This article examines the history of modernism in the Caribbean region. It explains that the distinctive features of the early twentieth-century response to encroaching modernity can be represented as the spoils of the colonial adventures of the previous century and earlier. The article discusses US-based Jamaican novelist Michael Thelwell's view on the solipsism and obsolescence of modernism within black writing, and Stephen Slemon's opinion that modernism can be seen as a wholesale appropriation and refiguration of non-Western artistic practices by a society utterly committed to the preservation of its traditional prerogatives for gender, race, and class privilege.
Mary Lou Emery
The concept of the planetary appears frequently in appeals for newer models of modernism, often with different meanings and implications. The planetary registers possibilities of multiple spatial and temporal dimensions beyond the rational ordering of the global. Through alternate temporalities and evoking an ecological imagination, the planetary vision becomes especially compelling in the context of the Caribbean. It is from Caribbean writers that this concept first emerged in literary studies. In their writings, one can find dynamic transitions from global to planetary readings of modernity and modernism. One can see the beginnings of this planetary alterity in the contramodernist Relational disorderings of identity, place, and time in Banjo and Voyage in the Dark. Caribbean writers' versions of the plantation's cry displace the global by transfiguring Caribbean icons of the exchange of commodified human beings into gateways for new webs of historical and geographical relations.
This article suggests that the beginnings of modernism can be traced to colonial encounters which long pre-date modernism itself. It explains that the fundamental conditions for, at least Anglo-European, modernism, might have been created in the face-to-face meetings of Anglo-Europeans and peoples of other lands. The article highlights the link between war and literary experimentation, focusing on the increasing proliferation and visibility of global war and anti-colonial insurgency.
This article examines the history of Irish modernism. It argues that the contested position of modernism in Irish culture might be dramatized by a tale of two James Joyces. One is the internationalist Joyce, the deracinated modernist who was considered to have become European and modern to the extent that he transcended his Irishness; and the other is the Irish Joyce who has more recently emerged from the confluence of post-colonialism and Irish studies. The article argues that while a canon of Irish modernism clearly exists, its central importance to international developments can seem to draw it away from the Irish context, in which a broader culture of modernism is less self-evident.
This article uses the strange case of Jean Rhys to examine the durability of the author-dissident figure. It aims to show the degree to which modernism and postcolonialism depend upon one another for self-definition, and even the extent to which such definitions include large regions of contiguity and overlap. The discussion of racial conflict shows striking differences in the understandings attached to whiteness. The postcolonial literature was instrumental in reaffirming and redefining the status of experimentation in literature. The article suggests that the strong scholarly tendency to equate modernism with dissidence and formal experimentation owes more than people realize to the emergence of postcolonial writing in the latter half of the century.
This article considers Virginia Woolf’s late writing—The Years, Three Guineas, and Between the Acts—in the context of recent shifts within modernist studies. It examines a range of scholarly narratives about this period of Woolf’s writing, arguing for the importance of considering these three works alongside one another. Faced with the rise of fascism and the onset of World War II, Woolf became increasingly concerned not only with political change, but also with the forms and modes through which the sociopolitical is represented. Her own pacifist, feminist interrogation of the forces of tyranny at home and abroad led her to test out different genres and media as a response to political crisis. In particular, her late writing is characterized by a desire to defamiliarize conventional (whether militaristic or misogynist) ways of seeing and thinking.
Looking at African literature, this article focuses on the fierce dispute that erupted between Chinweizu, Onwuchekwa Jemie, and Ihechukwu Madubuike, on the one hand, and Wole Soyinka, on the other, in the mid-1970s, and which took the form of an argument about the thrust, tendency, and significance of modern African poetics. Centrally at issue in this dispute is the relationship between modernism and modernity. Presenting modernity as “Western,” and suggesting that it be understood in “civilizational” terms as part and parcel of the colonial project, Chinweizu and others leave themselves with no alternative but to uphold some competing notion of an essential “African” way of life.
This article examines the complex and often contradictory relationship of African culture to modernism and its cultural effects. It aims to address the ways in which African writers have engaged with, probed, and interrogated the discourses of modernity, especially the cultural discourse of modernism. The article suggests that in its attempt to revivify European culture, European modernism often turned to African culture as a site or space of otherness, which in some cases also became a form of cultural appropriation, a negation of that otherness, and an incorporation of that other space and culture.
