From September to December 2015 a group of 13 students from the United States, Latin America, Europe and China studied Literary Modernism in light of recent scholarship that has re-conceived the field as a global phenomenon. Their final projects and essays for this course, presented here in the web journal EGL: Essays on Global Modernism, reflect both their own geographical and ethnic diversity and the increasing diversity of the field.
As Mark Wollaeger writes in his “Introduction” to The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), “Modernist studies have been transformed by an expansion taking place along 3 axes: temporal, spatial, vertical” (9). In their essay “The New Modernist Studies” (PMLA 123.3 [May 2008)] 737-748), Douglas Mao and Rebecca l. Walkowitz explain this expansion in the following terms:
Temporal expansion has certainly been important in the study of literary modernism: the purview of modernist scholarship now encompasses . . . artifacts from the middle of the nineteenth century and the years after the middle of the twentieth as well as works from the core period of about 1890 to 1945. But the spatial and vertical expansions have been more momentous. Spatial broadening has meant not only that scholars now attend to works produced in, say, Asia and Australia but also that they investigate complex intellectual and economic transactions among, for example, Europe, Africa, the United States, and the Caribbean. In concert with the temporal enlargement, this spatial one has led to an extremely fruitful rethinking of relations among the key terms modernism, modernization, and modernity. Meanwhile, the vertical reconfiguration exerts a kind or degree of disruptive force on modernist studies, . . . since for many years modernism was understood as, precisely, a movement by and for a certain kind of high (cultured mandarins) as against a certain kind of low (the masses, variously regarded as duped by the “culture industry,” admirably free of elitist self-absorption, or simply awaiting the education that would make the community of cognoscenti a universal one). (738)
The essays gathered here embody this process of expansion, ranging as they do from key British modernists like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce to the Chinese modernist Lu Xun to works outside modernism’s traditional temporal boundaries (Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, 1966, Clarice Lispector’s A imitação da rosa, 1973) to mass-culture phenomena like James Whale’s films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.