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Cervantes, Romantic Irony and the Making of Reality

Author(s): William Egginton

Source: MLN, Vol. 117, No. 5, Comparative Literature Issue (Dec., 2002), pp. 1040-1068
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Cervantes, Romantic Irony
and the Making of Reality

William Egginton

Irony is a deceptively simple trope. That a sentence means other than

what it appears to mean is all that is required to qualify it as ironic, at
least according to classical definitions. But a querulous history and a
virtual infinity of divergent viewpoints belie the ostensible sincerity of
irony's feint. The real point of departure in irony's trajectory is a
relatively modern one, one bequeathed by romanticism when its
poets and predicators chose this trope to be the standard of a new
understanding of the human and its relation to the world. At this
moment, a second genus emerged to house the swarming species of
ironic progeny: if the first had always been rhetorical, the new home
would be properly philosophical.
To say that a concept has become philosophical can itself mean
various things. So let us be specific: irony became philosophical when
it ceased merely to refer to how one used language and began to
describe a mode of being, an historical organization of consciousness.
This is what happened with romanticism, when Friedrich von Schlegel
first identified this trope as being somehow the essence of the new
art, an art that was not merely artifice but that reflected a fundamen-
tal-and fundamentally new-way of being. In his lectures on aesthet-
ics, Hegel will also admit that this is what has happened, but will
bemoan the deed and criticize the doer on the grounds that he-
Schlegel-is not really a philosopher, that his creation is a stillbirth, a
literally half-baked idea about which people have prattled on far too
long. In what follows I contest this charge, and argue that, whether
because of merely hasty reading or because of personal animosity,

MLN 117 (2002): 1040-1068 ? 2002 by TheJohns Hopkins University Press

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Hegel offers only a partial reading of the Schlegelian notion of iron

After presenting what I hope is a more complete version of Schegel
concept, I go on to argue that irony as a philosophical problem is
theorized on the basis of a series of narrative principles deriving in
large part from one book: Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quijote.
Cervantes, my argument goes, wrote the ground on which romanti
cism theorized itself. Finally, armed with a refined and historically
specified notion of irony, I return to Hegel, to demonstrate that th
irony, despite his protests and criticisms notwithstanding, is a
indispensable element of his own system of thought.
My beginning and ending with Hegel notwithstanding, the centra
argument of this paper has to do with Don Quijote and its relation t
romanticism and romantic irony, which means that what I argue her
will impinge unavoidably on one of the most persistent debates in
Cervantes scholarship: between those who treat Cervantes's work a
providing a foundation for asking questions of a "philosophical
nature, and those who criticize this approach as unhistorical.2 The
most influential critique of the philosophical or "romantic" reading
that of Anthony Close, who argues that the attempt to "accommo
date" the novel to "modern stereotypes and preoccupations" involve
a willful ahistoricism on the part of the critic.3 This position is als
held by P. E. Russell, who moreover denies that Cervantes can be
accurately read as having contributed "anything original to th
general history of ideas."4 My position is in fundamental agreemen
with the argument of Joan Ramon Resina, that there is nothin
unhistorical about a philosophical understanding of Don Quijot
(Resina 220). But whereas his argument is based on a detailed
demonstration that the philosophical or romantic perspective can
and in fact does incorporate the humorous elements of Cervantes'
writing-one criticism of the romantic approach being that it fails t
take humor into account (Russell 97; Close 2)-mine is that some of
the very "modern stereotypes and preoccupations" that Close a
tributes to romantic and post-romantic readings in fact owe their
existence to Cervantes's writing.
For the critics of the romantic approach, an original contribution
to the history of ideas could only be an idea that was consciously
conceived of and presented as just that: an original contribution. Bu
thisjudgment carries with it some enormous assumptions concernin
the nature of knowledge and historical change. Can we assume tha
only consciously recognized and intended utterances entail intellec
tual contributions? What if those conscious, intentional utterances

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themselves depend on an unarticulated ground or range of

ties which had to emerge in order for one individual to sayj
I am alluding, of course, to the limits of intentionalist rea
which-all talk of the "intentional fallacy" aside-quite simp
take into account that the author might be saying quite a d
than whatever he or she ostensibly intended to say.
Indeed, if the intentionalist-historicist5 methodology dep
unearthing the limits of what Cervantes could have intended to
the basis of what others writing within his historical context d
say,6 then it runs afoul of a serious methodological quand
author is granted the possibility of having intended a given
tion only if the historian is able to find, in the documents form
author's intellectual context, evidence that someone else
uttered the intention. However, having established these pa
for identifying the possibility of the author's having inte
contribution, it becomes clear that the intention we have determined
in our author will never count as an "original" contribution, because
if we are to determine that it is really what was intended, then by our
own stringent historicist rules we will have already located at least one
other thinker who actually uttered the thought. Hence the impor-
tance of a methodology of literary-historical research that does not
put such primacy on the alleged authorial intent.
In the conclusion to The Romantic Approach, Close makes a state-
ment I assume we can safely take as representative of the attitude of
all the critics I am arguing against: "We are essentially concerned in
literary criticism with what literature means. We presuppose that what
is meant was what was intended, because we are congenitally unable
to do otherwise" (RA 249). Over the next two pages he modifies his
intention with regard to the phrase "what was intended," arriving
eventually at the distinction between "intentional activity" and the
"capacity to rationalise it," by which I take it he means "put it into
sentences." While admitting that Cervantes might not rationalize his
intentional activity in the same way the historicist critic would, he
insists that "we have to imagine him [Cervantes] being able to assent
to them [the rationalizations] once their terms had been made clear
to him" (RA 251). It is important to emphasize, however, that if we
historicists succeed in traveling back in time and making clear to
Cervantes certain terms being applied to his work, we will have also
changed the nature of Cervantes the author and his relation to the
world, for it is precisely by means of adding new concepts and relating

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them to existing ones that people come to have d

and new ideas.

The notions of "epistemological irony" and the "making of reality"

that I formulate in these pages would not have made much sense t
an unadulterated Cervantes. Indeed, there would be a lot of clarifyin
to be done for them to be acceptable to the very romantic thinkers
who I claim conceptualized them for the first time. Nevertheless,
still claim to be making true, and historically accurate, statements
about the "meaning" of the texts I discuss. How is this possible? Close
ends his book with a criticism of the presentism implicit in th
argument that we cannot be interested in a work of art withou
somehow feeling that it is of our own time. Such an argument "make
the assumption that there is a temporal zone 'Our Time' freed from
the ties of history, and within which all that has been created is
accessible to us in terms of easy and natural familiarity" (RA 252). Bu
Close and the intentionalist-historicists who share his way of thinking
have made another, equally prejudicial assumption: that there is a
temporal zone "Cervantes's Time" freed from the ties of the present
and within which all can be observed and commented on without

disturbing its primordial and objective rest. Such a zone does n

exist, because the road to the past must always be built with the
of the present. My "romantic" reading of Quijote should be und
stood in this light.

