Twentieth- and twenty-first-century literatures in English, especially modernist fiction and prose, the contemporary Anglophone novel, and the novel in translation. Additional fields include world literature, multilingualism and literacy, the theory of the novel, translation studies, cosmopolitanism, and the history of reading.
Rebecca L. Walkowitz is Dean of Humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences and a former Chair of the English Department. As Distinguished Professor of English and Affiliate Faculty in Comparative Literature. she writes and teaches courses about modernism, twentieth-century British fiction, the contemporary anglophone novel, translation, world literature, and transnational approaches to literary history. In her current book project, “Future Reading,” Walkowitz argues that a new generation of migrant novelists, essayists, and nonfiction fabulists are changing the way we encounter world languages, how we know and read them, and how we organize, publish, review, honor, and teach the literary works circulating today. In chapters on "Learning to Read in Translation" and "English as an Additional Language," Walkowitz calls for reading in translation as a normative feature of reading. An essay taken from the first chapter, "On Not Knowing," appeared in New Literary History in 2020. A second essay from that project, "Less Than One Language," appeared in SubStance in 2021, in a special issue on "The Postlingual Turn," which she co-edited with yasser elhariry.
She has delivered more than 80 distinguished lectures in the fields of modernism, contemporary fiction, and world literature in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America. Recent lectures include the Wolfgang Iser Lecture at the University of Konstanz (2017), a plenary lecture at the 90th annual meeting of the English Literature Society of Japan (2018), the George Steiner Lecture in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary, University of London (2019), and a plenary lecture at the "Worlds of Literature" conference at the Freie Universität Berlin (2021). In June-July 2021, she was a Senior Research Fellow in the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Cluster of Excellence, “Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Context" at the Freie Universität Berlin.
She is the author of Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature (2015) and Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (2006), both published by Columbia University Press. Born Translated received Honorable Mention for the first annual Matei Calinescu Prize from the MLA and has been reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, World Literature Today, and Public Books, and in many academic journals. Parts of the book have been translated or are forthcoming in Danish, Polish, and Hungarian, and a translation of the full book is forthcoming in Japanese.
In Born Translated, Walkowitz argues that new developments in world literature, as a network of multilingual editions and audiences, have changed the aesthetic strategies and formal properties of contemporary writing. Born Translated recasts literary history as a series of convergences and divergences and builds a much-needed framework for reading translation’s effects on fictional works. Walkowitz is also editor or coeditor of several other books, including Bad Modernisms (2006, with Douglas Mao), Immigrant Fictions(2007), and The Turn to Ethics (2000, with Marjorie Garber and Beatrice Hanssen). Cosmopolitan Style was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2008 Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative.
In 2016, she and Eric Hayot published A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism, the first volume of essays to appear in the Modernist Latitudes series at Columbia University Press. A New Vocabulary presents essays by leading scholars working at the intersection of world literature and modernist studies. They show how the intellectual paradigms we have long associated with modernism are transformed -- and which new paragisms emerge -- when modernism’s archive extends beyond the European center. Read a review here.
She is coeditor and cofounder, with Matthew Hart and David James, of Literature Now, a book series published by Columbia University Press. She has served as an editor of the journal Contemporary Literature (2008-2012), as Program Chair of the Modernist Studies Association (2008-2011), as Publications Chair of the American Comparative Literature Association (2009-2012), as a member of the Executive Board of the Society for Novel Studies (2014-2018), as Chair of the MLA Divisions on Prose Fiction and Twentieth-Century English Literature (2013 and 2007); and as Member and Chair (2020) of the MLA Delegate Assembly Elections Committee. At Rutgers, she directs the Modernism & Globalization Research Group. She is also coorganizer and cofounder, with Sarah Cole of Columbia University, of the NYNJ Modernism Seminar.
Walkowitz teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the twentieth-century British and world Anglophone novel; theories of world literature and translation; the post-1945 British novel from Lamming to Sebald; Joyce’s Ulysses and its legacies; contemporary fiction and multilingualism; and the history and future of reading. Since 2000, Walkowitz has directed 20 Ph.D. dissertations and served on 23 additional PhD dissertation committees. Placements include tenure-track and permanent faculty positions at the Borough of Manhattan Community College at CUNY, Catholic University, Duke University, Hampton University, Incheon National University (South Korea), Rutgers University, UC-Berkeley, the University of Surrey (U.K.), the University of Toronto, and Wellesley College.
