Making Pierre Menard author of the Quixote: critics, creators, and context in Borges
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Though it has not always been so, it is now possible to conceptualize the act of reading as a process in which we necessarily form an interpretation of a piece of literature, and in so doing, create the work, or the meaning of a piece of literature -- meaning which is intrinsically tied to both the linguistic event of the work, or its text, and the context out of which our reading has come. For this model, critical theory is greatly indebted to the work of Jorge Luis Borges. The title character of Borges's "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," a minor French Symbolist whose "visible works" can be "easily enumerated," undertakes a project which fundamentally questions the relation not only of a literary work to its text, but -- perhaps more importantly -- investigates the processes through which a work comes to be and who may lay claim to it. Though in the end, Menard's project is unfinished, invisible, and, we are informed, impossible, it is nonetheless, from an intellectual point of view, an ambitious scandal: attempting to write the Quixote, a text which has already been written and has, as a context, itself. Menard does not seek to rewrite or duplicate the Quixote, nor to translate it, but to actually produce the Quixote, linguistically identical to Cervantes's seventeenth century Spanish novel but written from the experience of Pierre Menard and attributed to him.