American Literature as World Literature

For better or worse, America lives in the age of “worlded” literature. Not the world literature of nations and nationali

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American Literature as World Literature

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Half Title......Page 2
Series......Page 3
Title......Page 4
Copyright......Page 5
Epigraph......Page 6
Contents......Page 8
Acknowledgments......Page 10
Part One World, Worldings, Worldliness......Page 38
1 American Literature and Its Shadow Worlds: Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Specters of Worldliness......Page 40
Notes......Page 53
Works cited......Page 57
2 Worldings of American Literature off the Cultural Radar......Page 60
Notes......Page 71
Works cited......Page 73
3 Who Needs American Literature?: From Emerson to Marcus and Sollors......Page 76
A nation without literature......Page 81
A nation with too much literature......Page 85
Conclusion......Page 90
Notes......Page 92
Works cited......Page 95
Part Two Literature, Geopolitics, Globalization......Page 98
4 Worlds of Americana......Page 100
Works cited......Page 115
5 Political Serials: Tanner ‘88 to House of Cards......Page 118
Notes......Page 134
Works cited......Page 136
6 Weltliterature? American Literature after Territorialism: Manifesto for a Twenty-First-Century Critical Agenda......Page 138
Notes......Page 156
Works cited......Page 157
7 Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy in American World Literature......Page 160
Notes......Page 170
Works cited......Page 172
Part Three Experience, Poetics, New Worlds......Page 176
Historical poetry and the future of a people......Page 178
Democracy, literary, and otherwise......Page 183
Political plurivocity: From the aesthetics of equality to imperialist poetics......Page 187
Notes......Page 191
Works cited......Page 196
9 Experience to Experiment, Signs to Signals: Toward Flusser’s New World......Page 198
Notes......Page 215
Works cited......Page 218
10 Un-Making American Literature: Mind-Making Fictions of the Literary......Page 220
Notes......Page 232
Works cited......Page 233
Part Four History and the American Novel......Page 236
11 Last American Stories and Their Adventurous Sequels......Page 238
Notes......Page 251
Works cited......Page 253
12 Transhuman Poetics and American World Literature: James Baldwin’s Demon of History in Just Above My Head......Page 256
Works cited......Page 266
13 The Pathos of History: : Trauma in Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American......Page 268
Trauma: The debate......Page 271
Either/Or......Page 274
Secrets and the truth of fiction......Page 276
Notes......Page 281
Works cited......Page 283
Notes on Contributors......Page 284
Index......Page 288

Citation preview

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American Literature as World Literature

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Literatures as World Literature Literatures as World Literature takes a novel approach to world literature by analyzing specific constellations—​according to language, nation, form, or theme—​of literary texts and authors in their world-​literary dimensions. World literature has been mapped and theorized in the abstract, but the majority of critical work, the filling in of what has been traced, lies ahead of us. Literatures as World Literature begins the task of filling in the devilish details by allowing scholars to move outward from their own area of specialization. The hope is to foster scholarly writing that approaches more closely the polyphonic, multiperspectival nature of the world literature we wish to explore. Series Editor: Thomas O. Beebee Editorial Board: Eduardo Coutinho, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Hsinya Huang, National Sun Yat-​sen University, Taiwan Meg Samuelson, University of Cape Town, South Africa Ken Seigneurie, Simon Fraser University, Canada Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Aarhus University, Denmark Volumes in the Series German Literature as World Literature Edited by Thomas Beebee Roberto Bolaño as World Literature Edited by Nicholas Birns and Juan E. De Castro Crime Fiction as World Literature Edited by David Damrosch, Theo D’haen, and Louise Nilsson Danish Literature as World Literature Edited by Dan Ringgaard and Mads Rosendahl Thomsen From Paris to Tlön: Surrealism as World Literature By Delia Ungureanu American Literature as World Literature Edited by Jeffrey R. Di Leo Romanian Literature as World Literature Edited by Mircea Martin, Christian Moraru, and Andrei Terian Brazilian Literature as World Literature (forthcoming) By Eduardo F. Coutinho Modern Indian Literature as World Literature (forthcoming) By Bhavya Tiwari

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American Literature as World Literature Edited by Jeffrey R. Di Leo

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc

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Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway    New York    NY 10018    USA   

50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2018 © Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Contributors, 2018 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the editor. Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data Names: Di Leo, Jeffrey R., editor. Title: American literature as world literature / edited by Jeffrey R. Di Leo. Description: New York : Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. | Series: Literatures as world literature | Includes bibliographical references and index Identifiers: LCCN 2017025448 (print) | LCCN 2017036863 (ebook) | ISBN 9781501332289 (ePub) | ISBN 9781501332302 (ePDF) | ISBN 9781501332272 (hardcover : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: American literature—Appreciation. | American literature— History and criticism. | Comparative literature. Classification: LCC PS157 (ebook) | LCC PS157 .A43 2017 (print) | DDC 810.9—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017025448 ISBN: HB: 978-​1-​5013-​3227-​2 ePub: 978-​1-​5013-​3228-​9 ePDF: 978-​1-​5013-​3230-​2 Series: Literatures as World Literature Cover design: Simon Levy Typeset by Newgen KnowledgeWorks Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, India

To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com. Here you will find extracts, author interviews, details of forthcoming events, and the option to sign up for our newsletters.

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It was not a street anymore but a world . . . Don DeLillo

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Contents Acknowledgments

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American Literature as World Literature: An Introduction  Jeffrey R. Di Leo

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Part 1  World, Worldings, Worldliness 1 2 3

American Literature and Its Shadow Worlds: Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Specters of Worldliness  Paul Giles

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Worldings of American Literature off the Cultural Radar Lawrence Buell

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Who Needs American Literature?: From Emerson to Marcus and Sollors  Jeffrey R. Di Leo

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Part 2  Literature, Geopolitics, Globalization 4

Worlds of Americana  Peter Hitchcock

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Political Serials: Tanner ‘88 to House of Cards  Emily Apter

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Weltliterature? American Literature after Territorialism: Manifesto for a Twenty-​First-​Century Critical Agenda  Christian Moraru

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Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy in American World Literature Jonathan Arac

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Part 3  Experience, Poetics, New Worlds 8 9

Whitman’s Polyvocal Poetic Revolution: Equality and Empire in New World Literature  Gabriel Rockhill

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Experience to Experiment, Signs to Signals: Toward Flusser’s New World  Aaron Jaffe

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10 Un-​Making American Literature: Mind-​Making Fictions of the Literary  Alan Singer

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Part 4  History and the American Novel 11 Last American Stories and Their Adventurous Sequels  Robert L. Caserio

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12 Transhuman Poetics and American World Literature:  James Baldwin’s Demon of History in Just Above My Head  Daniel T. O’Hara

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13 The Pathos of History: Trauma in Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American  Jean-​Michel Rabaté

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Notes on Contributors Index

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Acknowledgments My primary debt of gratitude goes to the contributors to this volume for ­sharing their thoughts on American literature as world literature. I  have benefitted greatly from my conversations with them about this topic and others, and appreciate their willingness to engage this topic from a number of different theoretical perspectives and disciplinary positions. I am also grateful to Vikki Fitzpatrick for her administrative assistance and to Keri Farnsworth for the help she has given me in preparing this manuscript for publication. At Bloomsbury, I  would like to thank David Avital for first expressing interest in this volume over coffee in Vienna; Harris Naqvi for his help steering this manuscript through the peer review and publication process; and series editor, Thomas O. Beebee, for his helpful suggestions and steadfast encouragement. Finally, I would like to thank my wife Nina, for her unfailing encouragement, support, and patience.

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American Literature as World Literature: An Introduction Jeffrey R. Di Leo

American literature is read all over the world. Hemingway is perused in Spanish in Madrid and Faulkner in German in Berlin. But so too are these American authors read in English in these cities and others. Bookstores and libraries from Paris to Beijing include titles and authors that span the history of American literature. While a sampling of American literature in its native language can be found in countries where English is not the primary language, most reaches a world audience through translation. But does the mere fact that literature made in America is read, studied, and respected by audiences outside of the United States make it world literature? Or is it something more? If American literature as world literature is nothing more than being translated and consumed outside of the United States, then someone like John Grisham exemplifies American literature in the world. As of a few years ago, Grisham had sold more than 250  million books worldwide and had been translated into twenty-​nine languages.1 No doubt, to study American authors that have been translated into other languages is to pursue the trail of American literature in the world. But this is a trail that leads both to Melville and Grisham. While there is nothing wrong with this pairing of authors and other unlikely ones, especially for those who entertain a robust sense of “literature,” pursuing the worldwide trail of translated works originally published in English in the United States provides only a partial portrait of American literature’s worldly dimensions. As this volume will show, there is much more to it. American literature as world literature is in one of its most basic senses the literature written and published in the United States that is sent out and received

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by readers across the world. The reasons why this body of literature is appealing are interesting and important, especially in an age of multinational, corporate publishing,2 but they do not tell the whole story of American literature as world literature. The bigger story and more interesting one is a much less containable one than Toni Morrison in Brazil or Ralph Ellison in Europe. Rather it is just as much one about the world in American literature as it is one about American literature in the world. Better yet, it is an account or set of accounts about the comingling of “world,” “American,” and “literature” to the point at which each of the three terms only becomes sensible in combination with the others. This collection is both an effort to broaden and deepen our understanding of what it means to consider “American literature as world literature” as well as an attempt to complicate and question it. While the dynamics between these two directions does not result in a unified account, the multiple accounts that do result will hopefully convince you that the topic of this volume is an exciting and important one; and one that, through the internationally respected work of our distinguished assembly of contributors, we are only beginning to appreciate and understand more fully.

One A few years ago, Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors published A New Literary History of America with Harvard University Press. Instead of just standard fare “literature,” for example, short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays, it also included a wide array of other works not just comprised of words but also of images and sounds including “maps, histories, and travel diaries, sermons and religious tracts, public speeches and private letters, political polemics, addresses, and debates, Supreme Court decisions, literary histories and criticism, folk songs, magazines, dramatic performances, the blues, philosophy, paintings and monuments, jazz, war memorials, museums, book clubs, photographs, comic strips and comic books, country music, films, radio, rock and roll, cartoons, musicals, and hip-​hop.”3 The editors—​one, a respected music journalist and cultural critic, the other, a named professor at Harvard University—​made no effort to “give every name its due, to visit every state or the era of every presidency, only the hope that the essays gathered here might be so suggestive as to invite the reader to think of countless other moments in the American story that could be addressed as this book tries to speak to its subject.”4

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Following Marcus and Sollors, this collection not only assumes that American literature is more than just the sum total of all of the short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays “Made in America” but also offers no promise to “give every name its due” nor “to visit every state or the era of every presidency.” Rather, like the wonderful and inspiring collection edited by Marcus and Sollors, it is presented with “the hope that the essays gathered here might be so suggestive as to invite the reader to think of countless other moments in the American story that could be addressed as this book tries to speak to its subject,” namely, what it means to consider American literature as a species of world literature.5 American literature, whether one assumes a robust conception of it like Marcus and Sollors or an emaciated one, say limited only to short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays, has been historically delimited not just by genre or form but also by language and nation. Whereas up to about thirty years ago collections of American literature began with either the Puritans or Captain John Smith and his account of the early years of the Virginia colony, collections from the mid-​ 1980s and later have not only pushed back the date of the earliest American literature to predate, say the 1619 founding of the colony of Jamestown in what is now called “Virginia” and the 1620 establishment of a colony by the English Puritans led by William Bradford at Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts Bay, but have also challenged the “language” of American literature. Whereas the colonists at Jamestown and Plymouth spoke English, the Spanish, French, and Italian explorers who preceded the English colonists did not. For example, in 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed on the coast of Florida and in 1534, the French explorer Jacques Cartier discovered the St. Lawrence River in present-​day Quebec, Canada, which is now “North” America. Moving to the South, and earlier, in 1492, Genoan Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean, sailing from Spain to present-​day Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas. The following year, on his second voyage, Columbus established a Spanish colony on Hispaniola, which is present-​day Haiti. Needless to say, the documents regarding these expeditions and “discoveries” are significant works in the present-​day canon of American literature, and usually find their way into the US classroom and research through translation. Taken together as a starter set of pre-​Puritan American literature, Columbus’s Italian journals, Cartier’s French, and Ponce de León’s Spanish are among the earliest forms of American literature that were not only written in a language other than English but which also come from writers who were not born in America.

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So, if the transcontinental condition of the exploration and colonization of the Americas by Europeans places American literature at its beginnings as a kind of “world literature,” then the intercontinental literature of explorers such as Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca only expands and complicates its national identities. His story though begins with another and recounting it provides a good example of how American literature has, from its beginnings, shared many of the concerns and texts traditionally reserved only for world literature. In 1526, the Spanish conquistador and explorer, Governor Pánfilo de Narváez, was granted authorization by Charles V to colonize and subdue the lands from Florida westward. In June of 1527, he left Spain with about 600 people aboard five ships. In Santo Domingo, 140 people deserted the expedition and a hurricane in Cuba sunk two of his ships killing another 50. In February of 1528, he left Cuba with about 400 people aboard five ships and landed around present-​ day Tampa Bay, Florida, claiming it for Spain. In May of the same year, he took about 300 men on a difficult expedition northward. It was the first overland expedition on land that would become the United States.6 After many fights with Apalachee native-​Americans7 and the Florida wilderness, the expedition reached St. Marks, Florida in July. Since the vessels from the initial expedition did not come to their aid, they built five new ships and sailed with 245 men along the coast aiming to reach Mexico. A storm destroyed their ships near Galveston Island, Texas. Starvation, disease, and exposure dwindled the group down to four men: Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo, Andrés Dorantes, and his Moroccan slave, Estevan. For eight years, they wandered the Gulf Coast surviving mainly on prickly pears. They were taken into captivity by various native-​American tribes, where they assumed the roles of medicine men and practiced faith healing, albeit reluctantly at first. The Relación of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca is an account of their journey and ordeal. It is also the first North American captivity tale. Núñez Cabeza de Vaca composed his narrative in 1536, after finally reaching Mexico, and it was first published in Spain in 1542. However, it would take over three hundred years before the work became available to readers of English. The first English translation was published in 1851 in an edition of 100 copies. The second English translation, also in an edition of 100 copies, was published twenty years later, in 1871. Its translator, Buckingham Smith, noted that the 1851 translation was “for a gentleman conversant with the history of American discovery, who desired to place in the hands of students and a few acquaintances, one of the earliest authentic relations.” However, claims

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Smith, the earlier translation was done in haste and was too literal. Hence, the need for another English translation.8 In the context of American literature as world literature, Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative is important to recall for several reasons. First, from the perspective of the twenty-​first century, it is a work of literature that can legitimately be claimed by three national literatures: Spain, Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s homeland and location of the narrative’s first publication; the United States, the location of the journey from Florida across the northern Gulf Coast to Texas; and, Mexico, the destination of Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and the place where the narrative was written. Further still, as the expedition to colonize Florida was launched from Cuba, and a significant number of members of the expedition deserted it in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, Caribbean literature too has a stake in Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative. Second, Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative clearly illustrates that any consideration of American literature as world literature must both precede the literature of colonial America, the period extending from William Bradford’s colonization of Plymouth Plantation in 1620 through the Declaration of Independence in 1776, as well as succeed the literature of the new Republic, which extends from 1776 through 1836, the year of publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first book, Nature. Why? Because it was not until 1845 that Texas became the 28th state even though the Republic of Texas was officially first recognized by the United States in 1837. So, in a manner of speaking, Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was shipwrecked both in Mexico and the United States, depending on one’s historical vantage point. Understanding that American literature, for example, “made in Texas” prior to 1837 is more “hecho en tejas” or “hecho en mexico”9 evokes the originary dimensions of American world literature long after the establishment of the new Republic—​and makes the literature that succeeds the establishment of colonial America as significant to an account of American literature as world literature as the literature that precedes it. The fact that Relación was not translated into English for over three hundred years, but then suddenly appears shortly after Texas statehood seems to only provide more evidence for the late blooming and recovery of some very early American world literature.10 But the story just from the vantage point of Texas gets even more complicated. The thirteen-​day siege of the Alamo by Mexican troops led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna occurred the same year that Emerson wrote Nature and the so-​called American Renaissance in literature began, a Renaissance that would

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include the work of Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jones Very, Frederick Douglass, James Russell Lowell, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, and many others. In other words, whereas in the northeastern United States American literature was starting to flower, in the southwestern United States it was still properly-​speaking Mexican literature. A few years earlier, in 1829, several groups of Irish immigrants arrived in south Texas. One hundred years earlier, in 1731, the civilian settlement of San Fernando de Bexar was established by a group of Canary Islanders. Back further, in 1685, the French explorer Rene-​Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, landed in Texas by mistake while searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, and established the colony of Fort St. Louis in present-​day Victoria County.11 In 1682, the first Spanish mission, Corpus Christi de la Isleta, was established near present-​day El Paso, Texas. And going back even before Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda mapped the Texas coastline. Sure, the first recorded discovery of America was Friday, October 12, 1492 by Christopher Columbus at 2:00 am. But as we know, people inhabited the Americas long before Columbus. It is said that people first arrived in the Americas 22,000 years ago from Asia. They crossed a land bridge that is now the Bering Strait. From these prehistoric migrations came the great civilizations of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. From the annals of exploration and discovery comes a story of American literature that is always already also a story about world literature. Or, more directly, from the annals of exploration and discovery comes a story of world literature that comes to be American literature. The more we begin to appreciate this and understand it, the more doing American literature with a timeline broken into periods and a list of individuals born in the United States becomes fraught with difficulty. “Made in America” is often the other side of “Made in the World,” and bringing this to bear on our understanding of American literature is the task of the more globally and transnationally attuned twenty-​first-​century sensibility. Thus, our task as students of American literature who want to view American literature through the lens of world literature is both an easy one and a difficult one. It is easy because American literature from its beginnings through the present is one that is infused with the words, images, and sounds of people from distant lands. In the state of Texas alone, we mentioned Mexican, Irish, Spanish, and French influences but there are of course many more. If we follow Marcus and Sollors, and

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expand our sense of the literary beyond short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays, and include a wide array of other works comprised of words, images, and sounds, then, for example, the maps of the Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda of the Texas coastline are an example not just of American literature but also of world literature. So too are the travel diaries of the Irish immigrants of the 1830s, the religious documents from the mission in El Paso, and accounts of the travels of the French explorer Rene-​Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. The difficulty though comes, in part, from trying to give a unified or grand narrative about American literature. When considered as a species of world literature, it becomes much more difficult to track the “progress” of American literature, or to map it and contain it. As world literature, American literature requires many different maps and many different timelines that connect and disconnect its history, or more properly, its many histories. But there are also the challenges of reading texts that are not standard fare American literature. A sonnet, say, from Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–​ 73) might be read against the world literature background of the history of the sonnet, that is to say, fourteen lines in either the Petrarchan or Shakespearian rhyme scheme. But what is to be done with something like the commission for Rene-​Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle by the King of France or the accounts of de La Salle’s journey by Henri de Tonty and others? Here is an excerpt from the commission of de La Salle dated April 14, 1684: Louis, by the Grace of God King of France and of Navarre, greeting; Having resolved to cause some expeditions to be undertaken in North America, to subject to Our dominion divers savage tribes, and to convey to them the light of the Faith and of the Gospel, We have been of opinion that We could not make a better choice than of Sieur de la Salle to command in Our name all the Frenchmen and Indians whom he will employ for the execution of the orders We have entrusted unto him. For these and other reasons Us moving, and being moreover well informed of his affection and fidelity to Our service, We have by these presents, signed by Our hand, constituted and ordained, [and do] commission and ordain, the said Sieur de la Salle to command under Our authority, as well in the country which will be subject anew to Our dominion in North America, from Fort St. Louis, on the River of the Illinois, unto New Biscay, as well among the French and Indians, whom he will employ in the expeditions We have entrusted to his care, cause them to live in union and concord, the one with the other, keep the soldiers in good order and police according to Our rules . . . [We] have given, and do give unto you power . . . .12

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And here is an excerpt from Henri Joutel’s account of de La Salle’s landing the following year on the coast of Texas, an expedition that would be his last: We were very near the shore, when we discovered a number of naked men marching along the banks, whom we supposed to be native savages. We drew within two musket shots of the land, and the shore being flat, the wind setting from the offing, and the sea running high, dropped our anchors, for fear of staving our boats. When the savages perceived we had stopped they made signs to us with skins to go to them, showed us their bows, which they laid upon the ground, and drew near the edge of the shore; but because we could not get ashore, and still they continued their signals, I put a handkerchief on the end of my firelock, after the manner of a flag, and made signs to them to come to us . . . Being in hopes that M. de la Salle might get some information from these savages, we made no difficulty of taking them into our boat, one after another, on each side, to the number of five, and then made signs to the rest to go to the other boat, which they did, and we carried them on board. M.  de la Salle was very well pleased to see them, imagining they might give him some account of the river he sought after; but to no purpose, for he spoke to them in several of the languages of the savages, which he knew, and made many signs to them; but still they understood not what he meant, or, if they did comprehend anything, they made signs that they knew nothing of what he asked . . .13

As prime examples of American literature as world literature, de La Salle’s commission letter and the firsthand account of his journey to the shores of Texas ask the reader to move outward from the space of their literary specializations (e.g., sonnet, novel, story) to a consideration of works that fall outside of our formal literary norms and themes. They also present new challenges for students of American literature because of their worldly context (e.g., one needs to know something about seventeenth-​century French religion, politics, and history to understand them properly) even though one can simply read them comparatively with other voyage and settlement literature of the period, for example, the voyage literature of Samuel de Champlain (ca. 1570–​1635), particularly The Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604–​1618, or William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation.14 As world literature, works by and on de Champlain, Bradford, and de La Salle escape the locality of colonial America and are

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released into transnational social, political, economic, and literary zones of concern—​zones that are much more fluid and difficult to contain than positions on the map of the United States.15

Two This series, “Literatures as World Literature,” encourages a novel approach to world literature wherein constellations of literary texts delimited by language, nation, form, or theme are analyzed in their world-​literary dimensions. But in the case of American literature, this may not be as novel as it is for other languages, nations, forms, and themes. First, as the previous section has hopefully made abundantly clear, American literature is not nor has it ever been delimited by language. Though the majority of US citizens only read English, and most collections of American literature used in the United States are in English, this does not mean that American literature is limited to just works written in the English language. Whether it is the accounts of de La Salle or Columbus’s journeys of yesteryear or those of a Syrian refugee or a Mexican immigrant living in the United States today, American literature is multilingual. Second, American literature is multinational. This holds as much for its past as it does for its present. The previous section too should have given some sense of what it might mean to say this for its past but as discussions of authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria/​United States), Amitav Ghosh (India/​ United States), and Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan/​United States/​United Kingdom) in this collection indicate, it holds too for the present. This does not mean that the locals of America do not loom large in its literature. Rather, it means that they often comingle with those of other nations, or more generally, worlds.16 Wai Chee Dimock puts this nicely in the introduction to her recent anthology aimed at showcasing American literature in the world.17 Though her book begins with the colonial American author, Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612–​72), it could just as easily have begun with Cabeza de Vaca or Christopher Columbus. For her, American literature, both past and present, “bear[s]‌witness to the comingling of near and far, with words and worlds continually in motion, fueled by large-​scale forces such as colonialism, the transatlantic slave trade, the movement of capital, the movement of troops, the attendant diplomacies, and reproducing these

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within the contours of day-​to-​day living.”18 For Dimock, to study the authors of American literature is to see that the United States and the world are neither separate nor antithetical, part of the same analytic fabric. American literature has always been energized by input from the rest of the world; it has played host to large disputes and wide cross-​currents; its versions of the local have been sharpened and intensified by nonlocal events. These broad horizons, evolving over the course of several hundred years, make such work a durable prism to what lies beyond nation, and an important counterpoint to the more recent examples of globalization in the twentieth-​and twenty-​first centuries. They remind us that this latest development is only one in a long line, one that must be seen in perspective against other, prior instances, suggesting more than one way to connect.19

Considerations of what lies beyond nation take American literature, if not all nationally-​centered literature, into the realm of world literature, one where discontinuities are just as important as continuities; where globalization brings local concerns to bear on nonlocal ones; where America becomes continuous with the world, and vice versa. Elsewhere, Dimock further builds the case that American literature as world literature must avoid hierarchy and centralization.20 She argues, for example, that Pascale Casanova’s account of the “world republic of letters” is misguided because it requires world literature to be “consecrated” in the “capital of the literary world”: Paris.21 In contradistinction to Casanova, Dimock defends a “networked” view of world literature, which, “rather than giving the last word either to hierarchical institutions or to individual texts as sovereign products of single authors, calls attention to the continual emergence of contributing players, tangential to but not without bearing on the existing corpus.”22 For her, it is a “poetics of second chance and second look,” inspired by the work of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Bruno Latour as well as “network” theory.23 Finally, with regard to form and theme, while it is possible to follow particular forms and themes in American literature, they often, as a number of the contributors in this volume show, lead us beyond the confines of nation and into the realm of world literature. So, taken together, American literature through the lens of world literature is a literature that is never limited by language, nation, form, or theme. This perspective on American literature makes its study today much more interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, and increasingly less the

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sole province of English departments, its disciplinary home for the greater part of the twentieth century. But as the work of Dimock and many others today indicate, we are only relatively recently coming to a greater appreciation and understanding of the worldly or world “literaturely” dimensions of American literature. Extending and expanding this conversation on the worldly dimensions of American literature makes its study in the twenty-​first century an exciting one for Americanists inside and outside of English departments as well as for students of comparative literature, the traditional disciplinary home for the study of world literature, and closely related areas such as philosophy and foreign languages. From the vantage point of American literature as world literature, discussions about the literature of America merge with those of the literature of the world. Such discussions draw America, American, and Americana into global flows that continuously reinvent and redefine the shape of its literature as well as its national identity. The essays in this collection enter and exit these global flows to provide a series of portraits of American literature as world literature, or, in short, American world literature.

