Homecoming Festivals: The Re-accentuated Image of Don Quixote in Western Novel

Tatevik Gyulamiryan, Purdue University


The publication of Don Quixote (1605, 1615) impacted significantly the dynamics of Western literature. The renowned novel, which builds upon a considerable number of characters and episodes, is considered one of the most read and most analyzed pieces of literature in the world. This novel opens a wide platform for socio-political criticism, religious and cultural discussions, and literary analyses. For these reasons, critics read and study, and writers mention and imitate Cervantes’ novel up until today. A multitude of significant novels written by a variety of eminent authors share characteristics with Don Quixote, and thus become “quixotic”. Quixotic characteristics are usually derived from an episode, an action, or simply certain traits of the protagonists or the secondary characters of Don Quixote. Therefore, quixotic novels are considered to be grounded directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, in Quixote (Mancing). Nonetheless, many readers may encounter characters in various works who imitate Don Quixote in specific ways. These characters, who are defined by their quixotic aspects, become “re-accentuated”. The concept “re-accentuation” is first introduced in M.M. Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination. Bakhtin states that the image of Don Quixote has been re-accentuated multiple times and in multiple ways, just as the novel itself has been interpreted in different ways throughout history. Based on Bakhtin's statements, I define re-accentuation in literature as the changing or altering of an original character’s perceived image and the placing of it in a different context. The concept of "re-accentuation" can be an essential asset to the scholarship of the study of quixotic works in literature. I see this term and definition as new contributions to Cervantine scholarship, contributions that will help classify previously known quixotic concepts more clearly. I propose that to re-accentuate a character, one must have a fixed image of certain aspects of the original character. For example, there is a series of images of Don Quixote that facilitate re-accentuating the character. Four stand out: the image of 1) the reader, 2) the dreamer, 3) the adventurer, and 4) the lover. An example of a re-accentuated Don Quixote is Emma Bovary, the protagonist of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary. Emma dreams about a new life, filled with love; her adventures begin in result of her inspiration to find real love; and, of course, most of her ideas come from the books she reads. Another clear example is Monsignor Quixote, protagonist of Graham Greene’s eponymous novel, who enjoys reading religious books and philosophy, who is also a great lover of truth, begins having adventures on his way to Italy, traveling with his “squire” Zancas (Cervantes’ Sancho Panza re-accentuated) in his old car Rocinante (a mechanical re-accentuation of Don Quixote’s horse). In my dissertation I propose a new approach for categorizing Cervantes’ literary heritage coming especially from Don Quixote. It is common among scholars to use various terms to describe one broad concept that includes characters, literature and narrative techniques adapted from Cervantes. While there is a great number of works derived from Cervantine novel, there is also a big overlap among descriptive adjectives meant to specify works, characters and techniques. For example, novels derived from Quixote are referred to as quixotic, Cervantic, and Cervantine. I define these terms and suggest a new classification of Cervantine works, quixotic works, traits or characters, and, of course, re-accentuated characters. With this in mind, I put more stress on re-accentuated Quixotes in European, North American and South American novels. Each new re-accentuated character makes a new returning and, as asserted in my title, this returning is a “homecoming festival” in another context (Bakhtin). The homecoming festivals of re-accentuated Don Quixotes are celebrated in Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abby, Scott F. Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, as well as the previously mentioned Madame Bovary, and Monsignor Quixote. Most, if not all re-accentuated Quixotes appearing in these and other novels serve to introduce, criticize, suggest, and oppose different themes and topics, mostly depending on socio-political and historical situation of the country where those novels were published.




Mancing, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Romance literature|Literature

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