DeVane Lectures to Look at Love, Law in Cervantes' Works

The intersection of love and the law in works by Spain’s most famous author, Miguel de Cervantes, will be explored in the spring series of DeVane Lectures, to be presented by Roberto Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a, the Sterling Professor of Comparative and Hispanic Literature and a William Clyde DeVane Professor at Yale this year.

Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a, one of the foremost experts on Spanish and Latin American literature, will explore how “the regulation of love by the early-modern Spanish state during the 16th century is reflected in Cervantes’ work,” as he noted in the course description for the DeVane Lectures. “Rapists, seducers, prostitutes, pimps, cuckolds, dishonored women, unfaithful wives, passionate poets and Don Quixote himself meet police, magistrates and other representatives of the law whose task it is to control desire in the name of the state.”

The lectures, which are free and open to the public, also serve as a for-credit course for undergraduate students. They will take place from 4 to 5:15 p.m. on Thursdays beginning on January 17 in the Davies Auditorium in the Becton Center on Prospect Street.

Nine of the lectures in the 13-part series will focus on Cervantes’ masterpiece, “Don Quixote de la Mancha,” the most well-known Spanish novel ever written. The work, which was published in two parts - Part I in 1605 and Part II 10 years later - has been translated into most of the world’s languages. Considered a satire on the chivalric romances then in vogue, it narrates the adventures of a delusional, elderly knight named Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza. Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a will also discuss Cervantes’ “La Galatea,” “Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda” and “Exemplary Stories.”

“The DeVane Lecture series is an opportunity to read along with me one of the classics of Western literature,” Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a said. “It is also an opportunity to learn something about Spanish literature of the Golden Age as we explore the development of Spanish law and legislation pertaining to sexuality as it relates to the origin and evolution of the modern novel.”

The first lecture on January 17 will be “The Prisoner of Sex: Love and The Law in Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote,’” which will explore a “Don Juan-type minor character, a prisoner being led to a galley” in Part I, chapter 22, of the novel, said Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a.

Other lectures will focus on Quixote’s love interest, Dulcinea; on love stories in the first part of “Don Quixote;” and on the relationship between Spanish law and literature. Further discussion of lecture topics will be offered in weekly sections led by graduate students. These will be offered in both English and Spanish.

A complete schedule of talks will be available on a future DeVane Lecture page on the Yale Web site. The site will also contain texts and illustrations of Cervantes’ works from a CD-ROM about the Spanish author edited by Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a. The CD-ROM received Choice magazine’s Outstanding Academic Book Award for 1998.

Books for the course are available at the Yale Bookstore on Broadway.

Gonz‡lez Echevarr’a, who is chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Yale, has written or edited more than 15 books on Spanish and Latin American literature and poetry. He coedited the three-volume “Cambridge History of Latin American Literature” and edited the recently published “Oxford Book of Latin American Short Stories.”

The DeVane Professorship was established in 1969 with a grant from the Old Dominion Foundation. It is named for a former dean of Yale College and honors his memory by addressing his concern that undergraduate education not become excessively narrow and departmentalized. An invitation to deliver the DeVane Lectures is considered a major honor for Yale faculty.

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