Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

A Letter to the Editor

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

A Letter to the Editor

Article excerpt

This letter, published in PMLA 92 (1977): 125, is in response to Michael McCanles, "The Literal and the Metaphorical: Dialectic or Interchange," PMLA 91 (1976): 279-90. McCanles responds to Allen and other letterwriters in PMLA 92 (1977): 125-26.

To differ with Michael McCanles' interpretation of Don Quixote's recantation is not to disagree with the thrust of his illuminating and persuasive article, yet the issue is of such capital importance for our understanding of the work that it must be raised. It is true that "Don Quixote is a literalist par excellence" (p. 284), but it is not strictly true that, as McCanles goes on to say, "he cannot grasp the metaphorical, fictive existence of Amadis of Gaul and Orlando, but takes the verbal heterocosms in which they dwell as literal histories." There are explicit indications in the novel that Don Quixote engages in the literal-metaphorical interchange willfully. The clearest example is the passage in which he explains to Sancho his relationship to Dulcinea/Aldonza:

   ?Piensas tu que las Amariles, las Filis, las Dianas, las Galateas,
   las Alidas y otras tales de que los libros, los romances, las tiendas
   de los barberos, los teatros de las comedias, estan llenos,
   fueron verdaderamente damas de carne y hueso ...? No, por
   cierto, sino que las m s se las fingen, por dar subjeto a sus
   versos. (I, 25)

What it is that drives him to embrace literalism is not an issue to be discussed here, but there are clear suggestions that the literal-metaphorical interchange is rather a symptom of Don Quixote's problem than its cause. Yet, while the knight's return to sanity and his recantation have their reason for being only in relation to that problem and its resolution, we may expect a concomitant alleviation of the symptom if a cure really has been effected.

McCanles thinks not:

   For even when the dying knight renounces all of his former life
   and his enslavement to the metaphor of knightly romances,
   has he achieved an understanding of the necessary ways in
   which literal and metaphorical mutually cause and oppose one
   another? … 
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