Walkowitz is the recipient of several major national and international fellowships, including a British Marshall Scholarship, a Javits Fellowship, an ACLS Fellowship, the Hurford Family Fellowship at the National Humanities Center, the Walter Jackson Bate Fellowship in World Literature at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and a Senior Research Fellowship at the Freie Universität Berlin. She received the 2020 Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research from Rutgers, and three teaching prizes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Walkowitz received her AB magna cum laude in American history and literature from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1992, an MPhil in English literature and critical theory from the University of Sussex in 1995, and an MA and PhD in English and American literature from Harvard in 1997 and 2000. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she served as the 118th President of The Harvard Crimson, the nation's oldest continuously published daily college newspaper.
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- Critical and Uncritical Reading: Introduction to Literary Theory
- Vernacular Fictions: Joyce and After
- Violence and Creativity: Introduction to the Contemporary British Novel
- What is Sophistication?
- Close Reading and World Literature
- Ulysses and Vernacular Fiction
- Modernism, Translation, and the New World Literature
- The Post-War British Novel from Lamming to Sebald
- The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature
- Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research, Rutgers University, 2020
- Honorable Mention, Matei Calinescu Prize for most distinguished book in twentieth- or twenty-first-century literature and thought, awarded by the Modern Language Associated to Born Translated, 2016
- President, Modernist Studies Association, 2014-2015
- Walter Jackson Bate Fellowship in World Literature, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, 2012-2013
- Hurford Family Fellowship, National Humanities Center, 2010-2011
- Honorable Mention, George and Barbara Perkins Prize for most significant book in narrative studies, awarded by the Narrative Society to Cosmopolitan Style, 2008
- Phillip R. Certain Distinguished Faculty Award for most distinguished faculty member to receive tenure in the College of Letters & Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006
- ACLS / Mellon Junior Faculty Fellowship, 2002
- Marshall Scholarship, 1992
- American Comparative Literature Association
- Modernist Studies Association
- Society for Novel Studies
- Modern Language Association
- Graduate Advisory Board, The Harvard Crimson
- “After Close and Distant: Modernist Studies and the New Turn to Scale" (2019)
- "World Anglophone is a Theory" (2018)
- "The Persistence of Books" (2016)
- "Reading in a World of Wonderlands" (2016)
- "English as a Foreign Language" (2015)
- "Future Reading" (2015)
- "Translating the Untranslatable" (2014)
- "Close Reading in an Age of Global Writing" (2013)
- "For Translation: Virginia Woolf, J. M. Coetzee, and Transnational Comparison" (2013)
- "Building Character" (2012)
- "Why Transnational Modernism Can't Be All in One Language"
English Language Notes (2011)
- "Comparison Literature" in New Literary History (PDF) (2009)
- "The Post-Consensus Novel: Minority Culture, Multiculturalism, and Transnational Comparison" in The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century English Novel (PDF) (2009)
- “The New Modernist Studies"
Co-authored with Douglas Mao. PMLA 123.3, 2008
- “Unimaginable Largeness: Kazuo Ishiguro, Translation, and the New World Literature”
NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 40.3, 2008
- “The Location of Literature: The Transnational Book and the Migrant Writer”
Immigrant Fictions: Contemporary Literature in an Age of Globalization (2007)
- “Narrative Theatricality: Joseph Conrad’s Drama of the Page”
Against Theatre: Creative Destructions on the Modernist Stage (2006)
- “Virginia Woolf’s Evasion: Critical Cosmopolitanism and British Modernism”
Bad Modernisms (2006)
- “Introduction: Modernisms Bad and New"
Co-authored with Douglas Mao. Bad Modernisms (2006)
- “Ian McEwan”
Companion to the British and Irish Novel: 1945-2000 (2004)
- "Ishiguro's Floating Worlds"
- "Shakespeare in Harlem: The Norton Anthology, Propaganda, Langston Hughes"
PhD, Harvard University
M. Phil., University of Sussex
AB, Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges
- Distinguished International Visitor. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Research Training Group on “Globalization and Contemporary Literature.” University of Bonn. December 3-7, 2019
- Faculty Member, Institute for World Literature, Harvard University, July 1-11, 2019
- Wolfgang Iser Lecturer, University of Konstanz, July 10-13, 2017
- Visiting Hurst Professor, University of Washington in St. Louis, March 27-31, 2017
- Faculty Member, Institute for World Literature, Harvard University, June 20-30, 2016