Walkowitz, Rebecca L.

Walkowitz, Rebecca L.

Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature

As a growing number of contemporary novelists write for publication in multiple languages, the genre's form and aims are shifting. Born-translated novels include passages that appear to be written in different tongues, narrators who speak to foreign audiences, and other visual and formal techniques that treat translation as a medium rather than as an afterthought. These strategies challenge the global dominance of English, complicate "native" readership, and protect creative works against misinterpretation as they circulate. They have also given rise to a new form of writing that confounds traditional models of literary history and political community.

Born Translated builds a much-needed framework for understanding translation's effect on fictional works, as well as digital art, avant-garde magazines, literary anthologies, and visual media. Artists and novelists discussed include J. M. Coetzee, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, Mohsin Hamid, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jamaica Kincaid, Ben Lerner, China Miéville, David Mitchell, Walter Mosley, Caryl Phillips, Adam Thirlwell, Amy Waldman, and Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries. The book understands that contemporary literature begins at once in many places, engaging in a new type of social embeddedness and political solidarity. It recasts literary history as a series of convergences and departures and, by elevating the status of "born-translated" works, redefines common conceptions of author, reader, and nation.

Immigrant Fictions: Contemporary Literature in an Age of Globalization

Immigrant Fictions is a groundbreaking collection that brings together studies of world literature, book history, narrative theory, and the contemporary novel. Contributors argue that today's methods of critical reading have assumed a national model of literary culture. Instead, these essay suggest, contemporary novels by immigrant writers need to be read across several geographies of production, circulation, and translation. Analyzing work by David Peace, George Lamming, Caryl Phillips, Iva Pekarkova, Yan Geling, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Anchee Min, and Monica Ali, the contributors to Immigrant Fictions take up a range of critical topics, including the transnational book and the migrant writer, the comparative reception history of postcolonial fiction, trnasnational criticism and Asian-American literature in the U.S., mobility and feminism in translation, linguistic mediation and immigrant fictions, migration and the politics of narrative form. This volume is also available as the Winter 2006 special issue of the journal Contemporary Literature.

Bad Modernisms

Bad Modernisms, co-edited with Douglas Mao (Duke University Press, 2006), takes up the twenty-first-century renewal of modernism among poets and architects, designers and critics, teachers and artists, many of whom are rediscovering the virtues of the previous century’s most vibrant cultural constellation. Yet this widespread embrace raises questions about modernism’s relation to its own success. Modernism’s “badness”—its emphasis on outrageous behavior, its elevation of negativity, its refusal to be condoned—seems essential to its power. But once modernism is accepted as “good” or valuable (as a great deal of modernist art now is), its status as a subversive aesthetic intervention seems undermined. The contributors to Bad Modernisms tease out the contradictions in modernism’s commitment to badness. They reconsider familiar figures—such as Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Josef von Sternberg, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W. H. Auden, and Wyndham Lewis—and bring to light the work of lesser-known artists, including the writer Carlos Bulosan and the experimental filmmaker Len Lye. Examining cultural artifacts ranging from novels to manifestos, from philosophical treatises to movie musicals, and from anthropological essays to advertising campaigns, these essays signal the capaciousness and energy galvanizing the new modernist studies.

Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation

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  • Author(s): Walkowitz, Rebecca
  • Publisher / Date: Columbia University Press, 2006; paperback, 2007

Cosmopolitan Style argues that modernist literary style has been crucial to new ways of thinking and acting beyond the nation. Walkowitz suggests that conceiving of style expansively as attitude, stance, posture, and consciousness helps to explain many other, nonliterary formations of cosmopolitanism in history, anthropology, sociology, transcultural studies, and media studies. This book shows that the novels of James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, and W. G. Sebald use the salient features of literary modernism to explore different versions of transnational thought, question moral and political norms, and renovate the meanings of national culture and international attachment. It illustrates how Joyce, Conrad, and Woolf developed a repertoire of narrative strategies at the beginning of the twentieth century that were transformed by Rushdie, Ishiguro, and Sebald at the end. A broad-ranging and ambitious intervention in the debates over the politics, ethics, and aesthetics of cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitan Style brings to the forefront the artful idiosyncrasies and political ambiguities of twentieth-century modernist fiction. Read an excerpt from Cosmopolitan Style.

The Turn to Ethics

What kind of turn is the turn to ethics? A Right turn? A Left turn? A wrong turn? A U-turn?

Ethics is back in literary studies, philosophy, and political theory. Where critiques of universal man and the autonomous human subject had, in recent years, produced a resistance to ethics in many fields of scholarship, today these critiques have generated a crossover among disciplines and led to theories and practices that see and do ethics otherwise. The decentering of the subject, the contributors to this volume suggest, has brought about a recentering of the ethical.

The philosophers, political theorists, literary critics and physician whose essays are collected here bring the particularities of their disciplines and training to a vital complex of questions. Many of these authors express concerns that the turn to ethics is a turn away from politics towards moralism. All ultimately conclude, however, that such concerns, rather than leading away from ethics, have helped to reinvigorate the intellectual field in the present moment. Contributors: Judith Butler, Homi K. Bhabha, Lawrence Buell, Nancy Fraser, John Guillory, Beatrice Hanssen, Barbara Johnson, Perri Klass, Chantal Mouffe, Doris Sommer, Rebecca Walkowitz.