This book is a product of so many opportunities for which I’m eternally grateful. If literary studies is a party, I arrived late and confused, and Ghislaine McDayter, who patiently fielded my questions about graduate study in English, was kind enough to let me through the door with my bachelor’s degree in political science. Newly arrived and inclined still toward political philosophy, I found welcome conversation partners in different corners of the room—Harold Schweizer on aesthetics and the history of criticism, and the late Mike Payne on critical theory. As everyone who knew Mike can attest, he was the most generous teacher and friend, a model of kindness and scrupulous mentorship whose legacy I strive to honor every day in my own work with students.
It was ultimately Greg Clingham and his illuminating course on law and literature that drew me to Enlightenment and eighteenth-century studies in a crucial moment. I decided to scrap my law school applications and pursue the quixotic adventure that has landed me here, writing acknowledgments for this book. That adventure has been no less peripatetic than Quixote’s, originating in an obscure part of Spain—or central Pennsylvania—that the narrator of this story might have chosen not to remember, were it not for the good people and exceptional departmental support at Bucknell. At Dartmouth thereafter I had first-rate guidance working with the astonishingly incisive Donald Pease on a master’s thesis that brought together my interests in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world and the larger heuristic question of how we organize knowledge in literary studies.
With the generous support of Dartmouth’s James B. Reynolds Scholarship for Foreign Study and Linacre College, Oxford’s Mary Blaschko Scholarship, I had the opportunity to trace Quixote’s transatlantic journey in reverse, enrolling in the doctoral program at Oxford, where this book started to take form. I’d have been fortunate to get one of the most lucid and attentive supervisors among the Oxford English faculty, but instead I got two of them. Ros Ballaster and Christine Gerrard are still among the sharpest and most careful readers I’ve ever worked with. They helped me refine a project that always risked outgrowing its own breeches, and taught me so much about the eighteenth century along the way. In numerous presentations on early versions of this material in Oxford, at least one self-satisfied person in the audience would say, “But aren’t you just tilting at windmills?” Ros and Christine helped me distinguish between windmills and giants in this project. At Oxford—Linacre College in particular—I had interlocutors across disciplines who challenged my assumptions and helped sharpen my thinking: a chemist; some mathematical modelers; some neuroscientists and biologists; and Paul Slack, FBA, former Principal of Linacre College, and eminent early modern social historian who in retirement is still publishing work that shapes my understanding of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain. To my knowledge there is no better crucible for cross-disciplinary intellectual exchange than the Linacre College Common Room.
I’m grateful, too, to many scholars in eighteenth-century studies and beyond who read versions of this book, parts and whole. Eve Tavor Bannet read and offered essential feedback on versions of the manuscript well after she fulfilled her duty as external examiner for my doctoral work. The late Susan Manning kindly advised me from afar on transatlantic elements of the project and helped me think through my conception of character. My colleagues at Georgetown, Kathryn Temple, Dennis Todd, and Patrick O’Malley lent me not only their time and expertise but also their encouragement and professional support (Dennis, recently retired, also lent me a chunk of his library, which I hope to pass along to another scholar someday). When I presented framing and introductory material on quixotism and political theory at the Clark Seminar at UCLA, Helen Deutsch helped me make difficult decisions about the role of political theory in the book. Jason Pearl has been a friend and a reliable voice of reason in my moments of self-doubt. Cliff Siskin and Bill Warner have helped me link my work on quixotism to the next phase of my scholarship.
From the moment Cedric Bryant called to offer me the job at Colby College, I gained a whole department of brilliant and supportive colleagues who have helped me see this book to completion. Elizabeth Sagaser, Laurie Osborne, Mary Ellis Gibson, and Megan Cook have read or heard portions of this book, as well as written letters on my behalf for grants that were indispensable for the archival work this book required. I’m grateful for the generous grant and fellowship support of the Chawton House Library, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library and the Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies at UCLA, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Huntington Library, as well as Georgetown University and Colby College for grant support. All of these funding bodies and libraries—and their tremendously knowledgeable and helpful staff of archivists, librarians, and others—made this book possible.
I’m also grateful to the journals Comparative American Studies (Taylor & Francis); Connotations (and Professor Matthias Bauer, editor); and The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation (University of Pennsylvania Press) for granting me permission to republish parts of my previously published work. This includes work in chapters 5 (Connotations), 6 (Comparative American Studies), and 8 (ECTI). Thanks go to Cambridge University Library as well for permission to publish images in chapter 3 from their rare books collections.
I acknowledge, too, that at the University of Virginia Press, Angie Hogan has built such an exceptional list of authors—many of us first-time authors—that it’s truly humbling to be part of this group. Angie assembled a deeply insightful and careful group of readers for my manuscript, whose input—simultaneously challenging and encouraging—has made this book the very best possible version of itself. I could not have asked for better reader reports, nor could I have asked for a better and more attentive editorial, marketing, and production team than the UVA Press group.
Finally, I wish to thank my brilliant and caring partner, the neuroscientist April Nhi Le, source of my strength and purpose, and my endlessly supportive family, parents Donna and Ray Hanlon, and brother, Sean. My work is a product of more love and support than a person could possibly deserve, and whatever benefits I take from this work, I take them knowing that too many deserving scholars have not had the support and the opportunities I’ve enjoyed thus far in my life and career. For this reason I reserve my last acknowledgment for those living and working in precarity, whose labor props up a system that acknowledges too few voices. No scholarship is possible without you.