Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Languages and Cultures

First Advisor

Howard Mancing

Committee Chair

Howard Mancing

Committee Member 1

Patricia Hart

Committee Member 2

Ariel De La Fuente

Committee Member 3

Charles S. Ross


This study in two parts reexamines the notion that Don Quixote was originally seen as no more than a humorous story, and suggests that due to a variety of factors, a closer, more exegetical reading of the text may well be appropriate. In the first section of this work, focus is placed on the long history of the reception of the Cervantes novel as containing some deeper truth beneath the literal surface of the novel. This is complemented by a review of some examples of when several esoteric readings—done without academic rigor and adequate contextual research—have struck dramatically off-target and have read not between the lines but completely outside of the text of Don Quixote. The second part of this study proposes a new line of exegetical inquiry into the Cervantes classic, incorporating recent research in the field of cognitive science in tandem with contextual historical research to ask different questions and direct attention to areas heretofore only cursorily addressed. The novel is examined in the context of its historical moment—a time when the Spanish Inquisition was at its most catechizing, and had increased the scope of its sites to include Protestant Christians along with its traditional fare of Muslims and Jews in its campaign of forcible conversions to Catholicism. During this era, burning at the stake, torture, and imposed exile were routine techniques to deal with reluctant proselytes—and the world of literature was scrutinized for any messages of dissent from church doctrine—resulting in the creation of the first blacklist of banned books, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. In this second half of the study, a construction of a theory of mind of Cervantes is used to examine how, when confronted by an environment of religious oppression and intolerance and challenged by a policy of censorship, the author may have resorted to encoding a subversive discourse via ekphrastic descriptions of images connected to prohibited texts, religious movements, and schools of thought below the surface of his masterpiece. Indeed, the very names of the characters in Don Quixote, as well as the inspiration for several of the most iconic (mis)adventures of the novel are discussed and shown to have possibly been drawn from precisely these types of images. Of particular significance, the most (in)famous symbol of conflict of all time, originally used to symbolize resistance to religious oppression—the Ichthys of the early Christian church of Rome—is proposed as a possible source of the name "Quixote" based on paleographical characteristics, principles of cryptography, recent studies in visuality, and the particular wording of passages contained within Don Quixote.