In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Miguel de Cervantes

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Essay Collections
  • Biographies
  • English Translations
  • Don Quijote
  • Persiles
  • Novelas Ejemplares
  • La Galatea
  • Dramatic Works
  • Cervantine “Meditations”
  • Subject Areas, Themes, and Contemporary Concerns
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches: Music, Visual Images, Cinema
  • Transnational Reception Studies
  • Comparative Studies

Renaissance and Reformation Miguel de Cervantes
Hilaire Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0030


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (b. 1547–d. 1616) is widely considered to be the greatest Spanish writer of all time. His most influential work, also regarded as the first modern novel, is Don Quijote, published in two parts (1605, 1615). He also wrote a pastoral novel, La Galatea (1585), and a Byzantine romance, the Persiles (1617), which was published posthumously. Among his shorter works are a collection of novelas ejemplares (exemplary novels) as well as some comedias (dramatic works in three acts, usually comic). After the Quijote, his short stories are the works considered to be of highest literary quality, although all of his works have been the object of intense critical scrutiny. Cervantes is often compared to Shakespeare—they were exact contemporaries, even dying in the same year—as one of the greatest writers of all time, and one particularly well-placed at the cusp of the modern era. His invention of the autonomous novelistic character is often seen as mirroring the rise of a new self-consciousness or “subjectivity” which in turn is viewed as paradigmatic of the Renaissance.

General Overviews

Few good general studies exist that might encompass all of Cervantes’s works. Many excellent specialized studies exist of one work, but traditionally their focus has been relatively narrow. Thus general overviews may be gleaned from reference works such as Cascardi 2002 or collections of previously published essays by great cervantistas such as El Saffar 1986 or Porqueras Mayo 2003. It takes a true master such as Close 2000 or Gerli 1995 to try and weave together strands from Cervantes’s disparate oeuvre and come up with a unified narrative. Such “master narratives” have centered around broad themes such as authority or theories of comedy, or in the case of Fuchs 2003 such topics as “cross-cultural impersonation.” Spadaccini and Talens 1993, instead of imposing any such master narrative, choose alternatively to look at a single metaphor, the mirror, in a variety of disparate Cervantine writings. Oddly enough for such a literary pioneer, Cervantes left behind no theoretical manifesto explaining his innovation. Riley 1962 attempts to piece together just such a coherent theory in his still-classic study.

  • Cascardi, Anthony J., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Cervantes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    Essay collection by first-rate critics on humor and violence, psyche and gender, Cervantes and the New World, etc. Runs the gamut of the Cervantine corpus.

  • Close, Anthony. Cervantes and the Comic Mind of His Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

    Traces the evolution of Spanish attitudes toward comedy and satire, incorporating discussions of several works by Cervantes as well as other authors such as Tirso de Molina, Mateo Alemán, Salas Barbadillo, and López de Ubeda. Grounded in Golden Age literary theory as expounded by López Pinciano and his contemporaries. Encompasses such social concerns as courtly manners.

  • El Saffar, Ruth, ed. Critical Essays on Cervantes. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986.

    This book consists of eighteen reprinted essays, carefully selected by one of the great Hispanists, spanning the totality of Cervantes’s oeuvre. Very useful as a panorama of Cervantine criticism up to its publication date. Many of these famous essays are still being cited.

  • Fuchs, Barbara. Passing for Spain: Cervantes and the Fictions of Identity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.

    The unusually broad scope of this book encompasses Don Quijote and the Persiles as well as both a dramatic work by Cervantes and a novela ejemplar. Argues that “cross-cultural impersonation” (defined as characters who pass for a different gender, nationality, or religious identity) represents a subversive challenge to the Spanish state’s attempts to assign fixed identities to its subjects.

  • Gerli, E. Michael. Refiguring Authority: Reading, Writing, and Rewriting in Cervantes. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995.

    Takes a global view of the Cervantine corpus to locate nodes of resistance to received tradition. The traditions being rewritten here include romance, history, the picaresque, myth, theory, and the towering figure of Lope de Vega. The Cervantine works under consideration include El licenciado Vidriera, La gitanilla, Don Quijote, El gallardo español, and El retablo de las maravillas.

  • Porqueras Mayo, Alberto. Estudios sobre Cervantes y la Edad de Oro. Alcalá de Henares, Spain: Centro de Estudios Cervantinos, 2003.

    The collected essays of a great cervantista, previously published in journals, some of which are difficult to locate. Divided into three sections on general theory; Cervantes; and Garcilaso, Góngora, and Calderón. Includes considerations of prologues, the Generation of ’98, and Lope de Vega’s Arte nuevo as a response to Cervantes.

  • Riley, E. C. Cervantes’s Theory of the Novel. Oxford: Clarendon, 1962.

    The traditional point of departure for much current literary criticism. Attempts to piece together a unified theory of novelistic creation, using bits and pieces of commentary on the subject dispersed through Cervantes’s oeuvre.

  • Spadaccini, Nicholas, and Jenaro Talens. Through the Shattering Glass: Cervantes and the Self-Made World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

    Takes an unusually comprehensive view of the Cervantine corpus to include chapters on poetry as autobiography; theater, literature, and social history; theater as narrativity; and narrativity and the dialogic. The unifying thread is the metaphor of the mirror in Cervantes’s works and its consequences for questions of representation.

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