Hegel's Critique of Irony

In the introductory lectures in which he prepared his 1820s Be

audience for a systematic framing of the principal question
aesthetics, Hegel deals with the question of irony in a way that
become more famous for its dismissive tone and cursory analysis
for its actual content.7 In this passage, Hegel correctly credits Friedr
von Schlegel as the first theorist (in the romantic sense) of irony
then goes on to describe and condemn a version of irony mo
striking for its utter lack of similarity to Schlegel's. Hegel justifies h
dismissal of the aesthetic category of irony entirely on its supp
heritage from Fichte's philosophy, "insofar as the principles of t
philosophy were applied to art" (A I, 119).8 For Hegel the philoso
cal essence of irony is to be found in Fichte's epistemology, and
insistence on the primacy of the ego: "With respect to the clos
relation of Fichte's statements with the one tendency of irony

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need only emphazise the following point: that Fichte identifie

absolute principle of all science, reason, and knowledge the
specifically the quite abstract and formal 'I"' (A I, 119).9 Whi
appears to be limiting this connection to only one tendency o
(mit der einen Richtung) in fact his criticism of the concept
at all times a criticism of Fichte's idealism, and of nothing el
As regards this one tendency of irony, then, it is characteri
Hegel by these three, fully Fichtean, aspects: first, it is, as stated
based on the ego as an abstract and formal principle. Sec
particular, objective content of the ego's world is negated by
that it has existence only through the ego, and therefore n
exists in and for itself but only as produced by the ego's subjecti
I, 120).'1 Finally, because the ego is a living being, it must realize
in a world populated by other living beings; however, when
realizes its individuality in an artistic way, as an artist, this i
converting this real world into a world of appearances depen
every way on his caprice. He is not bound by reciprocal relati
rather looks down on them from the heights of his creative
knowing that he is at any time as free to destroy them as h
create them. Having outlined this critique of Fichtean ideali
applied to art, Hegel nonchalantly attributes the entirety of h
adversary to Schegel, saying "This irony was invented by Mr. Fri
von Schlegel, and many others have prattled on about it and c
to prattle on about it still" (A I, 121).11
This first tendency of irony, then, deals principally w
negation of external reality. The second half of Hegel's crit
aimed at a further possibility, in which the world-negating ego f
take satisfaction in its self absorption and begins to thirst for so
and substance, for specific and essential interests (so dass es
Durst nach Festem und Substantiellem, nach bestimmten und
wesentlichen Interessen empfindet) (A I, 122). Ultimately the ironic
genius not only negates the objective world but negates in fact
everything-the Divine, the noble, the great, and finally its own artistic
endeavor and its very subjectivity. This inevitable tendency in irony
Hegel calls "infinite absolute negativity" (unendliche absolute
Negativitat), which, he concedes, is a moment in his own dialectic.
When the apostles of Romanticism take this moment, however, as the
true end and essence of art, they are deceived in that they fail to see
what Hegel has seen: infinite absolute negativity-in which the Idea
negates the infinite and universal so as to become finite and particu-
lar, and then again negates finitude and particularity in order to

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reestablish infinity and universality in the finite and particula

only one moment in the progress of the Idea (A I, 125). Romantic
with its praise of irony, has simply jumped off the train too soon, a
mistaken a moment of the process for its whole result.

Schlegel on Irony

Hegel is correct in attributing to Schlegel the romantic, and he

modern, notion of irony, a notion that must be clearly distingui
from its predecessors. Until its romantic adaptation, irony rema
solidly in the field of rhetoric, and while a broad typology existed, a
acknowledged forms derived from the central idea of "a figure
trope dependent on stating the opposite to the intended meanin
But it is clear that the romantic version of irony graduates from be
a mere tool of rhetoric and begins to signify an event or an entit
existential proportions. As Glicksberg puts it,

Romantic irony represents the outcropping of subjectivity in its m

extreme form. The romanticists fled from an unknowable and intolerable

"reality" into the inner fastness of the self. Romantic irony is thus to be
identified, for better or for worse, with this outbreak of subjectivity, a
rebellious impulse on the part of the literary artist to rise above the
restrictions of reality. Irony provided an essential expression of the
Weltanschauung of the romantic temper.13

Glicksberg is under the influence of a thoroughly Hegelian interpre

tation of irony's trajectory, accepting uncritically its ostensible origins
in Fichte's philosophy and propagating the consequent thesis of irony
as the literary sign of an emerging subjectivity, where subjectivity is
understood as a philosophical embellishment of rampant subjectiv-
ism. Nevertheless, he grasps, as did Hegel, that the irony identified
and theorized by the romantics has exceeded the bounds of rhetoric
and entered the realm of the individual's experience of selfhood and
the world. This realm of human experience falls under the rubric of
"subjectivity," but the term suffers the weakness of failing to distin
guish itself sufficiently from mere "subjectivism." For subjectivism, the
heart of what Hegel criticizes in the notion, is not what is at stake in
Schlegel's concept, which nonetheless does posit irony as being both
particularly appropriate to the Zeitgeist of his time and having every-
thing to do with the individual's experience of self and the world.
Depending on what period of Schlegel's career one focuses on, one
will find a variety of often confusingly divergent definitions of irony.14

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My purpose is to draw from this variety of formulations three

principles of irony, and to demonstrate that none of thes
understood as an expression of rampant subjectivism, but ra
in all cases the definition treats of a complex and balanced
between subjective and objective poles. The three formulat
(1) irony is the paradox of self-consciousness; (2) irony
epideixisl5 of infinity; and (3) irony is the structure of love.
Perhaps the principal philosophical structure of romanti
enunciated by Schelling in his description of existence as an
tension between the idea-undetermined, the essence of human
freedom, the expression of desire, of a reaching beyond the here and
now-and reality-the dead, physical limits of a contingently deter-
mined world.l6 In a world characterized by such a tension, the
consciousness of self that forms the essence of human being faces an
impressive paradox. Because human being consists of both spirit and
matter, self-consciousness requires the simultaneous occupation of
mutually contradictory categories: on the one hand one must be
conscious-a characteristic of ideality-of oneself as part of the
world, as material being; but at the same time one must be conscious
of oneself as consciousness. As a material being, one exists as an
element in a causally determined chain of being. But as an ideal
entity one is essentially undetermined. Equally disturbing is the effect
of self-consciousness on the subjective/objective polarity: as con-
sciousness one is a subject in relation to the objective world; but self-
consciousness must be simultaneously the subject grasping and the
object being grasped.
In light of this philosophical problematic, Schlegel identifies irony
as the form of paradox itself.'7 Irony is the very form of paradox
because it refers, most specifically in artistic production, to the act by
which consciousness pulls itself up from its conditioned nature as
material being and apprehends itself as simultaneously conditioned
and unconditioned, as partaking of spirit and of the world. In this way
irony not only signifies the paradox of consciousness, it participates
in it: it is "[t]he freest of all licenses, since by way of it one overcomes
oneself; and also the most lawful, since it is unconditionally neces-
sary" (PJ II, 198).18 As self-conscious beings, in other words, we cannot
avoid being ironic.
Such an understanding of irony, however, can no longer be the sole
domain of the artistic genius. Indeed irony seems to take on a double
life in Schlegel: as on the one hand a principle of human existence,
and on the other an artistic discovery proper to the romantic

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movement. But then the same could be said of romanticism in

general, which was thought by all involved to be both an histo

specific artistic movement and a stage in the development of
sciousness that humanity had at long last attained. Accord
Hegel, for example, with the advent of romantic art, the na
beauty and of the relation of the Idea to art had to be grasp
deeper way than had hitherto been possible, and profoundly
nected to this change was the fact that "[t]he concept for itse
thinking spirit now on its side came to know itself more dee
philosophy and thus did the essence of art become imme
graspable in a more fundamental way" (A I, 62).19 The art
exercising his unique ability to overcome himself (sich ub
selbst wegsetzen) in his art, is simultaneously revealing an asp
the essence of spirit, or free self consciousness. For Schlegel
revelation is the result of art and philosophy merging in
practice, whereas for Hegel it is a sign that art has run its cou
that spirit may now reveal itself through the application of
reflective thought.
The paradoxical nature of irony as the supreme index of ar
creation would then seem to be an instantiation of the self-referential

paradox, or a poetic manifestation of any of the paradoxes made

possible by self-reference. Poetry, theater, any act of representation
that includes itself and its very creation in what is being represented
fall into this category. The ironic representation itself partakes
neither entirely of the representer nor of the represented, but rather
oscillates eternally between the two, creating an effect that Schegel
likens to the infinite proliferation of images in two facing mirrors:
"And yet it (the irony) can also float, free from all real and ideal
interests, on the wings of poetic reflection, between the represented
and the representer, making this reflection ever more potent and
multiplying it as in an endless row of mirrors."20 Irony in Schlegel's
sense, then, is art that has become conscious of itself and, by dint of
this consciousness, infinitely self-reflexive. It is, to use the famous
phrase, poetry of poetry or, to draw an analogy, metatheater, theater
in which the actors play characters who in turn are actors playing
characters.21 For Schlegel, the representation itself becomes an
analogy for creative consciousness. Consciousness is not an expres-
sion of pure, arbitrary subjectivism, but rather is instantiated by the
paradox of artistic creation: it is neither the creator nor the created,
but rather the paradoxical space between the two.
The second of the formulations can be found in Schegel's own

