Metaphors We Laugh By: Rethinking "Don Quixote" and "Amadís of Gaul" through Embodied Cognition and Carnival

Felipe de Oliveira Fiuza, Purdue University


In my dissertation, I compare Don Quixote (1605) and Amadís of Gaul (1508) arguing that carnival is intertwined with laughter in a way that the phenomenon is behind all contexts where laughter comes to life. By laughter here, I don’t mean the aesthetic appreciation but the bodily response. No other chronotope, to use a Bakhtinian term, is better than carnival to examine this, because it is a time of the year, as described by Bakhtin, when the world is upside-down and rules of normal daily life do not apply, thus laughter is unleashed. I show that characters from Amadís of Gaul are disembodied, they do not have a sensory motor system guiding their actions and thoughts, while characters from Don Quixote experience life through their own laughable flesh. In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson propose that our reasoning is metaphoric. I have identified four conceptual metaphors that apply to all carnivalesque contexts: “the body is a grotesque thing,” “the soul is a sacred thing,” “mask is identity,” and “laughter is life.” I call these metaphors we laugh by, because I argue that carnival is a phenomenon intertwined with laughter. I call carnivalesque any chronotope where people are invited to set aside their problems, or worries, ignoring society’s rules and enjoying life together through laughter. Each chapter approaches embodied cognition and carnival through one of the suggested primary metaphors while comparing how they behave in Amadís of Gaul and Don Quixote. By doing this, I am able to: 1) discuss avoided subjects that appear in both novels, such as racism, gender, and swearing, in the light of carnival and embodied cognition; 2) define what makes a context carnivalesque using findings of modern cognitive studies; and 3) bring new angles to western understanding of carnival, Don Quixote and Amadís of Gaul by approaching them through the new perspective of embodied cognition.




Mancing, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Medieval literature|Romance literature|Philosophy|Cognitive psychology

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