New class spotlight: Don Quixote

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Clare Meyers, Staff Writer

 

A story in which a middle-aged man attacks windmills, believing them to be giants, may sound like the beginning of a bad joke or the plot of a strange anime cartoon.

To those unfamiliar with the tale, it might come as a surprise that this odd incident occurs in a novel that is regarded as one of the greatest works of fiction ever written.

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of la Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, is a two-volume work considered to be the single most influential piece of literature in the Spanish language. Next semester, the University of Dallas will offer a Comparative Literary Traditions (CLT) class on Don Quixote, taught in English.

While the University of Dallas already offers a class, taught by Dr. Amy Borja (formerly Schreiber), that studies the novel in detail, it is currently only taught in Spanish. Sophomore Spanish major Michele Carpenter, who is currently taking this course, believes it will be an informative class for students who are not proficient enough to understand the work in its original prose.

“It’s really interesting,” she said. “The character of Don Quixote is very symbolic of Spain at the time.”

The idea to create the class was born out of a conversation among a group of professors, including Borja and co-directors of the CLT major, Stephen Maddux and Laura Eidt.

“We talked about what an important text Don Quixote was in world literature,” Borja said. They decided to suggest an English-language version of the course that would be accessible to more students.

According to the class description, the course will “begin by reading excerpts of each of the genres that Cervantes sought to imitate,” such as a novel of chivalry and a Byzantine novel. It will then focus on various parts of the work, and move on to examining the author’s “profound influence on Latin American authors of the ‘Boom’ generation.”

According to Eidt, the department has been “trying to create a number of classes on non-English literature that isn’t taught in the UD Core and that students otherwise wouldn’t read in their UD classes.

“We try to specifically emphasize the original language of the text,” she said, “by analyzing possible mistranslations and studying the cultural context of the world.”

Eidt believes students will benefit from being taught by a language professor rather than a literature professor because a language professor will be able to offer a different perspective.

Borja is enthusiastic about the opportunity to pass on her love of the classic text to a wider range of students.

“I’m obviously very passionate about Don Quixote,” she said.

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