In the early 17th century, a crippled, graying, almost toothless veteran of Spain’s wars against the Ottoman Empire published a book. It was the story of a poor nobleman, his brain addled from reading too many books of chivalry, who deludes himself that he is a knight errant and sets off on hilarious adventures. That book, Don Quixote, went on to sell more copies than any other book beside the Bible, making its author, Miguel de Cervantes, the single most-read author in human history. Cervantes did more than just publish a bestseller, though. He invented a way of writing. This book is about how Cervantes came to create what we now call fiction, and how fiction changed the world.
The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World explores Cervantes’s life and the world he lived in, showing how his influences converged in his work, and how his work—especially Don Quixote—radically changed the nature of literature and created a new way of viewing the world. Finally, it explains how that worldview went on to infiltrate art, politics, and science, and how the world today would be unthinkable without it.
Four hundred years after Cervantes’s death, William Egginton has brought thrilling new meaning to an immortal novel.
Borges cites innumerable authors in the pages making up his life’s work, and innumerable authors have cited and continue to cite him. More than a figure, then, the quotation is an integral part of the fabric of his writing, a fabric made anew by each reading and each re-citation it undergoes, in the never-ending throes of a work-in-progress. Block de Behar makes of this reading a plea for the very art of communication; a practice that takes community not in the totalized and totalizable soil of pre-established definitions or essences, but on the ineluctable repetitions that constitute language as such, and that guarantee the expansiveness—through etymological coincidences of meaning, through historical contagions, through translinguistic sharings of particular experiences-of a certain index of universality.
In his latest book, William Egginton laments the current debate over religion in America, in which religious fundamentalists have set the tone of political discourse—no one can get elected without advertising a personal relation to God, for example—and prominent atheists treat religious belief as the root of all evil. Neither of these positions, Egginton argues, adequately represents the attitudes of a majority of Americans who, while identifying as Christians, Jews, and Muslims, do not find fault with those who support different faiths and philosophies. In fact, Egginton goes so far as to question whether fundamentalists and atheists truly oppose each other, united as they are in their commitment to a “code of codes.” In his view, being a religious fundamentalist does not require adhering to a particular religious creed. Fundamentalists—and stringent atheists—unconsciously believe that the methods we use to understand the world are all versions of an underlying master code. This code of codes represents an ultimate truth, explaining everything. Surprisingly, perhaps the most effective weapon against such thinking is religious moderation, a way of believing that questions the very possibility of a code of codes as the source of all human knowledge. The moderately religious, with their inherent skepticism toward a master code, are best suited to protect science, politics, and other diverse strains of knowledge from fundamentalist attack, and to promote a worldview based on the compatibility between religious faith and scientific method.
The literature of Cuba, argues Eduardo González in Cuba and the Fall: Christian Text and Queer Narrative in the Fiction of José Lezama Lima and Reinaldo Arenas, takes on quite different features depending on whether one is looking at it from “the inside” or from “the outside,” a view that in turn is shaped by official political culture and the authors it sanctions or by those authors and artists who exist outside state policies and cultural politics. González approaches this issue by way of two 20th-century writers who are central to the canon of gay homoerotic expression and sensibility in Cuban culture: José Lezama Lima (1910–1976) and Reinaldo Arenas (1943–1990). Drawing on the plots and characters in their works, González develops both a story line and a moral tale, revolving around the Christian belief in the fall from grace and the possibility of redemption, that bring the writers into a unique and revealing interaction with one another.
The work of Lezama Lima and Arenas is compared with that of fellow Cuban author Virgilio Piñera (1912–1979) and, in a wider context, with the non-Cuban writers John Milton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, John Ruskin, and James Joyce to show how their themes get replicated in González’s selected Cuban fiction. Also woven into this interaction are two contemporary films—The Devil’s Backbone (2004) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2007)—whose moral and political themes enhance the ethical values and conflicts of the literary texts. Referring to this eclectic gathering of texts, González charts a cultural course in which Cuba moves beyond the Caribbean and into a latitude uncharted by common words, beyond the tyranny of place.
The Theater of Truth argues that 17th-century baroque and 20th-century neobaroque aesthetics have to be understood as part of the same complex. The Neobaroque, rather than being a return to the stylistic practices of a particular time and place, should be described as the continuation of a cultural strategy produced as a response to a specific problem of thought that has beset Europe and the colonial world since early modernity. This problem, in its simplest philosophical form, concerns the paradoxical relation between appearances and what they represent. Egginton explores expressions of this problem in the art and literature of the Hispanic Baroques, new and old. He shows how the strategies of these two Baroques emerged in the political and social world of the Spanish Empire, and how they continue to be deployed in the cultural politics of the present. Further, he offers a unified theory for the relation between the two Baroques and a new vocabulary for distinguishing between their ideological values.