Three As American literature as world literature is a multidisciplinary subject, it should come as no surprise that the contributors to this collection approach it from the position of a number of different disciplines in the humanities. These include English, specifically the subfield of American literature (Jonathan Arac, Lawrence Buell, Paul Giles, and Daniel T. O’Hara), comparative literature (Emily Apter, Robert L. Caserio, Aaron Jaffe, Peter Hitchcock, Christian Moraru, and Jean-​Michel Rabaté), and philosophy (Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Gabriel Rockhill, and Alan Singer). But even though there might be a rationale to organize the collection along these disciplinary lines or along chronological or literary period ones, for example, nineteenth-​century American literature or literature of the American renaissance, they would not capture as well the conceptual and topical differences of the approaches. Therefore, the essays in this collection are organized into four parts, each of which is distinguished by a specific set of concepts and topics that serve as points of entry into a consideration of American literature as world literature. However, while it might be argued that these concepts and topics are important ones for

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any discussion of American literature as world literature, there are of course others for which a case can be made. And, as you will see, rather than closing off or delimiting the subject of this collection, they have quite the opposite effect. Namely, the four parts described below open up its domain and expand greatly the field of concern of this volume. In short, they reveal that we are only beginning to understand the various dimensions of American literature as world literature, a topic that surely needs to be placed near the top of the list of important or key ones for twenty-​first century literary and American studies. Part 1, “World, Worldings, Worldliness,” takes on the notion of “world” and some of its related senses (e.g., “worlding,” “worldly,” “worldliness”) in connection with the writing of some of the giants of nineteenth-​century American literature: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Henry James.24 Each of the essays draws the work of these canonical American authors into dialogue with “world” concerns, literature, and authors, both extending our understanding of some of the different ways in which “world” comes to bear on American literature and some of its central figures as well as how the literature of America often extends far beyond its national borders and interests. The first essay, “American Literature and Its Shadow Worlds: Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Specters of Worldliness,” is by the esteemed scholar of transnational and transatlantic American literature, Paul Giles.25 Starting from a 1913 letter by Henry James in which he expresses skepticism about the value of “global” perspectives, Giles’s essay considers how American literature and world literature have converged and diverged across different historical eras. After a discussion of contemporary theories of the subject and how they relate to both political and philosophical interests, the essay turns to James’s friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson in the 1890s, by which time the latter was living in Samoa.26 Through a reading of James’s The Tragic Muse (1890), it analyses the ways in which conceptions of the wider world enter implicitly into James’s fictional narratives. By considering how James’s version of “world” literature oscillates between planetary dimensions and worldliness, it highlights the ways in which World Literature in an American literary context involves distinct forms of ambiguity and doubleness. The next essay, “Worldings of American Literature off the Cultural Radar,” is by another of the most distinguished scholars of American literature in the world, Lawrence Buell.27 In his essay, Buell attempts to think otherwise from most contemporary scholarship on US literary transnationalism by concentrating on conditions conducive to cross-​border and, ultimately, worldwide

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percolation arguably distinct from cultural/​ideological specificities, albeit in practice the two domains cannot be pried apart. Focusing especially on two case studies to illustrate the phenomenon of inherent amenability to dissemination or diffusion—​haiku and Whitmanian catalogue rhetoric, which taken together showcase literary “imports” and “exports” respectively—​Buell’s essay emphasizes perceived simplicity of form and expression and ductility of the underlying template(s) of environmental representation. As such, Buell’s contribution provides additional layers of oscillation to American world literature through its analysis of notions of “worlding.” The final essay in Part  1 is my own “Who Needs American Literature? From Emerson to Marcus and Sollors.” In this essay, I argue that the events of September 11, 2001, for better or worse, led the United States into a new age, but not one where poetry or prose is indicative of our intellectual independence. Rather, it is an age characterized by fear and capital driving our social, political, and intellectual agendas. Or, if we follow Emerson and contend, “Fear always springs from ignorance,” then it is perhaps an age characterized by ignorance and capital. I argue, with the philosophical help of Stanley Cavell, that Emerson’s philosophy of poverty has given way to late-​capitalism’s philosophy of extreme wealth, Bernie Madoff-​style. Emerson’s wait for the “sluggard intellect of this continent [to] look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectations of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill” came to a close when the towers fell. More to the point, “American literature” came to a close, not because “America” has ended nor because “literature” has ended, but rather because no one needs either outside of or separate from “a world.” Just as it is no longer possible to think “America” without “world,” so too is it not possible to think “literature” without the world. If the essays in Part 1 started the worldly oscillations of American literature, then Part  2 (borrowing from the title of one of the next contributor’s books) oscillates them “wildly.” Entitled “Literature, Geopolitics, Globalization,” the essays in Part  2 more or less leave behind discussion of nineteenth-​century literary figures and take up a group of twenty-​first-​century “literary” authors and works—​which include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Don DeLillo, Joseph O’Neill, Mohsin Hamid, Colum McCann, Gary Shteyngart, and Amitav Ghosh as well as the political serials Tanner ‘88 and House of Cards—​that speak well to the topic of this collection. The first essay in Part  2, Peter Hitchcock’s “Worlds of Americana,” considers American culture in global circulation along different vectors than those

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that assume it is simply cultural imperialism. According to Hitchcock, it is not that the latter has disappeared per se, but that the concept tends in its sweep to occlude important contraindications within discourses of globalization. In detailed examples of Americana, the essay considers how the worldliness of the world complicates American literature’s place in it. Whether reading the fate of a “confederate” city in Brazil, the representation of American objecthood in the Smithsonian, the chaotic peripeteia of America’s cultural surfaces in Don DeLillo’s first novel Americana (1989), or the intricate and conflicted global crossings of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah (2013), America “in the world,” argues Hitchcock, is symptomatic of more than hegemonic certitude, but provides a sense that globalization is itself at stake in Americana’s circulation, including what is read as its literature.28 Like Hitchcock in his discussion of a city in Brazil and the Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects and Marcus and Sollors in their New Literary History of America mentioned above (and discussed in more depth later in my own essay), Emily Apter expands the discussion of American world literature to include more than just “traditional” literary objects. In “Political Serials: Tanner ‘88 to House of Cards,” Apter argues that televisual political serials in the twenty-​ first century, much like Benjamin Disraeli’s Coningsby or Anthony Trollope’s Whiggish Palliser novels in the nineteenth century, strike a nerve, offering a high-​def picture of an era in which personal trivia and technical point-​scoring, often conjugated together, exert a strange fascination. There may be nostalgia for American exceptionalism and grand narratives of triumphalism, but the nostalgia ultimately dissipates into the effluvia of social media. What we are left with, contends Apter, is an inchoate morass of political reality effects that suffuse the atmosphere. Her essay argues that the political serial as a premier “form” of serial politics deflates the myth that a superstate like “America” or a transnational cultural imperium might still really exist. From Tanner ‘88 to House of Cards, the viewer looks for “politics” in a story, a narrative arc, a tragedy, a melodrama. But what they discover is that the plot eventually sputters and flatlines and what remains is a flurry of bait and switch that just goes on and on. The next essay in Part  2 is Christian Moraru’s “Weltliterature? American Literature after Territorialism:  Manifesto for a Twenty-​First-​Century Critical Agenda.” If “geography” is, as the word’s Ancient Greek etymon reveals, a “writing of the earth [world],” then, for Moraru, it bears asking the following question: Why is it that for many contemporary American authors, writing entails “earth-​writing” regardless of what else they may be writing about? Joseph

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O’Neill, Mohsin Hamid, Colum McCann, Gary Shteyngart, and other “earth-​ writers” invoked in this essay draw maps fictionally. They engage in an aesthetic cartography that seldom reproduces the national borders and germane demarcations we see in our travel guides and on our GPS devices. Thus, these authors’ earth-​writing relocates America in the world and vice versa. As Moraru argues, today’s Americanists, for whom the nation-​state’s territory has been the default analysis unit, need to revisit their own critical maps and epistemological grids in order to do justice to the deep-​reaching de-​and trans-​territorializations set in train by twenty-​first-​century American literature.29 The final essay in this part is “Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy in American World Literature” by the longtime editor of boundary 2, Jonathan Arac. Before turning to Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy as a prime example of American literature as world literature, Arac re-​centers the collection by offering three instances of how American world literature operates. World Literature, and its relation to the United States, argues Arac, has a long history as an intellectual and cultural concern—​nearly two centuries since it was named and began specifically to be thought about. World literature does not derive from postcolonialism or from 1990s globalization or from American response to the trauma of 9/​11, however much all these have inflected the ways scholars think about it and writers enact it. By taking us on a journey from the first age of World Literature—​from Goethe’s formulation of the term and problematic in 1827, up to the mid-​nineteenth-​ century Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels—​through its twenty-​first-​century instantiation in the Ibis Trilogy of Ghosh, Arac re-​oscillates many of the concerns about American world literature raised in both Parts 1 and 2 of this collection. If the first two parts of this collection consist of an exploration of some of the concerns of American literature as world literature from the nineteenth-​century to the twenty-​first century, then the last two parts retrace this chronology albeit through a different set of concepts, topics, and figures. Transnationalism is replaced by transhumanism, world by history, and politics by poetics offering a different vision of what is afforded by a consideration of American world literature. Part 3, entitled “Experience, Poetics, New Worlds,” opens with a revolution staged by philosopher, cultural critic, and political theorist, Gabriel Rockhill. In “Whitman’s Polyvocal Poetic Revolution:  Equality and Empire in New World Literature,” Rockhill demonstrates the political plurivocity of aesthetics via an exploration of Whitman’s proposed poetic revolution. He elucidates Whitman’s

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account of aesthetic revolution as the necessary cultural supplement to political revolution, explicating how art and literature compose a people. Rockhill then situates his project in the historical nexus it calls its own, detailing Whitman’s contribution to the revisionist historiography of democratic theodicy and American manifest destiny. Finally, he explores the byzantine figure of “writing revolution” by relating Whitman’s stylistic and thematic revolutions to their queer receptions as well as their oppressive reversions to patriarchal phallocentrism, racism, and imperialism. In the next essay, we turn from the “New World Literature” of Whitman, one that Rockhill describes as signifying both “a new literature of the world” and “the literature of the new world,” to the “New World” of Czech-​Brazilian media theorist Vilém Flusser. In “Experience to Experiment, Signs to Signals: Toward Flusser’s New World,” Aaron Jaffe points out that the troubles with the term American for criticism are familiar. Not just a sobriquet for one country—​it also designates various pluralities (thereby picking up on a theme also explored in Rockhill’s essay), two contiguous continents and proximate lands (picking up on themes brought up earlier in this introduction). With particular reference to its tendentious place in Franz Kafka’s incomplete novel Amerika, Jaffe’s essay explores the role of America/​Amerika in the genesis of the theory of experience, migrancy, and literary obsolescence advanced by Flusser, who spent much of his time in Brazil writing in English trying to crack open the door of the North American academic world. Jaffe closes his essay on Flusser by explaining that whereas “American World Literature functions as a matrix for something like database biography,” Flusser’s “method works like a projector of experience and experiment.” As such, in light of the essay by Alan Singer that follows Jaffe’s, the latter’s contribution might be regarded as a first attempt at “un-​making” American world literature—​ one that is furthered by the former’s contribution, “Un-​Making American Literature: Mind-​Making Fictions of the Literary.” In this essay, Singer proposes that a theoretical focus on aesthetic making belies the claims of literary critics who privilege either national or global ends for conferring identity upon the literary work of art. Singer’s essay takes aim specifically at the claims of American globalists and planetaritists who want to make the “untranslatability” of literature a touchstone for a sublime unintelligibility. For him, this would constitute a new threshold of literariness that eludes cultural hegemony. Singer’s bid for making intelligibility, the precinct of human “mindedness” itself, the crux of literary knowledge—​drawing upon practical rationalists like Georg Wilhelm

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Friedrich Hegel, Donald Davidson, Robert Pippin, and Stephen Turner—​is an alternative to claims that positing a global American literature entails capitulation to the indeterminacy of meaning. The essays in Part 4, entitled “History and the American Novel,” focus on the perils and promises of history for American world literature. It is a group of essays that could have just as easily been described by the Nietzschean-​ inspired heading, “On the Use and Abuse of History for American World Literature.” The first one, Robert L.  Caserio’s “Last American Stories and Their Adventurous Sequels,” begins with the observation that literary critics, inspired by the idea of world literature and eager to think globally, are detaching themselves and their objects from nation-​centered histories. Nevertheless, the transnationalist purpose of criticism, by continuing to treat fiction as a mimesis of historical reality, remains attached to history as a master discourse. Such attachment, argues Caserio, leaves out of account a tradition in American writing that is anti-​historical and anti-​historicist because its practitioners identified romance adventure with all narrative fiction, and not with a literary variant of American exceptionalism. The contemporary work of William T. Vollmann continues the identification. Although he is an historical novelist, his work unfolds a resistance to history in the names of romance, adventure, and aesthetics. His historical novel The Rifles (1994) demonstrates the limits of historical understanding; and Kissing the Mask (2010), his meditation on the aesthetics of Noh drama, argues the adventure and beauty of living—​and dying—​in a way that is unsecured either by nationalist or historical discourse. If Caserio’s essay begins the process of problematizing the relationship of American world literature to history through its analysis of works by Vollman, then the next essay, “Transhuman Poetics and American World Literature: James Baldwin’s Demon of History in Just Above My Head” by Daniel T. O’Hara completes it. This essay argues that Baldwin’s late work, especially this final novel, dramatizes the entrance of everyday American culture into the space of late capitalism in which an ersatz consumer-​driven simulation of global culture frames any and all national cultures, whatever their compromised legacies may or may not be. The deeply American, indeed African-​American, stories of the novel’s protagonists and characters thereby appear, given this framing, out of context and as inauthentic as if they, too, were simulations. In this sublimely ironic fashion, then, Baldwin has global history reveal itself as purely demonic parody ready to be instantly consumed.

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O’Hara thus finds in “Baldwin’s novel a preemptive critique of the very thesis of this collection, namely, that American literature can be read as world literature and world literature can be appropriated in translation in an expanded American world literature curriculum without losing what is critical to understanding any literature, its language and that language’s historical culture.” Like Caserio, O’Hara finds in the use of history by a worldly American writer, limiting parameters for any consideration of American literature as world literature. The final essay in this part, Jean-​ Michel Rabaté’s “The Pathos of History: Trauma in Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American,” further complicates the role and use of history in American world literature by taking up a consideration of not just “speakable” history, but also its opposite, “unspeakable” history. Rabaté takes Hustvedt’s 2008 novel first as an exemplification of the recent surge in American literature of trauma narratives. By inserting it in a debate opposing critics who insist upon the impossibility of narrating traumatic events (Cathy Caruth, Giorgio Agamben) and those who insist on the ethical need to narrate those events (Ruth Leys, Thomas Trezise), Rabaté tries to show that The Sorrows of an American illustrates successively the two positions, even when they are incompatible, and ends up asserting the affective truth of fictional testimonies.

Conclusion From its earliest moments to the present, American literature has revealed itself to be ethnically, geographically, thematically, and stylistically diverse. And each year its boundaries seem to extend more and more. Considered as a form of world literature, the boundaries of American literature only extend further. The essays in this collection reveal both some of the possibilities of American literature as world literature as well as some of its impossibilities. For some, consideration of American literature as world literature does not require much argument. For others, however, it raises questions, for example, those of history, that seem to spoil the euphoria of acceptance. And just as the phrase “transnational American literature” “raises more questions (and likely more hackles) than it resolves,”30 so too does the foreshortened version of “American literature as world literature,” namely, “American world literature.” We can ask, and indeed some of the contributors to this collection have asked, what is meant by the term “American” in “American world literature.” “Does

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‘American,’ ” as Yogita Goyal asks in the context of transnational American literature, “include just the United States or does it refer to the vaster Americas as a hemisphere, regional formation, with complex links to Asia, Africa, and elsewhere?”31 And what is its relationship to “Americana” (Peter Hitchcock)? Or Amerika (Aaron Jaffe)? Moreover, what does “world literature” refer to? A  genealogy that can be traced back through the early nineteenth-​century (Jonathan Arac)? Or something entirely different that involves say de-​and trans-​ territorializations (Christian Moraru)? Does world literature make assumptions about history that cannot be supported in an American literature context (Robert L. Caserio, Daniel O’Hara)? Or do literary critics, inspired by the idea of world literature, need to detach themselves and their objects from nation-​ centered histories in their pursuit of American world literature? Also, as discussed earlier, the genealogy of American literature in the world is still up for debate. Does its genealogy begin with the founding of the nation in 1776? Or does it precede its founding? Does it begin with establishment of statehood of the particular area of the nation that is the regional source of the literature? Or does it begin in August of 1837 when Emerson made his declaration of intellectual independence at Harvard University? And so on. In spite of these and other questions that complicate the terms and scope of American world literature, to be a resident of the twenty-​first century and a student of American literature is to work from the assumption that the United States and the world are cut from, in the words of Dimock, the “same analytic fabric.” So too is it the case with American literature and world literature. And while they may be “neither separate nor antithetical,” understanding how they function within the general and vast field we today call “literature” is not an easy or uncomplicated task. The essays in this collection open up rather than close down the field of American literature as world literature. To read them is to begin to understand why the topic of this collection is one of the most important in twenty-​first-​century literary and American studies.

Notes 1 “23 John Grisham Titles Launch Today as Random House E-​Books in North America,” March 16, 2010. jgrisham.com. Accessed October 4, 2016. 2 The impact of the rise of the multinational, corporate, publishing industry in the late twentieth-​century and early twenty-​first century on contemporary

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Jeffrey R. Di Leo American literature is discussed in my book, Turning the Page: Book Culture in the Digital Age (Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2014) and “Independent Presses,” in American Literature in Transition: The 1990s, ed. Stephen J. Burn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, eds., A New Literary History of America (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), xxiv. This work is also discussed in more detail in Chapter 3, “Who Needs American Literature?,” my own contribution to this volume. Marcus and Sollors, A New Literary History of America, xxvii. There is of course great disagreement today as to what is and is not “world literature.” A number of the contributors to this collection, in particular Peter Hitchcock and Jonathan Arac, do a fine job of sorting out some of the controversies here. Arac traces the phrase back to statements by Goethe, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. Hitchcock says, “On one level, world literature is simply the name for an impossible tussle between textual and worldly profusion; on another, the scales of cultural expressivity suggest the literary is finding an altogether more modest place within them that paradoxically makes its world an imperative heuristic.” The contemporary foil though for much of the current discussion of the term is David Damrosch, who claims in What is World Literature? “world literature is not an infinite, ungraspable canon of works but rather a mode of circulation and of reading, a mode that is as applicable to individual works as to bodies of material, available for reading established classics and new discoveries alike” (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003), 5. A good exercise in reading this volume (if not the works in this entire series) is to try to posit the position of each of the contributors with regard to this question, particularly when their position is not explicitly stated. The primary source of this information as well as the material in the following two paragraphs are three different editions and translations of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación: Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, The Account, trans. Martin A. Favata and José B. Fernández (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993); Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Relation of Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, trans. Buckingham Smith (New York, 1871); and Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways, ed. Enrique Pupo-​Walker, trans. Frances M. López-​Morillas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). While I prefer the term, “native-​American,” the three translations of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación listed above all use the term “Indian.” Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Relation of Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, viii. The phrase “hecho en tejas” is a reference to Dagoberto Gilb’s anthology, Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006). The first selection in Gilb’s anthology is a selection from

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Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Chronicle of the Narváez Expedition, whom he introduces in the headnote as “a Texan before Texas” (3)—​an implicit acknowledgement of his work as American world literature, or more precisely, “Texan” world literature. The point here about “recovering” American literature made by writers from other nations in parts of the United States where statehood occurred later in history holds for many other states too. The most extreme is Hawaii, which only became the 50th and final state in 1959. A wonderfully detailed account of La Salle’s time in Texas can be found in William Foster’s “Introduction” to The La Salle Expedition to Texas: The Journal of Henri Joutel 1684–​1687, ed. William Foster, trans. Johanna S. Warren (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1998), 3–​48. Isaac Joslin Cox, ed., The Journeys of Rene Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle, 2 vols (New York: Allerton Book Company, 1906), II. 244–​6. Ibid., 26–​9. It should be noted that this is an English translation of an abridged French edition of Joutel’s Relation, which the editor, Isaac Cox, says “simply gives these events more in detail, and particularly devotes more space to natural features” (1n1), features which today might prove important aspects of the account, especially to the ecocritically-​attuned eye. Even in this 1906 edition of Joutel’s account of de La Salle’s journey, there is an appreciation by the editor, Isaac Cox, of the critical difficulties they afford the reader: “Joutel is an extreme partisan of La Salle, and his statements concerning his leader should be carefully checked by aid of the printed correspondence and other documents in Margry” (1n1). The editor is here referring to Découvertes et Établissements des Françaisdans L’Ouest et dand le Sud de L’Amerique Septentrionale, six volumes, edited by Pierre Margry (Paris, 1879–​88), of which the first three volumes relate almost exclusively to de La Salle. In his extensive introduction to Henri Joutel’s journal regarding La Salle’s expedition to Texas, William Foster, an independent scholar and Washington, D.C. lawyer, viz., an academic outsider, makes a passing remark that perhaps could be the final one here: “Joutel’s journal is a true French-​American classic” (5; my emphasis). To understand what he means by this statement is, in part, to understand the condition of American literature as world literature, namely, its Janus-​faced condition. American literature is multinational because the US population includes people from the world over. There are 196 countries in the world today, and the United States is peopled from all of them. Oaths of Allegiance for new citizens of the United States are multinational events. For example, in a recent allegiance ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, over 1,000 new citizens from 84 countries took the oath. Jesse Degollado, “People from More than 80 Nations now US Citizens,”

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ABC News/​San Antonio (February 23, 2017). http://​www.ksat.com/​news/​ people-​from-​more-​than-​80-​nations-​now-​us-​citizens 17 Anthologies are a theoretically interesting form that is often neglected in academic discourse. In the case of American literature, its anthologies are a prime window to the values and concerns of its editors with respect to literature, America, and the world. They are shaped by many factors including pedagogical, political, and economic interests. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Analyzing Anthologies,” in On Anthologies: Politics and Pedagogy, ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 1–​27. 18 Wai Chee Dimock, “Introduction: A Twenty-​First-​Century Platform,” in American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler, eds. Wai Chee Dimock with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 1. 19 Ibid., 1–​2. 20 Wai Chee Dimock, “American Literature, World Literature,” in The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature, ed. Yogita Goyal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 37–​52. 21 Ibid., 37. Dimock here quotes Casanova: “The consecration of a text is the almost magical metamorphosis of an ordinary material into ‘gold,’ into absolute literary value . . . Paris is not only the capital of the literary world. It is also, as a result, the gateway to the ‘world market of intellectual goods,’ as Goethe put it; the chief place of consecration in the world of literature” (37). Original source is Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 125–​6. 22 Ibid., 38. 23 Ibid., 38. Dimock here is intrigued by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s Networked: The New Social Operating System (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012), where they “call attention to ‘partial membership’ as an online form of collectivity with as yet unknown potential” (38). 24 Unlike Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, both of whom were born and died in the United States, “American” writer Henry James was born in 1843 in New York City, but moved to Europe in 1869. He died in 1916 in London, England, a year after he had become a naturalized English citizen. His grave marker in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts reads “Henry James O. M., novelist, citizen of two countries, interpreter of his generation on both sides of the sea.” In many ways, this expatriate, cosmopolitan writer, who knew well many of the great European writers of his day, including Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, George Meredith, and Robert Louis Stevenson, among many others, is an ideal figure through which to explore American writing as world literature.

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25 Paul Giles’s extensive work in these and related areas includes Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730–​1860 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), Atlantic Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2006), Transnationalism in Practice: Essays on American Studies, Literature, and Religion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), and The Global Remapping of American Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). Each is exemplary of the type of work and concerns that can be done under the more general area indicated by the title of this collection, American Literature as World Literature. 26 Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland, and died in 1894 in Vailima, Samoan Islands. 27 Lawrence Buell’s books include The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995), Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001) which received the John Cawelti Prize, Emerson (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003) which received the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Christian Gauss Award, and The Dream of the Great American Novel (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014). Buell’s seminal work here and elsewhere in ecocriticism has played an important role in extending the “worldly” concerns of American literature to include both natural and built environments, a distinction he blurs by complicating and expanding our notions of world and environment. 28 In The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2009), Peter Hitchcock develops further the notion of a transnationalism beyond the contaminated coordinates of globalization as they are currently understood through a close examination of the works of Wilson Harris, Nuruddin Farah, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and Assia Djebar, a group of postcolonial writers from across the world whose works articulate history and place both in content and form. 29 Christian Moraru develops this notion in greater detail elsewhere, particularly in Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015). See also, The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century, eds. Amy Elias and Christian Moraru (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015).

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30 Yogita Goyal, “Introduction: The Transnational Turn,” in The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature, ed. Yogita Goyal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 1. The “hackles” Goyal is referring to here come over the use of “American” to define an area of study as opposed to “United States Studies,” “Inter-​American Studies,” or “Intercultural Studies,” which come from sources such as Janice Radway’s “What’s in a Name?” American Quarterly 51.1 (1999): 1–​32. 31 Ibid.

Works cited Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995. Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001. Buell, Lawrence. Emerson. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003. Buell, Lawrence. The Dream of the Great American Novel. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014. Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. Cox, Isaac Joslin, ed. The Journeys of Rene Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle. Two volumes. New York: Allerton Book Company, 1906. Damrosch, David. What is World Literature? Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003. Degollado, Jesse. “People from More than 80 Nations Now US Citizens.” ABC News/​San Antonio. February 23, 2017. http://​www.ksat.com/​news/​people-​from-​more-​than-​80-​ nations-​now-​us-​citizens. Accessed March 14, 2017. Di Leo, Jeffrey R. “Analyzing Anthologies.” In On Anthologies: Politics and Pedagogy. Ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 1–​27. Di Leo, Jeffrey R. Turning the Page: Book Culture in the Digital Age. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2014. Di Leo, Jeffrey R. “Independent Presses.” In American Literature in Transition: The 1990s. Ed. Stephen J. Burn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming. Dimock, Wai Chee, with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart, eds. American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017.

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Dimock, Wai Chee. “American Literature, World Literature.” In The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Ed. Yogita Goyal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 37–​52. Elias, Amy and Christian Moraru, eds. The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015. Foster, William, ed. The La Salle Expedition to Texas: The Journal of Henri Joutel 1684–​1687. Trans. Johanna S. Warren. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1998. Gilb, Dagoberto, ed. Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006. Giles, Paul. Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730–​1860. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Giles, Paul. Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. Giles, Paul. Atlantic Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature. New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2006. Giles, Paul. Transnationalism in Practice: Essays on American Studies, Literature, and Religion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Giles, Paul. The Global Remapping of American Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011. Hitchcock, Peter. The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2009. Marcus, Greil and Werner Sollors, eds. A New Literary History of America. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. Margry, Pierre, ed. Découverteset Établissements des Françaisdans L’Ouest et dand le Sud de L’Amerique Septentrionale. Six Volumes. Paris: n.p., 1879–​88. Moraru, Christian. Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar. Relation of Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Trans. Buckingham Smith. New York: n.p., 1871. Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar. The Account. Trans. Martin A. Favata and José B. Fernández. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993. Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar. Castaways. Ed. Enrique Pupo-​Walker. Trans. Frances M. López-​Morillas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Radway, Janice. “What’s in a Name?” American Quarterly 51.1 (1999): 1–​32. Rainie, Lee and Barry Wellman. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.

