This literature course might be out of your academic comfort zone, but offers the unique opportunity to learn about one of the most influential figures in Western literature, Miguel de Cervantes, his work and also about the city of Madrid where he lived, wrote and died. But some of you, living under the Age of Technology, might wonder what a literature course is for in the XXI century. The Humanities are considered the fragile disciplines nowadays, but many experts and intellectuals stress the vital importance of the humanities in higher education, noting that humanities courses help students to develop valuable skills that transcend disciplines -among them critical thinking, analytical reading, moral reasoning and imagination.
But what do the Exemplary Novels mean or represent today? Twenty first-century readers might find the volume just entertaining, or weird, but a close reading of this collection of short stories illuminates the depth of an experimental literary process that opens a window to Cervantes´ preoccupations and participation with his fictional works in some of the most hotly social debates of his time. This course explores literary representations of social, political and religious issues in Cervantes´ Exemplary Novels. We will look at this collection of short stories to analyze the relationship between literary fiction and its historic and cultural determinations. Also this approach will allow us to reflect on topics from Cervantes´ time that are still relevant in debates in contemporary Spain.
In 1613 Cervantes publishes in Spain the Exemplary Novels. The volume is a collection of twelve brilliant and sophisticated short stories that comes out a few years after Cervantes´ suddenly acquired fame. In his book the author of Don Quixote explores literary techniques and displays a myriad of topics and characters from his contemporary life: crime in cities, poverty, prostitution and public health, government corruption, gypsy communities, pirates and delinquency on the sea, religious tensions, madness and social alienation, etc.
Cervantes lives and writes during one of the richest and most remarkable periods of Spanish literature, but also under the decline of the Spanish Empire. The author of Don Quixote explores some of the main problems that affect a society that lives and struggles to survive under the monarchy of the Habsburg. The city is a common scenario in his stories: Madrid, Valladolid, Salamanca, and specially Seville and the Andalusia region where Cervantes spent a great amount of time.
BEYOND THE TEXTS¿
A list of visits and activities in Madrid and surrounding areas are suggested: from museums to convents, churches, synagogues, mosques, temporary exhibits, libraries, palaces or cultural institutions. This way students could learn about Cervantes´ time not only from his literary works but also from paintings and other fine arts, civil and religious architecture, manuscripts, theater and music.