When Spaniards say, “It’s all the Germans’ fault,” they could be referring to the European debt crisis. When British Hispanists say the same, they are most likely talking about the so-called Romantic interpretation of Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote. In his influential book The Romantic Approach to Don Quixote, the late Cambridge don Anthony Close assailed critics who read Cervantes’ work in a philosophical light for imposing “modern stereotypes and preoccupations” on a novel that, in his view, was written exclusively as a parody of the tales of chivalry predominant in the sixteenth century. Close’s Oxford ally P. E. Russell did him one better, asserting that Cervantes should not be considered to have “contributed anything of originality to the history of ideas.” The logic Russell used to support this claim was almost dizzying in its circularity, as it required him to stipulate—as a standard for establishing that someone has had a truly original idea—the presence of a contemporary who had expressed more or less the same idea. The agents-provocateurs of this most British pique were, as I indicated before, Germans. To be more specific, they were the thinkers and poets associated with or influential to the German Romantic movement of the early nineteenth century, most notably Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
more from William Egginton at Arcade here.