Peter Holbrook

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This chapter explores some ways in which the passions have been depicted in European literature, across a vast stretch of time. The long quarrel between literature and philosophy has many dimensions, but the different valuation placed on the emotions by each is at the bottom of it. Literature’s value, Samuel Johnson supposed, was that it conveyed knowledge – dealt not with one-off, transitory phenomena but permanent and universal types. The relation between literature and reality or experience is Cervantes’s overarching concern in Don Quixote. The absurd and fantastical romances beloved of the old knight are contrasted with the actuality of his life, with the bareness of everyday existence in rural Spain generally. The extended joke of the book depends on the mismatch between Don Quixote’s romance-fantasy life and the empirical world in which these fantasies actually play out.


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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Book Chapter

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