The exhibit in the Simpson Library was set up with the intent to educate and spread the lessons of the Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote. The challenge to read the entire novel is completed by few, but the work is widely respected and studied due to its impact on the literary world. The exhibit includes a wide array of works studying Don Quixote and his contributions to the literary world through the first modern novel. On display are works such as the translated novels of “Don Quixote” — one by Edith Grossman and the other by Samuel Putnam, as well as The Cervantes Encyclopedia. These works were selected for their unique qualities and strong themes relevant to the novel.
When it comes to choosing the correct translation of Don Quixote, one may become overwhelmed by the amount of choices there are. One translation included in the exhibit was done by Edith Grossman. Grossman was on born March 22, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Spanish. She continued on to earn a master’s degree from UC Berkeley, and received a Ph.D. from New York University (Wikipedia). She is an American Spanish-to-English literary translator and is believed to be one of the most important translators of Latin American language. Her interest in becoming a translator began in her undergraduate years when she translated the poems of Juan Ramón Jimónez. As she continued her education she discovered her passion for translating works of Spanish literature into English (Devaney). Grossman emphasizes the importance of translations and how they broaden the spectrum of learning. In an interview conducted by the University of Pennsylvania she comments on this notion by stating, “The United States publishes fewer translations than any industrialized country…. The publishers say there is no readership for them—the readers are turned off by translations” (Devaney). Throughout her career, she had numerous translations that were widely known and respected; the most famous being her translation of Don Quixote. Grossman published her translation on October 21st, 2003, making it one of the most modern translations. The translation gained recognition quickly and was lauded by many reputable sources. For example, an article by “the guardian” calls her translation, “a masterpiece” and goes on to say, “It has energy and clarity, and she has invented a robust style which is neither modern nor ancient.” (Byatt) Even Tom Lanthrop, a professor of linguistics studies and a fellow translator of the modern novel comments that Grossman’s translation is “best thing that has ever happened to Cervantes in this country.” (Lathrop). This translation was selected in order to show a great example of a trusted translation whilst serving as a comparison to Putnam’s less modern approach.
Samuel Putnam was born on October 10, 1892 in Rossville, Illinois and died January 15, 1950. Putnam attended the University of Chicago, but never actually graduated. Instead, he worked for various Chicago newspapers and became a literary and art critic for the Chicago Evening Post.”) He moved to Europe in 1927 and worked as an editor and publisher while simultaneously translating numerous works by French and Italian writers. Putnam returned to the United States in 1933. His interest shifted back to translating Latin American and Spanish literature and in 1949 his translation of Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote was published, which he had spent 17 years preparing (“Samuel Putnam American Author and Editor). Although the translation did not receive as much praise as Grossman’s, it was known at the time as the most reliable translation, to date. This translation was chosen due to the time of its publication and the unconventional experiences of the author. Putnam, a person who has lived in both Europe and the United States in the early portion of the 20th century, has had a different educational experience, and has lived through major events, such as the great depression, had a different way of looking at Cervantes’s novel than someone who is highly educated and possibly even a little sheltered like Grossman, a woman in the field with a strong educational background. This is apparent on the very first page of the novel with each translator showing different diction and tone. By choosing these two translation it shows the audience the variation of language and how much power the translator has when it comes to dictating the story.
Also, an important part of the exhibit is the addition of The Cervantes encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia was written by Howard Mancing, a professor in linguistics at Perdue University. (“The Cervantes Encyclopedia: L-Z.”) The encyclopedia explains the personal parts of Cervantes’s life as well as many other aspects of his life. It also looks further into some of his most famous works, especially highlighting Don Quixote. The page chosen is opened to the definition of “quixotism”. The encyclopedia defines quixotism as, “the impracticality in pursuit of ideals, especially those ideals manifested by rash, lofty and romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action. It also serves to describe an idealism without regard to practicality.”, giving a good explanation of the true meaning of Don Quixote. By choosing this page it teaches the viewers the dynamic of Don Quixote as a character. This, paired with the other elements in the case, give onlookers a general idea about Don Quixote and the messages Cervantes is trying to convey.
This exhibit is about much more than celebrating Don Quixote; It is appreciating that a novel written over 400 years ago, is still read and discussed worldwide. By creating this exhibit the conversation continues to live on and evolve to fit each new generation that embarks on Don Quixote’s journey.
Byatt, AS. “Review: Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 23 Jan. 2004. Web. 08 Dec. 2016. <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jan/24/classics.asbyatt>.
Devaney, Tom. “School of Arts & Sciences – University of Pennsylvania.” School of Arts & Sciences – University of Pennsylvania. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2016. <http://www.sas.upenn.edu/sasalum/newsltr/spring04/grossman.html>.
Lathrop, Tom. “Edith Grossman’s Translation of Don Quixote.” Cervantes Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America (2006): n. pag. Web.
Stavans, Ilan. National Endowment for the Humanities Anna MariaGillis – Kevin Mahnken – Danny Heitman – John R.Gillis
“Samuel Putnam American Author and Editor.” Encyclopædia Britannica. N.p., 24 Oct. 2003. Web. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Samuel-Whitehall-Putnam>.
“The Cervantes Encyclopedia: L-Z.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Cervantes_Encyclopedia_L_Z.html?id=GH9zBQZbbBQC>.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Grossman#Accolades>.