In describing the process of writing this book to my nonacademic
friends, I liken it to the craft of candle dipping. Just as a candle gains its
shape through the process of repeatedly dipping the wick in hot wax, so
these chapters came into being through a long process of research and
writing, conversations in and out of the classroom, travel, and help from
other scholars.
I am grateful to all those who generously added the hues of their own
thinking to this project. Susan Gillman has been the best possible men-
tor and an invariably stimulating intellectual interlocutor. Norma Klahn
shared her comprehensive knowledge of Latin American history and litera-
ture. José Saldívar’s impassioned teaching and writing have inspired my
hemispheric approach to cultural production. I am extremely grateful to
George Lipsitz for his comments on an earlier draft of this book—they
provided an invaluable compass to me through the final revisions; to Beth
Freeman for meeting with me at an early stage in the publication process;
and to Robert Gross—who came to my aid at a crucial moment—for his
suggestions for revision. For their comments on chapters or parts of chap-
ters, many thanks go to Chris Breu, Johnnella Butler, John González, Gwen
Kirkpatrick, Vibeke Laroi, Francine Masiello, Julio Ramos, Roger Rouse,
Roz Spa√ord, and the late Gene Ulansky and to my graduate school bud-
dies Stuart Christie and Chris Shinn. Cathy Rigsby, the executive editor of
American Literature, and the anonymous readers for the journal provided
suggestions for editing and revising an earlier version of chapter 1 that was
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