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words: "Irony is, so to speak, the epideixis of infinity."22 To und

this formulation we need to refer back to the tension underly
previous formulation of irony as paradox. This tension
variously as one between determined and undetermined exis
between the ideal and the real, and between the subjective co
ness and the objective world. The analogy for this tension i
realm of representational practice is the relation between a s
a referent or, to make the analogy clearer, between a series
and some objective whole to which the series refers. In the o
series of opposed terms, the notion of infinity lay on the sid
ideal, or of consciousness, and was opposed to a physical worl
in its essentially determined nature, was perceived to exhibit
of finitude in relation to the unbounded freedom of the ideal. That

physical existence might itself be deserving of the predicate infinite,

in the sense of infinitely extended space, was dealt with prototypically
by Hegel with his notion of "bad" infinity, an endless, meaningless
alteration or negation of the finite, devoid of the divine element of
spirit.23 For Schlegel the semiotic relationship has the curious effect
of reversing this philosophical commonplace, in that the sign, in the
hands of the poet, makes of mundane reality a mystical whole, and
does this by injecting the real with the quality of infinite significance.
Poetry is romantic, then, insofar as it denotates (bezeichnet) "the
tendency toward a deep, infinite meaning" (PJ II, 364, quoted in
Romantische Ironie 67).24 Although the whole, "das Ganze," can no
longer be equated with such an idea as mere reality, we need not
assume the working of some mystical, esoteric agency. By writing of
the world the poet bestows meaning on something-inert exist-
ence-that would remain meaningless independent of poetic inter-
vention. By bestowing meaning on reality the poet makes of reality a
vessel of spirit-makes, in other words, the finite infinite. The poet's
words, then, produce meaning while at the same time indicating a
further meaning beyond those words, a meaning that tempts con-
sciousness ever forward, ever outward, and yet never satisfies it. It is
this tendency, and this relation between consciousness and the
infinite, that Schlegel associates with irony.
Just as the second formulation derives in part from the first, so does
the third unfold from the second. If we were to schematize the

second formulation it would look something like this:

[Art] -+ the Whole = Meaning

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or, "meaning" is what mediates between "art" (conceived of

framed) and "the whole" (unframed, uncontained existence). What
becomes clear from this schema is that the active ingredient of this
dynamic relation is in fact the frame, in that it is the frame that
establishes the possibility of a projection of infinite meaning into the
whole. It is the frame, in other words, that puts art into relief against
the greater background of the real, and that consequently invites
consciousness to continue its quest for meaning beyond the confines
of the frame. The frame, insofar as it fulfills this function, is irony.
It should be clear, however, that by invoking the notion of a
"tendency" Schlegel has introduced what we might call a libidinal
element into the dynamic relationships constituting romantic art, a
libidinal element that we can perhaps associate with the contempo-
rary popular usage of the term "romantic" in all languages as "having
to do with love."25 This libidinal element becomes central in the last
of the Schlegelian formulations-irony is the structure of love-with
which Schlegel completes the fusion of artistic method and human
psychology. This fusion is clarified by the following analogy: as art is
to the whole, so individual being [Dasein] is to being in general. In
schematic form, the resultant formulation is

[Dasein] -+ Being = Love

where love is now the mediating term between a framed Dasein and
unframed being. Just as with the previous schema, the operative
principle-what I have indicated with the brackets and referred to as
a framing function-is irony: "The true irony ... is the irony of love.
It springs from the feeling of finitude and one's own limitations, and
from the apparent contradiction between this feeling and the idea of
infinity inherent in any true love."26 It is the contradiction between
the selfs own feeling of finitude and limitation and the idea of
infinity that is the origin of irony, and it is this contradiction as well
that characterizes the libidinal dimension we call love.

To sum up, Schlegel's concept of irony, far from being a monolithic

application of Fichtean ego-philosophy to artistic practice, can be
characterized by a series of three propositions, none of which i
reducible to an expression of pure subjectivism. In the first formula
tion, irony is positioned at the crossroads of philosophy and art and
marks the coming to self-consciousness of artistic practice. In this
view, irony encompasses any and all manifestation in artistic practic
of what we have called the self-referential paradox, the representation
that includes itself within itself. Insofar as the creative consciousness

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finds itself in its own creation, it infuses that objective crea

meaning, and endows it with the attribute of inifinity. H
second formulation of irony describes it as an epideixis of
The experience of the self as a bound entity in a boundless
of meaning then introduces a libidinal element into the dy
irony, an element that emerges in the third formulation, i
irony is equated with love, the force of attraction pulling D
of its familiar territory and into the world of infinite meanin
light of this interpretation of irony, and its full associati
romanticism in Schlegel's system, that we must understand
that Don Quijote is the only through and through romant
(Romantische Ironie 79).

Epistemological irony

According to Bertrand, when Schlegel encountered Don Qu

1797 his ideas on irony were largely established (Bertrand 22
have seen, however, Schlegel's irony-concept is multi-faceted
it in its complexity one needs to consider his writings from
out his career.27 That some early aspect of Schlegel's think
irony had already been solidified by the time he read Don Quijo
nothing about the extent to which the book influenced the t
his conception. But regardless of whether one can claim Cer
the direct influence behind Schlegel's and in general G
romanticism's notion of irony, it can certainly be argued
Spanish author had an important hand in fashioning the c
world28 in which the romantics lived and wrote. Bertrand says
himself, when he asks: "But why did Schlegel make right aw
large place for the Spanish poet in his aesthetics? Why, if n
Cervantes responded to the new needs of his spirit and be
work placed him on the route toward new ideas?" (Bertrand
want to argue that if Cervantes' works, and in particular Do
corresponded to some set of "new spiritual needs" of Schleg
romantics, that is so precisely because Cervantes put into p
kind of world and temper that their writings would later t
Cervantes, in other words, created the ground from which
cism thought itself.
To understand the nature of this ground, let us recall th
Schlegel, art and philosophy were converging on a new man
of human being, and that his concept of irony aimed to des

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essence of that new spirit. The three formulations of that concept that
we have derived imply a common, schematic structure: a frame
distinction in which "reality" appears as a representation that poten
tially includes the representer and the act of representation within its
diagetic space. In large part, Cervantes may be said to be the creator
of a new genre precisely insofar as he uses the medium of the written
word to develop techniques of self-referentiality to their paradoxica
extreme. Recall that what is at stake here is not "subjectivity" as it is
commonly understood. As many medievalists have argued, a stable
first person narrator figure is detectable in European writing from as
early as the 12th century.30 Rather, what is at stake is a technique that
projects the very act of literary creation into the literary world being
created, that short-circuits, in other words, a barrier dividing the
fictional and the real.

a) Fictionality. Strangely enough, the act of short-circuiting the

barrier between the fictional and the real is-by a kind of retroactive
efficacy-constitutive of that very distinction. To understand this
apparently paradoxical formulation, we need to first consider Luiz
Costa Lima's distinction between the fictional and the fictitious.
According to Costa Lima, prior to and during the 16th cent
written discourse was consistently submitted to one inexorable s
dard: to what extent did it correspond to the truth? If works w
judged as morally detrimental, this was so on the basis of t
falsehood. Such falsehood-a shortcoming in the face of a gen
truth-standard-Costa Lima refers to as fictitiousness.31 Under the
aegis of the Aristotelian interpreters of the 16th century, a fictitious
work would be condemned for its lack of verisimilitude. Such, in fact,
is the basis of those condemnations of the romances of chivalry that
form the literary-critical backbone of Don Quijote.
Quijote's great antagonist in the battlefield of criticism is his old
friend and would-be censor, the canonigo. In the following passage the
canon distinguishes his engagement with writing from Quijote's on
the basis of his ability to discern truth from falsehood:

For my part I can say that when I read the tales of chivalry, as long as I avoid
thinking about the fact that they are all lies and frivolity, they give me some
enjoyment. But when I realize what they are, I throw the best of them
against the wall, and would even throw them into the fire if I had one close
by, which they richly deserve, as false and deceiving and outside of the
treatment required by common nature, and as inventors of new sects and

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new lifestyles, and as giving the common people reason to bel

accept as true all the stupidities they contain. (Q I, 566-7)32

The potential pleasure of reading is, for the canon, a pleas

exists in the moment of a forgetting, of a failure to in
prohibition that should, he feels, be automatic, instantane
this prohibition is not against lies per se, it is rather a pr
against the very forgetting that begets this potential plea
forgetting to situate all writing within the jurisdiction of the
of truth.

