From Jonathan Swift to Washington Irving, those looking to propose and justify exceptions to social and political norms turned to Cervantes’s notoriously mad comic hero as a model. A World of Disorderly Notions examines the literary and political effects of Don Quixote, arguing that what makes this iconic character so influential across oceans and cultures is not his madness but his logic. Aaron Hanlon contends that the logic of quixotism is in fact exceptionalism—the strategy of rendering oneself an exception to everyone else’s rules.
As British and American societies of the Enlightenment developed the need to question the acceptance of various forms of imperialism and social contract theory—and to explain both the virtues and limitations of revolutions past and ongoing—it was Quixote’s exceptionalism, not his madness, that captured the imaginations of so many writers and statesmen. As a consequence, the eighteenth century witnessed an explosion of imitations of Quixote in fiction and polemical writing, by writers such as Jonathan Swift, Charlotte Lennox, Henry Fielding, and Washington Irving, among others.
Combining literary history and political theory, Hanlon clarifies an ongoing and immediately relevant history of exceptionalism, of how states from Golden Age Spain to imperial Britain to the formative United States rendered themselves exceptions so they could act with impunity. In so doing, he tells the story of how Quixote became exceptional.Book Details
Black Cosmopolitans examines the lives and thought of three extraordinary black men—Jacobus Capitein, Jean-Baptiste Belley, and John Marrant—who traveled extensively throughout the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Unlike millions of uprooted Africans and their descendants at the time, these men did not live lives of toil and sweat in the plantations of the New World. Marrant was born free, while Capitein and Belley became free when young, and this freedom gave them not only mobility but also the chance to make significant contributions to print culture. As public intellectuals, Capitein, Belley, and Marrant developed a cosmopolitan vision of the world anchored in the republican ideals of civic virtue and communal life, and so helped radicalize the calls for freedom that were emerging from the Enlightenment.
Relying on sources in English, French, and Dutch, Christine Levecq shows that Calvinism, the French Revolution, and freemasonry were major inspirations for this republicanism. By exploring these cosmopolitan men’s connections to their black communities, she argues that the eighteenth-century Atlantic world fostered an elite of black thinkers who took advantage of surrounding ideologies to spread a message of universal inclusion and egalitarianism.Book Details
Chaucer called it "spiritual manslaughter"; Barthes and Benjamin deemed it dangerous linguistic nihilism. But gossip-long derided and dismissed by writers and intellectuals-is far from frivolous. In Idle Talk, Deadly Talk, Ana Rodríguez Navas reveals gossip to be an urgent, utilitarian, and deeply political practice-a means of staging the narrative tensions, and waging the narrative battles, that mark Caribbean politics and culture.
From the calypso singer's superficially innocent rhymes to the vicious slanders published in Trujillo-era gossip columns, words have been weapons, elevating one person or group at the expense of another. Revising the overly gendered existing critical frame, Rodríguez Navas argues that gossip is a fundamentally adversarial practice. Just as whispers and hearsay corrosively define and surveil identities, they also empower writers to skirt sanitized, monolithic historical accounts by weaving alternative versions of their nations' histories from this self-governing discursive material. Reading recent fiction from the Hispanic, Anglophone, and Francophone Caribbean and their diasporas, alongside poetry, song lyrics, journalism, memoirs, and political essays, Idle Talk, Deadly Talk maps gossip's place in the Caribbean and reveals its rich possibilities as both literary theme and narrative device. As a means for mediating contested narratives, both public and private, gossip emerges as a vital resource for scholars and writers grappling with the region's troubled history.Book Details