Pop Quiz
Hanlon ’04
An Enlightened Professor
Hanlon’s academic career spans a wide range of disciplines. The track and field recruit from Pittsburgh majored in political science at Bucknell before earning a doctorate in English at the University of Oxford, focusing on British and early-U.S. Enlightenment novels. Now an English professor at Colby College, he also directs the program in science, technology and society. Hanlon authored A World of Disorderly Notions: Quixote and the Logic of Exceptionalism and is writing a book about science denialism.
Aaron Hanlon photographed, standing in an office
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Aaron Hanlon ’04
Photos: April Le; Wikimedia Commons
Which character from an 18th-century novel would you most like to hang out with?
a. Robinson Crusoe
b. Tom Jones
c. A Lilliputian from Gulliver’s Travels
I would hang out with a Lilliputian and ask, “What is your life in relation to people like me, and how can I make my impact on your world more gentle?”
What pop culture project would you most like to consult on?
a. Movie adaptation of a Jane Austen novel
b. Hamilton-style rap musical about Don Quixote
c. Theme park haunted house set in Sleepy Hollow
Don Quixote would be so fun because Quixote is one of these characters who means different things to different people in different contexts. He can be frustrating, he can be heroic, and I would write him as a hero. And it would be fun to do because he would use really antiquated 17th-century language, and that would be funny.
Which scientist would you most enjoy writing a biography of?
Margaret Cavendish painted portrait
a. Charles Darwin
b. Sir Isaac Newton
c. Margaret Cavendish
She would be a really good subject because, in 1667, she was the first woman to attend an official meeting of the Royal Society in London — an all-male scientific society — and would be the last woman to attend until the 20th century. I’m on a Margaret Cavendish promotion tour.
4. Which public intellectual would you most like to debate?
Cornel West headshot
a. Cornel West
b. Ai Weiwei
c. Martha Nussbaum
I’ve actually been onstage with him before, as a moderator of a talk he gave. He showed me how dynamic and generous he is, so while any of those people would wipe the floor with me in a debate, he would be the most loving and compassionate in so doing.
What would indicate that you’ve made it as a public intellectual?
a. Appearing on the cover of Esquire
b. Being an answer on Jeopardy!
c. Giving a TED talk that goes viral
It has secretly been my dream to be on an Esquire or GQ cover. I love fashion and the idea of combining fashion with a broader interest in ideas and where those two things intersect. If one can pull that off, then they’ve probably made it as a public intellectual.
Which Bucknell professor, class or other experience had the most influence on your creative work today?
A European intellectual history class I took with Professor James Goodale. We read François Rabelais’ Gargantua and Thomas Hobbes, and that was the point I realized politics and literature can go together in a way I hadn’t thought about before. It was pivotal.