating truths are mere names or vocal utterances without any corresponding realities assigns much greater scope and value to the free human will and creative imagination, which explains the prestige that theory enjoyed in Cervantes's day as an element in the philosophy of nominalism. Nominalism differed from Thomism in being voluntaristic in the tradition of Augustinianism. In positing what today seems a distinctly Fichtean concept of subjective idealism emerging from the moral will, Cervantes was undoubtedly influenced by the nominalists, whose teachings were very much in vogue in sixteenth-century Spain. In our age a similar desire for freedom from traditional forms of thought probably explains a good deal of the widespread interest in, for example, Derrida's denial that subjective conceptions can define anything that has independent, real existence outside the mind and in the structuralist claim that social and cultural phenomena, like literary works, are semiotic systems whose elementary units are not objective facts but conventional relational elements, arbitrary signs.10 As Genette has observed, structuralism is not only a method; it is also what Ernst Cassirer calls a general tendency
the concluding observations of his book The Aesthetics of Thomas
Aquinas, Umberto Eco points out, in general terms, some of the connections
between scholasticism and structuralism. Among his comments are the following:
In fact the claim of Scholastic thought is that it does resolve the
real into explanatory models except that these models are believed
to be features of reality, not just constructs of the intellect. Still, in
medieval disputes about universals, the opposition between nominalism and
conceptualism was expressed in terms similar to those used nowadays in
Structuralism. It is not altogether clear whether Structuralism would persevere
to the end in denying an ontological significance to their epistemological
models. At all events, both the Scholastics and the Structuralists engage
in inquiries based upon the notion of universals. . . . It
is not by chance that one of the most important issues in contemporary
Structuralism is the investigation of linguistic universals. It matters little
that these are universals of human psychology and are therefore brain structures,
not Platonic universals. More important is the final outcome of this debate,
namely the reaffirmation of an atemporality in the structures of the mind
. . . (pp. 217-18). I am indebted to Leo Cabranes Grant for
knowledge of this reference.
|12.1 (1992)||Implications in Quijote's Idea of Enchantment||37|
of thought, or as others would say (more crudely) an ideology
. . . (p. 68). Whether the ideas upon which structuralism
is based stand to prove as fruitful in our day as their prototype did in
the post-medieval period has been a subject of much recent controversy.
Cervantes lived in a world that for a time had been cordoned off from the rest of Europe in order to defend, ironically, a religion that advanced the doctrine of free will. Following the Neoplatonist teachings of Augustine, the emphasis on the superiority of the will over the intellect was powerfully reasserted in Europe by the nominalists. Nominalism emerged in the fourteenth century as a challenge to the dogmatic authority of philosophical (ontological) realism. It received a new impetus from the influence of Reform piety and entered Spain as a progressive force with the founding of the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in the early sixteenth century. As it developed, nominalism itself contributed to the forging of dogma, viz., the doctrine of merit.11 Some critics in our own day would seem to consider the influence of linguistics in contemporary literary criticism to have followed a course that is comparable to the influence of nominalism. Emphasis on the view that truth is a function of language is seen as having fostered the attitude that the subject of language can only be language itself, that what one may consider truth is never more than a linguistic formulation and a function of language's inherent formal conventions: what Frederic Jameson has termed the prisonhouse of language and Terry Eagleton calls the poststructuralist dogma that we are prisoners of our own discourse (Jameson passim and Eagleton 144). For his part, Don Quijote, who has an unmistakable tendency to equate truth and language (especially the language of fictional discourse), establishes himself from the outset as an opponent of literal, uninspired truth-claims and drab objectivity. He consciously defies the existence of a self-evident factuality. Cervantes the romanticist author (he is a realist as well) can be said to do likewise; however, unlike Cervantes's, Don Quijote's heightened vision is categorical. Even when, after his second sally, he is placed in a cage like a criminal or a heretic (I, 46), he insists that the cage is
nominalism's entry into Spain in the early sixteenth century through the
efforts of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, see Bataillon 10-66.
