Don Quixote and Catholicism
Rereading Cervantine Spirituality
Purdue University Press
Four hundred years since its publication, Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote continues to inspire and to challenge its readers. The universal and timeless appeal of the novel, however, has distanced its hero from its author and its author from his own life and the time in which he lived. The discussion of the novel’s Catholic identity, therefore, is based on a reading that returns Cervantes’s hero to Cervantes’s text and Cervantes to the events that most shaped his life. The authors and texts McGrath cites, as well as his arguments and interpretations, are mediated by his religious sensibility. Consequently, he proposes that his study represents one way of interpreting Don Quixote and acts as a complement to other approaches. It is McGrath’s assertion that the religiosity and spirituality of Cervantes’s masterpiece illustrate that Don Quixote is inseparable from the teachings of Catholic orthodoxy. Furthermore, he argues that Cervantes’s spirituality is as diverse as early modern Catholicism. McGrath does not believe that the novel is primarily a religious or even a serious text, and he considers his arguments through the lens of Cervantine irony, satire, and multiperspectivism. As a Roman Catholic who is a Hispanist, McGrath proposes to reclaim Cervantes’s Catholicity from the interpretive tradition that ascribes a predominantly Erasmian reading of the novel. When the totality of biographical and sociohistorical events and influences that shaped Cervantes’s religiosity are considered, the result is a new appreciation of the novel’s moral didactic and spiritual orientation.
Michael J. McGrath is a professor of Spanish at Georgia Southern University and a corresponding fellow of the San Quirce Royal Academy of History and Art in Segovia, Spain. His research focuses on early modern Spanish life and literature, with special emphasis on cultural studies, the comedia, Don Quixote, and intellectual history. He is the author of more than sixty publications, including two books based on archival research, La vida urbana en Segovia: Historia de una ciudad barroca en sus documentos and Teatro y fiesta en la ciudad de Segovia (siglos XVIII y XIX); the first English translation of Spanish priest Ruy López's chess treatise from 1561 titled The Art of the Game of Chess; editions of four of Miguel de Cervantes’s Novelas ejemplares; plays by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, María de Zayas, and Diego de San Pedro; articles that have appeared in the journals Cervantes, Comedia Performance, Bulletin of Comediantes, Estudios Segovianos, eHumanista, and Romance Quarterly; several book chapters; and over twenty book reviews. He has been the editor of Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs since 2008.