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'Princess Prof' Gets Attention of Class Studying 'Don Quixote'

Cervantes' Novel Is a 'Wonderful Commentary on Living the Dream'

September 24, 2012

English professor Marta Wilkinson dressed as a princess when introducing Cervantes' classic novel,

English professor Marta Wilkinson dressed as a princess when introducing Cervantes' classic novel, "Don Quixote," to her world literature class.

Marta Wilkinson illustrated Don Quixote’s obsession of being a knight by showing up to class dressed as a princess.

She recently introduced Miguel de Cervantes’ early 1600s classic, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, to her world literature class.

Wilkinson, associate profesor of English, described Don Quixote as a “wonderful commentary on living the dream.” She didn’t reveal on whether the princess persona might be an alter ego of hers.

“As Don Quixote drew his inspiration from chivalric romances, I too based my costume in literature,” she said, noting hers was inspired by Barbie dolls and Disney’s Princess Collection of Tales. Her princess costume featured an unlikely prop, a sword, which emanated from another piece of favorite literature in her fantasy, The Three Musketeers.

Wilkinson decided to wear the princess costume to help her students understand the meaning of satire on the part of the author and parody as illustrated through the actions of the main character.

“I think students enjoyed both the reading and my costume,” she said.

Those familiar with the novel and its stage adaptation, Man of La Mancha, will recall Alonso Quijano is a Spaniard nobleman that becomes obsessed with stories about knights and chivalry. He sets out with lance and sword under the name Don Quixote in search of adventure. He recruits a simple laborer, Sancho, as his squire.

(LEFT) Picasso's famous drawing of Don Quixote and Sancho.

His fantasy leads him to fighting windmills.

“Since historical context is not always clear when new works are introduced, I wanted to help them understand that, even in 16th century Spain, this older gentleman with his armor and his cardboard helmet is a ridiculous and sorry sight,” she said.

“Don Quixote is a literary classic, however, because of his pure dedication to the ideals that he holds and the role he wants to play. He creates his own world, lives in it and even gets others to comply with his reality.”

Wilkinson said the novel makes readers question the difference between objective and subjective reality.

“As we continue on into subsequent readings, the students also will see Cervantes’ mastery of combining both high humor (via word choice and irony) and low humor (toilet jokes),” she added.

Many consider Cervantes’ The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha among the world’s greatest works of fiction.