On the importance of nominalism in relation to the theological controversies
that developed in Spain in the middle of the sixteenth century, see Creel
|38||BRYANT L. CREEL||Cervantes|
an illusion, the creation of enchanters. Sancho would seem to have the last
word, with his observation that the cage in which Don Quijote is being carried
home has more of malice than of enchantment (I, 48). The implication
of Sancho s common-sense attitude would seem to be that, whether it is perceived
concretely or abstractly and acts physically or psychologically, a cage is
illusory only if one can get out of it.
In a way, what Don Quijote claims is obviously ridiculous, but only if one tries to apply to him the standards of conventional modes of thought and refuses to accept the poetic imagination's semantic impertinence, its deviant withdrawal from the objects of our ordinary discourse, for what it is. Don Quijote is a fictional character who has been aberrantly displaced into the world of historico-empirical actuality and whose very existence is a function of the principle of poetic imagination. He represents both the virtues of poetic heightening and its potential vices. The virtues are evident in the fact that serious readers study Cervantes's novel in the first place. The vice that Don Quijote represents is error itself, i.e. the tendency to take fictional claims literally and read them dogmatically as fact instead of as polysemous symbol. When we laugh at Don Quijote's delusions and, in our literal-mindedness, dismiss his behavior as mere folly, we commit the same error, which is also the error that structuralism and poststructuralism have objected to and, some would claim, sometimes even exemplified, viz., thought's formalistic tendency to carve out its own self-complacent niche in the intellectual environment, grow one-sided, and effect a quasi-mystical retreat from life's complexity in the process.
Any language system tends to lapse into pseudo-objectivity by becoming self-directing and self-certifying through the elaboration and fulfillment of its own characteristic form. It is a typical feature in the work of Cervantes for motifs that are idyllic (in Schiller's sense of the coincidence of the ideal and reality) to suggest another, critical and ironic dimension, and it should not surprise us to find that such is the case in the way he represents the poetic imagination as well. Don Quijote's lengthy disquisitions on the subject of knight-errantry, as he entrenches himself deeper and deeper in his signifying system, are, in addition to his visual fantasies, a noteworthy example. Instead of being the condition for actual knowing, Don Quijote's authoritative, encyclopedic frame of reference takes on dimensions and proportions of another, mythological form of organized illusion, a phantasma
|12.1 (1992)||Implications in Quijote's Idea of Enchantment||39|
the very fiction of which his hallucinatory images of absent phenomena are
(to use Ricoeur's terms ironically) the negative side. Don Quijote's compulsive
cataloguing of facts that he has taken from the romances of chivalry
tempts the reader to speculate that the derivation of poetic symbolism does
not always entail the process that Aristotle and Aquinas describe as a transfer
of the phenomenon into an idea and then, as Goethe held (Maxims No.
1113, p. 693),12 into a suggestive image,
but that it can also start with a metaphysics in the form of images and affects,
or quasi-rational presuppositions born more of a suspension of reference
to objective reality than of an impartial observation of it, and that it
can then transfer those images into the form of a pseudo-non-fictional,
rationalistic discourse that is simply a displaced form of fiction. If fiction
can have an axiological basis, then it must be possible for positive thought
to have a fictional basis as well at least, as Greimas maintains, in
the human and social sciences.13 It was most
likely Freud's sensitivity to the inescapable importance of a conceptual
framework with formal characteristics in organizing the immediate sensations
of experience that prompted him to describe his own work as
An additional area, then, that the Quijote can be seen to address indirectly and somewhat ironically in association with the enchantment motif and that Cervantes explores further in works such as El coloquio de los perros is the issue of the extent to which the literary dialogue, with its conventional claim to being universally edifying, has a didactic value that is necessarily relative to the frame of reference of its (fictional) speakers.15 Such a theme is, of course, not without broad implications. We are very
see Adams 57.
13 This principle is the basis of Greimas's Narrative Semiotics and Cognitive Discourses, which analyzes the resemblances between the more or less abstract organization of discourse that claims to be scientific and the figurative forms of the narrative discourses of literature and myth (p. 57).
