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Modernism after Postcolonialism

Toward a Nonterritorial Comparative Literature

Mara de Gennaro

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A polemical reaction against a trend in global modernist studies which still privileges European and Anglophone texts.

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...

A polemical reaction against a trend in global modernist studies which still privileges European and Anglophone texts.

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.

Reviews

Reviews

Mara de Gennaro's study is ambitious and impressive. It pursues a rich variety of ideas, it chooses texts for reasons familiar to modernist and postcolonial scholars but pairs them in surprising ways, and its innovative close readings justify these pairings.

This ambitious and compelling linkage of canonical modernism with what used to be called 'Third World literature' is original in focus. Modernism after Postcolonialism should be commended for its sparkling textual insights and lucidity. This is an important and innovative work of transnational scholarship that I am sure will excite enormous interest.

Elegantly written, Modernism after Postcolonialism skillfully interweaves issues of postcolonial and migrant politics, modernist aesthetics, and issues of transnational comparison. 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.

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.

Modernism after Postcolonialism provides a striking intervention in our critical understanding of twentieth-century verse. Reversing timelines in standard literary histories and moving the postcolonial forward to reframe a reading of modernism, Mara de Gennaro gives us a new, lucid, powerful, and convincing sense of a global poetry in the twentieth century.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. Anxious Mastery and the Forms It Takes
Chapter 1. Troubling Classifications: Unspeakable Figures of Métissage in "Melanctha" and Disgrace
Chapter 2. Troubling Sovereignties

Acknowledgments
Introduction. Anxious Mastery and the Forms It Takes
Chapter 1. Troubling Classifications: Unspeakable Figures of Métissage in "Melanctha" and Disgrace
Chapter 2. Troubling Sovereignties: Intimations of Relation in The Waste Land and Cahier d'un retour au pays natal
Chapter 3. Traversing Bounds of Historical Memory: Dethroning the Narrator and Creolizing Testimony in A Passage to India and Texaco
Chapter 4. Traversing Bounds of Solidarity: Poor Analogies and Painful Negotiations in Three Guineas and The Farming of Bones
Conclusion. The Beauty of a Trembling World
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Mara de Gennaro
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Mara de Gennaro

Mara de Gennaro is a lecturer in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.