University of Delaware
As editor of a scholarly series, when I consider a good manuscript for publication, a crucial question I have to answer is: who must possess this book? If it appears to have a large identifiable audience, then it might be a viable title. Now, if Howard Mancing's good manuscript had come to me, I would have identified as its audience any Cervantes scholar and anyone who teaches Don Quijote in Spanish or in translation. I am sorry that this book did not come to my series.
This is the first book I know of that treats all of Don Quijote from the chivalric perspective. It is well conceived, well-reasoned, and convincing throughout. The book follows our novel virtually episode-by-episode, and can be used conveniently by those of us who want to upgrade our courses by using the chivalric slant it proposes.
The chapter titles follow Don Quijote's trajectory as a knight. The first chapter is called «Knighthood Exalted», and covers the first ten chapters of Part I. Mancing uses a number of tables and figures to show, for example, how Don Quijote uses more archaisms in these chapters than at any other time, and that as his use of archaisms declines, so does his enthusiasm for knighthood. Ordinarily I am not thrilled by statistics, yet I paid careful attention to the ones in this book because they served to prove a number of interesting points. (It is difficult to refrain from listing the major conclusions of the book, but I shall, so as to let the reader learn them on his own as Mancing explains them in his book.)
Chapter two, «Knighthood Compromised», deals with chapters 11-28 of Part I. How is knighthood compromised? By the introduction of Don Quijote's «Reality Instructor», Sancho Panza.
In chapter three, «Knighthood Defeated», we cover chapters 29 through 52 of Part I, from Micomicona to the return home in a cage.
Chapter four, «Knighthood imposed», surveys all of Part II, except for Don Quijote's death. We learn, among a multitude of other things, that Don Quijote really didn't want to go out on the third sally, but rather was forced to go.
Chapter five, «Knighthood Denied», discusses a number of topics to tie the book together -the pattern of pseudo adventures, Sancho's growth, minor characters, Cide Hamete Benengeli, as well as the death of Don Quijote.
In addition to following the chivalric trail of Don Quijote, Mancing has included dozens of what I call «one-liners of insight». These present -usually in a single sentence- an astonishing new way (at least to me) of looking at a particular feature of the novel. I'll cite a few of them here: «It is ironic that [Don Quijote's] famous 'yo sé quién soy' is uttered precisely at the moment when he assumes multiple identities» (p. 44). «The early morning departures of Part I symbolically present the knight riding optimistically into a new day. The departure at day's end that begins the third sally means Don Quijote —190→ rides into night, a symbol of his inevitable eclipse and eventual death» (p. 139). Fast readers and skimmers should take note: read this book detenidamente or you'll miss a lot of delicious information.
There is even more than the foregoing in Mancing's book. In one section (pp. 75-76), he shows how Sancho uses classical rhetoric in his speech made the morning after the fulling mills in a way that forces us to re-evaluate our view of Sancho. (This section was the basis of Mancing's paper at the recent AIH Congress in Venice, the highlight, for me, of the affair.)
Where I am convinced Mancing errs (and in this he is decidedly not alone), is in his identification of Cervantes, the author, with the 'yo' narrator, claiming that the unnamed narrator is the person whose name appears on the title page of the book. This is absolutely impossible; Cervantes was a person who lived in the real world -the narrator, the one who discovered Cide Hamete's manuscript, lived in the world of fiction, and there also resided the Arabic manuscript. Real people cannot live in the world of fiction, and viceversa -Don Quijote never saw the real la Mancha, and Don Quijote's narrator never set foot in the real Toledo.
I suppose that the careful reviewer should point out that there is a word used wrongly in Figure 1.7 (p. 36), which refers to «Don Quijote's Use of Chivalric Onomastics». Onomastics is the science of names -it would be better just to say «Don Quijote's Use of Chivalric Names». I can, and do, recommend this book to all those who read this Bulletin. Howard Mancing has established himself as an important Don Quijote scholar with the publication of this important book, and I look forward to his coming work.