Frederick de Armas


“Cervantes’ Architectures: Don Quixote and the Dangers Outside”
Friday, April 8
4:00 PM CDT (in-person)
Van Hise Hall, Room 114


“Seeing and Soaring Aloft:
Longinus’ On the Sublime and the Theater of Early Modern Spain”
Friday, April 8
12:00 PM CDT (in-person)
UClub Room 212
432 East Campus Mall

*To register for the workshop, please RSVP to

All are welcome!

Lecture Abstract: In this talk, I provide a glimpse of some of the topics discussed in my forthcoming book, but limit my remarks to Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Although the Spanish author was acquainted with Vitruvius and Hernán Ruiz, he was not an expert on architecture. However, his readings together with his observation of structures familiar to him led him to understand the primacy of place for human beings and for the characters in his works. He would wonder if we can accept unreservedly the notion that place, the inside of a home, church or castle implies safety, guarding us from the dangers outside. This talk will consist of four main sections. The first will look at composite and metamorphic architectures as a study becomes a jail and then a palace.  The second will look at the most utilized building in the first part of Don Quixote, the inn.  Thirdly, we will discuss the Roman Pantheon to understand its importance for the novel’s architectures. We will end with a brief look at the church in El Toboso, which knight and squire had taken to be Dulcinea’s palace. A careful reading of the novel in terms of architecture leads to a series of surprises: how the awful din of a jail is muted by a new façade; how a study is furnished in melancholy; or how a tower indicates that a journey will never be completed.

Workshop Abstract: The notion of the sublime, emerging from an obscure Greek fragment, a treatise probably composed in the first century AD, has captured the imagination of the modern world, be it in philosophy, art or literature. Of course, much of its impact has been augmented and its ideas transformed through much later treatises by Edmund Burke and Emmanuel Kant. At the same time, the ancient, Renaissance and early modern influence of Longinus’ On the Sublime has received much less attention.

Although translated into Latin as “sublime” the original Greek title of Longinus’ treatise was Peri Hupsous, meaning “aloft” or “on high.” While referring to great writing, it also points to the vertical. As Yi-Fu Tuan explains, “A mountain wrapped in mist and difficult of access suggests the abode of the gods.” This sublime height in nature can also correspond to human architecture. We will examine Longinus’s treatise in order to reach a high tower, a godlike view, a transcendent experience. We would ask how such an experience can be attained not just by single inspired lines in a text, but by spaces and places that take us aloft. The treatise will be examined in relation to two early modern Spanish plays, Cervantes’ La Numancia [Numantia], and Calderón’s La vida es sueño [Life is a Dream]. We would also be happy to hear from those working on the sublime in English and French literatures, among others.

Biography: Professor De Armas is a literary scholar, critic and novelist who is Andrew A. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor in Humanities at the University of Chicago. His scholarly work focuses on the literature of the Spanish Golden Age (Cervantes, Calderón, Claramonte, Lope de Vega), often from a comparative perspective. His interests include the politics of astrology; magic and the Hermetic tradition; ekphrasis; the relations between the verbal and the visual particularly between Spanish literature and Italian art; and the interconnections between myth and empire during the rule of the Habsburgs.

Sponsors: Both events are possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Anonymous Fund. The Center for Visual Cultures would also like to thank the departments of Art History, Spanish and Portuguese, LACIS, English and the Center for History of the Environment.