From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
18.1 (1998): 144-7.
Copyright © 1998, The Cervantes Society of America
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (Parte I). Ed. Tom Lathrop. Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 1997. xxxii + 423 pp.
Don Quijote used to lie awake at night trying to make sense of the language in his beloved books of chivalry. However, according to chapter 1 of Don Quijote, even Aristotle would not have been able to decipher the embellished passages of Don Quijote's favorite works, and Don Quijote's fate is widely known. Throughout the years, many American students of Spanish as a foreign language have probably thought to themselves, at least in jest, that they were also going mad while struggling through almost 1,000 pages of Cervantes's prose, but there may be a remedy at last.
Finally! exclaims Juan de la Cuesta's promotional flyer for Tom Lathrop's part 1 of Don Quijote, An unabridged edition of the Quijote made for our students! The target audience of this new edition is American students, and, accordingly, Lathrop has kept his readers' language proficiency and cultural knowledge in mind while designing a more easily accessible version of Cervantes's masterpiece. Lathrop's Don Quijote, with modernized spelling when pronunciation is not affected, includes several features created to make the reading process more efficient, and the clearly written Introduction to Students explains how to make use of this volume.
A glance at the top of almost every page reveals one of Lathrop's contextualizing devices: Running headlines in English, which summarize a highlight from each page in a few words, can be useful for students before, during, and after the reading process. Students who skim the headlines before reading their daily assignments will have a general idea of the story to guide them through the episodes, and they should be able to follow Don Quijote's plot more easily during the first reading by simply scanning the top of the page. In addition, students may refer to these headlines to review Don Quijote's story line before examinations or to find quotes and passages more quickly if they are looking for a particular episode during class discussion. Another practical feature for class discussion is that the parts and chapters are numbered on the left-hand pages, and line numbers are found in the left margin of every page.
Along with the headlines, this edition of Don Quijote, which is based on the four volume Schevill-Bonilla edition (1928-1941), provides readers with lexical,
grammatical, and cultural explanations. Since American students struggle with vocabulary and syntactic structures that are not necessarily annotated in Spanish editions, according to the introduction, Lathrop's part 1 contains 6,221 English vocabulary glosses in the right-hand margins, and especially difficult passages are translated into English in the footnotes. In addition, historical, geographical, literary, and other kinds of notes appear at the bottom of almost all pages to bring the total to 2,169 footnotes, and Lathrop has tried not to give interpretations in the notes so that students are challenged to come to their own understanding of the work.
A consideration of Don Quijote's legendary battle with a windmill in chapter 8, with which so many students are somewhat familiar, will serve as an illustration of the differences in the notes of three widely read Spanish editions and the one we are considering. In comparison to Lathrop's chapter with 51 vocabulary and explanatory footnotes and approximately 130 vocabulary glosses, the brief eighth chapter of John Jay Allen's edition (Madrid: Cátedra) contains a total of six historical, literary, and vocabulary notes, which, for the most part, are also covered in Lathrop's volume. Only the final note naming Cervantes as Don Quijote's second author, which appears in some form in all three Spanish editions examined, is excluded. Lathrop also covers most of the information noted in the 20 footnotes in chapter 8 of Martín de Riquer's edition (Barcelona: Editorial Juventud). The 33 entries listed in the same chapter of Luis Andrés Murillo's volume (Madrid: Clásicos Castalia), on the other hand, offer significantly more bibliographical references than Lathrop's, but this information may not be of much use to undergraduates.
After instructing students, in the introduction, on how to use the notes in the text, Lathrop turns to a discussion of grammatical and critical issues. In addition to explaining consonant assimilation (-rl- > -ll-) when le(s) follows infinitives, contractions with de, Cervantes's use of the past and future subjunctive, el before nouns beginning with a, and forms of address, Lathrop traces Cervantes's life and poses several arguments to inform students of current approaches to Don Quijote criticism. While discussing the errors that so many critics have found in Don Quijote, Lathrop argues that the supposed errors in the work were included by Cervantes on purpose as a play on the many mistakes found in chivalric novels and as part of the characterization. The introductory material contains separate sections on how Marcela undermines Don Quijote's mission to defend maidens and on textual manifestations of the fictional Cervantes. The last sections focus on the reliability of the translation of the Arabic manuscript and on the literary interests of the Secular Clergy.
Since many features have been designed with this edition's student readers in mind, professors will probably ask themselves how undergraduates would react to this annotated Don Quijote. Although most of the students who will read Lathrop's new Don Quijote will not have struggled through a Spanish edition previously, two of this edition's advantages suggest that it will meet with students' approval. The cost of textbooks is a concern for many students, and Juan de la Cuesta's edition will probably be a crowd pleaser at $12 for an attractive hardcover edition of part 1 which will hold up better than a paperback in a
backpack. The edition is illustrated with drawings from the 1875 Gustave
Doré edition, and many of the typographical features of the first
edition, such as italicized chapter headings and drop capitals at the beginning
of each chapter, have been retained. Moreover, as if saving money were not
enough, students should also save time when reading this edition. One of
the challenges of a Quijote class is being able to read 80 to 100
pages per week, and undergraduates are likely to spend much of their time
looking up words in the dictionary. Thanks to the English vocabulary glosses
and footnotes in the margins, students probably will not have to consult
the dictionary as frequently to get a general understanding of the text,
even though they may have to look up words after their first appearance since
a word is usually only glossed once for each meaning.
Although this new edition of Don Quijote provides support for students as they tackle a difficult text, some teachers might find that the design of this volume is not compatible with their teaching style and course goals. Professors who do not encourage translation may feel that the abundant English glosses and translations in the footnotes prompt students to think too much in English, and others may not agree with the way certain passages are rendered in English. The headlines may cause students to internalize the plot in English, and some instructors may hesitate to use this edition because they want their students to feel the sense of accomplishment that many American students have had before them from reading a Spanish edition of Don Quijote from cover to cover.
As this text is used in the classroom for the first time, these concerns and others will certainly surface, but instructors might be able to compensate by modifying their teaching strategies or goals for their classes. Juan de la Cuesta's flyer also offers a solution that could work for some: Since Lathrop's part 2 is not yet available, it is suggested that the new part 1 be used to lay the foundation for a Spanish part 2. Part 1 would help students become accustomed to Don Quijote's language and setting, and the English glosses should enable students to read part 1 more quickly than in the past, leaving them more time to work through a Spanish edition of part 2. When Juan de la Cuesta's part 2 is available, instructors may choose to use both parts together or to continue using Lathrop's part 1 with a Spanish part 2.
After this discussion of what undergraduates and instructors might think about Lathrop's Don Quijote, it remains to briefly consider this edition from a graduate student's point of view. Although the promotional flyer and introductory material do not seem to suggest that this edition is targeted for graduate students specializing in Spanish and the volume does not include an index or many bibliographical references that would be of interest to graduate students, graduate students may still find it useful to consult the historical, geographical, mythological, biblical, and literary footnotes in this edition if they are researching a particular passage for a paper, and, since they have probably read Spanish editions of Don Quijote in the past, they may be interested in some of the background information provided by Lathrop.
Reading Don Quijote will never be an easy quest for American students to fulfill, and no new edition can completely alleviate the difficulties caused by Don Quijote's length, grammatical structures, vocabulary, and cultural content. Lathrop's notes, however, are likely to make the reading experience easier and
more meaningful for many students. Juan de la Cuesta's new part 1 may perhaps enable our students to read this masterpiece without succumbing to Don Quijote's fate while trying to make sense of the words.
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