Don Quijote, on the other hand, is not to be judged mad on the

basis of such a forgetting to judge. He too sees no other option but to
judge writing against the criterion of its verisimilitude. His failure is a
failure within the confines of the verisimilar, a failure to distinguish
correctly between truth and falsehood. Quijote merely believes false
facts to be true. His response is never-nor could it be-that the
criteria of truth and falsehood are not pertinent to the case at hand,
but rather that his interlocutor must be mad to think that these truths
are in fact lies:

For to wish to persuade someone that Amadis didn't exist, and that neither
did all the other adventuring knights of which the stories are filled, is to
wish to persuade that the sun doesn't shine and the ice doesn't freeze and
the earth doesn't sustain life; for what genius exists in the world who could
persuade us that there is no truth to that of princess Floripes and Guy de
Bergofia, or that of Fierabras and the bridge of Mantible, which happened
in Charlemagne's time, and which I swear is as true as right now is daytime.
(QI, 568)33

Perhaps the butt of Cervantes' joke, then, is not-as the traditional

"Enlightenment" reception would have it-the novelas de caballeria
themselves and all the outmoded ideologies they implied, but rather
the failure of his contemporaries to recognize the possibilities of a
new space of reading, a space in which the tribunal of truth no longer
held sway. Quijote is a comical figure; but the way he is comical is not
qualitatively different from the way the canon or any of the other
figures pontificating on literature are comical, because they apply to
reading standards that are, for Cervantes, no longer appropriate.
For Costa Lima, the standard these characters are applying to
literature rests on the distinction between the verisimilar and the

fictitious. The space opened when one forgets to apply this standa
is the fictional.

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Against the naivete pre-supposed by pre-Cervantine fictitiousness, ba

on the illusion that its own territory is not to be distinguished from tha
truth, modern fictionality is based on irony, on distancing, on the creat
of a complexity that without alienating the common reader, does n
present itself to him as a form of illusionism. (Dark Side 7)

This space of the forgetting-this suspension of judgement

opens the door to modern fictionality-is allied in Costa Lim
thought with irony. Irony is the name for that frame distinction th
allows the reader to coexist with writing without having to brin
bear on it the distinction-generating mechanisms that guide him
her through daily existence.
The distinction between reality and fictionality, then, is the fu
tion of the establishing of a framework such that the contents of th
framework are no longer experienced as beholden to the ru
governing the outside of that framework. But this definition begs th
question, because what is at stake is precisely the process by wh
readers became capable of this function, of experiencing writin
fictionality. The best tool to help us conceptualize this proce
Erving Goffman's frame analysis.34 For Goffman, any number
creatures exhibit the ability to, as he calls it, "key" a given fra
Keying is that maneuver by which the value or meaning of a cer
action or set of actions is implicitly suspended by the participant
the action. Animals engaged in play that resembles fighting
keying their actions. When we refer to a discourse genre, say chivalr
romance, as false, we are simply, with the canon, making explicit wh
was already implicitly the case: that the content of that discou
genre is (or ought to be) keyed in relation to other discourse gen
(edifying histories, for example). From this perspective, Quijot
madness results from a failure to key what he ought to be keyin
failure he attributes in inverse form to his interlocutors: men who are

keying and hence falsifying what ought to be treated as true.

This first result of keying-what we will call primary keying-
establishes the distinction between verisimilitude and fictitiousness.

The space of fictionality is brought into relief by a secondary keyin

that treats the first distinction as the content of the frame to be keye
since in fictionality the distinction between the verisimilar and th
fictitious is precisely what is not taken seriously. Because the prima
keying, however, is still an operation performed by an agent, secon
ary keying is essentially a self-reflective act: the agent of secondar
keying must experience him or herself as at least a potential participant

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in the activity being keyed, because that activity is a primary in

of the very activity he or she is now engaged in.
If we represent primary keying with the following schema:

A - V[F]

or "an agent keys the fictitious with regard to the verisimilar," then
secondary keying would take on the following schematic form:
A - R[ A - V{F}]

or, "an agent keys with regard to reality some fictional space, in which
an agent is keying the fictitious with regard to the verisimilar." If we
read the first agent as any reader of Cervantes's novel, the second
agent then becomes that reader's representative within the space of
the novel-one or the other interlocutor locked in heated battle over

the value of chivalric romance (and who, as the case may be, is getting
it all wrong). Therefore, unlike the at times purely fantastic realm
the fictitious, what occurs in the fictional could also occur in realit
The space of the fictional, in other words, is viable, is a world in which
a reader can imagine him or herself participating. The self-reflexiv
short-circuit between the agent of the primary keying and the agen
of the secondary keying is, therefore, a necessary constituent of th
new distinction between reality and fictionality, and it is this tech
nique of short-circuiting that represents the fundamental innovatio
of Cervantes' fiction.

b) Reality. It appear at first hard to reconcile this interpretation

with Foucault's highly influential argument that Don Quijote's mad-
ness is a result of his being in the wrong episteme, that he is a "man
of primitive resemblances" caught in a modern world in which "the
cruel reason of identities and differences makes endless sport of signs
and similitudes."35 The fact that other characters constantly remark
on how Quijote comes across as entirely sane except when engaging
with the topic of chivalry would seem to support the contention that,
if Quijote is a representative of a bygone organization of knowledge,
his contemporaries are in most ways just as lost as he is. They are lost
insofar as they have not yet learned the "fictional" technique of
dissociating writing from the truth standard generally applied to life.
The play of identities and similarities that characterizes Foucault's
"classical" age of representation might be seen in this light as an
epistemological effect of a narrative practice that relativizes reality with respect
to a series of reports concerning its nature.

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Epistemology, as its critics are fond of pointing out, takes

model a spectator who distinguishes between the "truth"
or she is seeing, which is corrigible, and the fact that h
seeing something, which is judged to be incorrigible.36 T
tion evolves into that between noumena and phenom
ultimately into the epistemological deadlock in which th
subject cannot come to know anything of certainty reg
"thing in itself." An episteme in which knowledge was con
an imminent expression of the real, the "prose of the wo
not presume such a distinction: "species" or phenomen
perceived as inseparable from-qualities of-certain nou
stances; it would not occur to anyone to think of certai
experience as essentially more or less corrigible than oth
in other words, would not be a distinguishable entity abou
could have more or less correct perceptions, because perc
statements about perceptions would be part and parcel o
reality, all portions of which would be beholden to the sam
of judgment. If such was the case when the world produc
prose, what sort of a narrative practice might have the
relativizing that reality with respect to reports concerning i
It is of course my claim that the narrative practice in q
best exemplified by Don Quijote, a novel whose overriding th
contrast between reality and its various renditions on t
differently positioned characters. Let us consider the ca
helmet of Mambrino. Quijote has attacked a poor barber
him of his barber's basin, convinced that he is an enemy
that his barber's basin is in fact the long lost and much co
Helmet of Mambrino. When confronted by Sancho's laug
the helmet's appearance, Quijote explains the series of ad
that must have occurred in order that the helmet should
present, broken condition, which he implicitly admits fal
short of a great warrior's helmet:

You know what I think, Sancho? That this famous piece of th

helmet must have, by some strange accident, come into the
someone who didn't know to recognize or esteem its value,
knowing what he was doing, seeing that it was made of the pur
must have had the other part melted down to take advantage
and from the remaining half, he made this, which looks lik
basin, as you say. (Q I, 260)38

