The Endless Text

Don Quixote and the Hermeneutics of Romance

By Edward Dudley

Subjects: Spanish Studies
Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature
Paperback : 9780791435267, 316 pages, October 1997
Hardcover : 9780791435250, 316 pages, October 1997

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Table of contents


A Prolegomenon for Romance: In The Beginning There Was Trouble with the Word

1. The Endless Text

"I Read; Therefore I Am": The Romance Discourse of Celtic Storytellers, Chrétien de Troyes, and Cervantes

Arthurian and "Other" Stories

The Trouble with Texts and the Blindness of Institutional Readings

The Hermeneutics of Unbelief

Why Real Men Don't Read Romance

What Happened to Romance: Transformation as Literary Form

2. The Celtic Reserve

Ireland, Wales and France

Logocentrism versus Romance

Celtic Narrative as Knowledge

The Hidden Text in Romance: Ontological and Epistemological Arrangements for Heroes, Heroines, and Narratives

Peredur/Perceval and the Grail Configuration: One Hero Two Ways

Reading and Romance

Gods and Closure: Ritual as Logos in Peredur

Peredur: The Bifurcated Epistemological Powers of the Hero

Perceval, The Inner Text

Other Suppressions of the Grail Castle

Chrétien's Perceval: The Knight of the Marche /Border Lord

Chrétien and the Art of the Impossible

Prologue to the Challenge

3. Don Quixote: The Reluctant Romance

The Story of the Name and the Name of the Story: Quijote>Quijada/Quesada/Quejana/Quijana/Quijano, etc., or Paradigms of Referentiality

The God of Thieves and Tricky Texts: The Inn of the Pig

The Hero's Arrival and Reception into the World of Romance

The Language of Chiasmus

The Hidden Story of a Hero

The Song of the Singer and His Song

The Windmill of Hell

The Danger at the Mill

The Story of the Three Mills as the Story of the Text

Mills, Herms, Marks, Borders

Disguise and Explain but Take No Prisoners

The Romance of Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics as Eros

The Inn of the Two Genres

Ginés versus Cardenio

The Stolen Language of the Picaresque versus the Forgotten Language of Women

The Revenge of Romance

Entrelacement versus Logocentrism

The Language of Dorotea and the Discourse of Disjunction

Communicative Incompetence

Otherworld Languages

Sailing to Byzantium

The Micomicona Artifice

Errancy as Artifice

Rescued by Romance: A Feminist Hermeneutic

The Importance of Losing Your Head

Spelling and Un-spelling Languages

The Performative Power of Language: The Celtic Geiss and Other Traumaturgical Acts

The Riddle of the Name

Reading beyond the Apocalypse: The Riddle of Dorotea

Coda: The Dark Night of the Word—A Sign of Trouble

Works Cited


Traces the history of chivalric fiction in Western Europe, from the earliest Celtic tales to the conflict between romance and realism in Don Quixote.


CHOICE 1998 Outstanding Academic Books

The Endless Text is the first study to trace the history of chivalric fiction in Western Europe, from the earliest Celtic tales to the conflict between romance and realism in Don Quixote. A set of specific rhetorical devices are traced through the development of medieval romance in the works of Chretien de Troyes, and a surprising number of these devices survive in Don Quixote: the troubled relationship between narrator and hero, the consistent image of the hero in contrast to the fluctuating portrayals of women, and the ways in which problems of retelling the story become part of the story itself.

An integral part of this rhetorical migration was the unstable referential value of the lexicon: for example, fish platters became holy chalices, and gods became heroes while goddesses and Otherworld women became evil enchantresses. It was this linguistic revolution that created the "hermeneutics of romance" and forced readers to interpret the unstable signs embedded in the text. Fear of how this played out in the reader's consciousness was the basis for the condemnation of romance by church and state. Ultimately, this critical approach provides a new formula for rereading Don Quixote, one that reinterprets the questions of what makes or unmakes a hero, what is free will in relation to destiny, and how the language of women differs from that of men.

Edward Dudley is Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at State University of New York at Buffalo. He has coedited El Cuento; The Wild Man Within: An Image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism; and American Attitudes Toward Foreign Languages and Foreign Cultures.


"Don Quixote establishes in this book a dialogue with its own proto-history, namely, romance. What makes this study extraordinary is how its conclusions about the relations between romance and feminism, male canon formation, and others, definitely project the text, in a decisive way, toward the present and the future and less toward tradition. This uncovering of many elements from the past is elaborated as truly relevant to our postmodern condition, and presented as a challenge to traditional logocentrism and, in that sense, it is a true critical tour de force.

"I like both the originality and the readability of this book, the development of a new hermeneutic and the resulting new reading of a classic text. I would not be surprised if, as a result of the publication of this book, specialists begin talking of a new kind of identifiable interpretive stand, similar to the 'Castro reading' or the 'El Saffar reading'--a 'Dudley reading' of Don Quixote." -- Francisco LaRubia-Prado, Georgetown University