14 See note 15. Also, in regard to Freud, in his letter to Albert Einstein published under the title Why War? Freud writes, It may perhaps seem to you as though our theories are a kind of mythology and, in the present case, not even an agreeable one. But does not every science come in the end to a kind of mythology like this? Cannot the same be said today of your own Physics? (Freud 22, 211).
15 Northrop Frye discusses the importance of a conceptual framework in science and of symposium and dialogue in Renaissance art in Anatomy 15 and 59.
|40||BRYANT L. CREEL||Cervantes|
likely still discovering the extent to which our world and our relation to
it would be unimaginable for us were they not organized in some sort of fictional
framework. From this point of view a fundamental trait that fiction and real
life could be seen to have in common is that the individuals who populate
both can be thought of as metaphors in a vast creative fabric, and largely
self-conceived metaphors at that. Thus regarded, poetic imagination assumes
the character of a moral adventure, one that demands the exercise of free
will and that is also not without risk. As Lessing observed, a heretic is
a person who sees with his own eyes.
One reason that the character Don Quijote has such rich metaphorical value is that he can be seen as both exercising a vital free will and as not doing so. Don Quijote rejects one set of conventions (sense-knowledge) on the grounds that it is illusory in order to be able to embrace another set of conventions (chivalric romanticism) with an attitude of naive indifference to the problem of what is or is not illusory. In this sense his situation is comparable to that of the deconstructionist critic, who is unable to dispense with the conventions of the very logocentric language from which he wishes to disassociate himself. Just as a thinker without a language is inconceivable, so is a human being inconceivable without a fantasy world. So observes Francis Bacon:
Doth any man doubt, that, if there were taken from men's minds vain opinions, flattering hopes, false valuations, imaginations, as one would, and the like vinum Daemonum (as a Father called poetry), but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves?16
The Quijote would seem to advance the proposition that healthy fictional presuppositions should be considered sacred. When they are not, the result can be a crisis such as that which is presented in the Tale of Impertinent Curiosity. Don Quijote's recurrent self-deceptions concerning the identity and intentions of others cause him to behave violently; hence, they must eventually be dispelled. On the other hand, his idealization of Aldonza Lorenzo causes harm to no one. Sancho who eventually learns, under Don Quijote's influence, to liberate his own poetic imagination playfully yet maliciously takes it upon himself to
by Hayward 390.
|12.1 (1992)||Implications in Quijote's Idea of Enchantment||41|
contradict iconoclastically his companion's illusions concerning the being
whom Don Quijote describes as the only refuge of my hopes
(único refugio de mis esperanzas: II, 29). It is ironic that Sancho's
naturalistic description of the Dulcinea whom he claims to have spoken to
when she was winnowing wheat in the barnyard is a fictional invention as
well, yet for that profanation Sancho must make restitution in the form of
three thousand three hundred lashes. While Sancho's fictionalization of Aldonza
Lorenzo may be less fanciful than Don Quijote's, it is more reprehensible.
Thus it is implied that imagining that things can only be as they appear,
that sense-impressions are an adequate basis for knowledge, is comparable
to a delusion or a fantasy, to being under a spell, and it is
implied that the enchanted, or fictional, aspect of such a one-sided
epistemological realism (of the assumption that the only reality attributable
to objects of our knowledge is a reality of their own) is that it is at once
too naive and too cynical: too naive because it ignores its own partiality
and, hence, its own fictional character, too cynical because it disregards
the crucial importance of subjective factors for conceiving ways in which
reality can be recast and improved.
In Cervantes's novel (for all the pregnant and contradictory implications that one may wish to see in the circumstance) it is the very incarnation of the quixotic vision himself, Don Quijote, who insists that what the general run of people think they see in the world around them is, in fact, a fiction created to mislead them, and yet who admits quite frankly that what he claims to be true is what he imagines and wills to be true. One implication of that attitude on Don Quijote's part could be that fiction is a fundamental ingredient in any perception of reality. It could also follow, both logically and from Don Quijote's example, that once one accepts that fact one can aspire to build a reality on the fiction that is most inspired and most elevated. At that point the role of learning is not merely to justify empirical knowledge but to help provide a road to knowledge of a higher kind.
|THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, KNOXVILLE|
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|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|