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Between Ser and Parecer: Reality and Subjectivity in Cervantes, Unamuno, and Borges

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dc.contributor.advisor Schönherr, Ulrich
dc.contributor.advisor Sacerio-Garí, Enrique Ikeda, Daniel 2013-07-29T13:22:16Z 2013-07-29T13:22:16Z 2013
dc.description.abstract In this thesis, I examine how three literary texts—Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quijote (1615), Miguel de Unamuno’s Niebla [Mist] (1914), and Jorge Luis Borges’s “El Zahir” (1949)—problematize the possibility of a stable, accessible “I” and, in doing so, call into question the prospect of separating appearance from reality and supplying knowledge with a measure of certainty. Using René Descartes’s skepticist hypothesizing in the Meditations as a foil, I contend that each author extends—and indeed comes to privilege—the skeptical conjectures that Descartes eventually discards. By rejecting Descartes’s argument that the “I” may know itself without meaningful interaction with the external world, each author, I suggest, places himself in a position that is at once antithetical to, and consonant with, the modern(izing) project that begins with Descartes. In forging such a “mentality of antinomy” in which notions of appearance/reality, rationality/irrationality, modernity/antimodernity, and realism/idealism are “held in juxtaposition” rather than “integrated” or deconstructed, Unamuno and Borges effectively excavate a Spanish Baroque tradition that begins with Cervantes and his contemporaries and purportedly dies at the close of the 17th century. In extending a Spanish Baroque ethos that resists the reduction of objects to either/or categorizations, Cervantes, Unamuno, and Borges present alternative conceptualizations of reality, conceptualizations that ultimately reject the binaries of mind/body and reality/irreality that Descartes constructs. In doing so, all three adopt positions similar to those of Francisco de Quevedo, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega, and their Baroque contemporaries, whose opposition to the epistemological developments occurring throughout the rest of Europe found expression in their privileging of contingency over universality, and their textured negotiations of ser [“to be”] and parecer [“to seem to be”].
dc.description.sponsorship Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Comparative Literature Program
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, 1547-1616. Don Quixote
dc.subject.lcsh Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, 1547-1616 -- Criticism and interpretation
dc.subject.lcsh Unamuno, Miguel de, 1864-1936. Niebla
dc.subject.lcsh Unamuno, Miguel de, 1864-1936 -- Criticism and interpretatio
dc.subject.lcsh Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899-1986. Zahir
dc.subject.lcsh Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899-1986 -- Criticism and interpretation
dc.subject.lcsh Reality in literature
dc.subject.lcsh Subjectivity in literature
dc.title Between Ser and Parecer: Reality and Subjectivity in Cervantes, Unamuno, and Borges
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Bi-College users only
dc.description.award The Barbara Riley Levin Prize

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