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The logic of this dispute is thus: "we see the same thing
disagree as to its nature, as defined by its origins," which
satisfy Sancho, especially given that he has taken advantag
adventure to exchange his old packsaddle for the barber's n
But Sancho's opportunism comes back to haunt him w
same barber later recognizes him and his packsaddle an
Sancho and Quijote of theft. While fighting over the packs
barber announces to all present that Quijote and Sancho had
from him by force at the same time that they took his bras
basin. At this point Quijote intervenes, claiming that the
mistaking a magic helmet for a barber's basin only proves that
error about anything else he is claiming:
So that your graces see clearly and manifestly the error in which
squire has fallen, well, he calls basin what was, is, and will eve
helmet of Mambrino, which I took from him in a good fight, and
I made myself the master with legitimate and licit possession. A
question of the packsaddle, I'm not going to get into that; what I w
that my squire Sancho asked my permission to take the trappings
horse of this defeated coward, with which to adorn his; I gave it to
he took them, and if they have turned from trappings into a pack
only explanation is the usual one: that such transformations are
in the events of chivalry; for the confirmation of which, run, S
son, and bring out the helmet that this man claims is a basin. (Q

Sancho, of course, is less than enthusiastic about going to f

"helmet," since he knows that it is in fact a barber's basin,
evidence might persuade the others present that he has no
the packsaddle (a right that is already suspect given Q
interpretation of the packsaddle as "jaez," a charger's tr
Moreover, Quijote himself remains somewhat uncertain as
stand he should take in regard to the "trappings," which Sa
the barber are both referring to as "packsaddle." The m
willing to assert is that if they have in fact turned into a saddl
this is not so surprising, since such transformations are th
tional hazard of knight-errantry.
The chapter that ensues is appropriately titled "Wherein i
resolved the question of the helmet of Mambrino and the p
and other adventures having occurred in all truth."40 Cer
habitual reference to the notion of truth is especially rema
this chapter, which is in many ways concerned with the very n
Truth. Seeing the opportunity for an excellent prank,

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barber friend, "nuestro barbero," immediately weighs in and, claim

ing the authority of an expert in the field, strenuously denies th
other barber's claims that the yelmo is a bacia.

Sir barber, or whoever you are, know that I am also of your profession, an
I have been for more than twenty years and have a certificate of examin
tion, and I know very well all the instruments of barbery, without missin
one; and not more or less was I in my youth a soldier, and I also know wha
a helmet is, and a morion, and a headpiece with a visor, and some oth
things about soldiering, I mean, about the weapons of a soldier; and I say
excepting better judgement and subjecting myself to better understand
ing, that this piece before us and which this man has in his hands not only
is not a barber's basin, but is as far from being one as white is from bla
and truth from a lie. (Q I, 529-30)41

Truth, as I said above, is what is in question here, and it is worth

noting that "our" barber's implicit standard of truth is equivalent
the distance between the essence of a thing and a report made abou
The basin, he insists, is as far from being a basin as truth is from
falsehood. The other barber, it follows, is either deceived or lying.
He is of course deceived, and quite purposefully, by the compan
ions, who are having some good fun at his expense. One by one the
enter the fray, until finally the nobleman don Fernando suggests th
they resolve the issue democratically and proceeds to take a secre
ballot, with the unanimous result that the ass's packsaddle is judged
to be a horse's trappings, and the basin a helmet. We should n
make the mistake here, however, of reading this scene as some sort
statement about the undecidability of reality. There is no questio
but that this is a joke, and that in "reality" the packsaddle and th
basin have never been anything but what they are. In one of the
book's great comic moments, Quijote is even heard to say that, if th
want his opinion, the packsaddle looks like a packsaddle, but that h
is not about to, as he said before, take a position on that matter. Ou
reading, therefore, should not be that reality has become undecid
able, but precisely the opposite: the truth of the identity of the object
in question is guaranteed by the existence of an independent realit
that we, as observers outside of the framework of the narrative, can
confirm.42 In other words, the characters at hand can argue about the
nature of their perception precisely insofar as we, the readers, have a
concept of reality that is independent of their various reports. As
Rorty puts it by way of a criticism of the epistemological "world-view,"
its assumption is that you can have reality in one hand and a sentence

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about reality in the other and compare the two to see if they m
It is precisely this world-view that Cervantes is busy constructi

c) Irony's paradox. As I suggested above, Cervantes' prose m

well characterized as a pushing of the paradoxes resulting f
referentiality to their logical extremes. Examples of this th
Don Quijote are legion. One need only mention the abyss of
frameworks in which the actual authorship of the story we are
is couched: we the readers are presumably reading a transla
accuracy of which at times comes into question) the narrato
a manuscript he found in a market, ostensibly written by a
historian; Cervantes himself (who might be the narrative
referred to obliquely as an historical figure (in the captive's
476); and the entire vortex of authorship falls into tempora
when, in the second book, the adventures of the first book have
already been published, distributed, read, and even translated into
other languages although only a month has passed since their first
outing.45 This collapsing spiral of self-referentiality corresponds well
to the novel's overall obsession with its own medium of transmission,
that is with its focus on the relation between frame and content.
Already within the telescoping framework of authorship the nove
content begins to adopt a similar form, in which Quijote and Sanch
become the audience for interpolated stories, which they in turn
reflect on.

In this light, the transition between the novel of 1605 and that of
1615 can be seen as one between a world in which we the readers

laugh at the characters for not knowing how to read fiction, a

world in which a new subgroup of fictional-readers/readers-of fictio
has been born, a population that simultaneously came of age
became fictional by reading the 1605 novel. For it is certainly t
fundamental and significant difference between the two-the dif
ence that makes of 1615 another novel and not merely a sequel-t
the entire structure of the narrative has become doubly self-reflecti
The characters of part two are now often characters who, like us, ha
read 1605 and from it learned the art of secondary keying, hav
learned to actively forget to submit writing to the tribunal of tr
and thereby create a world capable of experiencing the bizarre
the fictitious as possibilities of the imagination.
Within the borders of their reality, the effect for the characters o
this generalization of fictionality is that the previously sound distinc
tion between the fictitious and the real is sundered, and characters

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everywhere start to lose their bearings. Perhaps one of the mo

beautiful examples of this loss-of-reality effect is the episode of
lackey Tosilos. In this episode, the duefia Rodriguez, being hers
somewhat simple of mind, has asked Quijote-who is now be
treated as a fictional character by the Duke's court-to rescue in r
life the honor of her daughter, whom a nobleman and friend of
Duke has deceived with a false promise of marriage. When Quij
presents his challenge to the Duke, the Duke accepts in his frie
name, and then orders his lackey Tosilos to play the role of
deceiving nobleman. But on the day of the battle, when Tos
dressed the role of a knight ready for battle, first lays eyes on
duena's daughter, he falls in love with her for real and, instead
crossing lances with Quijote, renders himself and agrees to marry he
When he takes off his helmet and the duena and her daughter
that it is not the nobleman but the Duke's lackey whom the daug
will marry, they strenuously protest. Quijote, however, addresses the
complaints by suggesting that the new husband is still, in fact,
nobleman, but that his countenance has been changed to that of
lackey by enchanters jealous of Quijote's latest victory. His advic
the daughter is to accept the offer of marriage from a man "w
without doubt is the same you wish to attain as a husband" (
449),46 to which the daughter evetually responds: "Whoever it is
asks my hand I thank him; for I would rather be the legitimate wife
a lackey than the dishonored lover of a gentleman, which he w
dishonored me is certainly not" (Q II, 450).47 What we see in th
scene is a double collapse of the borders between the fictitious
the real and the opening of the space of the fictional: on the on
hand, the lackey playing a role realizes that role by really falling
love within the confines of a game, and subsequently speaking
words from a fictitious position; the daughter, on the other ha
recognizes an offer proceeding from the fictitious as potentially mor
real than that which she had set her hopes on, and in effect real
its potential by accepting it.
Realizing the fictitious, stepping across a border that had pre
ously been sealed, implies a space with a new quality: viability.
fictional space is viable precisely insofar as characters from one
of a frame distinction can feel they occupy the same space
characters on the other side-that they can, for instance, fall in
with those characters or, at the very least, identify with them. But
maneuver, inherent to the experience of fictionality, entails to its fu
extent the paradox of self-referentiality, the paradox of a creator wh

