This is a book about readers: readers reading, and readers writing. They are readers of all ages and from all ages: young and old, male and female, from Europe and the Americas. The book they are reading is the Spanish chivalric romance Amadís de Gaula, known in English as Amadis de Gaule. Famous throughout the sixteenth century as the pinnacle of its fictional genre, the cultural functions of Amadis were further elaborated by the publication of Cervantes's Don Quixote in 1605, in which Amadis features as Quixote's favourite book. Amadis thereby becomes, as the philosopher Ortega y Gasset terms it, 'enclosed' within the modern novel and part of the imaginative landscape of British reader-authors such Mary Shelley, Smollett, Keats, Southey, Scott, and Thackeray.
Amadis in English ranges from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, demonstrating through this 'biography' of a book the deep cultural, intellectual, and political connections of English, French, and Spanish literature across five centuries. Simultaneously an ambitious work of transnational literary history and a new intervention in the history of reading, this study argues that romance is historically located, culturally responsive, and uniquely flexible in the re-creative possibilities it offers readers. By revealing this hitherto unexamined reading experience connecting readers of all backgrounds, Amadis in English also offers many new insights into the politicisation of literary history; the construction and misconstruction of literary relations between England, France, and Spain; the practice and pleasures of reading fiction; and the enduring power of imagination.