Modernism's World Languages

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA 2018: Pittsburgh, PA (April 12-15)

As Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz indicate in their article “The New Modernist Studies,” recent trends in modernist studies have operated a radical revision of the term “modernism,” moving away from the idea that modernism is confined to a single place (Europe, North America, and the West in general) or a single time (roughly 1890-1940). As the map of “transnational” and “global” modernisms expands, ever more attention has been given to new languages, phenomena of bilingualism and multilingualism, and translation as a fundamental practice in modernist writing (Yao, Rogers). Examples of modernism’s engagement with world languages span from Pound’s interest in Chinese, H.D.’s work with ancient Greek, Tagore’s writing in English and Bengali to Joyce’s inclusion of over sixty languages in Finnegans Wake (1939) and Guimarães Rosa’s combination of Portuguese, Amazonian Nheengatu, and Bantu African languages in his Grande Sertão: Veredas (1956). These examples suggest that foreign languages occupy a constitutive place in the modernist aspiration to internationalism, cosmopolitanism, and universality and are vital to the conceptualization of global modernisms. This panel seeks to explore and theorize modernism’s various engagements with world languages, focusing on the complex interconnections between aesthetics, politics, and ethics. How do the choice, manipulation, and translation from and into specific languages gesture toward political and ethical problems? What kind of “world” does modernism construct in its languages? How do different languages and language politics interact, cooperate, or compete within a literary work? How do modernist writers negotiate their space in the world and the interaction between national and cosmopolitan affiliations through language? Particularly welcome are papers which combine close reading of texts with insights into debates in world literature, cosmopolitanism, globalization, and translation studies. Please submit a 300 word abstract and a bio by September 30 via the NeMLA’s online submission system. For questions, email sceroni@complit.umass.edu.