Tilting at Tradition

Problems of Genre in the Novels of Miguel de Cervantes and Charles Sorel


Author: Daniel Syrovy
Don Quijote and Le Berger extravagant criticize fiction but come in the shape of novels. Far from breaking with their respective traditions, they engage with the chivalric and the pastoral in a creative manner. Genre and imitation are key notions for situating these novels in literary history and in the œuvres of Cervantes and Sorel. With emphasis on the continuity of each writer’s approach, Le Berger extravagant is considered in the context of Sorel’s aim to educate readers and avoid romance stereotypes, while the Quijote is read as an individual take on the chivalric novel, rejecting the Spanish tradition in favor of the ironic Italian romanzo cavalleresco. Like Cervantes’ Galatea and Persiles, Don Quijote reflects a specific tradition which in turn serves to illuminate the famous book. This study offers interpretations of the two novels, but extends its scope toward the authors’ other works and additional contemporary sources including Avellaneda’s 1614 continuation of Don Quijote.

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“Syrovy gelingt es, erhellende Schlaglichter zu werfen in jene Auseinandersetzungen in der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jh.s, in denen dem Roman seine Unwahrscheinlichkeit vorgeworfen wurde, in dem er moralisch zu sein hatte, in dem sich die Frage nach der imitatio noch im engen aristotelischen Sinne stellte und die erzählerische Konvention verschrien war. Syrovy stellt sich dabei der Bedingtheit einer nationalgeschichtlich angelegten Quellenforschung ebenso wie dem Problem, warum ausgerechnet ein experimenteller Autor wie Sorel sich für eine Literaturdidaxe stark machen konnte, die neben der moralischen Nützlichkeit der Romangattung ein rigoroses Zensursystem des Literaturbetriebs vorsah.”
– Frank Estelmann (Universität Mainz), in Literaturkritik.de (2014)
Full text available: http://www.literaturkritik.de/public/rezension.php?rez_id=19087
Part I: Charles Sorel’s Berger extravagant
By way of introduction: An early testimony
A brief word on method
Sorel’s poetics
Berger extravagant and Anti-Roman
The genre of the novel(s)
The structure of the Berger extravagant
The meaning of the Anti-Roman
Charles Sorel, novelist; or, the quest for vraisemblance
Conclusion: Novel or treatise?
Part II: Cervantes’ Don Quijote
Principles of method
First solution: Don Quijote as criticism
Cervantes’ stylistic tradition
Humor and genre
Cervantes and genre
Don Quijote as a chivalric romance
Part III: The Larger Picture
Cervantes and Avellaneda
Sorel’s Polyandre, a new histoire comique
Conclusion: Genre and ‘Parody’
Appendix: A Problem of Terminology