Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don Quijote

One text that is always a pleasure to teach is Cervantes's Don Quijote. In the Survey of Spanish Literature course, students respond with a varying degree of enthusiasm to the readings we do. Don Quijote, however, always receives a great response whenever and wherever you teach it. At first, the students might be a little wary of the text because of its complexity, but as soon as we begin analyzing it, they start brimming over with questions, ideas, suggestions, etc. I always prepare to finish the lecture a few minutes earlier because I know from experience that after a class on Cervantes students will be unwilling to leave the classroom.

It's overwhelming how a text published in 1605 (we only discuss excerpts from the first part in this survey course) can resonate so deeply with kids of the XXI century. Nothing makes me happier than seeing students get so excited about a work of literature. It is so rewarding to be able to share my love for Cervantes with the younger generation, to introduce the students to this great novel.

If you are teaching (or preparing to teach) this text and don't know how to get the students involved in a discussion about it, my advice is to start with the names of the characters. Don Quijote, Sancho Panza, Dulcinea, Rocinante - these names offer such a wealth of information and so much food for thought that an entire lecture can be dedicated just to them. And students love this discussion and respond with a multitude of questions to it.

I feel very elated right now.


cringe-all said...

Do you have lecture notes you can put up? I am serious!!

Clarissa said...

I have PowerPoints for all my lectures ib this course. But they are mostly visual aids and questions for discussion. Shhh! Don't tell anybody I use PowerPoints. i

Pen said...

We covered some really basic stuff on Don Quixote while reading To Kill a Mockingbird in English a few years ago. Since then, I've been dying to read it--but I have no language skills where Spanish is concerned (I took French). Would it be possible for you to point me to any credible translations?

Clarissa said...

Oh yes! The most recent and really great translation by Edith Grossman is definitely worth reading. Here it is on Amazon:


I met this translator in person, and she is amazing. A truly gifted person.

Anonymous said...

I read Don Quijote in my AP Spanish Lit class. It was awesome. Funny as hell.

Have you read "100 years of solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? That's another book that is up there with Don Quijote as my favorite Spanish lit books.

Marija said...

Hi, I am a student of Spanish language, culture and literature at the University in Belgrade, and at the moment we are reading and analysing Don Quijote. I really like it!
We have a task, to find out what do people think about this book, and why do they like it or not. If you coud help me, tell me your impressions and comments, I would be grateful!:)

Clarissa said...

It's nice to have you here, Marija.

I love Don Quijote and reread it on a regular basis. This is one of the first (and many people say THE first) European novels but it is done so masterfully that one would think there had been centuries of novel writing before that. It is a novel that tells you something new and gets you to think about things differently every time you read it. It is beautifully written, and anybody who loves the Spanish language will appreciate that. It's funny, it's sad, it's romantic, it's fascinating and completely impossible to put down once you begin. It's the kind of book that establishes its own, completely unique dialogue with each individual reader.

And, of course, it's simply a lot of fun to read.

Marija said...

Thank you, Clarissa!
I really enjoyed your response, and your blog, of course.
I read Don Quijote for the first time now, and it's funnier and more complex that I thought it would be.

I would appreciate if other readers of your blog would share their oppinions as well. :)

Pen said...

I've never actually read the whole piece--just bits and pieces out of an English textbook a few years ago--but I liked it all the same.

At the time, it really helped the kids in my class better understand Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I've found parallels between other books as well--and it's always good to be able to connect concepts. I also learned a new word (quixotic), and the experience of reading about someone who personified that word really helped in terms of comprehension.

As a writer, it also gave me a a new perspective on depth of character. At the time, I was in the middle of discovering that conflict was not only physical, but also psychological. Reading about Don Quijote made me wonder why someone would try to do something they knew they couldn't succeed at; to me, if a character wanted to do something, they just did it. It had never occurred to me that some conflicts could not be overcome, and that people would still attempt to overcome them all the same; that realization allowed me to add more depth to my characters.

There are also lots of parallels to real life, even in the short section I read.

To Clarissa: I've recently gotten into a small argument with a friend about whether "Quijote" is spelled with an "x" or a "j" (she says "x," which is also what I'd originally learned). Just out of curiosity, is one spelling considered more correct than the other?

Clarissa said...

I write Don Quijote with a "j" because it's how it's spelled in Spanish. In the English-speaking version, however, it's "Quixote." Which I've been trying to learn to pronounce for years. I have given up now and just say and write it in the Spanish version only. :-)

Clarissa said...

Here is a whole thread for you, Marija: http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-do-you-like-don-quijote.html

una lectora said...

Do you know of a decent version for Kindle (both languages, if you know), where the formatting is OK? It seems there are many different versions available ... after reading your very helpful post on Spanish language ebooks, I thought you might know.