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17 / 06 / 2004
Agustín Andreu: Don Quixote did not give much importance to the religious divisions of his era

The morning session of the dialogue “El Quixote and Modern Thought” included Agustín Andreu, Georges Güntert, James A.Parr and María Catherina Ruta

Agustín Andreu, from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Valencia University of Technology), spoke about the Amsterdam group, which was formed by a group of European, Dutch and English intellectuals in the 17th century among which were writers such as Spinoza, Locke, Leibnitz, Swift, and Shaftsbury. To Andreu this group of free thinkers “sought a change in individuals and society to spread freedom and peace throughout Europe”. The group “used literature as a weapon against millenarism dogma and used ingenuity to play down conflicts. In this generation “a shift in European ways of thinking about tolerance and living together is possible”. For this group Don Quixote is a perfect example of this new kind of literature which gives little importance to religious differences that existed at that time in Europe”.

In Andreu’s view, the mechanisms that Cervantes uses are laughter, the grotesque and other elements of the popular imagination to parody the monotonous style of literature that existed until that time, with the aim of creating a more humanist literature. This group advocates a literature made throughout the world for the world. This group uses Don Quixote to understand “the strength of the counter-reformation, especially the influence of the Jesuits in this sense”. Andreu says that the similarity between Ignatius Loyola and Don Quixote “is of particular relevance because both are mad knights-errant who take on the world to achieve good works”.

Georges Güntert, professor at the University of Zurich, gave a talk focusing on the notion that “in general, the truth in literature is the truth in deed or fact”. In the case of Don Quixote “these interpretations of the truth are made through probable deeds”, he pointed out. In this regard the professor spoke of the fiction within fiction in Quixote and how “the author raises codes of truth in history, in which readers are immersed and the author manoeuvers them”.

James A. Parr, professor at the University of California-Riverside, pointed out three classic types of rapprochement methods in the work of Don Quixote: the romance, the admonition and the perspective. The aim of the latter is to show the context of a work in order to define its qualities, while the romance detects noble qualities in the character and the admonition concentrates in the negative side of the Quixote character, although none reject the character itself.

Maria Catherina Ruta, professor at the University of Palermo, spoke of the text in Quixote “as the semiotic among semiotic texts”. Ruta has checked various forms of understanding semiotic texts, including “the Italian way, which focuses on the context of the work, whilst the American New Criticism and current Russian versions analyze the text in itself as the reference point”. Laughter and parody break the structure and lead it into polyphonic forms”, concluded Ruta.