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Planetary Modernisms

Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 472
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  • Book Info
    Planetary Modernisms
    Book Description:

    Drawing on a vast archive of world history, anthropology, geography, cultural theory, postcolonial studies, gender studies, literature, and art, Susan Stanford Friedman recasts modernity as a networked, circulating, and recurrent phenomenon producing multiple aesthetic innovations across millennia. Considering cosmopolitan as well as nomadic and oceanic worlds, she radically revises the scope of modernist critique and opens the practice to more integrated study.

    Friedman moves from large-scale instances of pre-1500 modernities, such as Tang Dynasty China and the Mongol Empire, to small-scale instances of modernisms, including the poetry of Du Fu and Kabir and Abbasid ceramic art. She maps the interconnected modernisms of the long twentieth century, pairing Joseph Conrad with Tayeb Salih, E. M. Forster with Arundhati Roy, Virginia Woolf with the Tagores, and Aimé Césaire with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. She reads postcolonial works from Sudan and India and engages with the idea of Négritude. Rejecting the modernist concepts of marginality, othering, and major/minor, Friedman instead favors rupture, mobility, speed, networks, and divergence, elevating the agencies and creative capacities of all cultures not only in the past and present but also in the century to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53947-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. PREFACE (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-16)

    The twenty-first century opens with a sense of urgency. Once again, “things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”¹ Once again, modernity is “at large.”² The forms of globalization closing off the old century and opening the new have expanded global networks and accelerated mobilities of all kinds—from money to people, from drones to popular culture. It is by now a truism but true nonetheless that 9/11 shook the foundations of the world in ways that will continue to unfold for decades, spawning new modernities in an ever-more interconnected world. Once again, the rise of new global conflicts and new...


      What ismodernity? What is or wasmodernism? Why is the energetic, expanding, multidisciplinary field of modernist studies so filled with contestation over the very ground of study? Definitional activities are fictionalizing processes, however much they sound like rational categorization. As such, I will begin with three stories, allegorized but rooted in my own experience in an evolving field.

      Imagine a young woman starting graduate school in 1965 in an American land-grant university. Remember the suburban dream of the 1950s for middle-class (white) girls: the penny loafers and saddle shoes, the poodle skirts and prom chiffon, the cheerleaders and Elvis...

    • TWO PLANETARITY (pp. 47-80)

      La modernité, c’est quoi?¹ Modernity, what is it? Imagine a polylogue of reflections on this question.

      Modernity is Europe’s Enlightenment, the break from religious hegemonies and the spread of science, technology, and cosmopolitan ideals of freedom and democracy.

      Ilaju ti awon oyibo mu wa si ile awon enia dudu, imunisin and imuleru lo da, ati awon orile ede ti ko too rara; orile ede tori jakujaku rederede ranran, opolopo ijoba l’onkuna lotun losi.

      Modernity is Europe’s brutal colonialism built on the systematic enslavement of Africans, arbitrary and imposed nation-state boundaries, and the formation of modern African identities amid the legacies...

    • THREE STORIES OF MODERNITY: Planetary Scale in the Longue Durée (pp. 83-142)

      The story of modernity narrates an obsession with time: the modern forms as a rupture from the past, an escape into a continuous present, an eternal Now. The storytellers of modernity track its location in time, through time, against time. Rooted in the very notion of the modern and the kinetic drive of its stories is the logic of then and now.¹

      But what about modernity’s here and there? How might attention to itshere-and-thererevise itsthen-and-now? How, in short, can we reconfigure the narrative chronotopes of modernity—the relational mediations of time and space in stories of modernity...

    • FOUR FIGURES OF MODERNITY: Relational Keywords (pp. 143-180)

      The stories of different modernities in thelongue duréein chapter 3 present an opportunity to figure out how they might be related and what they have in common. In this chapter, I turn from stories tofiguresof modernity, that is, to figurations that take the form of tropic keywords. Freely adapting Raymond Williams’sKeywords, I identify a network of word-images I consider keywords for a relational concept of modernity.¹ These keywords, for which I provide their commonly understood definitions, synonyms, and antonyms, establish provisional characteristics that different modernities through time and across space might share, however various their...

    • FIVE MODERNITY’S MODERNISMS: Aesthetic Scale and Pre-1500 Modernisms (pp. 183-214)

      “Interrogate the slash!” I wrote in chapter 2. It’s time to examine more closely what the connection/disconnection between modernism and modernity signifies. It’s time to move from considerations of planetary modernities in thelongue duréeto understanding what such a transformational paradigm shift means for modernism, for the aesthetic dimensions of any given modernity or relational network of linked modernities. There are those who would deny the connection altogether.¹ As an aesthetic period category akin to romanticism, realism, or naturalism, modernism was named after the fact—not by the artists, writers, and thinkers themselves but by the critics and scholars...

    • SIX CIRCULATING MODERNISMS: Collages of Empire in Fictions of the Long Twentieth Century (pp. 215-282)

      Modernism, I hope to have established in the preceding chapters, is the aesthetic dimension of modernity. Multiple and recurrent modernities produce their own particular multiple and recurrent modernisms. Across the globe and through time, these modernisms are not only distinctive but also linked to other modernisms in vast relational networks. They constitute a multinodal world system of expressive/symbolic culture, one not set apart from but rather embedded within the other dimensions of the modernities of which they are a part—the realms of the political, economic, technological, cultural, and so forth. And as aesthetic articulations repeatedly read, viewed, and dialogued...

    • SEVEN DIASPORIC MODERNISMS: Journeys “Home” in Long Poems of Aimé Césaire and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (pp. 283-310)

      Migration often accompanies the turbulence of modernity, as both cause and effect of the epistemological turmoil rendered in aesthetic forms. The journey of modernity, to echo Nikos Papastergiadis, invokes human mobilities as constitutive of the modern—movements from the physical and geopolitical to the psychological, philosophical, aesthetic, and spiritual. As such, diasporas reflect dislocations of both space and time—material movements that signal the far more profound psychological effects of displacement, often incorporating both the dystopic and utopic tendencies of modernity. For Edward W. Said, modernity in our times is “the age of the refugee, the displaced person, mass immigration....


    Planetary Modernismsis not a manifesto, though it may at times read like one. My intent has been to provoke more debate, not close it off. The book is an effort in speculation, where the central task is how to move from a provincial Western perspective with a predetermined archive of modernism to a more expansive—indeed, planetary—perspective that opens doors for a cosmopolitan framework that resists homogenization and recognizes the heterogeneity of geohistorical patterns of different modernities and their modernisms in thelongue durée.

    As widely used terms,modernityandmodernismmean many things, at times even opposite...

  9. NOTES (pp. 345-402)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 403-432)
  11. Index (pp. 433-451)