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Part One

World, Worldings, Worldliness

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American Literature and Its Shadow Worlds: Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Specters of Worldliness Paul Giles

The relationship of American literature to the wider world is an old topic, one that can be seen in John Winthrop’s invocation of Christ in “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630) as an epitome of “the most perfect and best proportioned body in the world” (my italics), an image linked by Winthrop to the organic interrelation of his New England community as “members of the same body.” It is the question of whether New England should be seen as a microcosmic “model” for the whole world or, conversely, a separatist retreat from its corruptions that forms the crux of Winthrop’s argument here.1 More recently, though, such idealist formulations have often been met with a skepticism deriving from a philosophical suspicion that the particularity of American perspectives could not readily be reconciled with universalist designs. In a 1913 letter to Henrik Christian Andersen, where he criticized the latter’s plans for a “World Centre” and his pamphlet on a “World Conference,” Henry James wrote: I simply loathe such pretensious forms of words as “World” anything—​they are to me mere monstrous sound without sense. The World is a prodigious and portentous and immeasurable affair, and I can’t for a moment pretend to sit in my little corner here and “sympathize with” proposals for dealing with it. It is so far vaster in its appalling complexity than you or me, or than anything we can pretend without the imputation of absurdity and insanity to do to it, that I content myself, and inevitably must (so far as I can do anything at all now) with living in the realities of things, with “cultivating my garden” (morally and intellectually speaking) and with referring my questions to a Conscience (my own poor little personal), less inconceivable than that of the globe.2

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There is, admittedly, the sense here of James in old age—​he was to die only three years later—​seeking to withdraw from the public stage. But it is also possible to detect the intellectual influence of William James’s Pragmatism (1907), where Henry’s elder brother contrasted the “tough-​minded” with a “tender-​minded” proclivity, one he described as a “monistic” outlook that “starts from wholes and universals, and makes much of the unity of things,” thus tending to overlook the empirical significance of particular facts.3 In his impatience with what he called the “Conscience” of “the globe,” and in his preference for more “personal” horizons, Henry James was therefore not only expressing personal world-​weariness but also implicitly affiliating himself with an American tradition of popular pragmatism that extended well beyond academic philosophy to embrace a general discomfort about the idea of global perspectives. “No Ideas But in Things,” as William Carlos Williams was famously to put it in his 1927 version of Paterson.4 James’s unease with “the globe” brings to mind contemporary theorists of world literature, who have similarly expressed disquiet about what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak termed “the financialization of the globe.”5 Again, the threat for Spivak is one of homogenization, a glossing over of local difference in the interests of corporate conglomeration. Emily Apter has related this process to the erosion of the “intractable alterity” of different languages, with “the rush to globalize the literary canon” involving in her eyes “the ‘comp-​lit-​ization’ of national literatures throughout the humanities.”6 The frequently expressed fear in this context is of an unwarranted hegemony of global English, of American soft power incorporating the world into its own orbit. But this phenomenon of national appropriation is not confined exclusively to the United States, and there are uncomfortable complicities between funding regimes in many countries linked to the dissemination of taxpayer funding for higher education purposes and a protectionist intellectual economy that would seek to “globalize” a national literature and culture in the interests of advancing its own institutional standing. Anyone who has served on assessment panels of government funding bodies, of the kind operational in such diverse state systems as those of Canada, China, Taiwan, Australia or the United Kingdom, will recognize how they generally seek to balance the theoretical promotion of a global discipline with a material consolidation of national interests. Although Homi K. Bhabha is doubtless right to suggest that in attempting to validate their own genealogy nations anxiously try to claim a “naturalistic beginning,” their more pressing concern in the twenty-​first century is often a distribution of scarce tax dollars in a way that can be electorally justified to parsimonious voters.7

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In this sense, James himself might have agreed with Mads Rosendahl Thomsen’s recent formulation that world literature “will always be a world literature as seen from a particular place.”8 No classic Goethean agenda of Weltliteratur can render the subject immune from particularities of languages, economics, pedagogy, or public culture. Hence world literature will always be—​paradoxical as this may sound—​a partial phenomenon, since it seeks not to “cover” the entire world, but to make productive conjunctions among entities that are disparate in time or space (or both). The disabling idea that particular forms of cultural knowledge could only be accessed through an “ethnic insiderism,” a notion that Werner Sollors demolished a generation ago within the postmodern framework of Beyond Ethnicity, can be seen now to replicate itself in political anxieties among traditional guardians of national literatures about how the economic rationale for their subject might be compromised if it were to manifest itself on a world rather than a merely national stage.9 In a 2014 review essay considering the relationship between Australian literature and world literature, for example, Russell McDougall pointed again to a “fear of standardization . . .the nightmare of one universally accessible global idiom,” recounting how at the University of New England (in New South Wales) he has “had to abandon the Australian Literature unit I have taught for quite some years focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander texts alongside more canonical settler texts” because “the market will not sustain it.”10 McDougall is right to be wary of such economic pressures, of course, and the global business of academic anthologies of “world” literature always risks privileging a certain version of what Jonathan Arac has called “Anglo-​Globalism,” while systematically excluding others.11 But it is symptomatic of the changing landscape of this field that one of the biggest student markets for Australian literature today is in China, particularly since its “new openness to foreign cultures” following the ascent of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, and it is reasonable to speculate that Chinese readers might compensate for their lack of appreciation of local detail in other ways, through a recognition of (for example) how Australian literature correlates with international socialism or planetary ecologies.12 It is always important to be able to read alien cultures, but it is entirely fanciful to presume there is only one proper way of doing so. Just as Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic famously helped to open up the field of American literature in the 1990s to transnational horizons, so it is equally plausible to assume that over the next generation revisionist works from Chinese or other Asian scholars will effectively resituate Australian literature within an expanded worldly domain. National literatures might lose something

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by being relocated within a worldly circumference, but they have much to gain as well. The work of Henry James, moving as it does fluently across international borders, has always posed a particular challenge to those who would seek to codify or contain literature within specific national formations. William C. Spengemann wrote in 1981 of how James’s “The American calls into question the very idea of American literature,” while John Carlos Rowe three years later argued that American literary scholarship of the twentieth century found itself in the position of having to “catch up” with James, who explicitly transformed questions of nationality into international issues.13 So far as the relatively familiar transatlantic theme goes, James’s most famous theoretical declaration came in a letter to William James on October 29, 1888, when he said that he could not “look at the English and American worlds, or feel about them, any more, save as a big Anglo-​Saxon total, destined to such an amount of melting together that an insistence on their differences becomes more and more idle and pedantic and that that melting together will come the faster the more one takes it for granted and treats the life of the two countries as continuous or more or less convertible, or at any rate as simply different chapters of the same general subject.”14 This notion of a “continuous . . . English-​American world” is consistent with the political design, popularly advocated at this time by Charles Dilke and others, of an expanded version of “Greater Britain,” through which the “grandeur” of the Anglo-​Saxon race might assume what Dilke called “the moral directorship of the globe.”15 Indeed, Dilke’s writings strongly influenced the establishment in 1884 of an Imperial Federation League, whose goal was to create a common parliament among all colonies of the British Empire. Dilke controversially included the United States in his 1868 book Greater Britain, and even when he acknowledged in 1890 the political difficulties associated with any attempt conceptually to reunify these transatlantic rivals, he nevertheless maintained, in a sentence that would have been music to James’s ears, that while “the official positions of the British Empire and of the United States may be so distinct as to be somewhat antagonistic, the peoples themselves are—​not only in race and language, but in laws and religion and in many matters of feeling—​essentially one.”16 It is, of course, not difficult now to recognize the elements of collective fantasy involved in such notions of racial continuity, but it is important to acknowledge the popular currency these ideas enjoyed in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In this same 1888 letter to William James where he outlined his understanding of “the English-​American world,” Henry James also reported

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that he was “rather exhausted with the effort of a long letter, completed five minutes since, to Louis Stevenson, in answer to one I lately received from his wife, from some undecipherable cannibal-​island in the Pacific. They are such far-​away, fantastic, bewildering people,” James went on, “that there is a certain fatigue in the achievement of putting one’s self in relation with them.”17 By emphasizing the “far-​away” and “undecipherable” aspect of Stevenson’s location in the South Pacific, James both acknowledges and simultaneously represses the prospect of geographical alterity. While explicitly endorsing Dilke’s political agenda of Anglo-​Saxon racial hegemony, in other words, James at the same time is beguiled—​fascinated, but also repelled—​by the way Stevenson had exiled himself to a quite different milieu by settling in September 1890 on an estate in Vailima, on the island of Samoa. T. S. Eliot wrote two years after James’s death that his “greatness” was “apparent both in his capacity for development as an artist and his capacity for keeping his mind alive to the changes in the world during twenty-​five years,” and one of the most powerful aspects of James’s later narratives is the way they puzzle over spectral presences that the author can neither fully embrace nor ignore.18 In the last novels, and in The American Scene, there is a sense of James encountering various enigmatic circumstances that he associates with the emergence of modernity and allowing them to complicate and enrich his art, even while registering distaste for them on a more mundane personal level. Part of James’s deliberate attempt to move beyond his own domestic comfort zone involved a challenge to his own sense of secure geographical boundaries. In an 1894 notebook entry where he sketched out an initial plan for the novel that was to become The Wings of the Dove, James remarked: “I seem to see Nice or Mentone—​or Cairo—​or Corfu—​designated as the scene of the action.”19 For the Cambridge critic Tony Tanner, such a plan suggested merely “a vaguely, randomly exotic, cosmopolitan setting,” and he added in parenthesis “(a James novel in Cairo!),” as though such a prospect could be a matter only for incredulity or amusement.20 It is true that James’s specific choice of locations here was sparked by his friend Constance Fenimore Woolson’s travel sketches of Mentone, Cairo, and Corfu, which first appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1884, 1891, and 1892 respectively; but the larger issue involves how Woolson sought in all her writings of the postbellum 1870s to problematize conceptions of spatial and geographic demarcation. Victoria Coulson has discussed how “St. Clair Flats” and other “Great Lakes” stories by Woolson serve to “ironise the process of boundary-​setting,” an aspect that was particularly germane to the condition

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of the United States during the Reconstruction era, when internal borders of all kinds were being redrawn. Woolson’s “St. Clair Flats” projects ambiguities over whether the marsh represented in this story is a boundary, a border space, or an uncharted periphery, and the author expressed similar uncertainties about her articles on Cairo, writing to William Baldwin that they were not “half so good as they should have been” since she “had not space enough to put in anything but facts. And in the East, facts are only half.”21 This kind of spatial disorientation is entirely consistent with the reflexive manipulation of cartographic mapping in James’s later writings: “without much foreshortening there is no representation,” he admits at the beginning of The American Scene (1907).22 Such a correlation of “foreshortening” with an act of aesthetic inscription is a style that he shares with Woolson, and indeed with other writers at the turn of the twentieth century, when under pressures of internationalization of various kinds the alignment of “American” and world literature was taking on new shades of complexity. The James novel that I want particularly to focus on here, The Tragic Muse (1890), was described by Rowe as a “protogay novel,” since it features its young protagonist Nick Dormer, under the influence of his male friend Gabriel Nash, turning away from a conventional marriage and the parliamentary career ordained by his family in favor of a life dedicated to painting.23 It is easy enough to see how this “protogay” theme might be understood, and Jonathan Freedman has astutely observed that the many American critics of the 1940s and 1950s who stressed James’s moral realism were, in effect, trying to rescue him from an intellectual realm of “aestheticism” that had long been regarded as synonymous with homosexuality.24 My concern here, however, is not so much in James’s own putative “queerness,” but in what Hugh Stevens has called “the public circulation of queer identities” in the 1890s.25 At one point in The Tragic Muse, Dormer remarks of how his mother, the matriarchal Lady Agnes, has “a general conviction that the ‘aesthetic’—​a horrible insidious foreign disease—​is eating the healthy core out of English life,” and the novel consequently turns upon discrepancies in perspective between England and abroad, conservative values against foreign intrusions.26 Lady Agnes, for example, deplores how the career diplomat Peter Sherringham spoke of “English affairs and even of English domestic politics as local,”27 whereas for her it is precisely such “localism” that reinforces “the warm human comfort of them.”28 James was of course a native of New  York, and The Tragic Muse is, as Meir Sternberg observed, “the first of James’s major works to concentrate on English life.”29 But the entire novel speaks to a strategic distance from inherited

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assumptions about national identity, something that appears at its most marked when Dormer pays a visit to his prospective benefactor, Mr. Carteret. In Carteret’s country house, the “tide of time” seems to have slowed down so much that Dormer, looking at his watch, feels “[i]‌t might as well be 1830,” with this frozen temporal state manifesting itself to him as “simply the sense of England—​ a sort of apprehended revelation of his country.”30 The point here is that the “queerness” of The Tragic Muse extends beyond sexuality to encompass broader questions of genealogy, the problem of how present relates to past, the wider issue of family loyalties and tradition, and also the extent to which national identity itself might be correlated with a conservative prospect of continuity and stability across generations. It is no coincidence that Oxford University established its Merton Professorship of English Language and Literature in 1885 and set up an English Honours School in 1893, since this was precisely the era when what Krishan Kumar has called “the making of English national identity” was at its most contested. There was social and political pressure at this time to identify notions of what Kumar called “sincerity, individuality, concreteness, and a sense of the richness and diversity of life,” all of which were contrasted implicitly with “the formalism and classicism of much continental literature, especially that of France,” as well as with the subversive style associated with aesthetes of this time such as Oscar Wilde, who were often linked in the popular mind to the degeneracy of Paris.31 The story goes that when James and Wilde met at a reception in the United States in 1882, James remarked on how he was “very nostalgic for London,” eliciting the rejoinder from Wilde: “Really? . . . You care for places? The world is my home.”32 All of James’s later work mediates questions of the “world” in complex ways, with The Tragic Muse neither endorsing nor eviscerating any particular notion of place, but instead contemplating the complicated ways in which domestic locality is interwoven with global specters. James reviewed a great many books of overseas travel for the Nation—​in 1875 alone, for example, he commented on works under the title Four Thousand Miles of African Travel, Observations on a Tour from Chinese Tibet to the Indian Caucasus, and The Straits of Malacca, Indo-​China, and China—​and this is commensurate with an intellectual interest in anthropology that he shared with his brother William, whose field work in anthropology at Harvard was directed by renowned Swiss-​ American natural scientist, Louis Agassiz. Henry James was not just a novelist of manners but also a student of racial categorization and national difference, so that representation of worldly variation should be seen as an integral rather

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than merely contingent aspect of his art. When James writes of how Venice transforms the American man of “woefully shrunken and bourgeois” mores into a “man of the world,” the idea of the world in this context carries multiple resonances, betokening not only worldliness but also the subject’s transposition from a merely social or local incarnation to a global entity.33 By translating his American from a “shrunken” domesticated situation to a position in “the world,” James seeks explicitly to enlarge his field of representation by adducing worldly types. This worldly quality becomes increasingly apparent in James’s odd relationship with Stevenson, which began after James had cited with approbation the younger writer’s Treasure Island in his 1884 essay “The Art of Fiction” as a work that “appears to me to have succeeded wonderfully in what it attempts.”34 Stevenson published what James called a “genial rejoinder” to this critique in his own article “A Humble Remonstrance,” published in Longman’s Magazine in December 1884, and they first met in person at Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, the following year.35 They continued reading each other’s work and corresponding, even after Stevenson’s permanent departure for the Pacific in 1888. Despite James’s entreaties for him to return home, Stevenson wrote in August 1890 of how the “sea, islands, the islanders, the island life and climate, make and keep me truly happier,” and he remained on Samoa until his sudden death in December 1894.36 What is particularly noticeable about their correspondence in the early 1890s, however, is the way James’s apparently condescending dismissal of Stevenson’s “terrible far-​off-​ness” is mitigated by a spectral awareness of the uncanny proximity of this distant world, as if Stevenson were both remote and simultaneously adjacent. James wrote in 1891 of how “the beautiful strange things you sent me . . .make for ever in my sky-​parlour a sort of dim rumble as of Pacific surf. My heart beats over them—​my imagination throbs—​my eyes fill. I have covered a blank wall of my bedroom with an acre of painted cloth and feel as if I lived in a Samoan tent.”37 Nor was this merely a sentimental gesture on James’s part. Stevenson wrote to James in July 1894 that he had heard “a great deal about you from my mother and Graham Balfour,” Stevenson’s cousin (and later his biographer), with the latter declaring “that you could take a First in any Samoan subject.”38 This testifies to the way James had deliberately informed himself about the politics as well as the romance of the Pacific, doubtless having benefited from the four letters on Samoan affairs that Stevenson wrote to the London Times in 1892.

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Roslyn Jolly, in commenting on James’s poignant tribute to Stevenson after the latter’s death—​“He lighted up one whole side of the globe, and was in himself a whole province of one’s imagination”—​expressed doubts as to whether Stevenson did in fact “manage to illuminate that other hemisphere (western, southern) which always remained, for James, unimaginable.”39 This is, I think, to imply an unduly restrictive account of James’s worldly imagination and of the ways it enters subliminally into his major works of fiction. When James wrote to Stevenson in 1892 that “London is more peopled to me by your living in Samoa than by the residence of almost anybody else in Kensington or Chelsea,” he was expressing, in a subtle and measured manner, his own projection of London and the Pacific as twinned sites, where “civilized” and “[p]‌rimitive man” become doppelgangers rather than antitheses.40 It is noticeable, as Jolly observed, how James writing in March 1892 about the state of culture in Britain tells Stevenson that the “vulgarity of literature in these islands at the present time is not to be said,” and he repeats the phrase “in these islands” in another letter one month later, as if to draw an equivalence between barbarous conditions in “islands” across both hemispheres.41 Stevenson shared with James a sense of the world’s intransigent and unforgiving quality—​“The world is great and rough,” he wrote to Adelaide Boodle in 1891: “he is nearest to the right divinity who can accept that greatness and that roughness”—​but James in an 1888 essay later reprinted in Partial Portraits astutely described Stevenson as not only “a Scot of the Scots” but as also the product of “a certain process of detachment, of extreme secularization,” so that Stevenson had been “emancipated” and was “as we may say, a Scotchman of the world.”42 James’s designation of Stevenson as “a Scotchman of the world” suggests how he came to conceive of national identity and worldly engagement as symbiotically intertwined. He similarly regarded himself as an American of the world, a hybrid identity that arose out of his specific historical as well as geographic situation. Both James and Stevenson were associated intermittently with the fin-​de-​ siècle Aesthetic movement—​James published in Henry Harland’s Yellow Book, while Stevenson was friendly with John Addington Symonds, who dedicated a book to him—​and they were both interested not only in a politics of style but also in forms of aesthetic detachment that might enable them to position themselves at an oblique angle to accustomed social norms. Stevenson complained in 1893 to the poet Richard Le Gallienne, a friend of Wilde, about how the “little, artificial popularity of style in England tends, I think, to die out; the

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British pig returns to his vomit—​to his true love, the love of the style-​less, of the shapeless, of the slapdash and the disorderly.”43 This was one reason Stevenson as a fellow-​traveler in the Aesthetic movement was so keen to get his hands on James’s Tragic Muse, a novel that charts distances between a vulgar social conformity and aesthetic adventure. Stevenson had earlier been impatient with what he saw as the claustrophobic realism of A Portrait of a Lady, but he wrote to James in December 1891 of how he “was delighted with The Tragic Muse,” which he thought “one of your best works.”44 But Stevenson also complained bitterly of how his own “long and masterly treatise” on the novel, in a previous letter to the author, had “plainly gone to the bottom,” along with a similar letter discussing Edmund Gosse’s biography of his father. “These gems of criticism are now lost literature, like the tomes of Alexandria,” he concluded: “I could not do ‘em again.”45 There is particular reason to lament the loss of Stevenson’s critical response to The Tragic Muse, since the novel speaks in resonant ways to the worldly specters with which James’s aestheticism was intertwined. It is possible, indeed, that Stevenson’s perspective as a distant Pacific reader might have helped to broaden out the public reception of The Tragic Muse, whose textual focus on English domestic life should not obscure its radical openness to more distant horizons. James cited a letter from Stevenson in the preface to the novel that he subsequently wrote for the New York edition, recalling how Stevenson had written “that he was at a loss to conceive how one could find an interest in anything so vulgar” as “a creature of the stage”; but James justified his portrait of Miriam Rooth on the grounds that she was “suggestive much less, verily, in respect to the poor stage per se than in respect to ‘art’ at large.”46 This accords with James’s understanding of The Tragic Muse as not only involving “the conflict between art and ‘the world’ ”—​the latter phrase being typically framed in scare quotes as “a conception that clearly required, and that would for ever continue to take, any amount of filling-​in”—​but as also crucially involving “a light of alternation,” whereby the “subject” of the novel always involves “a different view and a different placing of the centre.” It is, insisted James, “the consistency of the multiplication of aspects” that distinguishes this novel, and if the narrative involves “specious and spurious centres,” this merely corroborates James’s “candid confession that in very few of my productions, to my eye, has the organic centre succeeded in getting into proper position.”47 Put another way, The Tragic Muse is cast as a novel of alternating perspectives where the prospect of any “proper” organic center is superseded by an emphasis

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upon “projection” and the creation of art through a “successfully foreshortened” representational strategy. Hence “the centre of my structure,” wrote James, would “perversely, incurably . . . insist on placing itself not, so to speak, in the middle.”48 Part of this off-​centeredness involves the reader being pulled across the consciousness of each major character—​MP-turned-artist Nick Dormer, his Oxford friend Gabriel Nash, his diplomat cousin, Peter Sherringham, and actress Miriam Rooth—​but part of this structural divergence also involves a specific interplay between domestic comforts and the dislocating specters of a wider world. Sherringham, for example, says that “one of the things I love” is “living in far countries,”49 with James’s physiognomic characterization indicating that his face “struck superficial observers with a certain foreignness of cast,” even though the “deeper sort . . . usually perceived that it was English enough.”50 Still, Sherringham’s proclivity to cultivate “the mask of an alien”51 leads the diplomat into an “odd capacity for being of two different minds at very nearly the same time,” and it is this intuitive sympathy for the chameleonic that attracts him to this elusive actress, since he feels he will “never get a grasp of Miriam as a whole. She was constructed to revolve like the terrestrial globe; some part or other of her was always out of sight or in shadow.”52 The metaphor of Miriam revolving “like the terrestrial globe” also fits with her linguistic fluency in Italian, with what Sherringham describes as the “little queernesses and impurities in your English, as if you had lived abroad too much.”53 It is similarly commensurate with the recognition by Sherringham only late in the novel that “she was of the Hebrew strain,”54 and with “the wide view of the world” that Miriam and her mother had necessarily “acquired” during Mrs. Rooth’s career as a “great wanderer.”55 After Sherringham has himself “transferred to duties in a more distant quarter of the globe”56 so as to deliberately take himself out of Miriam’s orbit, there is a logistical correlative within the plot of the novel to its theme of geographical distance. Assuming the “high position of minister to the smallest of Central American republics,”57 Sherringham’s “remoter duties”58 take him into “latitudes unfavourable to human life,”59 with the career diplomat telling himself that “[h]‌e was going to the equator to get away from her.”60 Nevertheless, Sherringham cannot resist returning to witness the first night of Miriam’s theatrical performance as Juliet, with the novel recording how “he paced at night, under the southern stars, the deck of the ship that was bringing him to England.”61 It is precisely this division in Miriam between worldly celebrity and commercial “vulgarity” that ensnares and intimidates Sherringham. Gabriel Nash envisages “a large bright picture of her progress through the time and round the world,

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round it and round it again, from continent to continent and clime to clime,” but Nash imagines that ultimately “her divine voice would crack, screaming to foreign ears and antipodal barbarians.”62 Warned off by Nash’s “brilliant, amused, amusing vision”63 of Miriam’s fame, Sherringham ends up married instead to the more diplomatically convenient figure of Biddy, Dormer’s sister. This element of worldliness, presented as a threat to established domestic customs, becomes integral to the dynamic of The Tragic Muse. Although the novel itself is set mainly in England and Paris, it extends its global circumference much more broadly so as to play off different worldly domains against each other. In this sense, the character of Nash, whose “real genius for suggestive paradox”64 introduces an Aesthete’s sensibility into this traditional milieu, serves ironically to dematerialize the creature comforts cherished by the English gentry. When he mocks Dormer’s socially ambitious mother by raising the imaginary specter of “Castle Nugent,” Nash responds to her too eager inquiry by replying: “It’s a domain of immeasurable extent, and almost inconceivable splendour, but I fear it isn’t to be found in any prosaic earthly geography.”65 Nash has a tendency to associate geographical locations with aesthetic fabrications:  “his Sicily might have been the Sicily of A Winter’s Tale,”66 so we are told, while Dormer at the end has a “notion” that Nash “has gone to India, and at the present moment is reclining on a bank of flowers in the vale of Cashmere.”67 But within the logic of the novel this serves reciprocally to aestheticize the landscapes of England, so that when Dormer is dining in the country house of Mr. Carteret, with its “immemorial blank butler,”68 he cannot resist ironically envisaging this conventional English scene to himself within a pictorial framework. This sense of strategic distance is also consistent with the aesthetic infrastructure of wordplay and paradox that informs the novel, as seen in the explicit pun on representation involving both representation in parliament and artistic representation—​ Dormer’s studio in South Kensington is described as “an absurd place to see his constituents, unless he wanted to paint their portraits, a kind of representation with which they scarcely would have been satisfied”69—​and in Sherringham’s oxymoronic consideration of whether Miriam might be “corrupted into respectability.”70 Again, James’s contradictory idiom is bound up with a mobile mode of narrative “alternation,” as described in his preface to the novel, where no given position, whether epistemological or geographic, remains undisturbed by its contrary.71 This also leads The Tragic Muse into a complex realm of self-​dissolution, one marked in part by the gender politics that fall, in large part, outside the visible

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remit of the novel. The patriarchal Sherringham assumes that Miriam should welcome the prospect of becoming the wife of an ambassador, but she herself has no interest in, as she puts it, “tossing up my head as the fine lady of a little coterie.”72 This implies a blank space in gender relations, one where reciprocity fails, since the idea of Sherringham’s sacrificing his own career for hers is altogether outside his realm of experience or imagination. The representation of Miriam here as an “undiscoverable country, who spoke in blank verse”73 thus signifies something more than merely her stage persona. Instead, the element of inscrutability associated with her character implies the limitations of inherited knowledge more generally, a discrepancy reinforced by Biddy’s demeanor of feminist independence when she critiques Sherringham’s clichéd assumption that women are “Everything” by responding: “That’s the kind of thing you say to keep us quiet.”74 Confronted by his sister’s “enlightened spinsterhood” in the embryonic radical feminism that characterized the last years of the nineteenth century—​women in New Zealand got the right to vote as early as 1893—​Dormer himself feels at the end of the novel that “modern as he had supposed himself, there were evidently currents more modern yet.”75 This speaks to what Adam Seth Lowenstein has aptly characterized as the novel’s “open-​endedness, its provisionality, its representational ambiguity,” something that, as Peter Brooks has observed, makes The Tragic Muse a “jumping-​off point” for James’s great last novels, where the anomalies of representation become even more pronounced.76 Dormer tells Nash the fact that he has renounced his career as a parliamentarian, despite having little idea “how to paint,” means that “[n]‌o element of burlesque is therefore wanting to my position”;77 but this “element of burlesque” is endemic to The Tragic Muse as a whole, since the novel projects a failure, or at least a partiality, of representation in the light of trajectories of “alternation” that systematically traverse its global compass. In his review of The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson published in the North American Review in 1900, James noted of Stevenson that the “fascination in him, from the first, is the mixture.” James particularly admired the way in which “ambiguities and compatibilities,” “linked diversities” were intertwined in Stevenson’s writing, so that he could delight in the kind of “anomaly” epitomized by “a drenched yachtsman haunted with ‘style,’ a shameless Bohemian haunted with duty.”78 This kind of paradoxical quality is itself intellectually symptomatic of fin-​de-​siècle Aestheticism, of course, but it is also characteristic of structural divisions that carry both psychological and geographic ramifications, as with the description in Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) of the tormented hero

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“coming home from some place at the end of the world.”79 Commenting in his review on a letter that Stevenson sent to his own cousin in 1894, James said that it gives the reader a sense “that, far from feeling Vailima, in the light of it, to be out of the world, it strikes us that the world has moved for the time to Vailima.”80 Ensconced in his home on the south coast of England, James himself never quite experienced “[t]‌he joy of risks, the more personal the better” that he attributed to his friend in Samoa.81 Nevertheless, The Tragic Muse encompasses Stevenson’s spirit in the way it internalizes shadow worlds, and the complexity of the process through which global space haunts James’s novel suggests how the engagement of American literature with the wider world can be an oblique rather than direct phenomenon. World literature, as Franco Moretti suggested, “is not an object, it’s a problem,” one bound not to impossible principles of global coverage, but to particular ways of seeing. Moretti proposed his sociological model of “distant reading” as a corrective to the more traditional method of “close reading” that tended to fetishize the textual intricacies of selected canonical works, but “close” reading in this context may be something of a misnomer since attention to textual practice does not involve merely an appreciation of stylistic finesse but can instead open out literary narratives to more “distant” worldly horizons.82 A “close” reading of The Tragic Muse paradoxically takes us further away from the characters in the foreground of its action, allowing us instead to comprehend how they find themselves immersed within broader global crosscurrents. Such worldly dimensions of American literature are not reducible merely to the institutional politics of the academy, but instead offer the American literary subject a chance to breathe.

Notes 1 John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity,” in The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology, eds. Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 86, 88. 2 Henry James, Letters, Volume IV: 1895–​1916, ed. Leon Edel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 682. 3 William James, “Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking,” in Pragmatism and Other Writings, ed. Giles Gunn (New York: Penguin, 2000), 10–​11. 4 William Carlos Williams, “Paterson,” in The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I (1909–​1939) (New York: New Directions, 1986), 264.

