Don Quixote IV Centennial Anniversary Celebration: A great success!

October 19, 2015

Don QuixoteOn Friday, October 16th, the Department of Spanish & Portuguese wrapped up seven days of consecutive chapter readings in English and Spanish of the world's greatest novel, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha. This exciting celebration brought together approximately 200 people among faculty, staff, current students, alumni and public, who participated as readers, moderators, volunteers and audience. The symposium was opened by the departments' Chair, Prof. Anthony Cárdenas, who introduced the presenters. Assistant Professor Tatevik Gyulamiryan from Hope College, presented on “Toward a Poetics of Re-accentuation: The Image of Don Quixote in European and American Novels” followed by Associate Professor Isabel Jaén Portillo from University of Portland, and her presentation “Emotion and Human Development in Cervantes’ Don Quixote: The Case of Sancho Panza.” Subsequently, presenters and audience gathered for an evening reception led by Keynote Speaker, Distinguished Professor James Parr, from University of California Riverside. Prof. Mary Quinn oppened the reception with a special commentary about the Don Quixote read-athon:

"As you know, we have hosted a full reading of Don Quijote this week, reading out loud every single chapter of Don Quijote Parts One and Two, in both English and Spanish to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Part Two. First of all, a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in organizing and reading. The office staff-- Fabiola, Mayra, Luisa, worked tirelessly this week and many, many graduate students helped and participated in a myriad of ways—thank you to all of you. And also, of course, a big thank you to Tony Cárdenas, whose quixotic idea it was to put on this reading.

Tony asked me to say a few words about this marathon reading experience so I offer here a very brief reflection:

I asked my undergraduate class last week why should we celebrate the Quijote with a public reading? What was the purpose of doing this? They looked at me blankly for a few long minutes and then said: to create a community. Exactly, I said. A community of readers unified by a love of language, a belief in the power of the written word, and in the power of ideas. And perhaps for some, more specifically, a community united by a love of Spanish and of Cervantes. And yet, very in keeping with Cervantes, this community turned out to be a polyphonic one. Alumni, community members, faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, middle schoolers, children, monolinguals and bilinguals—there was a great variety in who read and in how they read. Some of us sang parts of the text, for example, others read in Spanglish, others read with accents from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil and northern New Mexico, to name but a few. Some read quickly and fluently, others slowly and haltingly. Some who read knew the text intimately, others vaguely, and still others not at all.

And so, much like the fictitious readers and listeners within the Quijote—those characters reading aloud to each other at the venta or those characters telling tales of their past as they ride horseback on the Castilian plains, we bring to the story what is important to us, and take from it, not what is prescribed, but what we each understand and interpret. Cervantes shows time and again in his text that this multiperspectivism is not something to be eschewed, but rather is to be celebrated, much as we have done this week. I read aloud 1-2 chapters each day this week, and oddly enough was most moved when I read to an empty room one evening, holding not my own edition, but Tony’s, seeing his notes and his commentary, not mine, alongside the text. Thus the readings gave us space to offer our own interpretations and also to be exposed to the interpretations of others. Cervantes asks us, both as readers of Don Quijote and as citizens of the world, to not be, “desocupados lectores” to not be idle readers. Rather Cervantes exhorts us to be careful readers, engaged citizens that grapple with these many perspectives, connect with them, discuss them, and ultimately celebrate them both in the quiet of our own homes late into the night as Alonso Quijano did, and out loud, in public, in places like this, as we all did this week. Thank you, thank you to all who participated in this momentous event."

The event concluded after Professor Parr's plenary presentation titled “Cervantes, His Immortal Duo, and the Book Itself.” The S&P Department acknowledges the Alumni for their donations and also thanks the sponsors listed here for their support in making this 5th Annual Homecoming Alumni Celebration possible and a great success. The proceeds of this event will benefit research and scholarship in the department. For video and event pictures please visit our Facebook page.