A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture
A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture reflects the changes that have taken place in cultural theory and literary criticism since the latter part of the 20th century. Written by more than 30 experts in cultural theory, literary history, and literary criticism, this authoritative and up-to-date reference places major authors in the complex cultural and historical contexts that have compelled their distinctive fiction, essays, and poetry. This text provides the historical background to help the reader understand the people and culture that have defined Latin American literature and its reception. Each chapter also includes short selected bibliographic guides and recommendations for further reading.
This book is about interpretation as it pertains to literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. It argues against certain trends of thought that claim we should do without interpretation by demonstrating that interpretation, as described by psychoanalysis, is already a fundamental aspect of all human experience. Egginton examines the idea of interpretation developed by Freud; how that notion was in turn changed by Lacan; the debate around psychoanalytic interpretation staged by philosophers like Deleuze and Derrida; and finally how a psychoanalytic notion of interpretation is necessary for even the most basic experience of consciousness.
The application paradigm of literary studies, in which one spices up a text with fashionable theory, represents the bankrupt extreme of theoretical tendencies, while the denigration of theory in the name of historical accuracy at times covers for a simple and lamentable lack of anything interesting to say. To paraphrase (if not to bastardize) Kant, theory without history is blind, and history without theory is stupid.
Cuba and the Tempest: Literature and Cinema in the Time of Diaspora
In an analysis of Cuban literature inside and outside the country’s borders, Eduardo Gonzalez looks closely at the work of three of the most important contemporary Cuban authors to write in the post-1959 diaspora: Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929-2005), who left Cuba for good in 1965 and established himself in London; Antonio Benitez-Rojo (1931-2005), who settled in the United States; and Leonardo Padura Fuentes (b. 1955), who still lives and writes in Cuba. Gonzalez places the three Cuban writers in conversation with artists and thinkers from British and American literature, anthropology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and cinema, highlighting the positive experiences of exile and wandering that appear in their work.
Las Novelas ejemplares publicadas en 1613 constituyen, segun indica el propio autor, el primer ejemplo de relato corto en la literatura castellana, de acuerdo con el significado en esa epoca de la palabra “novela.” Esta edicion sigue la edicion principe de Juan de la Cuesta y corrige las posibles erratas.
William Egginton argues that the notion of the ethical cannot be understood outside of its relation to perversity—that is, the impulse to do what one knows and feels is wrong. The allure of the perverse, moreover, should not be understood as merely the necessary obverse of ethically motivated behavior; rather, from the perspective of a psychoanalytic understanding of the ethical, the two drives are structurally identical. This discovery leads the author to engagements with deconstructive thought and with contemporary gender theory. In the first, he shows that the insistent resurgence of the ethical fault-line inevitably drives even the most stalwart atheism to a theological moment. In the second, he argues that while “female philosophy” has successfully repudiated the subject-centered exceptionalism of “male philosophy,” it is precisely to the extent that it is understood to offer a kind of release from the perversity of ethics that it must fail as ethical utterances.
A browser’s delight of proverbs, just in time for the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’s classic, The Wit and Wisdom of Don Quixote de la Mancha distills the timeless insight and humor of the masterpiece into a charming gift-size collection ideal for any lover of literature and great quotations.
Decorated with rich illustrations and assembled with a historical introduction by Cervantes scholar Harry Sieber, the quotations in this book are arranged according to theme for quick reference. Readers will easily discover the perfect quote for any occasion or topic. From Love and Hope, to Prudence and Prosperity, to Honor and Honesty, Don Quixote is famous for countless proverbs that have stood the test of time.
After 400 years, these sayings are still with us today, and the best are gathered in this literary volume. In the words of the immortal Man of La Mancha, “Thou hast seen nothing yet.”
The Pragmatic Turn in Philosophy explores how the various discursive strategies of old and new pragmatisms are related, and what their pertinence is to the relationship between pragmatism and philosophy as a whole. The contributors bridge the divide between analytic and continental philosophy through a transcontinental desire to work on common problems in a common philosophical language. Irrespective of which side of the divide one stands on, pragmatic philosophy has gained ascendancy over the traditional concerns of a representationalist epistemology that has determined much of the intellectual and cultural life of modernity. This book details how contemporary philosophy will emerge from this recognition and that, in fact, this emergence is already underway.
How the World Became a Stage: Presence, Theatricality, and the Question of Modernity
What is special, distinct, modern about modernity? In How the World Became a Stage, William Egginton argues that the experience of modernity is fundamentally spatial rather than subjective and proposes replacing the vocabulary of subjectivity with the concepts of presence and theatricality. Following a Heideggerian injunctive to search for the roots of epochal change not in philosophies so much as in basic skills and practices, he describes the spatiality of modernity on the basis of a close historical analysis of the practices of spectacle from the late Middle Ages to the early modern period, paying particular attention to stage practices in France and Spain. He recounts how the space in which the world is disclosed changed from the full, magically charged space of presence to the empty, fungible, and theatrical space of the stage.