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5 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 167. 6 Emily Apter, The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 11, 41. 7 Homi K. Bhabha, “Unpacking My Library Again,” Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 28.1 (Spring 1995): 12. 8 Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Mapping World Literature: International Canonization and Transnational Literatures (London: Continuum, 2008), 1. 9 Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 13. 10 Russell McDougall, “The ‘New’ World Literature: A Review Essay,” Transnational Literature 6.2 (May 2014). https://​dspace.flinders.edu.au/​xmlui/​bitstream/​handle/​ 2328/​27567/​New_​World_​Literature.pdf?sequence=1. 11 Jonathan Arac, “Anglo-​Globalism?,” New Left Review 16 (July–​Aug. 2002): 35–​45. 12 Wenche Ommundsen, “Transnational (Il)literacies: Reading the ‘New Chinese Literature in Australia’ in China,” Antipodes 25.1 (2011): 85, 88. 13 William C. Spengemann, “Introduction,” in The American, Henry James (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), 12–​13; John Carlos Rowe, The Theoretical Dimensions of Henry James (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), 35. 14 Henry James, Letters, Volume III: 1883–​1895, ed. Leon Edel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), 244. 15 Charles Wentworth Dilke, Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-​Speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1868), vii. 16 Charles Wentworth Dilke, Problems of Greater Britain (London: Macmillan, 1890), 3. 17 James, Letters, vol. 3, 242. 18 T. S. Eliot, “On Henry James,” in Henry James: Critical Assessments, ed. Graham Clarke (Mountfield: Helm Information, 1991), 309. 19 F. O. Matthiessen and Kenneth B. Murdock, ed., The Notebooks of Henry James (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 174. 20 Tony Tanner, Venice Desired (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 203. 21 Victoria Coulson, Henry James, Women and Realism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 102, 113. For the book version of these travel essays, see Constance Fenimore Woolson, Mentone, Cairo, and Corfu (New York: Harper, 1896). 22 Henry James, The American Scene, ed. John F. Sears (New York: Penguin, 1994), 13. 23 John Carlos Rowe, The Other Henry James (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 1.

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44 Paul Giles 24 Jonathan Freedman, Henry James, British Aestheticism, and Commodity Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), xvi. 25 Hugh Stevens, “Queer Henry In the Cage,” in The Cambridge Companion to Henry James, ed. Jonathan Freedman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 124. 26 Henry James, The Tragic Muse (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978), 385. 27 Ibid., 54. 28 Ibid., 55. 29 Meir Sternberg, “Spatiotemporal Art and the Other Henry James: The Case of The Tragic Muse,” Poetics Today 5.4 (1984): 783. 30 James, The Tragic Muse, 197. 31 Krishan Kumar, The Making of English National Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 221–​2. 32 S. I. Salamensky, “‘The Man of the Hour’: Oscar Wilde, Performance, and Proto-​ Modernity in Henry James’s The Tragic Muse,” Henry James Review 32.1 (Winter 2011): 60. 33 Sara Blair, Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 17, 25, 48. 34 Janet Adam Smith, ed., Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson: A Record of Friendship and Criticism (London: Rupert Hart-​Davis, 1948), 80. 35 Smith, James and Stevenson, 101. 36 Ibid., 192. 37 Ibid., 197–​8. 38 Ibid., 242. 39 Roslyn Jolly, “‘A Whole Province of One’s Imagination: On the Friendship between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson,” Heat 5 (2003): 191–​2. 40 Smith, James and Stevenson, 220, 231. 41 Jolly, “A Whole Province,” 190; Smith, James and Stevenson, 212, 216. 42 Ernest Mehew, ed., Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 448; Henry James, “Robert Louis Stevenson” (1888); Smith, James and Stevenson, 139, 141. 43 Mehew, Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, 571. 44 John Lyon, “Stevenson and Henry James,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Louis Stevenson, ed. Penny Fielding (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 138; Smith, James and Stevenson, 210. 45 Smith, James and Stevenson, 208–​9. 46 Henry James, The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces, intro. Richard P. Blackmur (New York: Scribner’s, 1934), 91. 47 Ibid., 80, 90, 86, 85. 48 Ibid., 85, 87.

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49 James, The Tragic Muse, 37. 50 Ibid., 38. 51 Ibid., 38. 52 Ibid., 374. 53 Ibid., 139. 54 Ibid., 444. 55 Ibid., 47. 56 Ibid., 392. 57 Ibid., 393. 58 Ibid., 393. 59 Ibid., 392. 60 Ibid., 403. 61 Ibid., 528. 62 Ibid., 375. 63 Ibid., 375. 64 Ibid., 58. 65 Ibid., 48. 66 Ibid., 263. 67 Ibid., 516. 68 Ibid., 193. 69 Ibid., 61. 70 Ibid., 214. 71 James, The Art of the Novel, 90. 72 James, The Tragic Muse, 470. 73 Ibid., 457. 74 Ibid., 437. 75 Ibid., 515. 76 Adam Seth Lowenstein, “‘Surprises that Struck the Hour’: The Tragic Muse and the Modernizing of the Jamesian Serial,” Henry James Review 32.2 (Summer 2011): 155; Peter Brooks, Henry James Goes to Paris (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 97. 77 James, The Tragic Muse, 124. 78 Smith, James and Stevenson, 256–​7. 79 Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, ed. Katherine Lineham (New York: Norton, 2003), 9. 80 Smith, James and Stevenson, 271. 81 Ibid., 258. 82 Franco Moretti, “Conjectures on World Literature,” New Left Review 1 (Jan.–​Feb. 2000): 55; and Franco Moretti, Distant Reading (London: Verso, 2013).

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Works cited Apter, Emily. The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. Arac, Jonathan. “Anglo-​Globalism?” New Left Review n.s. 16 (July–​Aug. 2002): 35–​45. Bhabha, Homi K. “Unpacking My Library Again.” Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 28.1 (Spring 1995): 5–​18. Blair, Sara. Henry James and the Writing of Race and Nation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Brooks, Peter. Henry James Goes to Paris. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Coulson, Victoria. Henry James, Women and Realism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Dilke, Charles Wentworth. Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-​Speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867. 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1868. Dilke, Charles Wentworth. Problems of Greater Britain. London: Macmillan, 1890. Eliot, T. S. “On Henry James.” In Henry James: Critical Assessments. Ed. Graham Clarke. Mountfield: Helm Information, 1991. Freedman, Jonathan. Henry James, British Aestheticism, and Commodity Culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. James, Henry. The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces. Intro. Richard P. Blackmur. New York: Scribner’s, 1934. James, Henry. The Tragic Muse. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978. James, Henry. Letters, Volume III: 1883–​1895. Ed. Leon Edel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980. James, Henry. Letters, Volume IV: 1895–​1916. Ed. Leon Edel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984. James, Henry. The American Scene. Ed. John F. Sears. New York: Penguin, 1994. James, William. “Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.” In Pragmatism and Other Writings. Ed. Giles Gunn. New York: Penguin, 2000. 1–​132. Jolly, Roslyn. “A Whole Province of One’s Imagination: On the Friendship between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson.” Heat 5 (2003): 177–​94. Kumar, Krishan. The Making of English National Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Lowenstein, Adam Seth. “ ‘Surprises that Struck the Hour’: The Tragic Muse and the Modernizing of the Jamesian Serial.” Henry James Review 32.2 (Summer 2011): 140–​59. Lyon, John. “Stevenson and Henry James.” In The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Louis Stevenson. Ed. Penny Fielding. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Matthiessen, F. O. and Kenneth B. Murdock, eds. The Notebooks of Henry James. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947.

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McDougall, Russell. “The ‘New’ World Literature: A Review Essay.” Transnational Literature 6.2 (May 2014). https://​dspace.flinders.edu.au/​xmlui/​bitstream/​handle/​ 2328/​27567/​New_​World_​Literature.pdf?sequence=1. Mehew, Ernest, ed. Selected Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. Moretti, Franco. “Conjectures on World Literature.” New Left Review 1 (Jan.–​Feb. 2000). https://​newleftreview.org/​II/​1/​franco-​moretti-​conjectures-​on-​world-​literature. Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. London: Verso, 2013. Ommundsen, Wenche. “Transnational (Il)literacies: Reading the ‘New Chinese Literature in Australia’ in China.” Antipodes 25.1 (2011): 83–​9. Rowe, John Carlos. The Theoretical Dimensions of Henry James. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984. Rowe, John Carlos. The Other Henry James. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998. Salamensky, S. I. “‘The Man of the Hour’: Oscar Wilde, Performance, and Proto-​ Modernity in Henry James’s The Tragic Muse.” Henry James Review 32.1 (Winter 2011): 60–​74. Smith, Janet Adam, ed. Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson: A Record of Friendship and Criticism. London: Rupert Hart-​Davis, 1948. Sollors, Werner. Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Spengemann, William C. “Introduction.” In The American. Henry James. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981. 12–​13. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. Sternberg, Meir. “Spatiotemporal Art and the Other Henry James: The Case of The Tragic Muse.” Poetics Today 5.4 (1984): 775–​830. Stevens, Hugh. “Queer Henry In the Cage.” In The Cambridge Companion to Henry James. Ed. Jonathan Freedman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Stevenson, Robert Louis. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ed. Katherine Lineham. New York: Norton, 2003. Tanner, Tony. Venice Desired. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992. Thomsen, Mads Rosendahl. Mapping World Literature: International Canonization and Transnational Literatures. London: Continuum, 2008. Williams, William Carlos. “Paterson.” In The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I (1909–​1939). New York: New Directions, 1986. Winthrop, John. “A Model of Christian Charity.” In The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology. Eds. Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985. Woolson, Constance Fenimore. Mentone, Cairo, and Corfu. New York: Harper, 1896.

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Worldings of American Literature off the Cultural Radar Lawrence Buell

A century ago, to broach the question of “American literature[’s]” status as world literature would have presupposed a quite different mindset from the way we think now. Back then, discussion would likely have centered on the perceived failure of US national literature to make its mark among the high cultures of the Western world. The lingering postcolonial anxiety of stateside literati reflected persistent though diminishing European consignment of “American literary space” to “the far periphery” of the cultural map, as Pascale Casanova astringently sums up Eurocentric critical consensus circa 1930, just as it had begun to change.1 In the 2000-​teens US writing has become the behemoth of contemporary Anglophone literature, commanding such prestige as to make the original concern itself seem quaintly misguided even for its own time. For almost a century had then already passed since Irving and Cooper achieved international literary fame. The influence of Emerson on Nietzsche, of Hawthorne on George Eliot, of Whitman on Neruda, of Poe on Baudelaire and Valery now seem self-​evident truths of literary and cultural history. But to have put the old canard to rest is far from settling the issue of what is or ought to be meant by “American literature as world literature.” On the contrary, the surge of interest in transnational networks and percolations during the past quarter century has dissolved the solidity of all three signifiers—​American, world, literature—​and led to a fertile, energizing rollout of semi-​intersecting, semi-​competing theses. Rather than attempt another remapping of this emergent field, or rather fields, this essay is an experiment in trying to think otherwise from the two kinds of impetus most favored by the best work so far undertaken by Americanists with US literary and cultural studies as the chief base of expertise. One arises from

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the anti-​imperialist project of demystifying the imposition of (Euro-​American) power via its representative cultural/​expressive forms on the rest of the world. The pre-​contemporary locus classicus was the 1993 Kaplan–​Pease critical anthology, Cultures of U.S. Imperialism, since reframed, refined, and updated in such works as Amy Kaplan’s The Anarchy of Empire. The other, the centrifugal complement of the first as it were, is the decentralization of national/​literary history’s internal teleology both from within, by stressing either/​both the dynamism of its geocultural margins—​ethno-​racial, geographical, sexual, exilic—​relative to any putative center and the constitution of “national” literary history from transnational, institutional, and cultural-​diasporic force fields, most influential among these being Atlantic (Afro-​, Euro-​, Red), hemispheric, and transpacific. Brent Hayes Edwards’ The Practice of Diaspora, Kirsten Silva Gruesz’s Ambassadors of Culture, Paul Giles’s The Global Remapping of American Literature, Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents, and Anna Brickhouse’s The Unsettlement of America are among the noteworthy accomplishments of this kind. Influenced though I  have been by both bodies of work, I  want here to stress by contrast the relevance of certain catalysts to transnational literary circulation apart from historical-​cultural forces. As such, with regard to its underlying conception of world literature my essay shares to rather different ends Rebecca Walkowitz’s desire to steer between overprivileging either “container” on the one hand or “target” on the other—​either crystallization at the national level or “convergences and divergences across literary histories.”2 It also resonates with at least some of the steadily accumulating heterogeneous theories of literary “planetarity,” especially to the extent I intend to tie the family resemblances among my exempla to notions of how “the phenomenal earth seeps into our interpretative categories, our aesthetics, and our cultural lives,” wary though I also am about the unavoidably totalizing connotations of “planetary”—​and, even more, of “world” writing.3 This essay aims especially to press the distinction between relatively culture-​ laden and relatively acultural incentivizers to transnational literary circulation and permeability—​a distinction untenable in practice if pressed beyond a point but, I  hope to show, useful in principle. Although I  will not altogether omit notice of the historico-​cultural and linguistic contingencies that work for and against cross-​border percolation, my emphasis will be on the properties of selected genres or discursive templates that seem inherently conducive to wide dissemination from their point of origin, regardless of whatever ideological

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persuasion, aesthetic vogue, or cache of cultural capital might have also helped speed their passage. The remote autobiographical origins of this project lie in the discrepancy between my conditioning as a specialist in US literature and the experience before becoming so conditioned of a breakaway from graduate studies a half-​ century ago to teach English literature to non-​native speakers at a university in Taiwan. One of my staple assignments to intermediates was Hemingway’s short fiction. Why? Not for the historico-​contextual reasons Werner Sollors stresses in Ethnic Modernism’s pithy chapter, “Hemingway Spoken Here,” namely the attraction of immigrant, minority, and working-​class authors to the quality of “Americanness” in Hemingway’s stripped-​down prose,4 but because the combination of terseness, linguistic accessibility, and understated provocativeness was so effective pedagogically—​not far different, I daresay, from the reasons for the choice of Lu Xun stories in the reader my Chinese tutor was using at the same time to bring me up to intermediate grade. My scholarly interest in the “Americanness” of Hemingway’s clipped vernacularism and fragile hypermasculinity, not to mention my antecedent major-​writer bias, no doubt figured in my choice of his fiction rather than (say) tidbits from Orwell or an Englished Kafka. But pure pedagogical pragmatism was my main motive for inflicting the likes of “A Very Short Story” on my charges, as it often continues to be for ESL teachers today (v. Marcus). I suspect the same holds broadly for the decisions of teachers of modern languages generally as to what literature to inject when into syllabi for non-​native learners. This snippet from youth brings me to the first of two featured case studies, the diffusion of haiku in Anglophone writing during the past century, first the United States, but by 2000 from the United Kingdom to Australia. Haiku today is written virtually worldwide, from Bengal to Bulgaria to Brazil. Why should this centuries-​old elite and recherché Japanese form have spread and metamorphosed so far so fast? Among other incentives that I will take up later, one is surely that it is so easy to imitate, at least after a fashion. So, a major section of the influential Haiku Handbook is given over to two chapters on haiku pedagogy: “Haiku for Kids” and “A Lesson Plan That Works.”5 As Richard Wright’s then-​teenage daughter remembered her father’s tutelage decades later at the time of his end-​of-​life immersion in the genre, of which more below: “Julia, you can write them, too. It’s always five, and seven and five—​like math.”6 Although Higginson–​Harter is also at pains to unpack haiku poetics in both traditional

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and modern contexts as high art, what commends haiku for teaching poetry to school children in the English-​speaking world, and very likely elsewhere too, is “directness and intensity”: that haikus “do not require esoteric explanations” in order to provoke lively discussion.7 Simplicity and accessibility—​at least the appearance thereof—​might then be fairly seen as imputed aesthetic properties facilitating portability of a text or genre beyond its culture of origin having little to do with cultural specificities at either end. The same could be said of another type case that anticipates my second major exemplum, namely those that are so ubiquitous-​seeming as to be unassignable to any one culture or even continent of origin, such as folk or fairy tale and travel narrative. To be sure, Anancy tales are Afro-​centric; tales of Rama, Sita, and Ravana Indo-​centric, and so forth. But folktale as such, whatever its site-​ and geoculture-​specific variegations must also be understood as serendipitously polycentric. The geographic origins of homo sapiens itself are more credibly identifiable than those of folktale. It requires a huge inductive leap like Brian Boyd’s Darwinian interpretation of how narrative began in The Origin of Stories to conclude that the folktale as such came out of Africa too. The same could be said at least as emphatically of travel narrative—​a common folktale motif, of course, and closer to my interest here. In some respects it might be nation-​distinctive, as in US frontier writing, which in turn has its counterpart in the literary histories of all other neo-​Britains; and that larger body takes its place as a subset of all Euro–​colonial travel discourse both fictional and non-​, against which such empire-​writes-​back narratives as Chaudhuri’s Continent of Circe and Tayib Salih’s Season of Migration to the North react. Beyond that, however, the geo-​cultural domain of travel writing overspills the Eurocentric post/​ colonial container beyond all possibility of fixing it to any inception point. It is as anciently Sinocentric as it is Eurocentric. Medieval Arabic travel journals developed independently of their northern counterparts. It is as readily adaptable to outcast as to master-​class perspectives (Equiano or Humboldt), sometimes even within the same work, as in the Icelandic Grettir’s Saga, where the protagonist travels first in a conventional upward mobility fashion (well-​born but wayward youth aspiring to recognition in Norway) but then in embattled hopscotch peregrination around the island under stigma of an outlawry of record-​setting length. So too with travel narrative’s mimetic registers. It is as readily adaptable to spiritual allegory as to literal chronicle (Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe), or to both concurrently (again, Defoe). Altogether it would

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seem that the specificities of “culture” and “form” are interdependent but semi-​ autonomous energizers of these variegations irreducible to one other. And that part of the impetus of “form” itself in this case is a penchant for chorographic absorption of experience, for orienting mind/​body in space, not aboriginal to any one culture but part of human wiring, of the “environmental unconscious” as I have elsewhere termed it.8 I will return to this point in my other chief exhibit, Whitmanian incremental descriptivism. Haiku, to return to it, entered the bloodstream of Anglo-​American literature in the 19-​teens as part of the impetus behind the Imagist movement, but became thoroughly naturalized only after World War II. From Ezra Pound to Billy Collins, thousands of poets from canonical to amateur—​at first especially in the United States but by the century’s end throughout the Anglophone world—​have tried their hand at it. The first US writers of stature to compose large bodies of haiku, however, were the novelists Richard Wright and Jack Kerouac. For my purposes, Wright is the more interesting figure if only because his turn to haiku seems less predictable than Kerouac’s, which was part of a shared enthusiasm among the Beats, the first postwar Anglophone coterie to embrace it as a signature genre.9 Traditional Japanese haiku conventionally, though by no means always, takes the form of 17-​syllable poems of three phrases (conventionally Englished as three lines of 5-​7-​5) including a kireji (literally “cutting word,” best Englished by a pronounced caesura), in which lyric affect is obliquely channeled through concentrated glimpses of the object-​world, rendered “literally” but often with figurative implication, including a seasonal reference that is either overt or oblique. As Kerouac realized, this recipe was unadaptable 1:1 into English on rhythmic grounds alone, if only because Japanese syllables are so much brisker.10 Hence for ­example his In the sun   The butterfly wings Like a church window11

Wright, by contrast, whether for better or for worse, adhered closely to the 5-​7-​5 in the 4000-​some haiku composed during the last two years of his life, as in    The first day of spring: A servant’s hips shake as she    Wipes a mirror clean12

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These examples begin to give a flavor of the range of practice during the past century, as poets both in Japan and worldwide have elasticized haiku into “a wide-​ranging . . . capacious [short-​form] genre capable . . . of expressing anything a poet might wish to convey,”13 even as others have stuck to (their view of) traditional practice and/​or doubt whether the “spirit” of Haiku if not its formal conventions per se is translatable (e.g., Takiguchi). Although haiku has much stronger claims than, say, the Italian sonnet to non-​portability, its worldwide spread as a favored genre, however torqued from Bashō or Issa, bears out Jahan Ramazani’s observation (of ghazal as well as haiku) that “sometimes the allure of rhythm, a formal structure, or a ‘foreign’ aesthetic is stronger than ideological fortifications against cross-​cultural contamination”14–​and bears out, furthermore, that the sense of portability cannot be ascribed to one or another cultural point of entry. Even if haiku was not literally “born” translated, then, the literary histories of six continents show that it has repeatedly been taken to be. This need not mean effacement of its residue of Japaneseness, which as Ramazani intimates might be thought to add piquance to the adaptation. So, for example, for Kerouac and the Beats the then-​fashionable, reductive theory of haiku as a Zen practice was important, maybe crucial, to their zest for it. So too did Seamus Heaney find shared affinities between “the Old Irish poet” and “his Japanese counterpart” in their elegiac ellipticism and attentiveness to physical surroundings.15 One of his own deft experiments in the genre may slyly allude to this straddling position: Dangerous pavements . . . But this year I face the ice with my father’s stick16

On which father does the poet lean to negotiate the dangerous pavements—​ the Irish or the Japanese? The droll echo of the ancient sage pilgrimaging on the narrow road to the far north may or may not be fortuitous. Likewise of Wright’s haiku: read one way, servant seems a frail (and/​or overweight?) African American domestic. Read another way, she is a Japanese cameo. Read another, she is a French housekeeper, tidying up the poet’s chamber perhaps. Whichever you choose, this poem too, like Heaney’s, gains force from its cultural ambidextrousness even as it hovers above or apart from whatever hints of cultural inflection. All this suggests that it would be mistaken to insist that Wright’s immersion during the last two years of his life in so ostensibly apolitical a genre marked a

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sharp break in the direction of “pure” literature from his long-​standing commitment to anti-​racist social protest, which continued unabated through his partial shift from the US-​centric naturalist realism of his signature work of the 1930s and 1940s to his historico-​philosophic transnational interventions as anti-​colonial sage. But neither, on the other hand, should one underestimate the fascination of a novel, short, contemplative-​glimpse-​oriented form governed, as he took it, by a set of rules both clear and expansive for an inquisitive thinker with a long history of poetic experimentation at a time of unaccustomed passivity enforced by a long bout of amoebic dysentery. The wrangling among scholars both of Wright’s haiku and of the arrestingly copious archive of African American haiku-​writing from the 1920s over how Afro-​centric, how Japan/​ Zen-​centric, how aculturally aesthetic this body of work was designed to be and is17 seems to converge around some sort of both/​and, depending to a considerable extent on one’s case in point. The scattergram matches up with Wright’s own most direct statement of the case, testifying to both the opportune fascination of the novel form per se and its power in unlocking preexisting bottled-​up creative energy: These haikus were . . . written out of my illness. I was, and am, so damnably sensitive. Never was I so sensitive as when my intestines were raw. So along came that Japanese poetry and harnessed this nervous energy.18

The individual poems themselves disclose a comparably hybrid picture: subsets of southern reminiscence haikus, overlapping with subsets of anti-​racist and/​or social justice haikus, overlapping with what seem tour-​de-​force efforts to master the spirit of the form as he understood it. The one quoted above might fairly be construed in any of these ways. The same goes for his single perhaps most celebrated haiku, praised both by Wright scholars and by guardians of haiku quality control who see him as a comparatively marginal figure in the history of the genre.19    In the falling snow A laughing boy holds out his palms    Until they are white.

This could fairly be read either in paradigmatically “universalizing” terms or in culturally specific terms. It might be describing a lad anywhere in the world where the temperature dips below freezing as he plays in the first snow. Or he might be a child from the deep South where snow is rare, and what’s more a

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black child coloring himself white, in which case his “laugh” would presumably carry an ironic bite, especially if we assume a black persona wise in the ways of masking and adaptation. Most would likely consider the second reading more richly suggestive, but it would be captious to deny the possibility of the other: that this putatively racialized place-​centric poem might also be read as shareably exoteric, especially if the author were unknown. What permits and indeed necessitates the latter possibility—​which potentially reinforces the potency of the other reading if one arrives at the song of experience through the song of innocence—​is especially the invocation of widely recognizable seasonality and life-​stage with minimal descriptive coloration. Here Wright’s poem showcases the portability of haiku content as well as (a loose interpretation of) haiku prosody. Seasonality is a meteorological universal, even at the poles and the equator, even if snow is contingent. So too is prepubescent naiveté, even if boyish laughter is not. However crucial its long germination among Japanese literati was to the crystallization of the form, however decisive the imagist movement may have been to its first Anglo-​American adaptations and—​reciprocally—​Zen to the enthusiasm of both the Beats and Richard Wright, those readily shareable motifs are at least as important incentivizers to dissemination. Much the same holds for our other centerpiece exemplum, Whitman long-​ line incremental descriptivism, as in this passage from “Song of Myself,” quoted here in part. The blab of the pave, tires of carts, sluff of boot-​soles, talk of the promenaders, The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the clank of the shod horses on the granite floor, The snow-​sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-​balls, The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous’d mobs, The flap of the curtain’d litter, a sick man inside borne to the hospital . . . . . . . I mind them or the show or resonance of them—​I come and I depart20

Such “catalogue rhetoric” is more variegated than it sometimes looks, although Whitman’s riffs often notoriously dwindle into fill-​out-​the-​pattern self-​parody, as in “I Hear American Singing” and “Salut au Monde” (“I see Teheran . . ./​I see Egypt,” etc.). In principle the template can deliver all these and more: dense sonic epitomes like the above where different seasons, clashing moods and tonalities, discrepant vantage points (near–​far) get run together—​or, looser, more skittery,

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happenstance-​seeming ones (“Faces” section 1); slow or rapid buildup of single panoramic scenes from a single fixed or moving point (“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” section 3; “There Was a Child Went Forth”); geographical giganticism or cameo, or in between (“Our Old Feuillage” vs. “Bivouac on a Mountain Side” vs. “Mannahatta”) piece-​to-​piece associational logic or sharp breaks (both on display above); the obvious (“fury of rous’d mobs”) and the never-​before noticed and/​or spoken in poetry (“blab,” “sluff ”); speaker in control of raw perceptual data vs. perceiver controlled/​shaped by perceptual data, or in between (“Starting from Paumanok” section 18 vs. “Song of Myself ” section 33 vs. “Song of Myself ” section 15). The seeming casualness of the results lies behind such familiar denigrations as Ezra Pound’s of Whitman as “a pig-​headed father” and Edmund Gosse’s of his art as “literature in the condition of protoplasm.”21 Yet both despite and because of this kind of putdown, the unbuttoned vertiginousness of Whitman’s signature rhetoric has, whether at first or second or more distant remove, infected and inflected a host of world poets over time. Some have cultural-​nationalist agendas reminiscent of Whitman’s Jacksonian bumptiousness (Brazilian Ronald de Carvalho’s “Advertência”/​“Warning”: “European!/​In the chess boards of your village/​in your small, wooden house overgrown with ivy . . . you do not know what it means to be American!”)22 and/​or determination to give voice to the repressed, the abjected, the unsung (Neruda’s “Behold me from the depths of the earth,/​laborer, weaver, silent herdsman:/​tamer of the tutelary guanacos:/​mason of the defiled scaffold:/​bearer of the Andean tears:/​jeweler with your fingers crushed”).23 However, the same Whitmanesque rhetorical gesture just as easily underwrites other, less obviously “political,” mutually quite discrepant, breakouts from the quotidian, for example, Fernando Pessoa’s lyric outcry I want to live freely, out in the open, I want to make gestures outside my own body, To run like the rain streaming down over walls, To be stepped on like stones down the broad streets, To sink like heavy weights to the bottom of the sea . . .24

or Les Murray on urbanites on a rural holiday enacting a ritual “return” to agrarian roots, a perhaps wholly serendipitous down-​under rerun of Whitman’s “Song of Occupations”: The warriors are cutting timber with brash chainsaws; they are trimming   hardwood pit-​props and loading them;

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58 Lawrence Buell Is that an order? They hoot at the peremptory lorry driver. Who laughs;   he is also a warrior. They are driving long-​nosed tractors, slashing pasture in the dinnertime sun; they are fitting tappets and valves, the warriors, or giving finish to a surfboard . . .25