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creates him or herself in the very act of creation, who is both su

and object, simultaneously and, in a sense, seamlessly.
Perhaps the most renowned version of the self-referential p
is the liar's paradox, in which a listener is asked to judge whet
speaker of the statement "I am lying" is in fact lying or tell
truth.48 The listener is unable to answer consistently, becaus
speaker is judged to be speaking the truth, then by his own r
is lying, but if he is judged to be lying, then his report that
lying is true. One, Lacanian, solution to this paradox is to arg
it is not in fact a paradox for one who is a subject in the proper
A subject is one who is always divided into two agencies, lingu
speaking, which Lacan labels the subject of enunciation
subject of the utterance.49 The liar's paradox is merely a dem
tion that the subject is never entirely identical to himself,
cannot, in other words, simultaneously occupy the "I" of enun
and the "I" of the utterance. When analyzed in this form, the
lying," breaks down into "The I of the enunciation is reporti
the I of the utterance is lying," and there is no longer any parad
push this a bit further, the reason there is no paradox is rea
there is no true self-referentiality; one can only refer to a repre
tive of oneself, in this case, a linguistic shifter.
Analogously, the self-referentiality of fictionality, which we s
atized as

A - R[ A -+ V{F}]

must be hiding a fundamental disjunction between the A outside the

frame and the A inside the frame, which we should therefore
schematize as A and A', the agent who represents and the agent as
represented.50 Given that this liar's paradox and its resolution are
structural element of fictionality, it should not surprise us that they
should make an appearance in Don Quijote, as they do in the following

A foreigner to the landlocked island of Barataria, now formidably

governed by the great Sancho Panza, presents to the famed governor
this problem: there is a river over which spans a bridge, at the end of
which there stands a gallows. Presiding over the bridge and gallows
are four judges, whose job it is to pass judgement over those who
would cross, on the basis of their answer to the question "to where
and what purpose are you going?" (Q II, 410). If the travelers answer
truthfully, they are allowed to go in peace; if they are determined to
have lied, they are to be executed on the spot. At the moment,

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however, the judges are in a quandary over the answer given by

recent traveler, "that he was going to die on those gallows over ther
(que iba a morir en aquella horca que alli estaba) (Q II, 410). A
the classical formulation, if the traveler is speaking the truth th
will die on the gallows, then the judges should let him go in peac
which case he would be lying, and the judges should have h
executed, etc.
Sancho Panza's solution is suggested by the logic of fictionality
the part of the man that lied be killed and the part that told the tru
go in peace.

I say then, now-said Sancho-that of this man that part that swore the
truth shall be allowed to pass, and that part that spoke a lie shall be hung,
and in this way the condition of passage will be met to the letter.
But sir governor-replied the petitioner-it will be necessary that the
said man be divided in parts, in truth telling and lying parts, and if he's
divided, he must per force die, and in this way what the law asks is not
satisfied, and yet we must satisfy the law. (Q II, 410-11)51

As the petitioner notes, Sancho's judgement would imply the death of

the traveler, since to let one part of him go and to hang the other part
would necessitate cutting him in two.52 To which Sancho replies that
since the reasons for condemning him and releasing him are equally
balanced, they should let him pass, because it is always better to do
good than evil.
Sancho's compassion must be seen here as an "unreasonable"
supplement to a "reasonable" law, a law that precisely on account of
its fidelity to reason-to the letter-is at odds with a humanity that it
cannot perfectly circumscribe. For the letter of the law demands of
the subject his self-identity, a self-referentiality without remainder
that the human, as a subject of language, cannot attain. To analyze
this dynamic in its historicity, however, we should precisely not say that
the subject has changed from a monolithic creature capable of self-
identity to a dualistic one lacking that capability. Rather, we should
stress a gradual alteration in the understanding of the individual's
relation to public discourse. The notion of an objective realm of
judgment as distinct from subjective experience-and hence the
grounding notion of "law" in the Occident-is emerging out of a time
when one's guilt or innocence in the face of the law was conceived as
inseparable from one's capacity to force all of existence (and hence
opinion) to the truth of one's view. The law passes judgment on A', on
that aspect of our selves that has, structurally speaking, the status of a

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fiction. A critique of epistemology may take much comf

notion that the philosopher's modern profession was
storyteller's technique; but the critic should also keep in
extent to which the most fundamental institutions of the modern
world owe their ground to this same fictionality, and to its ironi
fission of self-identity.

Back to Hegel

At the outset of this paper, I argued that Hegel had, in his Aesthetics,
misconstrued romantic irony, attributing it to an expression o
unbridled subjectivism inspired by Fichtean idealism. In this final se
tion, I claim that, whereas Hegel might have condemned his own
idiosyncratic interpretation of the Schlegelian notion, another no
tion of irony-narrativized by Cervantes and theorized by Schegel-i
everywhere present in Hegel's system.
In order to demonstrate this, it will be necessary to briefly rehearse
Hegel's historical argument and the position Cervantes and irony
hold in it. For Hegel, art, like religion and philosophy, is one of th
ways in which spirit manifests itself in the world, one of the ways spirit
moves along its historical path toward absolute self-consciousness.
Art, however, is a lesser manifestation than either religion or philoso-
phy, because art, although through and through spiritual, neverthe
less depends upon the sensual world for its expression. In the tim
that Hegel is lecturing to his students, art-or better, the period i
which art was the primary manifestation of spirit-has come to an

The establishment of reflection in our life today makes it necessary, as

much in relation to the will as to the judgment, for us to maintain general
points of view on which to base the regulation of particularity, such that
general forms, laws, duties, rights, maxims are what count as the grounds
of determination and are the principle ruling forces. For the interests of
art, however, as for the production of art, we require in general more of a
liveliness, in which the universal is not present as law and maxim but acts
as one with mind and feeling, just as in the imagination the universal and
the reasonable are contained only as brought into unity with a concrete,
sensual appearance. For this reason our present is in its general state
unfavorable to art. (A I, 49)53

Our present is not favorable to art because our culture has become
reflective, it has abstracted the objects of will and judgment into
general principles, duties, rights and laws, and these abstractions

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form the basis of social life, i.e., the life of spirit. But art does no
function in such an environment, because art belongs to a time or
culture in which spirit has not yet learned to abstract itself from t
living world. Art shows us the way in a time and culture when spir
has not learned how to simply say what it means in words, and wh
individuals are not capable of abstracting themselves from the
physical environments and conceiving of themselves as the ide
denizens of a universal state.

Romantic art was, for Hegel, the last step in art's trajectory. It was
an historical form invented in the high Middle Ages, and character-
ized by the turn to inwardness one finds in the ideologies of chivalry.
The three pillars of chivalry-honor, fidelity, love-perform in artistic
expression the newly found principle of infinite subjectivity: honor
constitutes the insertion of the entire individual into the substance of

a demand or prohibition; fidelity the insertion of the entire indi-

vidual into a political relation of personal, not abstract, nature; love
the insertion of the entire individual into a deliberate sacrifice of

independence to the beloved (A II, 607-33). But such rampa

inwardness leads necessarily to a desire for concrete actuality, w
the individual then searches for in representations, which becom
ever more "realistic" (rise of realism) and with which he or she c
then identify. Therefore, on the one hand we have the withdrawa
the individual into his or herself and the resultant extremes of

subjectivism that entails, and on the other the represented wo

characterized by a proliferation of more and more meanin
details independent of subjective intervention and constitutive
increasingly prosaic reality. These, then, are the conditions fo
end of art and for the beginnings of (modern, skeptical) relig
religion in which God becomes the equivalent of an answer to
question emerging from this sundering between the subject an
real. These conditions are also, it should be clear, exactly thos
Hegel criticized under the name of irony in the work of Schleg
his followers. But in that case, Hegel's anger would appear
directed not at irony per se, but at the tendency to conceive iro
an aspect of art instead of as the herald of its end.
For Hegel, Don Quijote is a romantic work not because of
thoroughgoing irony, but despite it. It is a kind of border wo
retaining on the one hand all the characteristics that Hegel fin
delightful in romantic art-Quijote's noble character, the inter
lated tales-and on the other hand tolling their death knells vi
ironic mockery of its very own contents (A II, 657). Romantic ar

