Madness and Laughter: Cervantes's Comic Vision in Don Quixote.
Bauer, Rachel Noël
This study examines the comic vision of Miguel de Cervantes as manifested in his masterpiece, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Employing theories stemming principally from Mikhail Bakhtin and Michel Foucault, I look at how Cervantes creates humor in his novel and how, in turn, his novel fits into the long tradition of comic literature. The heart of this study is Cervantes’s use of carnivalesque laughter and how it showcases the various cultural identities related to the Spanish Baroque. I focus on reading Don Quixote as forming part of the history of Menippean satire and likewise its relationship to carnivalesque humor. This type of humor intimates the defense of a different type of world that is not dominated by one particular identity or power (whether political, philosophical, religious, or even literary) and as a result is destabilizing in nature. Journey is an essential characteristic to both carnivalesque laughter and Menippean satire, because it necessitates displacement as well as creates spaces for the mixing and clashing of identities. Because it is also a central motif throughout Don Quixote, I examine its effect on the text and how it functions to create different types of humor. The Avellaneda-Cervantes dynamic is another important aspect in understanding the direction of comicality in Don Quixote, in that Cervantes’s humor was multi-directional whereas Avellaneda’s tended to accentuate laughter emanating from the top down. Avellaneda represents the type of humor associated with hierarchy and power whereas Cervantes’s has leveled the playing field. I not only analyze the authors’ differences with regard to comic strategies, but emphasize the importance of reading both works in order to better understand how Cervantes’s comic vision incorporates carnivalesque laughter and therefore enriches his text. The relationship between madness and laughter is another avenue of discussion in this study and I investigate the historical and ethical dimensions of laughter, especially with regard to madness from the vantage point of Erasmus and Humanism.