Dissertation Defense: Montserrat Lau

Candidate Name: Montserrat Lau

Major: Spanish

Thesis Advisor: Barbara Mujica, Ph.D.

Title: Cervantes e Historias Psicosomáticas Amatorias: Don Quijote, un Manual de Modelos Literarios de la Melancolía Del Amor

This thesis examines the interrelationship between the literary expressions of love entwined in the construction of the relationships among marriageable characters and the symptoms of melancholy. I am analyzing the correlations portrayed in the intercalada stories in Don Quixote by Cervantes, and the symptoms of melancholy described in the
scientific-medical-philosophical books accepted in the practice of medicine during early modern Spain. Drawing from the medical writings of Francisco Valles, Alfonso de Santa Cruz, Juan Huarte de San Juan and the philosophical writings of Juan Luis Vives, and other influential writers, I argue how Cervantes created the characters and arguments by utilizing the symptoms of melancholy and the philosophical and theological thoughts of
virtues and vices. I capture how pathological temperament, character, and conduct form the images that reveal the anomalous behavior that deviates from accepted social-cultural norms. I examine how the characters are formed of an altered perception that inclines them to transgress the norms. This investigation demonstrates how the characters are molded with afflicted moods that reveal the symptomatology of melancholic love — love sickness. I begin by exploring the love stories of Cervantes and isolating the subjective or objective symptoms of melancholy. The objective of my work is to analyze and interpret the text from a medical perspective to demonstrate how Cervantes’ descriptions mirror the medical symptoms and philosophical thoughts of the time.

The following chapters examine the writer’s creativity, style, and skeptical thinking that structures the arguments of love and amatory link of the characters from a diversity of thought, which illustrate the models of melancholia —delirium, mania, furor, and madness. The author created, consciously or not, innovative patterns of melancholy that delighted the reader, as well as questioned the limitation of knowledge about the etiology of melancholy. Cervantes intuited that the teaching and learning of morality and Catholic ethics were the fundamental basis for the construction of the self. He predicted that such instructions were fundamental for the stability of the mind, body, and spirit. I propose that the psychosomatic stories of love reflect the numerous variations of the melancholy of love that together might form a rather extensive manual of literary models of sickly love. My analysis and interpretation conclude that the images of some marriageable characters of Cervantes show how literature can invent melancholic love that exemplifies how characters are created from the scientific, medical and philosophical descriptions of the time.

Friday, April 26 at 10:00am to 12:00pm

Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center
37th and O St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events, Dissertation Defense


Georgetown College, Spanish and Portuguese, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences



Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Alejandro Yarza

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