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with Quijote because, quite simply, its time had come. Wh

form reveals what was previously concealed, this revelation
whatever interest the subject had in it, and the space is crea
new form, with a new purpose to be created. Such, for
Cervantes's relation to chivalry, to the heart and soul of roman
But then irony, insofar as it brings about the dissolution of art
be understood as fulfilling art's vocation, a vocation Hegel d
in the following words: "Against this must we claim that art is
reveal the truth in the form of the sensual art creation, to
that reconciled antithesis, and thereby it has its vocation in
this representation and revelation" (A I, 108).54
The reconciled antithesis in question is the one that h
badgering spirit throughout Hegel's lectures, between the
universal, logos, conceptual thought, on the one hand,
embodiment, passions, on the other. If this antagonism
revealed as already reconciled in art's last gasp, the revelat
only be the following: that the modern individual, the ind
whose world is no longer favorable to the production of art,
He or she is ironic in precisely the sense that I outlined abov
as his or her core experience of the world is fictional:
capable of differentiating (abstracting) his or herself as an
acting within the world. This secondary agent could be the
guides our identificatory adventures in fictional places, or
represents us in the abstract arena of public law, but the tr
revealed is that the individual is both, simultaneously and insep
the representer and the represented, the actor and the char
State University of New York at Buffalo


1 Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, 2 vols. (M

Catredra, 1996). Henceforth abbreviated to Q.
2 SeeJoan Ramon Resina, "Cervantes' Confidence Games and the Refashionin
Reality," Modern Language Notes 111.2 (1996), 218-221 for a summary of
positions. Henceforth abbreviated to Resina in the text.
3 Anthony Close, The Romantic Approach to 'Don Quijote' (Cambridge: Cambrid
1978), 249. See also Anthony Close, Don Quixote (Cambridge: Cambridg
1990), henceforth abbreviated to RA and Close respectively.
4 P.E. Russell, Cervantes (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985), 105. Henceforth abbrevia
Russell in the text.

5 I use this compound to distinguish from other scholars, myself included, who are
just as concerned with historicizing their readings, but who do so without
attaching much importance to the notion of authorial intent.

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6 E.g., E.C. Riley, Cervantes's Theory of the Novel (Oxford: Ox

7 G.W.F. Hegel, Asthetik, 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1976). H
to A in the text.

8 ". .. insofern die Prinzipien dieser Philosophie auf die Kunst angewandet

9 "Was nun den naheren Zusammenhang Fichtescher Satze mit der einen Richtung
der Ironie angeht, so brauchen wir in dieser Beziehung nur den folgenden Punkt
herauszuheben: dass Fichte zum absoluten Prinzip alles Wissens, aller Vernunft
und Erkenntnis das Ich feststellt, und zwar das durchaus abstrakt und formell
bleibende Ich."

10 "an und fur sich sondern nur als durch die Subjektivitat des Ich hervorgebrach
11 "Diese Ironie hat Herr Friedrich von Schlegel erfunden, und viele andere hab
sie nachgeschwatzt oder schwatzen sie von neuem wieder nach."
12 Dilwyn Knox, Ironia: Medieval and Renaissance Ideas on Irony (New York: EJ. Bril
1988), 149.
13 Charles I. Glicksberg, The Ironic Vision in Modern Literature (The Hague: Martinu
Nijhoff, 1969), 5.
14 For what follows on Schegel and irony, the clearest and most exhaustive study
Ingrid Strohschneider-Kohrs' Die romantische Ironie in Theorie und Gestaltu
(Tiubingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1977), henceforth abbreviated to 'Romantisc
Ironie.' I am largely in her debt for my understanding of Schlegel's conception o
15 Schlegel uses the Greek word to mean something between demonstration and
indication. In English it survives only as the adjective "epideictic," or demonstra-
tive, designed primarily for rhetorical effect.
16 This opposition also dominated the romantics' interpretations of Don Quijote. See
J.-J. A. Bertrand, Cervantes et le romantisme Allemand (Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan,
1914), 131; henceforth abbreviated to 'Bertrand.' See also Lienhard Bergel,
"Cervantes in Germany" in Angel Flores and MJ. Bernadete, eds., Cervantes Across
the Centuries (NewYork: Dryden Press, 1947), 322: "For Schelling, Don Quijote was
a mythical saga symbolizing the inevitable struggle between the ideal and the real,
a conflict typical of our world, which has lost the identity between the two."
Although there is no citation, he is probably quoting from Schelling's Philosophie
der Kunst.

17 Friedrich von Schlegel, "Lyceums-Fragment 48" in ProsaischeJugendschriften (Vienna:

J. Minor, 1882), II, 190. Henceforth abbreviated to PJ. Quoted in Romantische
Ironie 22.

18 Quoted in Strohschneider-Kohrs 22. "... die freyeste aller Licenzen, denn durch
sie setzt man sich uber sich selbst weg; und doch auch die gesetzlichste, denn sie
ist unbedingt nothwendig."
19 ". .. der Begriff fur sich selbst, der denkende Geist, sich nun auch seinerseits in
der Philosophie tiefer erkannte und damit auch das Wesen der Kunst auf eine
griindlichere Weise zu nehmen unmittelbar veranlasst ward."
20 Schlegel, "Athenaums-Fragment 116" in Kritische Schriften, ed. Wolfdietrich Raschm
(Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1964), 39: "Und doch kann auch sie [die Ironie]
am meisten zwischen dem Dargestellten und dem Darstellenden, frei von allem
realen und idealen Interesse auf den Flugeln der poetischen Reflexion in der
Mitte schweben, diese Reflexion immer wieder potenzieren und wie in einer
endlosen Reihe von Spiegeln vervielfachen."

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21 See William Egginton, How the World Became a Stage: Presence, Theatrical
Question of Modernity (Albany: SUNY Press, 2002), especially chapter 3.
22 Schlegel, Schriften und Fragmenten aus den Werken und dem handschriftlich
zusammengestellt und eingel (Stuttgart: E. Behler, 1956), quoted in Romantisc
66: "Ironie ist gleichsam die Epideixis der Unendlichkeit."
23 Hegel, Hegel's Logic, trans. William Wallace (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1975
24 ". .. die Tendenz nach einem tiefen unendlichen Sinn."

25 The true etymology is, of course, somewhat different: romantisch in German

proceeds from the tendency of the literary critics of that age to focus on th
literature and national identities of the Romance cultures, which literature was
written in the vernacular Romance (French and Spanish) in contradistinction to
the traditional language of literacy: Latin. By the 16th century the majority of
published material in the Romance vernacular was adventure literature of the
kind today denoted by the notion of "chivalry," and hence the Romances' central
connotation was this type of literature and its attending content of the dedication
of knights to their ladies. See Gumbrecht I, 185-6.
26 Schlegel, Sdmmtliche Werke (Vienna: Original Ausgabe, 1846), XV, 56, quoted in
Romantische Ironie 82: "Die wahre Ironie ... ist die Ironie der Liebe. Sie entsteht
aus dem Gefiihl der Endlichkeit und der eigenen Beschrankung, und dem
scheinbaren Widerspruche dieses Gefiihls mit der in jeder wahren Liebe mit
eingeschlossenen Idee eines Undendlichen."
27 For a resume of the different periods of Schlegel's thought, see Romantische Ironie

