This dissertation engages in an interdisciplinary exploration of the figure of Melancholy in Cervantes cultural context. Interdisciplinary means here that this work will be interwoven by crossing discourses, texts from different origins andMoreThis dissertation engages in an interdisciplinary exploration of the figure of Melancholy in Cervantes cultural context. Interdisciplinary means here that this work will be interwoven by crossing discourses, texts from different origins and disciplines, involving the use of tools coming from literary theory, history of philosophy and social sciences.-Melancholy is a physical, mental and psychosomatic disease that encompasses a wide range of illnesses in Renaissance and Baroque literature and cultural texts in general.
This dissertation aims to show different forms of representation of this large topic in some of Cervantes writings, combining this task with an exploration of other views on the illness, coming from philosophical and medical texts. It intends to approach this rich constellation of melancholic portraits by providing critical readings of several sources, including their internal debates on the nature of melancholy.
This approach seeks to illuminate how this set of philosophical and medical texts is connected to Cervantes positions on the power of fiction to alleviate the effects of melancholy states of mind in readers. I specifically focus my work on his masterpiece Don Quijote as well as on two of his Exemplary Novels, El Licenciado Vidriera and El Celoso Extremeno.-As Carroll B. Johnson has stated in his work Don Quixote: The Quest for Modern Fiction every book is about its own time and if we are to try to approach Cervantes immortal work we have first be familiar with Spain between 1500 and 1615.
Like other literary monuments of Western Modern Culture, Don Quijote is frequently used as a pretext to abstract critical discourse from second hand references. This dissertation does not attempt such an approach, but rather seeks to build a frame for reading Cervantes representations of melancholy as symptomatic of a large-scale process of secularization and natural forms of explanation of the cosmos emerging in Europe at that period. The pervasive literary treatment of melancholy in the Renaissance and Baroque Spanish literature can be interpreted as a portrait of the suffering of separation from previous metaphysical large systems of meaning, pointing out the necessity of a new readjustment of the cognitive relationship between subject and world, as well as the social link between individuals and communities.
The character of the melancholic expresses a reaction to the ongoing transition from the medieval God-centered universe to an intellectual system that undergoes a secular impulse placing itself apart from traditional sources and hierarchies of truth. As Teresa Scott Soufas has stated in her influential book Melancholy and the secular mind in Spanish Golden Age Literature, at that period Catholic and post-Tridentine Spanish authors are engaged in a dialectical transvaluation of previous values, reexamining and redefining society and traditional norms, although not intending a radical inversion of reality or instigating revolutionary processes.
Cervantes novels represents one of the subtlest pieces of perpectivism in European panorama in the XVII century, demonstrating how a textual space can provide the means for a new reading relationship with reality and its forms of knowledge.