These are but a smidgen of the possible examples of Whitmanian reverberations across world poetry in the twentieth century and beyond, whether or not by conscious design. That Whitman should have seemed to mean so many things to so many writers—​including many who like Jorge Luis Borges whose Whitmania has had little or nothing to do with the signature device featured here—​has not escaped critique. Caroline Levander, for one, dryly observes that “Broadly understood as the poet of American literary democracy and the common man, Whitman became a literary brand [in Latin America] that covered an ever-​increasing host of particular agendas.”26 She might have been talking about the first two snippets above—​or, to jump the hemispheres, the others too. Doris Sommer pushes critical skepticism to the limit by representing Whitman as a kind of free-​market-​ capitalist entrepreneur who managed to arrest such mutually different geniuses as Neruda, Borges, and Octavio Paz by the disingenuous lure of meeting them on their own terms—​the effect of which, she surmises, “probably owes to his genre, the short poetic fragments that switch from one rhythm to another between pauses for breath, in a syncopated assault on readers provoked to respond.”27 Without denying the copious evidence in favor of such charges of hemispheric—​maybe even global—​marketing, one should also stress the significance of the flip side of the picture, which is on display in the squib from “Song of Myself ” quoted earlier and Whitman’s paratactic descriptivism more generally. Yes, especially in his early poems the persona again and again tries to sell us on the proposition that every atom of me as good belongs to you, to insinuate coaxingly that I have anticipated you whoever you are long before you were born, to claim that he speaks for everybody, or at least that his songs bear witness to all the peoples of the world, albeit Americans first and foremost. At the same time, however, and increasingly as time goes on, Whitman’s extrospective collages also register a “nonpossessive self,” as Wynn Thomas terms it,28 and deliver what Angus Fletcher calls “the environment-​poem,” built on a poetics that “imagines or discovers a manifold in nature that has no perfect isolationist wall around it, and further lacks any superimposed hierarchic system.”29 Fletcher is careful not to claim Whitman as the de novo originator of a practice antecedently rooted in

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Romanticist poetry of place, in Neoclassical locodescriptivism, and anciently in Homeric and biblical poetry as well as in the levelling-​egalitarian ideology of Jacksonian America. But he presents Whitman, rightly I think, as its first full-​ fledged exemplar. To think this way, at least provisionally, about Whitman’s capacity to infiltrate across borders offers an important corrective against overreliance on such explanatory factors as cultural nationalism and cultural capital in favor of a phenomenological understanding built on recognition of a non-​exclusive, widely shareable if not ubiquitous model of environmental perception that to my mind is just as persuasive a key to Whitmanian allure as the other. The fusion of plasticity, copiousness, and fragmentation inherent to the extrospective catalogue form embed all these and more: a sense of fertile plenitude and flexible outer bounds of the perceptual field, with the capacity to snag either the tiniest near-​at hand particles (mossy scabs of the wormfence, beetles rolling balls of dung) or glimpses of the far horizon; its fluidity with shifts of mood in time and body in space; its weave of “natural” and “built” landscapes; and its asymptotic limits: its necessary blind spots (the necessary film that envelops the soul, as “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” calls it), its inchoateness of perception; its built-​in recognition of chance or fortuity in the work of both perception and poetics. In such ways Whitmanian catalogue rhetoric becomes a vehicle for transmitting the play, the underlying energies, and the limits of the environmental unconscious that is universally shared albeit differently inflected across cultures, epochs, and temperaments. This is not to say that Whitman’s particular crystallizations, or any others I have referenced, are themselves “universal.” On the contrary, the exploratory, fragmented, fluid, and objectifying quiddities of his catalogues and of those attracted to them would have been much less likely to manifest if at all before a certain stage of “modernization,” of urbanization in the broadest sense, of the degree of existential disembeddedness from a home range in keeping with the first rollouts of “environment” as an English noun, with its connotations of reified surround and the advent of realist aesthetics in the long nineteenth-​century sense. But the environmental unconscious of which catalogue rhetoric is one strikingly durable and persuasive form of expression itself seems wired into the apparatus of human perception. As will already be obvious to my reader, what I believe especially links this essay’s two chief demonstration cases of US literary worlding—​the import and the export:  haiku and Whitmanian catalogue—​are the elements of sheer

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simplicity to the template (not that either lacks the potential for high sophistication!) and the impetus to cross-​border portability or transposability lent by the environmental evocations characteristic to each case. Although the many contributory historico-​cultural factors that enter into the genesis of even the most simple-​seeming literary instance cannot in practice be disaggregated from the phenomenological and vice versa, the latter must be reckoned with if one is to parse completely the logic of literary dissemination. That said, I leave it open just what degree of importance to assign to (say) seasonality as a circulating force in the cross-​border dissemination of haiku or environmental unconscious in Whitmanian catalogue rhetoric. If this essay convinces some readers previously unconvinced that one must look beyond or beneath the cultural radar—​the relevant pluralities of the same, to be more precise—​for the full explanation that of course will remain forever a work in progress, I shall be satisfied.

Notes 1 Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, trans. M. B. De Bevoise (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 336. 2 Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 30. 3 Amy J. Elias and Christian Moraru, “Introduction: The Planetary Condition,” in The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century, eds. Elias and Moraru (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015), xxiii. 4 Werner Sollors, “Hemingway Spoken Here,” in Ethnic Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 129. 5 William J. Higginson and Penny Harter, The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989), 151–​81. 6 Julia Wright, “Introduction” to Richard Wright, in Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, ed. Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener (New York: Arcade, 2012), viiii. 7 Higginson and Harter, The Haiku Handbook, 154. 8 Lawrence Buell, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 22–​7. 9 Wright too was introduced to haiku by a minor Beat writer and painter, the South African Sinclair Beiles; but he was never part of that circle (Jianquing

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11 12 13

14 15

16 17

18 19

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[John] Zheng, ed., The Other World of Richard Wright: Perspectives on His Haiku [Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011], xi; Michel Fabre, The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright, 2nd edn. [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993], 505). “An English-​language translation of a typical Japanese haiku,” advises The Haiku Handbook, “should have from ten to twelve syllables in order to simulate the duration of the original” (Higginson and Harter, The Haiku Handbook, 102). Jack Kerouac, Book of Haikus, ed. Regina Weinrich (New York: Penguin, 2003), 62. Richard Wright, Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, eds. Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener (New York: Arcade, 2012), 50. Jim Kacian, “An Overview of Haiku in English,” in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, ed. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Alan Burns (New York: Norton, 2013), 323. Jahan Ramazani, A Transnational Poetics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 56. Seamus Heaney, “Afterword: Petals on a Bough,” in Our Shared Japan: An Anthology of Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Irene De Angelis and Joseph Woods (Dublin: Dedalus Press, 2007), 217. Seamus Heaney, Seeing Things (Loughcrew, Ireland: Gallery Press, 1991), 114. See Jianquing [John] Zheng, ed., The Other World of Richard Wright and John [Jianquing] Zheng, ed., African American Haiku: Cultural Vision (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016). Quoted in Michel Fabre, The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright, 508. v. Michel Fabre, The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright, 506 vs. Lee Gurga with Charles Turnbull, Haiku: A Poet’s Guide (Lincoln, IL: Modern Haiku Press, 2003), 86; and Lee Gurga, “Richard Wright’s Place in American Haiku,” in The Other World of Richard Wright, ed. Jianquing [John] Zheng (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011), 177–​9. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader’s Edition, ed. Sculley Bradley (New York: New York University Press, 1965), 36. Jim Perlman, Ed Folsom, and Dan Campion, eds. Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song (Minneapolis: Holy Cow! Press, 1981), 21, 29. Quoted in Maria Clara Bonetti Paro, “Whitman in Brazil,” in Walt Whitman and the World, ed. Gay Wilson Allen and Ed Folsom (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995), 134. Pablo Neruda, Canto General, trans. Jack Schmidt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 41. Fernando Pessoa’s “Salutation to Walt Whitman,” in Jim Perlman, Ed Folsom, and Dan Campion, eds., Walt Whitman, 36.

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62 Lawrence Buell 25 Les Murray, “The Buladelah-​Tree Holiday Song Cycle,” in New Selected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus, 2014), 23. 26 Caroline Levander, Where Is American Literature? (Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell, 2013), 50. 27 Doris Sommer, “Freely and Equally Yours, Walt Whitman,” in Proceed with Caution, when Engaged by Minority Writing in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 1999), 39. 28 M. Wynn Thomas, The Lunar Light of Whitman’s Poetry (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), 130. 29 Angus Fletcher, A New Theory of American Poetry: Democracy, the Environment, and the Future of the Imagination (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 238.

Works cited Allen, Gay Wilson and Ed Folsom. Walt Whitman and the World. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995. Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001. Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Trans. M. B. De Bevoise. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. Elias, Amy J. and Christian Moraru. “Introduction: The Planetary Condition.” In The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century. Ed. Elias and Moraru. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015. xi–​xxxvii. Fabre, Michel. The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright. 2nd edn. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993. Fletcher, Angus. A New Theory of American Poetry: Democracy, the Environment, and the Future of the Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. Gurga, Lee with Charles Turnbull. Haiku: A Poet’s Guide. Lincoln: Modern Haiku Press, 2003. Gurga, Lee. “Richard Wright’s Place in American Haiku.” In The Other World of Richard Wright: Perspectives on His Haiku. Ed. Jianquing [John] Zheng. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. 169–​80. Heaney, Seamus. “Afterword: Petals on a Bough.” In Our Shared Japan: An Anthology of Contemporary Irish Poetry. Ed. Irene De Angelis and Joseph Woods. Dublin: Dedalus Press, 2007. 211–​18. Heaney, Seamus. Seeing Things. Loughcrew, Ireland: Gallery Press, 1991. Higginson, William J. and Penny Harter. The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1989.

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Kacian, Jim. “An Overview of Haiku in English.” In Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years. Ed. Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Alan Burns. New York: Norton, 2013. 305–​77. Kerouac, Jack. Book of Haikus. Ed. Regina Weinrich. New York: Penguin, 2003. Levander, Caroline. Where Is American Literature? Chichester: Wiley-​Blackwell, 2013. Marcus, Sybil. “Literature in ELT: Who’s Afraid of Literature?” August 19, 2015. http://​ blog.tesol.org/​literature-​in-​elt-​whos-​afraid-​of-​literature/​. Murray, Les. New Selected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. Neruda, Pablo. Canto General. Trans. Jack Schmidt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Paro, Maria Clara Bonetti. “Whitman in Brazil.” In Walt Whitman and the World. Ed. Gay Wilson Allen and Ed Folsom. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995. 128–​46. Perlman, Jim, Ed Folsom, and Dan Campion, eds. Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song. Minneapolis: Holy Cow! Press, 1981. Ramazani, Jahan. A Transnational Poetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009. Sollors, Werner. “Hemingway Spoken Here.” In Ethnic Modernism. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2002. 128–​39. Sommer, Doris. “Freely and Equally Yours, Walt Whitman.” In Proceed with Caution, when Engaged by Minority Writing in the Americas. Harvard University Press, 1999. 35–​60. Takiguchi, Susumu. “Can the Spirit of Haiku be translated?” 2000. www. thehaikufoundation.org/​omeka/​items/​show846 Thomas, M. Wynn. The Lunar Light of Whitman’s Poetry. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. Walkowitz, Rebecca L. Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader’s Edition. Ed. Sculley Bradley. New York: New York University Press, 1965. Wright, Julia. “Introduction.” In Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon, by Richard Wright. Eds. Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener. New York: Arcade, 2012. vii–​xiv. Wright, Richard. Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon. Eds. Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener. New York: Arcade, 2012. Zheng, Jianquing [John], ed. The Other World of Richard Wright: Perspectives on His Haiku. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. Zheng, John [Jianquing], ed. African American Haiku: Cultural Vision. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2016.

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Who Needs American Literature?: From Emerson to Marcus and Sollors Jeffrey R. Di Leo

Is the world sick? Bankruptcy in England & America; Tardy rainy season; snow in France; plague in Asia & Africa; these are the morning’s news. Ralph Waldo Emerson1 Fear always springs from ignorance. Ralph Waldo Emerson2

The dawn of the new millennium was a terrifying one. Fear had been turned loose upon the world. Many thought it was going to end when the clock struck midnight. Others expected a massive computer crash that would bring down the stock and global markets. But nothing even remotely close occurred—​at least not on or about January 2000. Still, the opening of the twenty-​first century has come to distinguish itself like few centuries in history. First, terror, terrorism, and events took on an entirely new global character when planes struck the Pentagon and the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. “It gave flesh to the heretofore abstract idea of global interdependence and the wholeness of the globe,” said Zygmunt Bauman, a year after the event.3 It showed us, continues Bauman, “how global events can truly be.”4 In addition, “9/​11 forced us,” writes Brad Evans, “to confront the dangerous uncertainty of an unequal world that was increasingly closing in upon itself without a political framework for dealing with the problems such shrinkage necessarily created.”5

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For many, given the fact that the United States had been immune to foreign terrorist attacks of this scale, the events of September 11 were a clear shot across the bow of American exceptionalism. Some, such as Donald Pease, called it the origin of a “new American exceptionalism.”6 Others, such as William Spanos, saw it “as the liminal point of the development of the exceptionalist logic that had its origins in the American Puritans’ belief that they had been chosen by God to fulfill His ‘errand in the wilderness’ of the New World.”7 Differences of genealogy notwithstanding, the response of the Bush administration, in the wake of this event, through authoritarian and unilateral political policy, put American exceptionalism in the limelight. Not only were media mentions of it on the rise, with two noted in 1880 and 2,580 reported in 2011, but public opinion in the wake of the events of September 11 has been highly favorable regarding America’s exceptionalism. A Gallup poll from 2010 reported that 80  percent of Americans agree that “because of the United States’ history and the Constitution—​the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Of these, there was 73  percent agreement on this among Democrats, and a whopping 91  percent agreement among Republicans.8 Nonetheless, fifteen years after 9/​11, we can reasonably say that in the eyes of the world, the United States has a much more difficult time defending its claim to greatness.9 Giovanna Borradori, in her interview with Jacques Derrida just a few weeks after the event said, “September 11 [le 11 septembre] gave us the impression of being a major event, one of the most important historical events we will witness in our lifetime, especially for those of us who never lived through a world war.”10 Derrida, after a rather lengthy philosophical commentary on what a “major event” is and is not, finally says, “A major event should be so unforeseeable and irruptive that it disturbs even the horizon of the concept or essence on the basis of which we believe we recognize an event as such.”11 Borradori’s interview with Derrida was published in 2003, a year before the French philosopher passed away. While there were other opportunities for him to reflect on September 11, we have been robbed of the opportunity for him to look back fifteen years on how this event changed the world—​and how it changed us. Still, his thoughts on the role of this event in philosophy are important to recall. In his conversation with Borradori, Derrida says of September 11: Such an “event” surely calls for a philosophical response. Better, a response that calls into question, at their most fundamental level, the most deep-​seated

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conceptual presuppositions in philosophical discourse. The concepts with which this “event” has most often been described, named, categorized, are the products of a “dogmatic slumber” from which only a new philosophical reflection can awaken us, a reflection on philosophy, most notably on political philosophy and its heritage. The prevailing discourse, that of the media and of the official rhetoric, relies too readily on received concepts like “war” or “terrorism” (national or international).12

Derrida was correct in his assertion that this event called for a “new philosophical reflection.” To be sure, prior to September 11, 2001, critical theory and philosophy was in a sort of “dogmatic slumber,” caught in a quagmire between the emergent field of cultural studies and prognostications of the end of theory. September 11 not only reawakened “reflection on philosophy,” one of the strengths of theory, it has also reawakened reflection on just what are or should be our priorities as scholars, particularly scholars who call the United States home. Subsequent acts of domestic and foreign terrorism such as public school and university massacres and bombings of theaters and markets only further call the question of the capacity of the prevailing discourse to handle these acts of violence, if not also whether and how the world changed on September 11. But the second way that the twenty-​first century has come to distinguish itself like few centuries in history is no less significant. It is the rise of neoliberalism in America and abroad. Unlike the attacks on New York City and Washington or even those in Paris and other places around the globe, which come with a time and date stamp, the rise of neoliberalism does not. While the economic crash of 2008 was the most visible sign, economic policy changes often go unnoticed until their unfortunate and unforeseen effects occur. The war on terror started by the administration of George W.  Bush in the aftermath of September 11 and their 2003 invasion of Iraq resulted in a sharp decline in global public opinion and a loss of respect for the United States from 2003 to 2007. His reelection in 2004 only exacerbated the problem. For example, a survey conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 2005 found that 62 percent of Britons said their view of the United States was less favorable after the reelection of George W.  Bush. The numbers though were higher in other countries: 74 percent of the French, 75 percent of Canadians, and a whopping 77 percent of Germans at the time indicated a less than favorable view of the United States. In short, the “hubris-​driven unilateralism” of the Bush administration resulted in loss of favor for the United States abroad.13

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But things were not rosy on the homefront either. By 2007, the year before the economic collapse, a Gallup poll found 61 percent of respondents describing themselves as dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world. Also, whereas the German Marshall found that in 2005, 52 percent of Americans thought that the United States should promote democracy around the world, by 2007 this was down to 37 percent.14 Moreover, the 2007 Strategic Survey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported the following: “The U.S. has suffered a significant loss of power and prestige around the world in the years since George W. Bush came to power, limiting its ability to influence international crises.” The same report though suggested that “the fading of American prestige began earlier, largely to its failings in Iraq.”15 Other polls at the time further confirm that in 2007, the United States had lost a considerable amount of international clout and prestige.16 It was in the midst of this decline in American international prestige and rise in unilateralism that the United States experienced its most severe financial crisis since the 1930s. The credit bubble, over two decades in the making, finally burst in 2008, and in autumn, the federal government stepped in to bailout the failing banks.17 By the end of 2008, the NBC/​Wall Street Journal poll found that 71 percent of Americans disapproved of how the federal government was handling the financial crisis.18 To add insult to injury, Osama Bin Laden publicly gloated in 2004 “Al-​Qaeda spent $500,000 on the 11 September attacks, while America lost more than $500 billion, at the lowest estimate, in the event and its aftermath.” He continued his cost–​benefit analysis of the 9/​11 attacks, stating: That makes a million American dollars for every al-​Qaeda dollar, by the grace of Gold Almighty. This is in addition to the fact that it lost an enormous number of jobs—​and as for the federal deficit, it made record losses, estimated over a trillion dollars. Still more serious for Americans was the fact that the mujahideen forced Bush to resort to an emergency budget in order to continue fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. This shows the success of our plan to bleed America to the point of bankruptcy, with God’s will.19

Though Bin Laden was bragging about how Al-​Qaeda’s actions were hastening an economic crisis in the United States, the seeds of this economic collapse, as David Harvey and others have noted, date back to the Reaganomics and Thatcherism of the 1980s (so-​called first-​wave neoliberalism) and Clinton’s market globalism and Blair’s “third way” in the 1990s (so-​called second-​wave

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neoliberalism). And, to be sure, the roots of neoliberal social, political, and economic thinking can be further traced back through Milton Friedman and the emergence of the Chicago School of economics in the 1960s. Still others trace it back to the work of Friedrich Hayek and Lionel Robbins and the London School of Economics during the 1930s. But ultimately, at least according to William Davies, the emergence of neoliberalism is rooted in the social and political theory of the eighteenth-​century social and political philosopher, Jeremy Bentham.20 Notwithstanding these deep historical roots, the crises of neoliberalism in the new millennium, in part, arguably hastened by the attacks of September 11, and reaching a fever pitch in the economic collapse of 2008, were in fact the consequences of multiple waves of bad economic policy by multiple national governments in the late twentieth-​and early twenty-​first centuries. “By early 2009,” report Manfred Stegner and Ravi Roy, “economic experts around the world agreed that the global economy was in the midst of a recession that threatened to snowball into another Great Depression.”21 Fifteen years or so have passed now since the events of September 11, and we are still living in the age of terrorism and neoliberalism. The Paris attacks in 2016 and the political rhetoric of current US President Donald J. Trump are all the evidence one needs that terrorism and neoliberalism still define our times. They also indicate a transfiguration of our sensibility regarding our position in the world as citizens of the United States. One of modernism’s great writers famously found herself in a similar position, namely, one of looking back fifteen years and feeling that something had changed which helped explain her then current position. Writing in 1924, in her essay, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” Virginia Woolf said “on or about December, 1910, human character changed.”22 Daniel Bell reminds us that Woolf was “referring to the changes in the position of one’s cook or of the partners in marriage,” that is, a change in human character, not human nature, as many, like Irving Howe mistook her comment.23 Continued Woolf in her essay, “I am not saying that one went out, as one might into a garden, and there saw that a rose had flowered, or that a hen had laid an egg. The change was not sudden and definite like that. But a change there was, nevertheless; and, since one must be arbitrary, let us date it about the year 1910.”24 Many modernist ships have been launched on or around Woolf ’s date, which sits about four years before the start of World War I, that is, July 28, 1914. Though one may argue that the build up to World War I is not similar to the build up to

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the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now, potentially, Iran, Syria, and North Korea, and that the social, political, and aesthetic shifts in Britain during the first part of the twentieth century are very different than the ones today, there still is an eerie feeling that that horrific day in September of 2001 has a special relationship to December of 1910 for us today. Might we not then say of our own time, in the spirit of Woolf, “on or about September 2001, human character changed, again”? Is not that ultimately what our conversations post-​9/​11 indicate? Maybe we became post-​human? Maybe post-​ capital? Maybe post-​neoliberal? Maybe even post-​American? Or maybe human character finally became worldly? There definitely was a change, but precisely what it was and to what effect has become one of the central issues of our time.

A nation without literature “It was not a street anymore but a world . . .” This is the opening line of Don DeLillo’s 2007 novel, Falling Man, but it could also be the opening line of the new millennium.25 Bruce Robbins says this sentence can be read as a description of “lower Manhattan in the chaotic minutes after the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.” But so too, he continues, can it “also be read as a description of Falling Man itself, and perhaps of the contemporary American novel in general.”26 “So read,” continues Robbins, “the sentence would suggest that the American novel has recently become more worldly, whether because of 9/​11 or in response to larger causes that 9/​11 stands in for.” While Robbins calls this proposition “gently self-​ congratulatory, hence open to doubt,” still he says “there are also reasons for taking it seriously.” And Robbins, and many other critics of late have taken this proposition very seriously. So seriously in fact that some contend that “American literature” would be more accurately phrased “American world literature.” Christian Moraru, for example, argues that the phrase, “American world literature,” “calls on us to listen carefully, in the phrase itself, for the rustle and rumors of worldliness in the US and vice versa.” “Should we do so,” says Moraru, “we might further wonder: Is this literature a worldly thematics, literature ‘about the world’ rather than about ‘us’ (‘US’), about the ‘American world’? Or, is American literature becoming a subset of world literature?”27 While seeing the world on the street of lower Manhattan amidst the chaos of the World Trade Center attacks, and finding the world or “worldliness” in

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greater degrees in post 9/​11 American fiction is one way to read the phrase “American world literature,” it would not be the kind of change that occurred “on or about September 2001.” This change is not merely a shift to a more “worldly” (or global, international, cosmopolitan, transnational, and so on) thematics in American fiction, as each of these can be convincingly traced back to various works and authors in the history of the American novel, if not back to its very “invention.”28 The change that occurred “on or about September 2001” is more substantial and the break with the past potentially more radical. To view this change and see better its break with the past, one needs to go back not to New  York City on September 11, 2001, but rather to Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1837. For it was on this date that Ralph Waldo Emerson “made his entry onto the stage of American life,”29 declaring “[t]‌he world is nothing, the man is all.”30 It was an entry that arguably set American literature on its non-​worldly course. Much like 2001, 1837 was not just any year in American history. Rather, it was, by some accounts, “the worst year the United States of America had ever experienced.”31 “Society,” writes Emerson in his journals in 1837, “has played out its last stake; it is checkmated. Young men have no hope. Adults stand like daylaborers idle in the streets. None calleth us to labor. The old wear no crown of warm light on their grey hairs. The present generation is bankrupt of principles & hope, as of property.”32 This leaves Emerson to wonder aloud, “Is the world sick?”33 By August of 1837, the month Emerson steps onto the stage of American life, “the price of cotton had fallen by almost one half; mobs had demonstrated repeatedly in the streets of New York and, in response to the inflated prices of food and fuel, had looted the city’s flour warehouses; the major banks had suspended specie payments; and the sale of public lands in the West had fallen by some 82 percent.”34 Add to this the fact that since 1790, the first year of the US census, the number of people in the United States subject to slavery was increasing by approximately 30 percent per year, with approximately 2 million slaves in 1830 and 2.5 million by 1840, the United States was in pretty rough shape in August of 1837,35 compelling Emerson to conclude in his journal, “The world has failed.”36 With slavery in full swing and American morale in ruins as a result of the panic of 1837, Emerson was asked to give the annual Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard University the day following commencement. But he was not the first choice, and was asked only after the Reverend Dr. Wainwright had been invited

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by Cornelius Felton, a professor of Greek at Harvard, but declined. Emerson, Felton’s second choice, was an underwhelming one, to say the least. Not only was Emerson merely an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa, he was also not even the second choice for class poet.37 And though he had anonymously published his first book, Nature, the previous year, it was on the whole unenthusiastically received. Nevertheless, the thirty-four-year-old Emerson had lofty expectations for his oration, writing in his journals before the event, “Let me begin anew. Let me teach the finite to know its Master. Let me ascend above my fate and work down upon my world.”38 Though he believes the world in which he lives is “sick” and has “failed,” he nonetheless looks forward to addressing this sickness and failure. “The black times have a great scientific value,” writes Emerson in his journal. “It is an epoch so critical a philosopher would not miss.”39 The theme of his oration, “The American Scholar,” was a conventional one for the annual Phi Beta Kappa address since Emerson was a boy, and it does not appear that he struggled much in writing it.40 Nevertheless, in spite of its conventional theme, what Emerson said was far from conventional. Delivered a little more than sixty years after the United States declared its political independence, it was a call for the United States to forge its own literary traditions and history. Emerson’s oration was regarded by observers at the time as our declaration of intellectual independence—​one that resonates with us to this day. “Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves,” said Emerson. “Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the polestar for a thousand years.”41 He reminds his audience that the commencement of their “literary year” is long on “hope” but short on “labor.” “We do not meet for games of strength or skill, for the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like the ancient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the Troubadours; nor for the advancement of science, like our contemporaries in the British and European capitals,” comments Emerson. Thus far, our holiday has been simply a friendly sign of the survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any more . . . Perhaps the time is already come when it ought to be, and will be, something else; when the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill. Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the

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learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that around us are rushing into life, cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests.42

Though Emerson was not waving the flag on August 31, 1837, he was imploring the audience for the formation of a unique and distinct national literature. “We have,” said Emerson, “listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe.”43 But he was not the first. Literary journals going back twenty-​five years were sprinkled with similar pleas.44 Still, the distinguished audience of the Phi Beta Kappa Society was not expecting it. Emerson was merely speaking on the traditional topic of the conference, and was by far not the most prominent person to date to speak on it. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of his oration, James Russell Lowell said it was “an event without any former parallel in our literary annals,” and Oliver Wendell Holmes called it “our Intellectual Declaration of Independence.”45 Emerson continued to voice his revolt against his times from 1837 to 1844 in a series of occasional addresses to writers, scholars, and the clergy at meetings of library associations, convocations of literary societies, commencement ceremonies, and sponsored evening lectures at public halls. In these addresses, he was clear and defiant, and his intent was to shock his audience. “Amidst a planet peopled with conservatives,” said Emerson, “one Reformer may yet be born.”46 It is important to recall Emerson’s call for a unique and distinct national literature amidst a sick and failing world because today we sit on the cusp of calling for its opposite, namely, a nonnational literature. Is this not what we mean when we employ the phrase “American world literature”? But as Stanley Cavell so brilliantly notes, Emerson was not simply advocating that we turn our backs on Europe and the world, but rather addressing the poverty of American philosophy. “Others take Emerson to advise America to ignore Europe,” writes Cavell, but “to me his practice means that part of the task of discovering philosophy in America is discovering terms in which it is given to us to inherit the philosophy of Europe.” “Its legacy may hardly look like philosophy at all,” continues Cavell, “but perhaps rather like an odd development of literature.”47 But did not we on or around September 2001 discover just the opposite: namely, that the tables are now reversed? That instead of the issue of how much America should inherit from Europe (and the rest of the world) and on what terms, the issue is now one of how much Europe (and the rest of the world) should inherit from America—​ and on what terms. Is not this the logical conclusion of America’s rise to global power and prestige?

