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Since his 1630 inception as a character in a full-length play in Spain, Don Juan has occupied a place of textual prominence across multiple character permutations. He is portrayed as a loveable rake or a sinister evildoer. Generally, he is deceitful with all the characters that surround him. The relationship he has with his servant, however, is distinct. The servant is not only aware of the impression Don Juan intends to portray but also of the intentions lurking beneath the surface of his master’s carefully chosen words.

While he does not always occupy a place of textual importance in the same way his master does, the servant’s interlinear readings are so key to our understanding of Don Juan that we would not be able to understand the trickster without his servant. These readings form paratexts that provide both summaries of Don Juan’s actions and commentaries on their ethical and societal implications. While there have been a number of studies on Don Juan Tenorio and even the occasional study on his relationship with his servant, this dissertation offers a unique perspective to studies of the servant by examining his purpose and paratextual journey in the major works of the Spanish, French, and Italian traditions.

The dissertation argues that the servant’s paratextual role – with its supplementary and liminal functions – demonstrates the need that Don Juan has for his servant, a need that deepens with each step of the servant’s transformative journey. Simply put, the paratext is anything related to the text that does not constitute the text itself. It may consist of footnotes, titles, prefaces, and summaries. It may even extend to prequels, sequels, and author interviews. In a larger context, the paratext functions as a supplement to the text. The textual supplement is an elusive element by definition and can literally be anything associated with a text. The supplement helps to complete the text but at the same time points to the fact that the text is incomplete (the fact that it needed a supplement to complete it highlights this principle). As a result, it not only adds to the text but, in some cases, stands in the place of the text as well, substituting the message of the text with its own.

Chapter 1 presents an overview to the texts studied and elucidates the meaning of the theoretical terms of the argument, especially the notion of supplementarity and liminality as they relate to the paratext. A notion largely informed by Derrida and his deconstructionist approach to literary texts, the paratext is both a supplemental and liminal device. It does not demarcate boundaries so much as borderlands – spaces in between – and it provides thresholds – spaces that delineate the borders between multiple interpretations. It appears to bring the reader closer to a revelation of the privileged reading of its text but, by its very existence, it also demonstrates the possibility of other readings. In so doing, it also hinders any attempt at a central, privileged interpretation. The liminal nature of the paratext, then, allows it to supplement absolute definition in every possible way.

Chapter 2 focuses on Catalinón, the first of Don Juan’s servants. Catalinón appears in Tirso de Molina’s play, The Trickster of Seville, published in Barcelona, Spain in 1630. Catalinón is the model and point of departure for future depictions of Don Juan’s servants. As such, he provides the audience with two primary interpretations of his master. The first is a spectacle, that is, the one that the Don Juan wants the rest of the world to see and the second is a private one that only he knows. This second reading deals with the secrets as to how Don Juan tricks and seduces women. This chapter argues that Catalinón’s use of paratextual elements such as prefaces and notes provides a framework for Don Juan’s valet to move into a space of liminal transformation.

Chapter 3 examines Sganarelle, the valet from Moliére’s Dom Juan ou le festin de pierre, published in Paris, France in 1682. If Catalinón’s purpose is to introduce contrasting readings, Sganarelle, the second servant featured in this work, further explores the implications of these conflicted interpretations. On the one hand, he is forced to offer the privileged interpretation – that Don Juan is an honorable man – and please his master but on the other he is compelled to warn others as to the truth of his master’s motives and past, thus fulfilling his role to society. As a result, he exemplifies the tensions between the discourses with which he is entrusted. This chapter argues that, in supplementing his master’s privileged reading, Sganarelle sets the stage for a liminal transformation – a transformation that will begin to take shape in Don Giovanni and will come to fruition in Don Juan Tenorio.

Chapter 4 deals with Leporello, the servant of Don Giovanni in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, performed in Vienna, Austria in 1787 and published in Leipzig, Germany in 1801. The paratextual function of the servant begins to transform slightly in the character of Leporello. While his functions are similar in that he provides both the audience and the other characters with readings of his master, the servant takes on a more aggressive supplementary role when he actually supplants his master – taking action and standing in for Don Juan on more than one occasion. This chapter argues that Leporello’s transitional role enables him to begin the process of liminal transformation through his provision of alternative interpretations of his master’s actions and through his supplantation of Don Juan.

Chapter 5 explores the character of Ciutti, the servant who features in José Zorrilla’s Don Juan Tenorio, published in Spain in 1844. Ciutti continues the tradition of the servant’s transformation as he moves beyond simply describing his master. He manipulates the story through his own performance, expanding his paratextual role from that of internal commentary to one of external participant. This chapter argues that Ciutti’s unique position as a participant in Don Juan’s ritual enables him to move beyond his traditional role as a servant and to fully negotiate the liminal space wherein he finds himself.



Don Juan, Don Giovanni, Supplementarity, Paratextuality, Master-servant relationship, Tirso de Molina, Moliere, Mozart, Jose Zorrilla, Don Juan Tenorio, El Burlador de Sevilla, Dom Juan ou le Festin de Pierre, Catalinon, Ciutti, Leporello, Sganarelle