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

Playing with Time: Asynchronicity in Don Quijote

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

Playing with Time: Asynchronicity in Don Quijote

Article excerpt

Este ensayo utiliza varios conceptos de la teoria de la mente para analizar la red complicada de asincronias y polisincronias que caracteriza el mundo ficticio de Don Quijote. Demuestra que los distintos sistemas de temporalidad y las distintas perspectivas temporales que se resisten, se combinan, se dialogan y se pugnan en el texto tienen su origen y su punto de convergencia en el tiempo subjetivo vivido por Don Quijote, muchas veces plasmado en la forma de experiencia corporea. Asimismo intenta iluminar lo que Cervantes parece comunicarles a sus lectores acerca del tiempo como fenomeno vivido y la capacidad del mundo de la novela para captar el juego policronico que experimentan los seres humanos.

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CRITICS HAVE LONG NOTED the complex interplay of different temporal systems as a distinctive feature of Cervantes's Don Quijote, which is especially significant given the work's influence and global status as the first modern novel. For instance, Felix Martinez Bonati has observed that on entering the novelistic world of Don Quijote, readers find themselves in an at times disorienting, chronological labyrinth, in spite of the various temporal systems invented by Cervantes to create a unified, organized work, and to produce a narrative that gives the impression of basic linearity in temporal terms (96-98). Luis Murillo presents a complementary critical perspective, underscoring the conflictive tension between mythic and historical time as a fundamental aspect of Don Quijote's structure (18). And Mikhail Bakhtin, who has perhaps done more than any other critic in the West to elucidate the rich interplay of temporalities in fictional worlds, especially those of the novel, articulates Cervantes's initial deployment of temporality in the novel as an encounter between two, principal chronotopes, that of the best--selling, chivalric romances, with "adventuretime" rooted in the world of the ancient Greek romances, such as in Heliodorus's Ethiopica, with the "biographical" or "everyday--life" time of picaresque fiction, rooted in the world of classical satire, such as in Apuleius's Golden Ass. The resultant hybrid work, Bakhtin maintains, dramatically alters the representation of time in the text, and readers' perception of time, destroying "habitual matrices" of temporality, adding that this is just the foundational chronotopic clash of many other such clashes, of different types, in Don Quijote (Dialogic 165--66). With his concept of the chronotope, Bakhtin links time and space, and posits that chronotopes spatialize time, and as a result, abstractions such as temporality materialize or become visible in the text, that is to say, they are embodied by the characters and their world, and actualized when these personages interact with their environment (Dialogic 250-51). While Bakhtin does employ the term "polyphony" to characterize the dynamic, textual interplay of multiple voices as fundamental to his understanding of the novel, he stops short in a similar context of coining the term "polychrony," which can be defined as the dynamic interaction of multiple temporalities in a text, a notion implicit in his development of the chronotope and essential to the rich field of temporal interplay in Cervantes's novel, as well as the creation of the novel as a literary form. (1)

At the heart of Cervantes's temporal labyrinth lies the character of Don Quijote himself, whose reputation as a walking anachronism has become a commonplace in Cervantine criticism. This particular truism does hold true in a general sense, but as always in Cervantes's fictional worlds, when subjected to more careful analysis, a more complicated and meaningful range of issues emerges. For Don Quijote serves as the novel's originator and generator of asynchronicity, or the nonsynchronicity of multiple temporalities at play in the text, but Cervantes's protagonist, singular before Sanchos appearance, also provides the most important point of convergence for the multiple temporalities at play--the polychrony of this fictional world. …

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