Cervantes, Literature, and the Discourse of Politics (2012)
“Cervantes, Literature, and the Discourse of Politics” takes up a set of deeply-rooted questions regarding literature and politics in relation to one of the pillars the European literature: Don Quixote. Bookended by Machiavelli and Hobbes, and centrally engaging Plato’s Republic, Cervantes’ novel is fundamentally involved in assessing the place of literature within the state. Cervantes explores the limits of the possible languages for speaking about politics, implicitly responding to the frankness of Machiavelli ‘s discourse about rulership in the new state and offering literature as an alternative to Hobbes’ and Bacon’s “science of politics.” At the same time, Cervantes responds to a specific set of historical conditions surrounding the political imagination of the early modern nation and its empire. These were conditions in which nearly all forms of public speech were constrained, and in which literature provided an opportunity for speaking the truth about politics without speaking about politics directly.
The book provides a thorough reading of Don Quixote as well as a wide-ranging and scholarly treatment of Cervantes’ relationship to his many early modern predecessors, including humanists and rhetoricians. It deals with the practical roots of political theory in travel writing, and the legacy in Cervantes of classical political questions as engaged by Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. The book also makes a broader argument defining the potential role of literature in the discourse of politics.
Goya, Modernity, Aesthetic Critique, in progress