28 That Cervantes belonged to a different cultural world-Spain and not Ger-

many-should not cause us concern. Don Quijote was staple literature in Germany
from the appearance of its first translation in 1648. In fact, the 1605 book was
already familiar among the courts of German princes before the 1615 book was
published in Spain (Bergel, "Cervantes in Germany" 307).
29 "Mais pourquoi Schlegel fit-il tout de suite au poete espagnol une si large place
dans son esthetique? Pourquoi, sinon parce que Cervantes repondait a des
besoins nouveaux de son esprit et parce que son oeuvre le mettait sur la voie de
conceptions nouvelles?"
30 For a review of this literature see Luiz Costa Lima, Control of the Imaginary: Reason
and Imagination in Modern Times, trans. Ronald W. Sousa (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1988), 4.
31 Costa Lima, The Dark Side of Reason: Fictionality and Power, trans. Paulo Henriques
Britto (Stanford: Stanford UP), 6. Henceforth abbreviated to Dark Side.
32 "De mi se decir que cuando los [libros de caballeria] leo, en tanto que no pongo
la imaginaci6n en pensar que son todos mentira y liviandad, me dan algun
contento; pero cuando caigo en la cuenta de lo que son, doy con el mejor dellos
en la pared, y aun diera con el en el fuego si cerca o presente lo tuviera, bien
como a merecedores de tal pena, por ser falsos y embusteros, y fuera del trato que
pide la comin naturaleza, y como a inventores de nuevas sectas y de nuevo modo
de vida, y como a quien da ocasion que el vulgo ignorante venga a creer y a tener
por verdaderas tantas necedades como contienen."
33 "Porque querer dar a entender a nadie que Amadis no fue en el mundo, ni todos
los otros caballeros aventureros de que estan colmadas las historias, sera querer
persuadir que el sol no alumbra, ni el yelo enfria, ni la tierra sustenta; porque,
~que ingenio puede haber en el mundo que pueda persuadir a otro que no fue
verdad lo de la infanta Floripes y Guy de Bergofia, y lo de Fierabras con la puente

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M LN 1067

de Mantible, que sucedi6 en el tiempo de Carlomagno, que voto a tal qu

verdad que es ahora de dia?"
34 Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1974), 40-
35 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sc
York: Random House [Vintage], 1994), 49.
36 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeto

37 ... between objects of knowledge and objects of the senses.

38 "(Sabes qu6 imagino, Sancho? Que esta famosa pieza deste encantado y
algin estrano accidente debi6 de venir a manos de quien no supo c
estimar su valor, y, sin saber lo que hacia, viendola de oro purisimo
fundir la otra mitad para aprovecharse del precio, y de la otra mitad hizo
parece bacia de barbero, como tu dices."
39 "iPorque vean vuestras mercedes clara y manifiestamente el error en q
buen escudero, pues llama bacia a lo que fue, es y sera yelmo de Mam
cual se le quit6 yo en buena guerra, y me hice senor de el con legitim
posesi6n! En lo del albarda no me entremeto; que lo que en ello sabr
que mi escudero Sancho me pidi6 licencia para quitar losjaeces del caba
vencido cobarde, y con ellos adornar el suyo; yo se la di, y el los tom6, y
convertido en jaez de albarda, no sabr6 dar otra razon si no es la ordi
como esas transformaciones se ven en los sucesos de la caballerfa; para co
de lo cual corre, Sancho hijo, y saca aqui el yelmo que este buen hombr

40 "Donde se acaba de averiguar la duda del yelmo de Mambrino y de la albarda y

otras aventuras sucedidas con toda verdad."

41 "Senor barbero, o quien sois, sabed que yo tambi6n soy de vuestro oficio, y ten
mas ha de viente afos carta de examen, y conozco muy bien de todos los
instrumentos de la barberia, sin que le falte uno; y ni mas ni menos fui un tiempo
en mi mocedad soldado, y s6 tambien que es yelmo, y que es morrion, y celada d
encaje, y otras cosas tocantes a la milicia, digo, a los generos de armas de lo
soldados; y digo, salvo mejor parecer, remitiendome siempre al mejor entendi
miento, que esta pieza que esta aqui delante y que este buen senor tiene en l
manos, no solo no es bacia de barbero, pero esta tan lejos de serlo, como esta lej
lo blanco de lo negro y la verdad de la mentira."
42 With this statement I am not necessarily siding with the "realist" reading of D
Quijote as advanced by Spitzer in his influencial "perspectivism" essay. The poin
is rather that with Cervantes "reality" first becomes something about which on
can take "realist" or "anti-realist" positions. I therefore am still in complet
agreement with Resina's characterization of Cervantes's world as one "withou
ontological guarantee" (229). Where the ontological is guaranteed, reality is no
an issue. See also Jos6-Antonio Maravall, Utopia and Counterutopia in the "Quixote
trans. Robert W. Felkel (Detroit, Mich., Wayne State UP, 1991), 126-30, fo
further arguments concerning reality and its transmutations.
43 Rorty would not agree with the use of "world-view," because the whole point of h
argument is that the notion of differing world-views, or conceptual schem
through which we interpret the world, is misleading. For this argument see h
essay, "The World Well Lost," in his Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapoli
University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 3-18.
44 The "epistemological world-view" corresponds, of course, to the rise of skepticism
in western intellectual life. As Robbins argues, Spain was at the forefront of this

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historical development insofar as it "confronted most insistently

regarding knowledge and perception which lay at the heart of in
developments elsewhere in the conteintent," albeit "primarily via
fiction."Jeremy Robbins, The Challenges of Uncertainty: an Introduction to Se
Century Spanish Literature (London: Duckworth & Co, 1998), 41.
45 See Allen's note, II, 44.
46 "... que sin duda es el mismo que deseais alcanzar por esposo."
47 "Sease quien fuere este que me pide por esposa, que yo se lo agradezco; que mas
quiero ser mujer legitima de un lacayo que no amiga y burlada de un caballero,
puesto que el que me burl6 no lo es."
48 For an exhaustive history of the paradox and its various (attempts at) solutions,
see Alexander Rustow, Der Liigner, Theorie, Geschichte und Auflosung (New York and
London: Garland Publishing, 1987).
49 See, for example, Jacques Lacan, Ecrits (Paris: Seuil, 1966), 800-802.
50 With this division of the agent we are now also in agreement with Lukacs's
understanding of irony, "a formal constituent of the novel form" that "signifies an
interior diversion of the normatively creative subject into a subjectivity as
interiority, which opposes power complexes that are alien to it and which strives
to imprint the contents of its longing upon the alien world, and a subjectivity
which sees through the abstract and, therefore, limited nature of the mutually
alien worlds of subject and object, understand [sic] these worlds by seeing their
limitations as necessary conditions of their existence and, by thus seeing them,
allows the duality of the world to subsist." Georg Lukacs, The Theory of the Novel,
trans. Anna Bostock (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1973), 74-75.
51 "Digo yo, pues, agora-replic6 Sancho-que deste hombre aquella parte quejur6
verdad la dejen pasar, y la que dijo mentira la ahorquen, y desta manera se
cumplira al pie de la letra la condici6n del pasaje.
Pues, senor, gobernador-replic6 el preguntador-, sera necesario que el tal
hombre se divida en partes, en mentirosa y verdadera, y si se divide, por fuerza ha
de morir, y asi no se consigue cosa alguna de lo que la ley pide, y es de necesidad
expresa que se cumpla con ella."
52 Riistow suggests that Sancho's solution is just a dressed up version of Aristotle's
failed attempt, in which he explains away the paradox by claiming that any given
sentence can include true and false parts. This is clearly not the case of Sancho's
solution, however, which claims that the speakermust be divided into true and false
53 "Die Reflexionsbildung unseres heutigen Lebens macht es uns, sowohl in
Beziehung auf den Willen als auch auf das Urteil, zum Bediirfnis, allgemeine
Gesichtspunkte festzuhalten und danach das Besondere zu regeln, so dass
allgemeine Formen, Gesetze, Pflichten, Rechte, Maximen als Bestimmungsgriinde
gelten und das hauptsachlich Regierende sind. Fur das Kunstinteresse aber wie
fur die Kunstproduktion fordern wir im allgemeinen mehr eine Lebendigkeit, in
welcher das Allgemeine nicht als Gesetz und Maxime vorhanden sei, sondern als
mit dem Gemiite und der Empfindung identisch wirke, wie auch in der Phantasie
das Allgemeine und Vernunftige als mit einer konkreten sinnlichen Erscheinung
in Einheit gebracht enthalten ist. Deshalb ist unsere Gegenwart ihrem allgemeinen
Zustande nach der Kunst nicht gfinstig."
54 "Hiergegen steht zu behaupten, dass die Kunst die Wahrheit in Form der
sinnlichen Kunstgestaltung zu enthfillen,jenen vers6hnten Gegensatz darzustellen
berufen sei und somit ihren Endzweck in sich, in dieser Darstellung und
Enthullung selber habe."

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