October 22-24, 2015


Itself a parody, Don Quixote has been parodied and plagiarized by countless artists throughout the world. Can plagiarism make the original the patrimony of humanity? Miguel de Cervantes may have set out to destroy chivalric novels, but his comic protagonist proved so enticing that, within a decade of his first sally from La Mancha, the ‘knight of the sad countenance’ was stolen by Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda whose unauthorized ‘continuation’ so enraged Cervantes that he finally completed his own Part Two, to discredit the ‘false Quixote.’ But, what claims to authorship could Cervantes assert, given that his creation himself imitates such famous literary precedents as King Arthur, Amadís de Gaula, and Tirant lo Blanch? What if Cervantes finished his novel only because he was a victim of plagiarism? Would Don Quixote have become the best-known work of Spanish literature had it not been plagiarized? If the printing press enabled the profitable proliferation of Cervantes’ original, how does electronic reproduction today keep his 400-year-old hero alive and well (despite Cervantes’ having killed him at the end of Part Two)?

Our inspiration

Don Quixote is one of only a handful of literary characters who has captured the imagination of readers and non-readers and has inspired imitation in virtually all languages and media. Recognized as the first modern novel, it raises such fundamental issues for contemporary culture as the role of the author, plagiarism, power, the exploration of the Self and the Other, mass culture, and of course, the relations between reality and fiction, life and art.

The Symposium

The 2015-16 Obermann-International Programs Humanities Symposium will focus both on Don Quixote in its 17th-century context and also on its long afterlife in world culture, including translation and adaptation to various media. The symposium will feature panel discussions, lectures and presentations by some of the most prestigious specialists in Spanish, Latin American, and global culture. In keeping with University of Iowa’s efforts to engage the growing Latino community in Iowa, the symposium will include a range of activities beyond the purely academic, in Spanish and English. The pedagogical role of this book in teaching and disseminating Spanish will also be prominent.