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Cavell sets the condition of American philosophy not as one of seeking independence from Europe, so much as one of being in a condition of poverty. “Poverty as a condition of philosophy is hardly a new idea,” comments Cavell. “Emerson deploys it as an idea specifically of America’s deprivations, its bleakness and distance from Europe’s achievements, as constituting America’s necessity, and its opportunity, for finding itself.”48 When the towers fell and we realized our streets are “a world,” Americans could no longer claim poverty as the condition of their philosophy. One-​percent wealth and the neoliberal pursuit of it now is the condition of American philosophy. Emerson, as Cavell reminds us, implored us to hold hard to our poverty. “The poverty that,” writes Cavell, “morally speaking, is pleasing to the God and affords us access to the humanity of others—​it is its poverty, not its riches, that constitutes America’s claim upon others—​is, philosophically speaking, our access to necessity, our route out of privacy.”49 No longer though can the United States, the wealthiest country on earth, claim poverty as its access to the humanity of others. The tables are now turned: on or about September 2001, the riches of America, not its poverty, constitute its claim on others—​or, perhaps, their claim on us. Osama Bin Laden positions himself on the side of an impoverished world and taunts us with our new God, “Gold Almighty,” while claiming for his group, terrorists, what is pleasing to the God. On or about September 11, 2001, American literature ended as dramatically as it began. We lost our independence from the world when the towers came crashing down; we also lost national literature to a world now occupying our streets. In retrospect, our philosophical and literary independence has been squandered in the pursuit of increasingly destructive forms of capitalism. An act of terrorism brought to the fore that our wealth and prosperity may be denying us access to the humanity of others. The world stood at the footsteps of neoliberal America—​and demanded change.

A nation with too much literature Historical events that define a generation or multiple generations are few and far between—​and fewer still become the central focus of the philosophical or theoretical energies of its scholars. For example, while the war in Vietnam occupied our attention for most of the 1960s and early 1970s, and defined a generation, it is still difficult to argue that the war became the central focus of our theoretical

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energies during this same period. In American philosophy, conceptual analysis and analytic methodology dominated the Vietnam era, whereas, during the same period, the New Criticism was in vogue in progressive English departments, with structuralism and semiotics just beginning to become more mainstream within the humanities. Given then the dominant theoretical climate of this period, it seems a stretch to maintain that the roots of the New Criticism or analytic philosophy were grounded or determined by the major historical events of the 1960s and early 1970s. While events like Vietnam, Watergate and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King defined a generation, they did not become the central focus of our theoretical attention nor did they dominate the scholarly critical agenda. In fact, only a handful of events across history even seem to qualify for the kind of impact being described, which is namely, the ability of an historical event to configure—​or even reconfigure—​theoretical discourse around or through it. The French Revolution immediately comes to mind as a good example of the kind of impact a major event can have on theoretical discourse as well as the two world wars of the last century. With these thoughts in mind, the uniqueness of the theoretical situation brought about by the events of September 11, 2001 should stand out. Even a cursory survey of contemporary scholarship will reveal the extraordinary degree of critical and theoretical attention that has been afforded the theoretical axes of this event, terrorism and neoliberalism, over the last fifteen years. Consequently, it seems reasonable to at least postulate that the foreign terrorist attacks of the United States on September 11, 2001 qualify as both defining a generation and occupying the center of our theoretical energies. But one might go still one step further. Why not postulate that the events of September 11, 2001 did more than just reconfigure philosophical thinking, they also refigured our literary past, or perhaps even changed the very way we think about literary history. The former, refiguring our literary past, is a mere generational event—​the exercise of adding and subtracting works from the canon to reflect the times. The latter, changing the way we think about history, is of a different order and magnitude. In its current form, it produces a form of literary history without history or literature. It is most visible in the works we produce ostensibly aimed at reporting the state or states of literary history. To see this change in the very way we think about literary history, it is helpful to look back a couple of generations to post-​War America’s response to literary history.

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“Each generation should produce at least one history of the United States,” wrote Robert Spiller and the other editors of one of the more well-​known American literary histories, Literary History of the United States.50 First published in 1947, the book was viewed as a necessary response to the events of World War II. The editors, eight of them in all, said “each generation must define the past in its own terms.”51 The scholars who produced the Cambridge History of American Literature responded to that generational need during World War I, but World War II called for another redefinition. “It is now needed again,” wrote the editors, “and it will be needed still again.”52 From the deeply humanist world of post-​War America came the belief that American literature was needed—​a belief that arguably can be traced back to Emerson’s declaration of intellectual independence in 1837. And not just any history of American literature, but rather one that would help us “escape self-​ destruction.”53 “We must know and understand better the recorders of our experience,” wrote the editors. “Scholars can no longer be content to write for scholars; they must make their knowledge meaningful and applicable to humanity.”54 Flash-​forward now to post-​humanist America in the new millennium. We continue to totter on the brink of self-​destruction, but who among us still believes that we need American literature to avoid self-​destruction? Or, even more directly, that we just need American literature? If so, who needs it? Scholars? The public? The world? The fifty-​seven scholars who worked together to compose the Literary History of the United States believed that they were more than merely completing an academic exercise. A  world torn apart by war needed a unified, authoritative account of American literature. Somehow, this account of the rise of American literature was supposed to inspire the American public, and show the world the exemplary literary foundations of American democracy. Over half a century later, in the shadows of American neoliberalism and unilateralism, the need for American literature is fading, if not already gone. If Emerson was right, and our poverty moved American writers and scholars to bring about a new age, then our wealth is beckoning us to bring it to a close. American publishing is now largely controlled by multinational corporations that focus on publishing books that satisfy the demands of the global market rather than intellectual or aesthetic ones. The literature of America that circulates through the corridors of the corporate publishing world is about as distinctly American as any other multinational product. It shares more in common with the Toyotas built in San Antonio and the Fords built in

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Europe55 than with the non-​worldly and independent course set by Emerson for American literature. Ironically, the best hope for an “American” literature may be the independent and small publishers in the United States that have little or no impact on or accountability to the global economy. Or, stranger still, it may reside with Americans who for personal or political reasons publish their work anonymously or under a pseudonym, or who choose to self-​publish their work rather than publish it with corporate, and small and independent publishers.56 The irony doubles here if we recall that the history of American literature is replete with important writers who either at one time or another did not put their name on their works or chose to self-​publish them, writers like Emerson, Whitman,57 and Melville.58 The “world” that is bifurcating “American” and “literature” in the phrase “American world literature” is both a function of the “worlding” of literature and the world of global neoliberalism, that is, late capitalism. It is a “world” that strips or separates “America” from “literature” both as a reaction to our wealth and power as much as a response to the fact that human character changed, again, on or about September 11, 2001. But the bifurcation of “American” and “literature” with the term “world” is also seen in our most recent and progressive “histories” of “American” “literature,” works that both question and complicate America’s role on the global stage as well as put under erasure the terms “American” and “literature.” In 2009, Cambridge, Massachusetts again became the site of American literature calling for its independence, albeit its independence from “literature” less than “America.” A New Literary History of America, published by Harvard University Press, rocked American literary history to its foundations by expanding the notion of “literature” and “literary” to one that the semioticians of the 1970s might have appreciated, namely, a literary history that includes almost everything produced in words, images, and sounds in America: “poems, novels, plays, and essays, but also maps, histories, and travel diaries, sermons and religious tracts, public speeches and private letters, political polemics, addresses, and debates, Supreme Court decisions, literary histories and criticism, folk songs, magazines, dramatic performances, the blues, philosophy, paintings and monuments, jazz, war memorials, museums, book clubs, photographs, comic strips and comic books, country music, films, radio, rock and roll, cartoons, musicals, and hip-​hop: ‘Made in America.’ ”59 The editors, the music journalist and cultural critic, Greil Marcus, and the Henry

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B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, Werner Sollors, call it a “ ‘kaleidoscopic view’ of what ‘Made in America’ means,”60 which is doubly fitting as not only do few phrases speak to and for the wealth of America than “Made in America,” but we also must recall that British prime minister, Tony Blair, in response to the events of 9/​11 famously said, “[t]‌he kaleidoscope has been shaken.” “The pieces are in flux,” he continues. “Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-​order this world around us.”61 Which is precisely what Marcus and Sollors do in their literary history, namely, reorder the literary world of America. This new literary history of America “makes no attempt to give every name its due, to visit every state or the era of every presidency, only the hope that the essays gathered here might be so suggestive as to invite the reader to think of countless other moments in the American story that could be addressed as this book tries to speak to its subject.”62A New Literary History of America is comprised of more than two hundred essays that each “map their own territory and stake out their own ground, generating unexpected threads of information and startling claims that move the story on—​forward, and doubling back, the twentieth century longing for the ideals of the seventeenth, the past plotting its revenge on the corruptions of the future.”63 “From the first appearance of the word ‘America’ on a map to Jimi Hendrix’s rewrite of the national anthem, from Anne Bradstreet to Maya Lin, from Samuel Sewall to Saul Bellow, from Father Marquette to Jelly Roll Morton, from Sequoyah to Susan B. Anthony, from Margaret Fuller to Charlie Parker, from ‘Yankee Doodle’ to Yusef Komunyakaa,” write the editors, “A New Literary History of America takes the reader through the matrix of American culture.”64 And indeed, perusing this volume gives the reader the feeling of reading literary history while being caught in the matrix, albeit the one dreamed up by the Wachowski brothers, and inspired by the philosophies of Descartes and Baudrillard.65 Unlike, for example, the 1947 Literary History of the United States discussed above, the 2009 A New Literary History of America makes no effort to provide a seamless narrative of American literary history through the individual essays collected in the book. In fact, “[t]‌he contributors were asked for their own arguments, their own points of view, their own embraces and dissents: to surprise not only their editors, or their readers, but themselves.”66 Indeed, if there was ever a literary history of America aimed to “shock and awe” the reader, this is it.

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But aside from seeing the psychedelic beauty of American literary history through a kaleidoscope, what does this book say about “American literary history” in general other than that it has no one history—​or that histories of American literature are not just generational anymore, but are rather highly individualized. They are produced by putting all “speech” “Made in America” into a kaleidoscope and turning it. Such a history of American literature takes us full circle back to Emerson’s vision of the scholar as “Man Thinking.” “In this distribution of the functions the scholar is delegated intellect,” writes Emerson in his 1837 oration. In the right state he is Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.67

There is definitely not a lot of parroting “of other men’s thinking” in this 2009 American literary history, but then again, given that “[t]‌he contributors were asked for their own arguments, their own points of view, their own embraces and dissents: to surprise not only their editors, or their readers, but themselves,” one is not sure if it is not “mere thinking.” But again, back to Emerson’s “poverty” of philosophy. “The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time,” writes Emerson in 1837. It is a great stride. It is a sign—​is it not?—​of new vigor when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into the hands and the feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low.68

In spite of the fact that Marcus and Sollor’s volume launches with its contributed essays hundreds of individual histories of American literature—​and many more as it is read and used—​its embrace of the common and the low in American culture may be yet another repositioning of Emerson, one for the new millennium.

Conclusion Literature currently “made in America” is necessarily more worldly now than ever. The issue of whether books produced in the United States are now more

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than ever preoccupied with worldly issues, be they global, international, cosmopolitan, or geopolitical is important to this consideration but not essential. The story of American literature back to its beginnings has always involved transnational considerations even if its declaration of independence appeared to push in the opposite direction. Current concern with the “worlding” of American literature is less about its tendency to bring the world overtly to bear between its covers than the ways in which “America” itself has become indistinguishable outside of the geopolitical order. The events of September 11, 2001, for better or worse, led the United States into a new age, but not one where poetry or prose is indicative of our intellectual independence. Rather, an age characterized by fear and capital driving our social, political, and intellectual agendas. Or, if we follow Emerson and contend “Fear always springs from ignorance,”69 then it is perhaps an age characterized by ignorance and capital. Emerson’s philosophy of poverty has given way to late-​ capitalism’s philosophy of extreme wealth, Bernie Madoff-​style. The wait for the “sluggard intellect of this continent [to] look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectations of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill” came to a close when the towers fell. More to the point, “American literature” came to a close. Not because “America” has ended. And not because “literature” has ended. But rather because no one needs either outside of or separate from “a world.” Just as it is no longer possible to think “America” without “world,” so too is it not possible to think “literature” without the world. For better or worse, we live in the age of “worlded” literature. Not the world literature of nations and nationalities considered from most powerful and wealthy to the least. And not the world literature found with a map. Rather, the worlded literature of individuals crossing borders, mixing stories, and speaking in dialect. Where translation struggles to be effective and background is itself another story. The “worlded” literature of the multinational corporate publishing industry where the global market is all. The phrase “American world literature” signifies the “worlded” literature “Made in America” but connected and reconnected through global networks of increasing complexity and precarity. American literary history, or what is left of it, is more like what Marcus and Sollors present than what Spiller and company produced. “History” are the connections and reconnections we individually make under the terms “literature” and “America,” both of which are radically contingent and relative, if not also post-​literature and post-​ America. Under such conditions, what it means to be an “American scholar”

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in the new millennium is as complicated (or simple) as what it means to be an “American.” Our charge as scholars is less to be “authorities” on literature and to produce “authoritative” histories of it than to suggest the many worlds each open up for readers and in readings. As such, those of us who consider ourselves scholars have a huge task ahead of us, namely, what it means when the world comes between American and scholar just as it did with literature. But though related, this is another story altogether. On or about September 2001, human character changed, again. So too did American literature—​and our need for it.

Notes 1 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vols. I–​XIV, eds. William H. Gillman, Alfred R. Ferguson, George P. Clark, Merrell R. Davis, Harrison Hayford, Ralph Orth, J. E. Parsons, Merton M. Sealts, and A. W. Plumstead (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960–​78), V: 331. May 20, 1837. 2 Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar,” in The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 2000), 54. 3 Zygmunt Bauman, Society under Siege (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), 87. 4 Ibid., 87. 5 Brad Evans, Liberal Terror (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), 25. 6 Donald Pease, The New American Exceptionalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). 7 William V. Spanos, “American Exceptionalism in the Post-​9/​11 Era,” symplokē 21.1–​2 (2013): 294f3. 8 Jerome Karabel, “American Exceptionalism and the Battle for the Presidency,” Huffington Post. December 22, 2011. http://​www.huffingtonpost.com/​jerome-​ karabel/​american-​exceptionalism-​obama-​gingrich_​b_​1161800.html. Cited by William V. Spanos, “American Exceptionalism,” 294. 9 Also, one cannot today speak of the declining “greatness” of America without also recalling Donald Trump’s utilization of the phrase “Make America Great Again” in the 2016 US presidential campaign. 10 Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 85. 11 Ibid., 90. 12 Ibid., 100.

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13 Kevin Phillips, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), 237. 14 Ibid., 237. 15 Ibid., 238. 16 Ibid., 238–​40. 17 Kevin Phillips, Bad Money, is an excellent survey of the growth of the credit bubble, the panic of 2008, and the subsequent financial meltdown. 18 Ibid., xi. 19 Osama Bin Laden, “The Towers of Lebanon” (October 29, 2004), in Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, edited by Bruce Lawrence and translated by James Howarth (London: Verso, 2005), 242. Cited by Manfred B. Stegner and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 122–​3. 20 See, William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-​being (New York: Verso, 2015). See also my review of Davies, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 8.2 (Autumn 2015). 21 Stegner and Roy, Neoliberalism, 131. 22 Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” in Essentials of the Theory of Fiction, 2nd edn., eds. Michael J. Hoffman and Patrick D. Murphy (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 24. This essay was originally read before The Heretics Club of Cambridge, England, on May 18, 1924. 23 Daniel Bell, “Modernism Mummified,” American Quarterly 39.1 (1987): 122. 24 Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” 24. 25 Don DeLillo, Falling Man (New York: Scribner, 2007), 3. The entire line is as follows: “It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night.” 26 Bruce Robbins, “The Worlding of the American Novel,” in The Cambridge History of the American Novel, eds. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby, and Benjamin Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 1096. 27 Christian Moraru, “American Literature Unlimited—​Toward a Geoliterary Order,” American Book Review 36.5 (2015):4. 28 See, Paul Giles, “Transatlantic Currents and the Invention of the American Novel,” in The Cambridge History of the American Novel, eds. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby, and Benjamin Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 22–​36. 29 Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America (New York: The Viking Press, 1981), 18. 30 Emerson, “The American Scholar,” 59. 31 Ziff, Literary Democracy, 18.

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32 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, V: 331. May 20, 1837. 33 Ibid., V: 331. May 21, 1837. 34 Ziff, Literary Democracy, 18. 35 W. S. Rossiter, A Century of Population Growth, From the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790–​1900, Chapter xiv, “Statistics of Slaves,” (United States Government, 1909), 132. http://​www2.census.gov/​prod2/​decennial/​ documents/​00165897ch14.pdf. Accessed January 12, 2016. 36 Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, V: 333. May 22, 1837. 37 Gay Wilson Allen, Waldo Emerson (New York: Penguin Books, 1981), 298. 38 Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, V: 332. May 21, 1837. 39 Ibid., V: 332. May 22, 1837. 40 Allen, Waldo Emerson, 298. 41 Emerson, “The American Scholar,” 43. 42 Ibid., 43. 43 Ibid., 59. 44 Robert Spiller, Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, Henry Seidel Canby, and Richard M. Ludwig, Literary History of the United States: History, 3rd edn., rev. ed. (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1963), 372. 45 Ibid., 372. 46 Ibid., 372. 47 Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein (Albuquerque, NM: Living Batch Press, 1989), 70. 48 Ibid., 70. 49 Ibid., 70. 50 Spiller et al., “Preface [1947],” in Literary History of the United States, vii. The preface was composed by the editors, Robert E. Spiller, Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, Henry Seidel Canby, Richard M. Ludwig, and the editorial associates, Howard Mumford Jones, Dixon Wecter, and Stanley T. Williams. 51 Ibid., vii. 52 Ibid., vii. 53 Ibid., vii. 54 Ibid., vii. 55 “Ford in Europe: The First Hundred Years,” Serious Wheels. http://​www. seriouswheels.com/​art-​Ford-​Europe.htm. Accessed January 15, 2016. 56 Self-​publishing in America is quickly coming to dwarf the traditional publishing world in terms of titles published per year. For an overview of the challenges and opportunities this affords book culture in America, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Who’s Afraid of Self-​Publishing?” Notre Dame Review 41 (2016).

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57 The first edition of Leaves of Grass was published and designed by Walt Whitman in 1855. It was printed by James Rome and Thomas Rome, and was sold in two stores, one in New York and the other in Brooklyn. The first edition appeared on July 4, 1855. Whitman would go on to self-​publish many more editions of Leaves of Grass. See, John Kremer, “Self-​Publishing Hall of Fame Featuring Famous Self-​ Publishers.” http://​www.bookmarket.com/​selfpublish-​m.htm. Accessed January 12, 2016. 58 Herman Melville self-​published his epic poem Clarel in 1876 as a limited edition of 350 copies. He also self-​published several other volumes of poetry before he died though none sold very well. Though not self-​published, his novel, Moby Dick, never sold out its original printing during Melville’s lifetime. See, John Kremer, “Self-​Publishing Hall of Fame.” 59 Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, eds., A New Literary History of America (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), xxiv. 60 Ibid., front cover, inside flap, dust jacket. 61 Tony Blair, “Speech at the Labour Party Conference,” The Guardian. October 2, 2001. http://​www.theguardian.com/​politics/​2001/​oct/​02/​labourconference.labour7. Accessed January 21, 2016. 62 Marcus and Sollors, A New Literary History of America, xxvii. 63 Ibid., xxiv. 64 Ibid., xxv. 65 The Matrix (1999, USA/​Australia), dir. “The Wachowski Brothers” (Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski). 66 Marcus and Sollors, A New Literary History of America, xxiv. 67 Emerson, “The American Scholar,” 44. 68 Ibid., 57. 69 Ibid., 54.

Works cited Allen, Gay Wilson. Waldo Emerson. New York: Penguin Books, 1981. Bauman, Zygmunt. Society under Siege. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002. Bell, Daniel. “Modernism Mummified.” American Quarterly 39.1 (1987): 122–​32. Bin Laden, Osama. “The Towers of Lebanon (29 October 2004).” In Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. Ed. Bruce Lawrence. Trans. James Howarth. London: Verso, 2005. Blair, Tony. “Speech at the Labour Party Conference.” The Guardian. October 2, 2001. http://​www.theguardian.com/​politics/​2001/​oct/​02/​labourconference.labour7. Accessed December 10, 2016.

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Borradori, Giovanna. Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003. Cavell, Stanley. This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein. Albuquerque, NM: Living Batch Press, 1989. Davies, William. The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-​being. New York: Verso, 2015. DeLillo, Don. Falling Man. New York: Scribner, 2007. Di Leo, Jeffrey R. “Who’s Afraid of Self-​Publishing?” Notre Dame Review 41 (2016): 94–​109. Di Leo, Jeffrey R. Review of William Davies’s The Happiness Industry. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 8.2 (Autumn 2015): 115–​34. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vols. I–​XIV. Eds. William H. Gillman, Alfred R. Ferguson, George P. Clark, Merrell R. Davis, Harrison Hayford, Ralph Orth, J. E. Parsons, Merton M. Sealts, and A. W. Plumstead. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960–​78. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ed. Brooks Atkinson. New York: The Modern Library, 2000. Evans, Brad. Liberal Terror. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013. “Ford in Europe: The First Hundred Years.” Serious Wheels. http://​www.seriouswheels. com/​art-​Ford-​Europe.htm. Accessed January 15, 2016. Giles, Paul. “Transatlantic Currents and the Invention of the American Novel.” In The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Eds. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby, and Benjamin Reiss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 22–​36. Karabel, Jerome. “American Exceptionalism and the Battle for the Presidency.” Huffington Post. December 22, 2011. http://​www.huffingtonpost.com/​jerome-​ karabel/​american-​exceptionalism-​obama-​gingrich_​b_​1161800.html. Accessed January 15, 2016. Kremer, John. “Self-​Publishing Hall of Fame Featuring Famous Self-​Publishers.” http://​ www.bookmarket.com/​selfpublish-​m.htm. Accessed January 15, 2016. Marcus, Greil and Werner Sollors, eds. A New Literary History of America. Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009. Moraru, Christian. “American Literature Unlimited—​Toward a Geoliterary Order.” American Book Review 36.5 (2015): 3–​4. Pease, Donald. The New American Exceptionalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. Phillips, Kevin. Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism. New York: Penguin Books, 2009. Robbins, Bruce. “The Worlding of the American Novel.” In The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Eds. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby, and Benjamin Reiss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 1096–​106. Rossiter, W. S. A Century of Population Growth, From the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790–​1900. Washington: United States Government, 1909.

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http://​www2.census.gov/​prod2/​decennial/​documents/​00165897ch14.pdf. Accessed January 12, 2016. Spanos, William V. “American Exceptionalism in the Post-​9/​11 Era.” symplokē 21.1–​2 (2013): 291–​324. Spiller, Robert E., Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, Henry Seidel Canby, and Richard M. Ludwig, eds. Literary History of the United States: History. 3rd edn, revised. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1963. Stegner, Manfred B. and Ravi K. Roy. Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. The Matrix (1999, USA/​Australia). Dir. “The Wachowski Brothers” (Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski). Woolf, Virginia. “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.” In Essentials of the Theory of Fiction. 2nd edn. Eds. Michael J. Hoffman and Patrick D. Murphy. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996. 22–​35. Ziff, Larzer. Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America. New York: The Viking Press, 1981.

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Part Two

Literature, Geopolitics, Globalization

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Worlds of Americana Peter Hitchcock

There is very little that is shocking in the imbrication of American Literature with World Literature. True, many people across the globe have cause to fear American worldliness, not because of its literature necessarily, although the category is hardly innocent as I will detail, but because American exceptionalism has rarely taken exception to imperialism the good old-​fashioned way, seeking influence by any means necessary, often regardless of whether some other worldly exchange might be possible or even desirable. We are in the era of soft power, but even then, such hushed hegemony still requires the United States to have over 800 military bases overseas that remains a remarkable outposting for any empire in history. The United States regularly spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined and has contributed a third of arms exports over the last five years, which might cheer military dictators in some parts of the world but is not quite what North Africa and West Asia meant by the Arab Spring. As to the focus here, in general the basic correlation of American literature’s current production and circulation globally with what was once termed cultural imperialism seems largely bereft of contemporary materialization, even if hegemons of various persuasions hold fast to some idea of its substance. Similarly, if the emergence of new world literature under the sign of globalization is not unproblematic, the appearance of American literature within its catalogs is less evidence of geopolitical conspiracy and more a function of the value systems that trade on world literature as itself a global aesthetic. To problematize the latter is always already to denature the assumptions of globalization themselves; what is less clear is the extent to which such interventions can challenge the deleterious aspects of globalization’s rationale—​its “ends.” To read globalization as inevitably more than US dominance does not absolve the modifier and identity “American” of violence physically and epistemologically, but neither does

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it assume that when we think of American literature in the world it is just one more collocation of baleful symptoms for all that was formally distrusted in the Project for a New American Century, and more recently transmogrified in “Let’s make America great again” (the kind of clarion call that makes many people elsewhere worry about how such greatness will be visited upon them). The interest here is in world literature’s ideological comportment for it is difficult to think of the aesthetic as a space or place where political economy, for instance, fears to tread (just like a global aesthetic itself). Critics often use popular culture as a stand in for this polemic, seeing in McDonald’s or wistful allusions to Hollywoodization and Coca-​Colonization something of America’s authentic aesthetic, while the brilliance of its best artists are held in suspicion as free in their universality, godlike in the Joycean sense. Such divisions are themselves ideological and at least empirically unsound since we can think of plenty of artists who feast on the popular, not in the service of popularity necessarily but to take pleasure in the great churning carnival that is American cultural difference. Indeed, it is the latter, I will argue, that places considerable strain on the homilies attached to world literature as a category and critical endeavor because it seethes with all kinds of wonderful contaminants that, like bombarding bacteria for the body, are good for the soul but not necessarily redolent of the best that has been thought and said. I have argued in several places that what hobbles world literature today is less the criteria used to assemble one’s top ten list, or Longman’s anthology, or great works sequence, and more the confused attempts to theorize “world” in that endeavor. Without recapitulating the entire argument, let me mention three elements that inform the present project while indicating those that would require further elaboration. First, it is the very vagaries of the world as concept that facilitate some paradoxically steadfast particularisms in its deployment. The point of Amitava Kumar’s title, “World Bank Literature” was precisely to assert the discontinuity in the world between two institutions that yet appear so consanguine on other levels. We could argue that American baseball’s World Series and Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat each evince passionate modes of Americana, but that hardly makes the world in both synonymous (this is one reason for worlds of Americana in my title). Second, the scale of apprehension in world is a quandary for the generalist of literature who seeks to avoid generalization—​the grandness of the word drains it of critical perspective and it sustains itself instead as a figure of speech that, to borrow from Erich Auerbach, has no figura. The world can be sensed (indeed, in the work of Jean-​Luc Nancy,

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mondialization is about the sense of making sense) and is a Spinozian example of proprium, a modality of essence that is not one, an abstruse obviousness that is sensibly distributed. Such sense, however, frames an impossible project, in fact questions the very possibility of adequate frames so that each invocation of world, from that world in a grain of sand to the world that is all a stage whose blocks we revere, registers a cognitive crisis just as assuredly as it marks being in the world. When David Damrosch famously asks “What is world literature?” he provides not only a critical and institutional formula by way of reply, but foregrounds the dissonance in the very idea. I do not mean world literature is not, but that it constantly enacts a kind of parodic distance, which itself may be another way of reading Franco Moretti on distant reading, turning the tables on world by tabulation. The problem of scale and scaling links to a third dimension of world I find intriguing, which is dimensionality itself or time/​space. World often pivots on a spatial correlative that aspires almost to a law of territoriality (one that girds, for instance, the institutional worlding of the World Bank). What specifies world is not just the space of its apprehension, but its time. On one level, this is obvious, for to pose world literature is immediately to engage or ask questions of the time in which it takes place; indeed, tracking the genealogies of world literature has become a discipline in its own right and is delightfully course friendly (with very little tweaking, any possibly problematic anthology on the Western literary tradition can be made wholly worldly with unimpeachable inclusivity). Yet a chronotopic insistence is not a measure of cynicism or of playing the percentages, but is rather a confirmation of world literature’s use value in exchange—​that the very idea situates a plethora of discourses and articulates the differences that animate them in their time/​space. If one resists Goethe’s pronouncements on Weltliteratur as lost in the nineteenth century then the challenge is to mark that fading temporality which must, perforce, interrogate the grounds from which such a determination is made. Of course, world literature is first a translation problematic, both of critical language difference and a question of how world and literature are conceived beyond their special Englishness. To oppose world literature is to stand against its Anglophonic centrism. English Departments pad their curricula by obviating the demands of source languages; Comparative Literature Departments deride the “Anglo-​phonies” but have struggled to shed the mortal coil represented by major European languages as a whole. “Thank god for the postcolonies,” say both, for we can be, for instance, “Anglo-​phony,” or “Franco-​phony” elsewhere without seeming to endorse nasty, brutish, but long Eurocentrism.