This article examines the history of modernism and colonial modernity in Japan during the twentieth century. It suggests that elements of Japanese culture could serve as resources and exotic reference points for Euro-American experimentation, and that Japanese modernity also existed in a series of overlapping temporalities. The article argues that the concept of colonial modernity is a reminder that the cultural production of early twentieth-century Japan was embedded in regional and global relationships of inequality, and that the boundaries of modernism are thus constantly shifting, indicating that the definition of what constitutes a modernist artwork is a question of reading strategies as much as the identification of formal features.
This article examines the history of modernism in English Canada. It discusses the role of immigration in modernism, and suggests that the patterns of migration from colony to imperial metropolis are reversed and rerouted in the processing of modernism's arrivals in Canada and its connections to expatriate Canadians in Europe and the USA. The article describes the works of some of the notable immigrant modernists in English Canada.
This article examines the history of modernism in India. It suggests that though the distinctions between modernity, modernization, and modernism are particularly complicated in the case of India, they remain crucial to a historical understanding of the ‘modern’ in all its senses. The article argues that the characteristic feature of Indian modernism in India is that it is manifestly social and historical rather than a hypostasis of the new as in the West. It contends that modernisms in India are deeply implicated in the construction of a secular national identity at home in the world, and in this respect answer a historical need to fashion a style for the modern as it is locally experienced.
This article examines the trend in recent scholarship to look beyond the borders of nation states to consider the ways in which American and European versions of modernism were intertwined rather than categorically distinct trends. It analyses German-American director Josef von Sternberg's 1932 film Blonde Venus and suggests that the film offers two interesting starting points for a consideration of the modernist Atlantic in the early twentieth century. The article explains that the film indicates that the Atlantic passage was rarely a one-way journey or one with a fixed destination, and that it also brought modernist aesthetics to the foreground.
Patrick Colm Hogan
This chapter begins by outlining Frederick Aldama’s cognitive and Marxist critique of mainstream postcolonial theory. From here, it turns to a consideration of identity, comparing and contrasting Patrick Hogan’s cognitive and social psychological analyses with the psychoanalytic approaches of Homi Bhabha and Judith Butler. It goes on to consider colonialism and racism, exploring cognitive modeling or conceptual metaphor as a way of expanding and systematizing some insights of the postcolonial theorist, Ashis Nandy. The chapter concludes with an examination of Suzanne Keen’s ideas on empathy in relation to colonialism. The theoretical analyses are illustrated by brief applications to a story by Rabindranath Tagore, a film by Mani Ratnam, and a novel by Kamala Markandaya.
Brooke Stanley and Walter Dana Phillips
This essay surveys South African ecocriticism, scaling it alongside African and postcolonial ecocriticisms. The authors praise critics who use local specificities to disrupt the universalization of Euro-American environmental and ecocritical tenets. That disruption generates global relevance. However, the field is still overcoming imbalances toward white literary and critical voices, as well as a disarticulation of “animal-centered” from “people-centered” approaches. Animal studies and landscape have pulled South African ecocritics in two main directions, which this chapter maps. The authors then bolster arguments for reintegrating concerns about animals, land, and people, in the service of unpacking conservation’s links to race, colonialism, apartheid, and post-apartheid inequities. Novelist Zakes Mda stages the need for such reintegration in The Whale Caller, which reframes human-nonhuman relations and exposes the tourism economy’s disenfranchisement of both animals and people. (This article has been commissioned as a supplement to The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, edited by Greg Garrard.)
This article examines forms and uses of theatricality in recent African American productions on slavery in the performing and the visual arts. It argues that by deploying modes of the comic, such as satire and parody, along with racial stereotypes, in their engagement with the traumatic history of slavery, contemporary artworks aim to provoke their audiences into an affective relationship with the artwork and the history it represents. In this manner, they seek to bring into focus not the past itself but our present-day reactions to it, asking viewers to reflect on their involvement with the ongoing mimetic and affective legacies of New World slavery. The article discusses Suzan-Lori Parks’s 1996 play Venus and Kara Walker’s 2014 installation A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby as case studies.
Susan Stanford Friedman
What should modernist studies do to adapt to the growing globalization of the field? This article reviews the new paradigms for studying world literature and the debates about comparativity that are most relevant to modernist studies, suggesting some different comparative strategies for reading modernism on a planetary scale. To attain a fully planetary reach, however, modernist studies must break out of the Eurocentric center/periphery and diffusionist models of reading that have dominated the field. To foster both deep contextualization and global breadth, a comparative modernist studies on a planetary scale requires a collaborative effort on the part of many scholars working in different ways.