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Modernism after Postcolonialism

Toward a Nonterritorial Comparative Literature

Existing studies of literary modernism generally read Anglophone Atlantic texts through the lens of critical theories emanating from Europe and North America. In Modernism after Postcolonialism, Mara de Gennaro undertakes a comparative Anglophone-Francophone study, invoking theoretical frameworks from Gayatri Spivak, Édouard Glissant, Françoise Vergès, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and others. Examining transnational poetics of comparison that contest the comparative practices of colonialist, racist, and ethno-nationalist discourses, the book treats these poetics as models for a creolist critical method of reading, one that searches out unpredictable, mutually generative textual relations obscured by geographic and linguistic divides.

In each chapter, de Gennaro pairs a canonical English-language modernist writer (Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf) with a postcolonial writer (Aimé Cesaire, Glissant, Patrick Chamoiseau, J. M. Coetzee, Edwidge Danticat), interpreting major works of prewar and interwar modernism in light of postcolonial and Francophone literature, cultural theory, and historiography. Read together, these texts suggest a turn—sometimes subtle or conflicted in earlier Atlantic modernist texts, while usually more overt in later Caribbean and postcolonial texts—toward comparative forms marked by irresolution and a wavering sense of authority. With the rise of world literature and global modernist studies, it becomes all the more pressing to examine how comparative forms can alert us to unspoken and misrecognized relations while also confronting us with the difficulty of representing the Other.

By bringing into relation these ostensibly unconnected, often discrepant texts, de Gennaro challenges entrenched territorial habits of literary meaning. An aspirationally nonterritorial comparative literature, she argues, diverges not only from Eurocentric formalist approaches but also from global comparatisms that emphasize incommensurabilities to the point of eliding significant textual and contextual connections. Drawing on interdisciplinary postcolonial efforts, especially in the social sciences, to deterritorialize categories of identity, culture, and community, Modernism after Postcolonialism dispenses with outdated modernist and postcolonial paradigms to reveal how the anxious, inconclusive comparisons of transnational modernist poetics can call us to imagine new solidarities across bounded territories.

About the Author

Mara de Gennaro (NEW YORK, NY) is a lecturer in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

Endorsementss

"Modernism after Postcolonialism is a seductive, beautifully written work. Much of what seduces here is the clarity and delicacy of de Gennaro's close readings of fiction. She has an ability to summarize a huge amount of scholarship on very well known authors, then depart from their readings just enough to persuade the reader that there is indeed more to see."

- Carrie Noland, University of California, Irvine, author of Merce Cunningham: After the Arbitrary

"Elegantly written, Modernism after Postcolonialism skillfully interweaves issues of postcolonial and migrant politics, modernist aesthetics, and issues of transnational comparison. In both method and substance, this book demonstrates how creolizing comparativism can move us past historical modernism's political limitations to reveal the postcolonial potential of its forms. Conversely, it reveals modernist elements of postcolonial texts that have heretofore been ignored. It will be of great interest to researchers, teachers, and students of modernism, postcolonialism, globalization, comparative literature, Francophone postcolonial studies, human rights, and gender and ethnic studies."

- Laura Winkiel, University of Colorado at Boulder, author of Modernism: The Basics

"The special value of de Gennaro's focus on modernism comes from the association between modernism and the highest literary value, on the one hand, and with modernity, on the other, which is to say with the old (and now barely disguised) idea that there is a developmental standard, embodied in modern Europe, by which the rest of the world's societies and cultures can be judged. This is an important and innovative work of transnational scholarship that I am sure will excite enormous interest."

- Bruce Robbins, Columbia University, author of The Beneficiary
Johns Hopkins University Press
Hopkins Studies in Modernism
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