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Edwin Williamson


Edwin Williamson – University of Oxford. United Kingdom

Edwin Williamson is King Alfonso XIII Professor Emeritus of Spanish Studies at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College. He has held academic posts in the University of London and in Trinity College Dublin, and was Forbes Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Edinburgh until 2003, when he was elected to the Chair at Oxford. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the Real Academia Española, and was appointed Comendador de Número de la Orden de Isabel la Católica, for his services to Hispanism in the United Kingdom. He has held visiting positions at Stanford, Cornell, UCLA, University of Colorado Denver and the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and has also lectured widely in Spain, Latin America, the USA, and Europe. His publications and teaching reflect his interest in the literature and history of the early modern Iberian world and modern Latin America. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for his current research project on Cervantes.



How did a seventeenth-century Spaniard come to write what is generally regarded as the first modern novel? There is no satisfactory explanation. Some scholars believe that Cervantes was in some way subversive of the established order but all the reliable evidence suggests he was a patriotic Catholic subject of the Monarquía Española. Other scholars argue that modern critics have perverted Cervantes’s intentions by construing various types of philosophical and ironic significance which allegedly contradict the book’s original comic meaning. Nevertheless, I maintain that it is not anachronistic to read Don Quixote as the first modern novel. The challenge for scholars is to explain how a book which was initially conceived as a parody of the romances of chivalry was capable of laying the foundations of the modern novel, and why the resulting work should have acquired such cultural power in the modern era. My research involves a critical study of Cervantes's evolution as a writer during the last three decades of his life (1585-1616), with a particular focus on the historical, cultural and political factors bearing upon.the process of composition of his great masterpiece.