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Intellect

Don Quixote's library focus of Lee Library exhibit, lecture

An exhibition commemorating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first part of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterwork “Don Quixote” will open Thursday, Sept. 8, in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.

The exhibition will open with a “House of Learning Lecture” given by Dale Pratt, professor of Spanish and Portuguese and co-curator of the exhibition, at 2 p.m. in the library auditorium, followed by a reception in the DeLamar Jensen Lecture Room. All students, faculty and community members are invited to attend.

Presented by the L. Tom Perry Special Collections and the Department of Humanities at BYU, the free exhibit, “Wheels, Windmills and Webs,” will display and describe symbols of Quixote’s library.

In the book, Don Quixote’s adventures begin with his extensive readings in chivalric romances. His obsession with literature leads to his downfall as he mixes reality and fiction as well as truth and falsehood. When Quixote sets off to restore chivalric order to 17th-century Spain, his friends destroy his library.

“This exhibit takes Don Quixote’s library and its destruction, the windmills to which such reading leads him, the Renaissance scholar’s reading wheel, and ‘web surfing’ as guiding metaphors linking the past, present and future of reading,” said Pratt.

The exhibit focuses on Quixote’s “reading wheel,” a specific reading practice that involves comparing and contrasting information to gain knowledge. With each turn of the wheel, the scholar opens up a new textual window on his subject: biblical exegesis, philosophy, history, medicine or classical literature. Rapid cross-referencing becomes possible, and texts that once took years to copy and disseminate can be studied alongside many others.

Although he does not own a reading wheel, Quixote reads as though he does, comparing and contrasting his novels, and storing up an encyclopedic knowledge of what he reads.

“In some ways, Don Quixote’s library and the reading wheel foreshadow the future of reading, especially reading on the internet, as hypertext links between disparate texts, clicking back and forth between open windows, ‘surfing,’ and ‘Googling’ now supplant solitary encounters with isolated texts,” Pratt said.

“Wheels, Windmills and Webs” will run through November 2005. The exhibit is located on the first level of the library and is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information about the exhibition and its opening, contact the Special Collections Department at (801) 422-3514 or visit the Web site sc.lib.byu.edu.

Writer: Michael Hooper

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Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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