Quixotic Fictions of the USA 1792-1815

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You must not circulate this book in any other binding or coverand you must impose the same condition on any acquirer. Energetic and irreverent, ebullient and inconsistent, exhilarating and attimes bewildering, it epitomized the qualities that had Wrst attracted meto American literature as an undergraduate. Reading another bigAmerican book of the time, Hugh Henry Brackenridges Modern Chiv-alry , I was struck by the shared sense of literary contextsand authorial anxieties, by the way in which both narratives strove totest the conXicting ideals of the founders and to interrogate the currentpolitical instabilities, social upheavals, and literary ambitions of the newrepublic.

In particular, the legacy ofDon Quixote appeared signiWcant inboth works, providing an ambiguous cultural icon and ironic narrativestance that enabled the authors to critique with impunity the ideologicalWctions shoring up their fractured republic. When I came across TabithaTenneys Female Quixotism , a romantic satire that loudly de-nounced the Quixotic delusions of its heroine while more quietlybutnonetheless eVectivelyquestioning accepted ideals of republicanwomanhood, Quixotic Fictions of the USA was born.

Before going any further, I should clarify what I mean by Quixotic. Wction, especially as I am not the Wrst to explore the concept ofQuixotism in relation to literary genre. In his Anatomy of Criticism,Northrop Frye formulated six phases of comedy and called the secondone the quixotic phase of satire, describing its central theme as thesetting of ideas and generalizations and theories and dogmas overagainst the life they are supposed to explain.

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I use Quixoticas opposed to Cervantic because it was the literary and cultural legacyof Don Quixote in particular that early American authors drew upon asthey sought to critique the contradictions inherent in their own polit-ical, social, and cultural structures and practices. NoahWebsters Ameri-can Dictionary of the English Language provides the earliestAmerican dictionary entry for quixotic, deWning the word as likeDon Quixote; romantic to extravagance.

This is todistinguish my own use of the term from the dictionary deWnition,which is derived from the knight rather than his narrative, and implies anegative attribution of excessive romanticism that I do not wish topresuppose. The inXuence canalso be felt on a structural level: Quixotic Wctions regularly feature anover-long and episodic narrative divided into two parts, a pseudonym-ous narrator in the mould of Cid Hamet Benengeli, a conversion toreason at the end of the book, escapades in inns along the way, tale afterinterpolated tale, and a destabilizing, ironic narrative stance whichmakes a Wrm moral standpoint near impossible to locate.

New York: Converse, ; repr.

My deWnition of Quixotic Wction is intentionally simple, inclusive,and comfortable with the co-existence of other literary genres. It is notintended as a rigid generic framework to be imposed upon and meas-ured against the texts under discussion, for rather than providing a keyto the house of early-republic Wction, Quixotism is more properly acornerstone, a starting-point as opposed to an end in itself. Indeed, theQuixotic Wctions of Americas early republic demand to be locatedwithin a broader nexus of related textual practice for generic inclusivityis a major distinguishing feature both ofDon Quixote and of subsequentQuixotic Wction.


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Reed, in his Exem-plary History of the Novel: The Quixotic versus the Picaresque, the deWningdiVerence between the picaresque and Quixotic novel is the ethos ofexclusion exhibited by the picaresque in contrast with the inclusiveethos of the Quixotic novel. Developing this argument, Reed observesthat the metaphorical or analogical inclusiveness in Don Quixote is mostnoticeable on the level of narrative type and literary genre. Other literarymodes are simply imbedded in the story ofQuixotes adventures. Hemeetsspokesmen for the pastoral romance, for the ballad, for the Italian novella,for the Renaissance epic, and for the Moorish novel.

In addition, Quixotic Wctions of the early USA also look to otherexamples of burlesque literature, such as Rabelais Gargantuan andPantagruel, Lucians History, and Samuel Butlers Hudibras, and drawupon the eighteenth-century Wctional practices of British writers such asFielding, Goldsmith, Smollett, Swift, and Sternehardly surprising,given that these authors were themselves self-conscious writers of.

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Quixotic Wctions. Exploring the extent to which the literary culture of North America was shaped by a diverse range of influences, it addresses an issue of growing concern to scholars of American history and literature. Quixotic Fictions reaffirms the global reach of Cervantes's influence and explores the complex, contradictory ways in which Don Quixote helped shape American fiction at a formative moment in its development.

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Quixotism as Global Heuristic: Atlantic and Pacific Diasporas - Semantic Scholar

Overview Quixotic Fictions of the USA explores the conflicted and conflicting interpretations of Don Quixote available to and deployed by disenchanted writers of America's new republic. Average Review. Write a Review.

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