Continentalizing Global Modernism @ MLA 2021
As the ambit of global modernist studies expands, the place of continental Europe in the geography of modernism is something of a quandary. Indeed, the continent’s place was never very clear to begin with. In her foundational essay “Periodizing Modernism,” Susan Stanford Friedman criticizes a disciplinary bias that favors Anglo-American modernism at the expense of writing from postcolonial nations. Yet Friedman also notes that the old, chiefly Anglo-American modernist studies possessed only a “limited continental scope.” Thus the turn to the globe––that is, the turn away from Europe––has consigned the continent to the disciplinary past when, according to Friedman, it was a marginalized domain in the first place.
How might a continental frame reconfigure the geography of modernism? Do the dynamics of modern migration shift when considering the movement of continental writers instead of, or alongside, literature about migrations between Britain and the commonwealth? Might trans-continental connections, including but not limited to Europe, offer an alternative to the discourse of transnational modernism? Do key critical concepts like empire and (de)colonization gain new meaning when considered outside the traditional Anglo-American imperial order? Animated by such questions, this panel will aim to remap modernism both by departing from Anglo-America and by anchoring cultural geography in a concrete though ideologically contentious political entity––the continent.