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True, Spanish and English combined do meet almost half of the world’s Chinese speakers, but French speakers languish in fourteenth globally, below Javanese, Lahnda, and of course, Arabic, all of which have literary traditions as long as if not longer than their European counterparts. I am not suggesting that by adding American literature to world literature we are merely extending the false dreams of “Euroamerican” worldliness but that the world of world literature is about translation relations; indeed, that the world is not the sum but the frisson of these very relations. But this is not deemed a primary concern when considering Americana. Yet it hovers close to my thesis, which is to suggest that American literature in the world evinces significant countermands about the conditions I have invoked so far. I would characterize these contraindications as a provocative antinomy of globalization so that, far from confirming the tenets of a renewed cultural imperialism, the cultural logic of what is here called “Americana” points to the ways in which globalization is increasingly becoming dissimulated, unable to sustain its central rationale and that this world beyond is also, whatever else it is, a promise of world literature as such. On the face of it, this appears as a typically conservative conceit: the White European Male, pushed against the wall of global obsolescence, makes a virtue of such aphanisis (a fading subjectivity), to reassign a space for its lineaments while seeming to celebrate its disappearance. I  can reject such claims but I  cannot fully adjudicate their substance for this is also about ideology and a range of overdeterminations in which nominating one’s exception is simply beside the point. Americana at this level is about superadequation, the ways in which monadic consciousness, and perhaps even nomadic consciousness, is overreached and reconfigured outside an individual Weltanschauung. This does not mean Americana is world literature raised to the power of no one, which would answer a Romantic ideology with something even more universalist. It signals instead a weakening of globalization as a paradigm of subject circulation and an enjoyment, to borrow from Žižek, of symptoms not altogether consonant with subject-​centered reason. This implies, however, a somewhat idiosyncratic concept of Americana, Americana in extremis, that requires clarification and elaboration. Americana at its most basic is a genre of American music with roots in country and folk traditions. Most obviously, it is things or objects or cultural artifacts deemed typical of America and its civilization, now largely read as the United States. I am interested in the composition of this objecthood and how it gets circulated; indeed, whether circulation itself constitutes the object in globalization.

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This position obviously does not emanate from object ontological critique like that of Graham Harman or Timothy Morton, although, like them, I  do not maintain Heidegger’s sharp distinction between objects and things and similarly tend to ponder texts as objects (albeit less hyper than Morton’s and less benign than the material culture approach of Bill Brown). The object relations (rather than non-​relations) I have in mind are certainly philosophical but are for me primarily economic: the object as constituted by economic processes and conditions. While a new materialist like Jane Bennett might invoke commodities as “quasi-​agents” (with actancy not agency) she underestimates how “thing power” and the force of things steal agency from radical change (although to be fair, not as much as Harman who jumps to the property of an object with little understanding of property beyond it). Both speculative realism and new materialism can provide a critique of Americana and are already, along with material culture studies, a part of American Studies, but if the materialism here is more constrained (and contaminated) it also begins from a different ground or Grund, one of social being where extravagance is the beginning of struggle. Commodification may not be world encompassing but it is world historical. World literature is part of this commodification, as critics like Pascale Casanova and Joseph Slaughter in very different ways have detailed. Postcolonial studies in particular have examined closely the production of the author and book as objects in transnational circuits of the literary and that work, including my own, informs my comments on literature in or as Americana. This is not to say Americana is simply postcolonial, but that the accumulation of historical conditions and culture distilled in Americana are not outside reconfigurations of the world system, particularly in the space between globalization and decolonization. The study of Americana can benefit from the analysis of such dynamics which has already had a significant impact on American Studies as a discipline and methodology. What stands for a culture and civilization is a subject of great import (and export) and intimates similar levels of impossibility to that already outlined in world. Cultural objects seem to reduce this burden by glossing on the substance of identity but because objecthood is not a neutral medium it reproduces a constitutive opacity in rendering cultural characteristics so that Americana is as much about the process of identity formation as it is about a confirmation of a settled (and/​or settler) subject. Americana cleaves to the flux of Americanness, as the sense of making sense of American. The object always provides a shortcut to such sense-​making of identity, and no more so than in the museum, whose institutional logic is made possible by

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the grand worldliness of colonialism, nationalism, imperialism, and globalization. One way to think of world literature is through the notion of the living museum where the place of temporality is constitutive of the category. If museums have always measured worldliness, more recently they have taken to streamlining radically its coordinates. I am thinking here of Neil MacGregor’s radio/​book project, The History of the World in 100 Objects, a terrifyingly gorgeous selection of gathering and plunder from the British Museum that really does give you the world, or at least one calculated from the Greenwich Meridian. Set up by Parliament in 1753, the museum was charged with a distinct mission “aimed at universality” that was to be “free to all,” a provocative phrase not unconnected to “free for all” as a mode of acquisition. There were rules for the top one hundred objects chosen by the museum experts under MacGregor: they had to span the globe and they had to include “the humble things of everyday life as well as great works of art” (part of the assumption here is to think world literature as a weaving of the two specific to globalization). MacGregor’s project is fantastic on a number of levels and part of its brilliance stems from its inspirational medium of apprehension, the radio. The BBC radio folks involved in the project “knew that to imagine a thing is to appropriate it in a very particular way, that every listener would make the object under discussion their own and in consequence make their own history.” As an aside, this is something of Daniel Miller’s approach to the materiality of things and stuff. Of course, it did not quite work out like that because MacGregor understood that people would want to see the objects and, for those who could not reach the British Museum, they could peruse the objects on the museum’s website. The desire to visualize does not exclude the imagination, of course, but we live in an era when visual economies of difference place a heavy burden on our global sense through a grammar that is often restricted to some form of electronic rectangle (there is a ratio to aspect ratio). I do not have space here to discuss a two million year (human) history of the world in 100 objects from an Olduvai handaxe to the credit card, but the possibility of the project comes with a sense of objecthood that does not belong to the objects in their history but to this logic of apprehension in the present. MacGregor calls this “the necessary poetry of things,” a necessity of thingness in contrast to textuality and an acknowledgment that things have existed where writing has not. I read the necessary poetry of things as a certain compulsiveness (a property of sense perception and a sense perception of property) that galvanizes if not predicates how world literature is understood. For MacGregor, objects complete a conversation attenuated by texts alone, albeit requiring “a

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considerable leap of the imagination” on the part of the interpreter; for me this spurs a different conversation, about whether forms of objecthood are specific to the ways in which the world is understood and that, in the case of world literature, such objecthood is immanent to its very possibility as text in circulation. Not to be outdone, the success of the British Museum project (a success, by the way, capped not by the radio broadcasts, nor by the website hits, but by the sales of a beautifully illustrated book) spurred the Smithsonian Institution to draw on their vast reserves (the largest collection of museum objects in the world) to produce The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects (the extra object has a psychological explanation, literally one-​upmanship, but I would like to think of it as a snub for the British Museum daring to include a Native American buckskin map produced just before the Revolutionary War—​Smithson was English and the $100 million he bequeathed to the United States would be decisive in establishing this worldly collection). Not surprisingly, G. Wayne Clough, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, describes the collections as “a repository of who we are as a people” to which the Under-​Secretary and author of the book, Richard Kurin, adds the qualification that since 90 percent of the Smithsonian’s collections are from natural history he has based America’s story primarily on the remainder. Basically, as Kurin puts it, if one is looking for a treasure trove of Americana, it must be in the Smithsonian. Obviously, there was a huge debate over what to include and the terms of categorization themselves would provoke extensive critique. The primary conceit was “just as one might write a biography of a person, one can write a biography of an object”; that is, each object is accompanied by its story and other objects that illuminate it. If the object speaks, its narrative translates it and the fact it has been meticulously chosen further writes a story for it (this is not unconnected to my remarks on philosophical objectism). Not all Americana can act as a touchstone in this way (Lincoln’s hat is precisely Lincoln’s hat and Harriet Tubman’s shawl is Harriet Tubman’s shawl) but the idea of Americana offers narrative in its objecthood, a “who we are-​ness” that stories attempt to verify in their specific referentiality. Another lesson from these object lessons is that an object of Americana is never innocent or self-​selected, so that the way its meanings congeal or dissolve are also part of its substance in identity. Objecthood is also, therefore, what exceeds the object in its collection. One leaves this museum as Teju Cole leaves the American Folk Art Museum in Open City: “When I eventually walked down the stairs and out of the museum, it was with the feeling of someone who had returned to the earth from a great distance.”

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Used as early as 1841 to describe distinctly American culture, Americana is also the name of a city in São Paulo state, Brazil, settled in 1866 by migrants from the Confederate south (although it did not officially become Americana until 1900). As is well known, the Americanos who came to Brazil after the civil war (and after an open invitation by the Emperor, Dom Pedro II) were not unimpressed with its maintenance of slavery (many of the “Confederados,” as they came to be called, brought their own slaves as well as enslaved humans locally); indeed, Americana featured several industries (principally sugarcane and cotton) that benefited from this abomination until slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888. Although Americana is often used to denote a nostalgia for the small-​town world of the United States between 1880 and World War II, here the passion of remembrance is somewhat more dubious. Still, there is a substantial literature on the Confederados and what has been termed the lost colony of the Confederacy that not only views the phenomenon as a living museum of the American South but also as a key example of transatlantic migration and kinship networks. Today, one can attend the annual festa of the Fraternidade Descendência Americana, the brotherhood of Confederate descendants in Brazil, just outside Americana. At the festival Confederate flags are abundant and one can use imitation Confederate bills (conveniently exchanged on a 1:1 rate with Brazilian Reals) for purchasing mementos, real and imagined, of the American South. Attendees often dress up as Confederate soldiers or as Southern Belles, and there is much consumption of biscuits, fried chicken, and gravy. The dance floor is painted with a Confederate flag and tunes include the battle hymn “Stonewall Jackson’s Way.” The Confederados have maintained much of the culture of the old country including a Southern-​inflected English to complement their Portuguese, but they are not isolated and are strongly integrated with the local community. It is important to stress that today’s Confederados do not celebrate slavery or its history; indeed, many who join in the festa are themselves descendants of slaves, although that is far from saying that Americana conforms to Freyre’s controversial notion of Brazil as a post-​racial society. If the Confederate flag is an example of Americana, then in Americana it is a cultural referent severed from many of the actual or perceived practices of the Confederacy. Those tourists who visit Americana from the United States must find this disjunction jarring for there can be no innocence about its meaning in their country. Most American tourists are from the South—​many come not just for the festival but also to visit the graves of distant family relatives. White supremacists have made the journey but festival security has been tasked with

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keeping them out by screening for overt supremacist symbols, or at least those more overt than the rebel flag. Recently, when asked about the Confederate/​slavery connection, one local replied: “I really don’t like this idea, celebrating something about the South, because of slavery. I really don’t like it. But here this party is not about politics, I  think. It’s about the culture.” On one level, Americana bears that classic reflex of fetishism and disavowal that confounds cultural consumption; on another, it marks how movements of people and cultures disassemble as much as assemble or preserve their origins. This is not the difference between a surface reading and, for instance, a symptomatic reading, but it means innocence abroad is not simply ignorance or mistranslation. It is the grammar of circulation in which America both precedes and follows Americana, shaping it as an object, intimate and afar. Americana is not just an assignation of content but a refraction of the scales of apprehension themselves. What can be recognized? How has it come to circulate? Is circulation itself the proof of recognition? Is Americana in Brazil an aberration in understanding Americana as a cultural logic? And does Americana disturb in any way the idea of American cultural imperialism, the United States as a cultural superpower? Americana, according to the journalist and historian Hampton Sides, is a beautiful mess of foibles and failures, get-​go and goodness, vistas and veracity that is easy to discover just by driving around, hopping on a plane, and being American. This last attribute seems exclusionary or a state of exception peculiar to American exceptionalism but says something about the continued reliance on native informants before the enigma of cultural apprehension. Sure, we get those corporate signifiers like McDonald’s, Wal-​Mart, or even Apple (although one could argue that the latter according to tax records and production is actually Irish-​Chinese) but Sides’s book, Americana, reads Tupperware, Spelling Bees, or the very un-​bohemian trappings of the Bohemian Club. There are portraits of skateboarders and Native Americans (particularly the larger than life Russell Means), and a rather bizarre visit with the ex-​con Gordon Liddy, whose name hilariously graces a company dedicated to, among other things, private investigation! While Sides is better known for his World War II book, Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder on the questionable frontiersman Kit Carson, and the book on King’s assassination and assassin, Hellhound on his Trail, Americana combines his inquisitiveness about all things American with an admirable capacity for the yarn, Americana as the sum of its storytelling. In Marrakesh he is pegged as an American by a Moroccan would-​be guide named Muhammad. Sides pretends to be Finnish, but Muhammad is insistent so finally Sides asks how he knew

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and what defines him as an American: “Confident like you own the world, but open” comes the reply. Sides is impressed, but immediately edits this to “confident but open” and then adds, with barely a trace of irony, “We’re a supremely confident people, sure of our ways, proud of our machines, swaggering with our guns—​people confident enough to wage preemptive war on sovereign nations in defiance of world opinion.”1 He summarizes his book around the idea “ours is a land of refined fanaticism” and finishes with a “rah-​rah” tribute to the Iraq War and America’s first KIA there. To be fair, the book is published within a year of the war’s beginning and much of the text is caught in its inexorability. What are we fighting for? A way of life, a way of the world, confident but open (without forgetting Muhammad’s qualification “like you own it”). One hesitates before the term “refined fanaticism,” but who knows whether one word or both is the problem? Think of the Confederados, are they simply the lost fanatics of the ante-​bellum South who left because, with the outcome of the war, fanaticism itself had become overly refined? And if fanaticism has all the confidence of fear is this but a nervous tic of Americana rather than its governing precept? Louis Menand makes the point the civil war did not just sweep away slavery but “the whole intellectual culture of the North” that had included a vision of democracy ill-​matched with the fanaticism of the war itself. Menand, of course, argues a strong case for the Metaphysical Club of Holmes, Pierce, James, and Dewey girding a new American culture beyond the more obviously clubby cultural capital of minor distractions like the Bohemian Club. True, when Menand writes “American culture” he does not mean Americana as its popular expression but a specific intellectual culture that has permeated American self-​identity. Americana, in my sense, acknowledges that power but maintains the tension with the popular, a space where, to borrow from Rancière’s La Nuit des prolétaires, “the equality of intelligences” burn brighter even than the signal contributions of pragmatism. A confidence from below, open yet conflicted, can say as much about America’s impress on the world of world literature as the Metaphysical Club’s idea of ideas, where both are context specific, lived, and adaptable. The main problem in rearticulating Americana in this way is that generally Americana wallows in the provincial, the parochial, the pedestrian inflections of nation and nationalism, but the worlding of world literature, although hamstrung by the nationalist pretensions of Goethe, wants more than the platitudes of such an imagined community—​it wants its escape velocity in imagination itself, to shake free of its customary interpellations. Perhaps the ineffability of the world is only expressible through an ineffable equal, Hegel’s Absolute, but world literature suggests its medium is not science,

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but imagination, the antinomy in science, the roman in Bildung. Can Americana educate in this way? There is a sense that Americana, Don DeLillo’s first novel, is his own Bildung as much as it is that of his main character’s, David Bell, a television executive turned filmmaker, (specifically of a road movie: like Sides’s yarns, this is a narrative of the road). Now, in the path from a Brazilian enclave of the Confederacy, through Sides’s ideologically charged hodgepodge of things that go American, to the initial conditions of DeLillo’s novel writing, Americana itself appears deracinated, but it is in this dis-​identification and inappropriate otherness to what it should define that the strange claims to objecthood pierce the conditions of world literature. DeLillo himself is obviously a candidate for American literature’s global presence, a novelist who has been translated into over a dozen languages and who is central to canons of the contemporary. This early novel is not a sketch, necessarily, of the artist as a young man, but of an ardent embrace of America: “a private declaration of independence,” as DeLillo notes in an interview, “a statement of my intention to use the whole picture, the whole culture.”2 This is the challenge of Americana, for DeLillo does not desire metonyms for that wholeness but an artistic vision that is such wholeness, the only way that it can be declared. Yet this is also its impasse because it is mediated by more than intention, despite a tendency to read Bell as our interlocutor, he who will “explore America in the screaming night.”3 We have become used to thinking of this in terms of postmodernism and, as pastiche, this may be America’s key contribution to the world of world literature. This is important because, although DeLillo’s Americana could be used as a list of Americana, it more closely demonstrates its theoretical nuance for me as a way of seeing like Leaves of Grass, or Call me Ishmael or Beloved or Tender is the Night, but very much of its moment, like a Weltanschauung in concrete, or a dog balloon in steel. Americana is not a very satisfying novel, in part because DeLillo’s writerly concerns are so out of sync with the normative becoming of America in its Americana. There is some allure to believing Americana is the mark of DeLillo becoming the novelist we now regard but this misunderstands not just DeLillo but how Americana comes to be. Although DeLillo tropes on David Bell as both character and narrator (the latter, in particular, commenting on the film travelogue of his younger self), the strength of the conceit rests in how it negotiates the restless coordinates of America between these selves. While the older Bell sometimes seems as if he wishes to purify the narrative, his younger self exalts in the chaotic peripeteia of America’s cultural surfaces, a kind of negative dialectics

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in rather than against the popular. At one point we have a young David Bell filming a person playing him while exhorting his future self, his other projected self, to ask questions of his screen presence. If the History of America in 101 Objects gloriously obviates the impossibility of its project, DeLillo’s novel suggests that the reason is because of the irreconcilable subjectivity at its heart, one that prevaricates before and simultaneously with objecthood. Obviously, there is more to DeLillo’s Americana than this, but I would like to think that its structural idea, both as a record of America in the 1960s and as a projection of America as a future anterior, reveals a time/​space of possibility for the world in world literature, while calling into question the mode of canonicity deemed central to worldliness as such. This is not DeLillo’s intention, of course, but the condensation of culture that becomes Americana is constructed from an imagined point that is approximately Underworld, arguably his finest narrative, and precisely an “under” world that marks the significance of Americana in general. DeLillo is canonical, and his work travels afar, with a circulation that is constitutive of canonicity (at least according to Damrosch’s precepts) so the challenge is whether DeLillo’s sense of Americana disturbs the tension between the privileged and the popular in what America represents. One would assume that the globality of Americana has settled this critique in advance to the extent Americana circulates as a global brand, but I want to push the notion that its literature participates in the concreteness of object relations and fashions the world of the literary as itself a complex material culture. Looking at Americana ostensibly reveals a composite of objects that verify a specific sense of being in the world; reading Americana is less about confirming such a constellation and is more concerned to render the act of adjudication itself as symptomatic. The passion for culturalism in the one is not the monopoly of the object ontology set and can be productively explored as a form of cultural materialism along the lines of Raymond Williams’s “structures of feeling.” The wild contingencies of the other are evocative of an Althusserian reading practice, but also, just as interestingly, the heterogeneous relationality of the Deleuzean assemblage. In Bill Brown’s experiment, as he calls it, A Sense of Things, American literature seems to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of materialism and metaphysics by a kind of metaphysical materiality, one that must return to Marx with Capital as basically its first chapter (for Brown) but leave abstraction with the commodity and all of the fun of the aesthetic with the infamous dancing table in that chapter, a lived objecthood found all over the great tradition of American literature, “No ideas but in things” as William Carlos Williams puts it. That knot

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of materiality remains, but Americana has other lessons for how American literature becomes worldly in its circulation which is partly about how worldliness returns to it. Consider Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s extraordinary novel, Americanah, which, among other “things,” is about returning American objecthood, Americana, to America as a displaced yet essential circulation, migration. I should note that in taking Americana in so many of its instances I am cleaving to a discrepant literature of world value, what Brown calls in a different context, misuse value. “Americanah” is a Nigerian nickname for those who have left for America’s shores and refers here principally to Ifemelu (and her friends, like Ginika), the protagonist whose migration and return to Nigeria is at the heart of Adichie’s narrative. But Americanah is also about learning Americana, understanding its cultural codes not just as a form of cultural capital within one’s community abroad but as being a worldly American. If the novel seems to burst with such knowledge it is partly because Americana’s meaning is articulated within postcolonial coordinates where Americana is beside itself, just like Brazil’s Americana is beside the American South. While the central thread of the novel is a love story between Ifemelu and her childhood sweetheart Obinze, it also weaves a difficult negotiation of everyday cultural difference, a world of dialectical doxa where a sense of things is as much about placement as emplotment (in Hayden White’s version of Northrop Frye’s evocative term). This is most important in relation to gender and race (class, especially as depicted in Nigeria, is also notable but pinned to money rather than the full genuflections of capital—​the pall of corruption ideologically obfuscates the real foundations). Indeed, it is Adichie’s postcolonial comparatism that provides a trenchant critique of the differences in gender and race articulations between the United States and Nigeria, whether read through an African hair salon in Trenton, New Jersey, or through literary discussion as flirting in Lagos. While Obinze, prefers, for instance “proper books,” “classics” of American literature, Ifemelu begs to differ (she describes Huckleberry Finn as “unreadable nonsense”). She likes crime thrillers, especially those of James Hadley Chase, like his 1944 best seller, Miss Shumway Waves a Wand. Interestingly, Chase was the Americanized handle of a London-​born author, René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, who managed to create America’s gangster and noir culture using maps and slang dictionaries (and sometimes plagiarism, he lost a case to Raymond Chandler). Americana aficionados in France made it Chase’s primary market, closely followed by Anglophone and Francophone Africa. Individual novels, like No Orchids for Miss Blandish (adapted for the movies a second time as The Grissom

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Gang by Robert Aldrich), Strictly for Cash, and You’ve Got It Coming, all sold more in one language than all of Henry James in any language. Sales and print runs are not the core of Franco Moretti’s data method of measuring world literature, but they do shed light on the world for globalization, where all that is otherwise solid in the literary yet melts into the air of commodity circulation. It is this world to which Adichie’s novel constantly alludes, defamiliarizing its central tenets and suggesting world literature is moving in ways uncanny to the canon confabulators elsewhere. But surely, however much Adichie dabbles in the other worldly and under-​ worldly, she is now established and Establishment, moving from medicine at the University of Nigeria, to Drexel, Eastern Connecticut State, then to writing at Johns Hopkins, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard (where she wrote most of Americanah, places where even postcoloniality is produced by what Mark McGurl calls the Program Era)? I  do not think we should be cynical about a MacArthur or a US National Book Critics Circle award, but Adichie is clearly interpellated differently as a writer today than she was when she penned the story “You in America” even if she folds its sensibility into Americanah. Where Half of a Yellow Sun is a wrenching tale of the short-​lived Igbo state, Biafra, Adichie’s world literary credentials mean that it is enough that the novel represents Africa and Africanness, which is only true to the extent that Nigeria is a significant part of it (the film adaptation really only succeeds in the latter rather than the former). Similarly, Adichie’s now famous TedXEuston talk, “We should all be feminists” builds on the legacies of her foremothers, Nwapa and Emecheta, but now is chiefly known for being sampled by Beyoncé for the song “Flawless.” These pop cultural references are not anodyne—​Beyoncé, for instance, was a halftime feature with Coldplay at that most curious of “world” championships, the Superbowl, and their collaboration, “Hymn for the Weekend” (a music video with many millions of online hits) is set in India and samples the Hindu holiday Holi, the festival of colors, with Beyoncé all dressed up and sporting henna hand tattoos. Predictably, the video has caused a furor over authenticity and appropriation but Holi has been misappropriated for decades all over the world, including both in the Americas and in Africa—​it is part of the story of worlding in globalization, of which Americana in Americanah is also a logical expression (Americanah, as an epithet, also refers to Nigerians who return from America with affected American accents). Adichie’s Americanah is not a salve for globalization as currently construed, but its engagement with the fraught terms of globality accentuates Americana’s

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importance for reading American literature in a global frame. First, the contact zone Adichie elaborates is mediated by different forms of circulation that are distinct but are sometimes braided, branded, and banalized. Ifemelu can seem the veritable native informant, carefully itemizing elements of Igbo culture, but she is not entirely trustworthy about these symbols, and indeed she questions her own position as spokesperson (the word Americanah itself indicates this ambivalent space in circulation, not just as a crisis in interstitial identity, but as a measure of the disjunction between globality and world). Second, while the vibrancy of the literary is precisely about its discomfort with assigned cultural roles, Adichie’s own worldliness, what Edward Said once termed “circumstantiality,” reveals that world literature is both further from and closer to its putatively founding precepts. How so? On one level, world literature is simply the name for an impossible tussle between textual and worldly profusion; on another, the scales of cultural expressivity suggest the literary is finding an altogether more modest place within them that paradoxically makes its world an imperative heuristic. Ifemelu’s anonymous blog, “Raceteenth, or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-​American Black” is not only a nuanced commentary on the complexities and everydayness of racial identity but is also an indication of the prescience of other cultural forms that the novel can describe but not in fact perform. It is this very non-​ equivalence that I find fascinating, as if novelization gathers the world in ways the world cannot gather itself. Such accumulation does not refuse Americana as a realm of suspect objecthood but embraces the problem of false equivalence as globalization’s meaning for world. Finally, when Mohammed Bamyeh writes of the “ends of globalization” he argues these can be made differently from its means. If world literature does not quite assume that mantle, in part because institutional and critical inertia wants to keep it aesthetically uncontaminated by such a realm, the object lesson of Americana is that we should not settle for the ends either justifying the means or for merely coding them otherwise. Americana may not complete the meaning of Ifemelunamma (“beautifully made”) according to the terms of Adichie’s novel, but it shows a certain beauty in making nevertheless, a world made elsewhere (to bowdlerize Richard Poirier) yet never wholly made. A world that is outsourced but never adequately assembled. Thus, the lesson of Adichie is not Americanah returning to Nigeria as much as it is Americana returning to the United States, where it both complicates its worldliness and confounds all sense that the world is settled before its literature.

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Notes 1 Hampton Sides, Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier (New York: Anchor, 2004), xiii. 2 Thomas DePietro, ed., Conversations with Don DeLillo (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2005), 88. 3 Don DeLillo, Americana (New York: Penguin, 1989), 10.

