English 363

Response #2
October 3, 2011, 12:15 am
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Caitlin Machicote

Professor Alvarez

3, October 2011

The Quest For Fame; Standpoint Theory in Cervantes’ Don Quixote

            A theory used in sociology called “ Standpoint theory” is when a researcher or ethnographer lets the reader know who they are to assure that their bias is taken account for. This theory recognizes that no writer can be objective because each writer has biases and even if they are part of a moment, era, or genre are still their own separate entity . In literature this can be called focalization. According to Jahn everything we read is focalized, it is told by the point of view of one character or another and this changes certain things about the story. Each character or narrator in a story has their own standpoint.

“A focalizer is the agent whose point of view orients the narrative text. A text is anchored on a focalizer’s point of view when it presents (and does not transcend) the focalizer’s thoughts, reflections and knowledge, his/her actual and imaginary perceptions, as well as his/her cultural and ideological orientation”(Jahn N3.2.2).” Jahn uses the word focalizer and states that a focalizer is the agent. In this context the word agent means the teller of the story. This agent choose what to disclose and what not to disclose, and the reader is limited to their knowledge base. When Jahn states that the text is ‘anchored on a focalizer’s point of view’ he means that they control the situations in the story, or what knowledge is put forth. Don Quixote plays around with the agency of the author. The first part of the story is supposed to be by one author, and the second by another. In the second part of the story we get a new agent, and this changes how the story is told.  Although Jahn was not a sociologist his focalization theory works well with the theory accredited to Dorotohy Smith, Nancy Hartsock and Patricia Hill Collins. The stand point theory dictates that the background of the author of a piece ( or focalizer in Jahns case) changes the point of view of the story, and eventually changes the entire content of the story. Who is speaking, writing, narrating, or focalizing, absolutely does affect what is learned or what is said in anything we read, including ethnographies, short stories, novels and journal articles.

An interesting way for a reader who has read Jahn, Don Quixote, and about Standpoint theory , to understand Jahn’s idea of focalization and what a standpoint theory is, it to think about how different the story would be if Don Quixote was not the narrator. What if Sancho was the narrator? An ideal time for the reader to think about this is in chapter VIII. In this chapter Don Quixote tells Sancho how he wants to be famous, and Sancho suggests that they should be saints instead of nights because in Sancho’s opinion saints are better and become more famous. If Sancho  was the narrator, the story would be about saints and not knights As the focalizer of the hypothetical narrative changes, the story changes.  Knowing that Sancho admires saints the reader also learns something new about Sancho. This could be seen as one of Sancho’s biases. Since Sancho admires saints, the reader can assume he admires holiness and the Catholic church, considering this Sancho would not be an objective focalizer for a story about knights because in his narration the label would hold less importance because it is less important to him. And in the sociological perspective if Sancho was a ethnographer writing about Don Quixote the knight, if he did not state his standpoint he would sway the reader into believing that knights are unimportant. If Sancho stated he admired saints and not knights he would be stating his standpoint and the reader would be able to look at his working knowing this.

            According to the writers of the standpoint theory, Don Quixote certainly would not be an objective narrator. Don Quixote does not explicitly state his bias, so nothing he said can be seen as objective. However, in his chapter the reader does learn one of Don Quixote’s standpoints, he believes that fame is important. Knowing this the reader can assume that some of the events that Don Quixote are not accurate because he is concerned with his image and is questing for fame as well as knight-hood.

            Don Quixote is far from a sociological text, so it is not surprising that characters in the story have biases, and according to believers of standpoint theory, it is not surprising that everyone has biases. Don Quixote does not need to state its biases like an ethnographer or an article writer would, although at times the standpoints of the characters and focalizers are very apparent throughout the story. It is interesting to think how the story would change with different focalizers that have different standpoints, and it is important for the reader to recognize the standpoint of each different focalizer to follow the story.


Works Cited

Jahn, Manfred. 2005. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative. English Department,   University of Cologne.

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Caitlin, interesting start here. I like the incorporation of the sociological term “standpoint” connecting to focalization. Standpoint I think spatializes the “position” of the researcher, or the “voice” of the text. Something else to consider is when researchers become self-reflexive, and when they theorize about their position as they narrate it. This reflexive turn (think of the reflexivity in the Cide Hamet Benengeli parts of Don Quixote, as well as the entire Samperio story) becomes a preoccupation from certain novelists positioned in the literary field. The sociologist Bourdieu calls the literary field, the field of cultural production.

I’m not sure about the parts when you ask “what if Sancho was the narrator?” because I first think you mean “the narrator” you have to be sure you distinguish between that and focalization. Jahn writes, “focalizer is the agent whose point of view orients the narrative text.” This means the camera, so to speak, is directly over one character’s shoulder. This does happen, though, for example, when Sancho becomes the focus of narration. The narrator is the camera over the shoulder, not the charcter’s themselves in this novel.

For the MLA, the Jahn citation is not correct, you didn’t give Don Quixote, nor any source (in the works cited or in the body of the response) for standpoint theory. If you were to develop this idea of bias, which is certainly there, you would need a source on this, and you would have to write a PIE paragraph about it. You could do that on your blog if you like.

For the title, use a colon not semi-colon, and use the author’s entire name, as well as the entire name of the title.

4 out of 5 points

   salvarez 10.05.11 @ 8:47 am

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