Flaubert and Don Quijote: The Influence of Cervantes on Madame Bovary
This book tells the story of how Flaubert's admiration for Cervantes' Don Quijote unfolded, and how profoundly it shaped and influenced Flaubert's ambition and his approach to all his major works, beginning with his breakthrough novel Madame Bovary. It thus fills a major gap in the history of the novel and explores, for the first time, just what Flaubert meant when he said, while writing Bovary: "Je retrouve toutes mes origins dans le livre que je savais par coeur avant de savoir lire, Don Quichotte"
Several cultural and personal factors converged to establish the prominent place of Don Quijote in Flaubert's imagination, and these are dealt with in depth in the book. But it is the profound parallels between the two novels that clearly illustrate how Don Quijote permeates Madame Bovary in both subject and approach.
This study situates each author in his respective historical and aesthetic context, and provides key examples from Don Quijote and Madame Bovary, Flaubert's Correspondence, as well as his earlier novels. Flaubert's letters and novels show how the French author penetrated deeply into Cervantes' novelistic approach and how his relationship to Don Quijote directly shaped his success at the crux of his career.
"Flaubert used Cervantes great novel as a model in his attempt to renew literature, to liberate him from the grasp of dominant literary schools. But the significance of Fox’s study goes far beyond a detailed analysis of a single case in the history of literature. It is a ‘comparative’ study in the deepest sense of this term. The book shows how the discontent with actual literature in both cases of Cervantes and Flaubert leads first of all toward an ironic parody, distantiation from the dominant trends and later to radically new forms of artistic consciousness… The study is full of insights and is made by a very subtle and intelligent scholar who has a rare capacity not to force the material, but to listen to its voice with extraordinary respect and acumen."
— Mikhail Iampolski, Professor of Comparative Literature, New York University
“A fascinating, authoritative study of Don Quijote and Madame Bovary, written with precision and clarity. Richly defining their cultural, social, and historical contexts, professor Fox develops a highly intelligent analysis of Cervantes’ influence on Flaubert’s novel and offers fresh insight concerning their differences, especially the contrast between the authors’ conceptions of their central characters.”
—David Kleinbard, professor emeritus, City University of New York