Works cited Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Americanah. New York: Anchor, 2013. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. New York: Anchor, 2007. Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. Bamyeh, Mohammed. The Ends of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000. Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. Brown, Bill. A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2004. Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Trans. M. B. DeBevoise. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. Chase, James Hadley. Miss Shumway Waves a Wand. New York: Jarrolds, 1944. Cole, Teju. Open City. New York: Random House, 2012. Damrosch, David. What is World Literature? Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. DeLillo, Don. Americana. New York: Penguin, 1989. DeLillo, Don. Underworld. New York: Scribner, 2003. DePietro, Thomas, ed. Conversations with Don DeLillo. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2005. Freyre, Gilberto. The Masters and the Slaves. Trans. Samuel Putnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. Friedman, Thomas. The World is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-​First Century. New York: Picador, 2007. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang Von and Johann Peter Eckermann. Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann. New York: Da Capo, 1998. Harman, Graham. The Quadruple Object. New York: Zero Books, 2011. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. The Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper, 2008. Hitchcock, Peter. “Defining the World.” In Literary Materialisms. Eds. Mathias Nilges and Emilio Sauri. New York: Palgrave, 2013. 125–​44. Hitchcock, Peter. “The World, The Literary, and the Political.” In Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections. Eds. Petra Rethmann, Imre Szeman, and William D. Coleman. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010. 86–​110. Kumar, Amitava. World Bank Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Kurin, Richard. The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects. New York: Penguin, 2013. MacGregor, Neil. A History of the World in 100 Objects. New York: Penguin, 2013. Marx, Karl. Capital. Vol. 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin, 1992. McGurl, Mark. The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011. Menand, Louis. The Metaphysical Club. New York: Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2002. Miller, Daniel. Materiality. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005. Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. London: Verso, 2013. Morton, Timothy. Realist Magic. Ann Arbor: MPublishing, 2013. Nancy, Jean-​Luc. The Sense of the World. Trans. Jeffrey S. Librett. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Poirier, Richard. A World Elsewhere: The Place of Style in American Literature. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. Rancière, Jacques. La Nuit des prolétaires: Archives du rêve ouvrier. Paris: Fayard, 1981. Said, Edward. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983. Sides, Hampton. Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier. New York: Anchor, 2004. Slaughter, Joseph. Human Rights Inc. New York: Fordham University Press, 2007. White, Hayden. Metahistory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977. Williams, William Carlos. Paterson. Ed. Christopher MacGowan. New York: New Directions, 1992. Žižek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Without. London: Routledge, 2007.

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Political Serials: Tanner ‘88 to House of Cards Emily Apter

The rubric of “American World Literature” rests on a canon of US-​centric, American-​English perennial bestsellers and prize-​winning works amenable to translation in a global market. Titles by Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Richard Wright, Phillip Roth, John Updike, Thomas Pynchon, James Baldwin, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Don DeLillo, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, David Foster Wallace, Cormac McCarthy, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Russell Banks, and Zadie Smith are preponderant on the display shelves of literature in translation throughout the world’s capitals. Though the works may be bitingly critical of American exceptionalism, national hubris, the commercialized American way of life, racism, violence, and vulture capitalism, they nonetheless extend the American empire of fiction. In addition to being well marketed and backed by powerful publishing conglomerates, the fact of their being American would seem to guarantee their crossover appeal and mass entertainment value, arguably transferring some agency of a global superpower to aspirational readers. If American literature maintains a hegemonic position in world literature today, perhaps rivaled in global popularity only by Latin American literature (courtesy of outsize talents like Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa, Roberto Bolaño), it does so bundled with other exportable cultural products: blockbusters, video games, and TV serials. Serials—​episodic, long-​form, literate epics often privately binged on Netflix or Amazon—​have supplanted or

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become literature for audiences worldwide. It is by now a truism to say that TV serials are the new lit, the new global lingua franca, with the best of the American ones—​The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, Transparent, House of Cards—​delivering cultural literacy and an education in the micropolitics of power. House of Cards, to take one case, has been absorbed like a kind of primer in American politics “small p,” imparting fluency in the lingo of K Street and instruction in the machinations of scandal, information-​trafficking, spin, back-​channeling and the finer points of parliamentary procedure. The transnational status of House of Cards—​the fact that it has been embraced by a global audience and has counterpart shows like Borgen in Denmark, 1992 in Italy, or Snakes and Ladders in Canada, has led me to think more about political serials not just as a major currency of world literature but as a rather unique medium (rather than literary genre) of “serial politics.” It is distinguished by the way it allows, on the one hand, viewers to discern the pressure of the death-​ drive in political ambition, and on the other, to grasp that which is extra to statecraft: elements of ambience, milieu, and infrastructure in the function and dysfunction of political institutions; the contentless, yet shape-​shifting force of politicking; the myriad dimensions of what may be thought of as unexceptional politics. Unexceptional politics, posed against the “state of exception” foundationally inscribed in “the Political” (from Thomas Hobbes to Carl Schmitt and Hans Kelsen, from Hannah Arendt to Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben), is a kind of Machiavellian matter culled from acts of political cunning, backroom deals, scandals and scams, the petitions of local constituents, microaggressions, insurrectional postures, jousting, and ousting. Unexceptional politics spools into explanatory structures of historical epic and classical political theory, obfuscating their structural coherence and baffling mainstream political and diplomatic ends. This is politics that eludes conceptual hold, confronting us with the realization that we really do not know what politics is, where it begins and ends, or how its micro-​events should ultimately be tallied or called. Claude Lefort laments the “no there there” view of statecraft that leaches out of decentralized structures of governance and systems of controlled information. “How, in fact, can we cling to the idea that politics invades everything? If there is no boundary between politics and that which is not political, politics itself disappears, because politics has always implied a definite relationship between human beings, a relationship governed by the need to answer the questions

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on which their common fate depends.”1 There is, I would respond, no demonstrable boundary between politics and non-​politics. Politics “small p” invades everything, its entropy defies pattern-​recognition and resolution. And classical political theory has only the most limited vocabulary for describing its allness and everywhereness. This allocentric force field of the unexceptional is what “serial politics” names, filling a theoretical vacuum in theories of “the political” and inviting us to define what is extra to statecraft by means of the measure of the extra time produced by the serial format; whereby viewers quite literarily make time, extracting it from busy days of labor, or, in a more financialized mode, banking and hoarding time for credit hours of watching. Thibaut de Saint-​Maurice notes that the series’ extended duration allows viewers to experience the undramatic texture of the everyday, the slow unfurling of the nonevent, the possible worlds of infinite situations. And Sandra Laugier suggests that the exorbitant amount of time expended watching a character works like a pleasurable form of school, instructing audiences in the philosophy of judgment as they are prompted over time to hone their skills as judges of moral character.2 The political series equips the spectator with tools to decode the dynamics of dysfunctional moves and successful scoring both within and outside the bounds of political institutions. To become savvy in calculating an act’s proportional importance to a situation is essential to the constitution of gamed spaces. In her paper on “Shakespeare’s Wire,” Elisabeth Bronfen identifies this kind of game-​ space on a surveillance monitor that refracts the isomorphism and mutual imbrication of overlapping worlds, those of criminal networks, the police, and Baltimore politicians: The computer screens transform the police into the audience of schemes and movements they can only partially understand. Recorded by hidden microphones, photo and video cameras, individual scenes of the game are rendered visible as snippets of coded dialog, as freeze frames or silent movie footage . . . the gangsters, cognizant that they are being watched, explicitly perform for the police, play to their expectations or ludically thwart their reconnaissance efforts.3

Political serials specialize in game-​spaces that erase the lines between politics and non-​politics at the very seat of power. Arenas such as the White House, the Houses of Parliament, or government offices emerge as stages of containment for the uncontainable, entropic energies of politics in its daily emissions. Ophir Levy, writing about The West Wing, and in particular, about hallway chat (“Do

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you mind if I talk to you while we walk?”), locates this entropy in the “frantic activity” of extras, who flit across the screen like projectiles, mobilizing a positive yet ever-​changing spatial field: The West Wing is famous for its long single steadicam shots in which characters walk along the West Wing of the White House. Symbolizing continuity, these shots methodically reveal a space characterized by the frantic activity of the people who seem to cross it in all directions. It can be the diverse trajectories of the numerous anonymous bodies of extras (assistants, secretaries, interns) who seem to cross the screen in less than a second, like projectiles, and then disappear, caught up in what they are doing. It can be the continuous trajectories of the main collaborators of the president, or of the president himself, sustained by the continuous dialogue which seems to fuel their movement. It can be the repetitive trajectories of words themselves, darting like projectiles in the martial arts of speech. What does the coextensivity between walk and talk suggest in The West Wing? The continuous steadicam takes make the physical dimension of speech palpable, underlining the constant exertion and the virtuosity of characters, the vertigo of speech or, on the contrary, its utmost performativity. They probably also allow access to the very essence of politics: speech is indeed an actual act in the series, used to convince, legislate, rule—​not just some inconsistent rambling.4

The “physical dimension of political speech” experienced materially in serially produced, stochastic, real time may be associated with the realism of what Marx termed real abstraction.5 David Cunningham, writing about New Italian Epic and referring to Roberto Saviano’s novel Gomorrah (along with the immensely popular Italian film and TV serial spun off from it), applies real abstraction (as mediated by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Georg Lukács) to the socially totalized objective reality of commodity exchange, the conditions of their exchangeability as such, and the idea that “the specific set of circumstances of capitalist modernity come to have an actual (and thus paradoxically concrete) objective social existence.”6 Cunningham identifies the representation of real abstraction with the “critical mimesis of capital’s own global ‘incursions,’ ” citing Saviano’s observation that: “It’s not hard to imagine something, not hard to picture in your mind a person, gesture, or something that doesn’t exist. It’s not even complicated to imagine your own death. It’s far more difficult to imagine the economy in all its aspects: the finances, profit percentages, negotiations, debts and investments . . . You may be able to picture the impact of the economy, but not its cash flows, bank accounts, individual transactions.”7 Cunningham

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sees Gomorrah as exemplary in making manifest the internal politics of sabotage or the intricate business transactions of an organized crime network. And borrowing from Enzo Paci, Alberto Toscano argues in a similar vein, underscoring that abstract drive and structure assume “the explicit contours of a matter of fact, of a state of affairs . . . [of the] universal capable of reality.”8 I would reorient this reading of real abstraction, arguing that the realism at issue here represents, at once, a totalizing retrospect, or abstracted “real” of capital rendered in the production rhythm of serial narrativity (what Joshua Clover dubs “retcon” or “retroactive continuity”—​“an annealing of logical fissures in a given backstory after they have cracked open into system-​threatening incoherence”), and a real that defies abstract theorization, which is to say it remains true to the untidy, incoherent maze of interactions, calculations, and structures of psychopower diffused within distributed systems of institutional power, in and beyond the sphere of nomos or Reason of State. From this infrapolitical perspective on realism, we derive a picture of politicians thinking politically in economic metaphors (following Clover’s argument that metaphor is essentially an equation, making it the most financial and mathematical of literary figures), as well as a picture of politics—​substantialized in random willings rather than exceptional, individual acts—​that is never something “the people” can have or to which universals can lay claim.9 Whether deadly or satirical (or both), political serials—​considered as the aesthetic form of serial politics—​rely on a tradition of political fiction harking back to Benjamin Disraeli’s Coningsby, or, The New Generation [1844]), often classed the first political novel in literary history and the first of the “Young England” trilogy that included the more famous Sybil: or The Two Nations (1845). A turgid chronicle about Parliament in the era of cabinet shake-​ups following the Reform Act of 1832 (an Act that enlarged the enfranchised electorate, bolstered representation of industrial cities in the House of Commons, and diminished seats in the House of Lords), Coningsby maps the protean geography of political crisis:  “At present the world and the confusion are limited to St James’s Street and Pall Mall; but soon the boundaries and the tumult will be extended to the intended metropolitan boroughs; to-​morrow they will spread over the manufacturing districts. It is perfectly evident, that before eight-​and-​forty hours have passed, the country will be in a state of fearful crisis.”10 An orphaned aristocrat, Coningsby is based on the real-​life politician George Smythe, undersecretary to Prime Minister Robert Peel. A Tory Romantic, advocate for social justice, and opponent of the utilitarian, “whatworks” political style of Peel, Smythe faced

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off against the cynical utilitarian operative John Wilson Croker. The Croker character in the novel is Rigby, the yes-​man of choice to ministers, the ultimate party insider and proxy, ghosting the man of power even as he himself is ghosted by ghostwriters. Rigby represents the legions of flunkies whose actions provide the filler of serial politics: The world took him at his word, for he was bold, acute, and voluble; with no thought, but a good deal of desultory information; and though destitute of all imagination and noble sentiment, was blessed with a vigorous, mendacious fancy, fruitful in small expedients, and never happier than when devising shifts for great men’s scrapes. . . . After a struggle of many years, after a long series of the usual alternatives of small successes and small failures, after a few cleverish speeches and a good many cleverish pamphlets, with a considerable reputation, indeed, for pasquinades, most of which he never wrote, and articles in reviews to which it was whispered he had contributed, Rigby, who had already intrigued himself into a subordinate office, met with Lord Monmouth. He was just the animal that Lord Monmouth wanted, for Lord Monmouth always looked upon human nature with the callous eye of a jockey. He surveyed Rigby; and he determined to buy him. He bought him; with his clear head, his indefatigable industry, his audacious tongue, and his ready and unscrupulous pen; with all his dates, all his lampoons; all his private memoirs, and all his political intrigues. It was a good purchase. Rigby became a great personage, and Lord Monmouth’s man.11

Disraeli’s Rigby is familiar as the Machiavellian advisor to the Prince, a figure of formula to be sure. But the adjectives and qualifiers attaching to his persona—​ “desultory information,” “mendacious fancy,” “small expedients,” “small successes” “small failures,” “cleverish speeches,” “subordinate office,” bring more attention to the microphenomenology of politics than to the particular traits of an individual character within a web of dramatic action. What Disraeli invents is serial politics as a literary order of discursivity, as in this spectacular run-​on sentence, which plunges the reader into a welter of syntactic imbrications and insider references: The startling rapidity, however, of the strange incidents of 1834; the indignant, soon to become vituperative, secession of a considerable section of the cabinet, some of them esteemed too at that time among its most efficient members; the piteous deprecation of “pressure from without,” from lips hitherto deemed too

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stately for entreaty, followed by the Trades’ Union, thirty thousand strong, parading in procession to Downing-​street; the Irish negotiations of Lord Hatherton, strange blending of complex intrigue and almost infantile ingenuousness; the still inexplicable resignation of Lord Althorp, hurriedly followed by his still more mysterious resumption of power, the only result of his precipitate movements being the fall of Lord Grey himself, attended by circumstances which even a friendly historian could scarcely describe as honourable to his party or dignified to himself; latterly, the extemporaneous address of King William to the Bishops; the vagrant and grotesque apocalypse of the Lord Chancellor; and the fierce recrimination and memorable defiance of the Edinburgh banquet, all these impressive instances of public affairs and public conduct had combined to create a predominant opinion that, whatever might be the consequences, the prolonged continuance of the present party in power was a clear impossibility.12

Even readers of the time knowledgeable in British history would have had considerable difficulty parsing the sequencing of the political event from a passage like this one, which describes the fallout of the Reform Act that precipitated Lord Grey’s retreat from government in 1834. In developing a mode of narration that is archly allusive, hard to follow, and riddled with innuendo, Disraeli begets Anthony Trollope, particularly the Trollope of the Palliser novels where the minutiae of national domestic politics, policy-​making, and power-​jockeying are overlaid on the family romance. As Adam Gopnik observed: “The faceless bureaucrats of large organizations are his great love . . . Trollope, were he alive today, would be in Brussels, writing comedies about the European Parliament.” “In Trollope’s fiction,” he continues, “even the most small-​scale and homely stories have as a background this special crisis of modernization—​not the crisis of industrialization and mass immiseration, seen by Dickens, but a crisis of institutions, produced by reform and standardization.”13 The prosaic business of the society of calculation highlighted by Trollope arguably carries over to the serial, defined as anti-​or mock-​epic, the opposite of the historical novel, which traces the arc of an epochal event. Serial politics, like the political serial, is long-​form (infinite), episodic in rhythm, and structured by the compulsion to repeat. It traces a political unconscious in the outcomes of calculation and provides a CAT-​scan of political intelligence, revealing the cognitive solutions and work-​arounds to hurdles, the insurmountability of obstruction, the instrumentalism of political reason, and the fatigue produced by incrementalism—​the buildup of infinitesimal stresses and pressures, be they breakdowns in the cabinet of a ruling party, setbacks

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preceding comebacks, or the snowballing of mesquineries that culminate in vaporized political careers. The impetus to think politics as the serial representation of unexceptional politics was forged in the crucible of “Bridgegate,” which erupted in 2013 and continues to threaten Chris Christie’s political career. The scandal involved the New Jersey governor’s presumed hand in orchestrating a monster traffic jam on the bridge connecting Fort Lee to Manhattan in retribution for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to support Christie in the gubernatorial election. Like “the whip,” a metaphor used for a political position in Congress (incarnated by the character “Jackie Sharp” in House of Cards, who takes malicious pleasure in disciplining the flock toward a vote count), “the jam” is a concrete metaphor, the perfect figure for a “small p” politics of obstruction. As Bruno Latour has observed, (and Béatrice Hibou has further elaborated), bureaucratic hurdles and legal obstruction make of simple words like “decrees,” “signatures,” and “contracts” the currency of political logjams.14 The sequence of events as reported in The New York Times reads like a script outline for a TV series that could be titled “Profiles in Pettifoggery:” August 13, 2013: Bridget Anne Kelly a deputy chief of staff to Christie, emails David Wildstein, a Christie ally serving as director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” “Got it” Wildstein replies. September 9, 2013: Lanes Close for 4  days, gridlocks borough. Mayor Mark Sokolich sends text to Bill Baroni pleading for help. First day of school. Later complains of public safety problems to Baroni. Patrick Foye executive director of the Port Authority, orders the bridge reopened, and claims that he has had not been informed of closings. September 14, 2013: “Traffic Study” September 17, 2013: Sokolich suggests closings are punitive. The Wall St. Journal publishes copy of Foye’s leaked email. November 25, 2013: Baroni testifies (not under oath) before State Assembly’s transportation Committee, using a visual aid to explain to lawmakers why access lanes to George Washington closed. Wildstein tells him administrative officials were “VERY happy” with his appearance and that he had done “GREAT.” December 7, 2013: Wildstein resigns, since the issue has become a “distraction.” Christie adds his own praise for his service. December 10, 2013: The Port Authority begins its own investigation.

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Christie meets with campaign manager Bill Stepien, who tells him Wildstein had approached him in 2013 with the idea to close. Stepien told him to “take it to Trenton.” December 13, 2013: Christie calls lane closings issue overblown, Baroni resigns. Christie claims that until the WSJ had published the story he knew nothing. January 8–​ 14, 2014: Records suggest the political nature of the closings. Emails and texts subpoenaed by the Assembly committee that tie Mr. Christie’s appointees to the closings are leaked. Documents suggest political retribution and efforts at cover up. Christie issues a statement denying knowledge of the documents. January 9, 2014: Christie apologizes, saying he has been “humiliated” by the episode. Wildstein Cites the Fifth and announces he has fired Kelly and withdrawn Stepien as the choice for chair of the state Republican party. January 13, 2014: Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City asserts that Christie cut him off after he said he would not endorse the governor. January 18, 2014: Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says the lieutenant governor and a state commissioner threated in May to withhold money sought by the city for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts if she did not support a real estate development Christie wanted built there. January 31, 2014: Wildstein says Christie knew of closed lanes, claims evidence exists. Christie issues statement of denial.

“Time for some traffic problems,” “gridlock,” “lane closings,” “access,” “odd and wrong,” “take it to Trenton,” “humiliated,” “withhold money,” “denial,” this language of leaks and verbal accusations turns into a menu of memes, cataloguing the action of political jamming and orchestrated obstruction even as it serializes the sequence of micro-​events unfolding in real time. Serial politics here assumes definition as a paratactic series, with every “and then this happened” engendering the next. It foregrounds the action of the impolitic within power. Serial politics pulses and fluctuates like a human drive. In this sense, it is committed like serial murder, which is to say, like a ritual of sacrificial savagery and victim-​targeting linked to psychogenic and environmental factors that are causally tethered to infinite regress, and beyond the pale of political theory. Serial politics enters the political brain and translates it into the scripts of political serials, often through a repertoire of phrasal refrains and hooks. This is especially apparent in the British House of Cards, where Chief Whip Francis

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Urquhart marks out the beat of his compulsive scheming through repeated expressions: “You might well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment;” or “I’m the Chief Whip. Merely a functionary. I keep the troops in line. I put a bit of stick about. I make ‘em jump;” or “Me? Well, I’m just a backroom boy.”15 The American House of Cards contains comparable signature phrases—​Frank Underwood’s “Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value”; “Democracy is overrated”; “A great man once said, everything is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.” But the series achieves an even stronger holding effect with sensory cues, embedding seriality in sequences that relay the mood poetry coming off traffic lights on Washington streets at early morning, the metric beat of oars on a rowing machine, the sound of footfalls on a cemetery path, the oppressively coordinated earth tones of formfitting outfits, the luxury finishes of home furnishings and state-​of-​the art appliances. Though based on the British miniseries, the American House of Cards belongs to a larger set of American TV series: Hail to the Chief, a sitcom of 1985 featuring Patty Duke as woman president, Tanner ‘88, a brilliant mockumentary made by Garry Trudeau and Robert Altman, The West Wing, Wag the Dog, K-​Street, Madam Secretary, Scandal, Spin City, Alpha House, and Veep. It is the distant heir to Britain’s Yes, Minister, a hilarious sitcom about public choice politics, as well as of Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It which became the basis for the film In the Loop, which brilliantly dissects the workings of political back-​channeling. Both Iannucci productions featured an incompetent cabinet minister manipulated by a cynical Press Officer, played by Peter Capaldi, and based on Tony Blair’s former Press Secretary Alastair Campbell. Iannucci, it is worth noting, spent some years at Oxford writing a thesis on Milton. In a TV special on Milton, he suggested that Satan’s ability to “make a Heaven of Hell and Hell of Heaven,” transferred directly to the art of spin because the “operatives who employed such ‘meaningless nonsense’ were ‘literally doing the Devil’s work.’ ”16In the Loop fully exploited this demonic energy. Jamie, one of the hard-​core Scots brought in to do damage control after the Minister has let drop in an interview that the prospect of war with Iraq was “unforeseeable,” showers the fey, Oxbridge-​educated handlers with violent imprecations, stomping on the fax machine. This ritual performance of “killing the object” is not just a display of rage against the fact that the actual speed and traffic in information is impossible to control, it also comes off as a fit of frustration at the utter lack of meaning or constancy of any political gesture. Serial politics reads in this instance not just as a comedy of

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manners or social satire of the hypocrisy and mendacity of politicians, but as a protest against the performance of repetitive exercises in political futility. Serial politics shows the matter of politics: the zingers that anchor political discourse and mark the turning-​circle of an episodic cycle, the sensorial cues and physical objects that provide the ambience in which a political maneuver is hatched. Nowhere is this non-​totalized, unexceptional aspect of serial politics more effectively rendered than in Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau’s mockumentary Tanner ‘88. Hailed as “guerilla filmmaking” in its mix of improvisation and script, true-​life politicians and fictive ones, it tracks the peregrinations of Representative and Democratic hopeful Jack Tanner, an obscure liberal politician from Michigan, on the campaign trail in the lead-​up to the primaries. Since the film was made during the American election season of 1988, we see Tanner crossing paths with real-​life candidates Gary Hart, Bob Dole, Bruce Babbitt, and Pat Robertson. Linda Ellerbee, a real-​life news anchor, conducts a fictional debate with Tanner, Jesse Jackson, and Michael Dukakis that splices real debate footage of Dukakis and Jackson. Mario Cuomo, Martin Scorsese, and Kitty Dukakis, playing themselves each have cameos. Lee Hamilton, Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, and Art Buchwald, nominated by Tanner as cabinet picks, are shown in mock televised interviews commenting on the prospects of a Tanner administration. The hall of mirrors effect between reality and fiction is compounded by filmic reality effects. Tanner ‘88 draws on Rielle-​Hunter style videography of life on the campaign circuit, as well as reaction shots of focus groups screening campaign ads, scenes (that are filmed being filmed), scenes of backroom chaos at the campaign war room stock footage of Democratic convention halls, long pans of phone banks, food cartons, and messy desks, recordings of tech failures and transportation glitches. All this is recorded with vérité technique:  roving handheld camera movements and jump cuts. The informal camera work, coupled with the real-​time duration of these inside views of campaign work, serializes the ethos of a particular moment. It also communicates the uneasy commingling of image-​curation and technological improvisation that defined politics at the dawning of a new media matrix in the 1980s. As Matt Bai, writing about Gary Hart’s crash and burn at the hands of the media observed, by the late 1980s, “a series of powerful, external forces in the society were colliding, creating a dangerous vortex on the edge of our politics. Hart didn’t create that vortex. He was, rather, the first to wander into its path.”17 Tanner ‘88 zeroes in on visual technologies of power-​broking, focusing on how media stagecraft supplants statecraft. It confronts the viewer with the

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spectacle of unexceptional politics in all its granular detail; in its aspect as a process dependent on the infrastructural contingencies and random social encounters that get factored into political strategy. This unexceptionalism carries over to the candidate’s personal character. Tanner is the unexceptional sovereign, the “man who carries his own bag.” His handlers deem this a weakness: “the wrong symbol at the wrong time. It says that you either can’t, or won’t delegate. It says Jimmy Carter.” Tanner rails against the pressure to remake his image, invoking the name of Daniel Boorstin, a University of Chicago legal scholar who, in his bestseller The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-​Events in America (1961), championed the idea that America was in the vise of the “pseudo-​event.” He defined it as “not spontaneous, but planted or incited”; as governed by the promotion of newsworthiness and typified by statements that never really mean what they say.18 The pseudo-​event was typified by the leak: A clue to the new unreality of the citizen’s world is the perverse new meaning now given to the word “leak.” To leak, according to the dictionary, is to “let a fluid substance out or in accidentally: as this ship leaks.” But nowadays a news leak is one of the most elaborately planned ways of emitting information. It is, of course, a way in which a government official, with some clearly defined purpose . . . makes an announcement, asks a question, or puts a suggestion. It might more accurately be called a “sub rosa announcement,” an “indirect statement,” or “cloaked news.”19

In The Image Boorstin claimed that Americans, as victims of “diplopia” (a blurring of image and reality, fact and value), were no longer able to maintain control over the real.20 As if wholly in tune with the book’s message, Tanner watches in horror as his realness becomes grist for the campaign slogan “Jack Tanner, ‘For Real.’ ” The situation worsens when footage of Tanner’s heartfelt soliloquy on the moral calling of politics—​a moment of parrhesia filmed on the sly from underneath a glass table by his videographer—​is coopted for a campaign clip. If Tanner ‘88 is first and foremost a mockumentary about politics as pseudo-​ event and artifact of image-​management, it also works as a documentary of the most tedious aspects of politicking:  empty hours, dreary pit-​stops, endless bus-​rides, glad-​handing, stumping, debriefing, along with the succession of petty humiliations that candidates and their staff routinely endure. The spectacle of political boredom is enhanced by attention to institutional protocols:  the “how it’s done” aspect of parliamentary procedure and delegate roll

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call. In the concluding episode captioned “The Boiler Room,” shot on location at the Democratic National Convention, we are treated to real-​life Chairman Jim Wright and Convention administrator Dorothy Bush monotonously intoning the roll call rules, followed by the roll call itself. The monotony breaks only when Tanner’s wily campaign strategist T.J. Cavanaugh feeds a news anchor the story that a “minority report” has been filed by the Tanner campaign challenging the super-​delegate vote count. Wagering correctly that the fictive report will not be fact-​checked and will take fire, T.J. maneuvers to alter the course of presidential history. As in Coningsby (where anonymous “ ‘slashing reports’ . . . passed off as genuine coin” succeed in diminishing a party’s standing), word of the report ripples through the phone channel passes directly into the nightly news and erupts on the Convention floor, where it is taken to a vote.21 Something is generated out of nothing: the specious report, like the planted rumor or the use of massaged data in a poll, mobilizes the inexistent as a critical device of political machination. In the end, not even the manic energies of Billy Ridenaur, the testosterone-​ pumped delegate-​harvester brought in to perform some backroom magic, can overcome the forces of the political machine in Ohio, the rogue course of the Jesse Jackson campaign, or the specter of defeatism that has dogged the Tanner campaign throughout. The series comes to a close with a long pan-​shot of detritus:  obsolescent candidate buttons and pennants, overflowing ashtrays, and silent telephone banks. Tanner ‘88 capitalizes on gritty cinematography and the settings of cramped hotel rooms, noisy bars, and disorderly campaign headquarters to communicate the most mundane workings of ordinary politics. By contrast, the American House of Cards is a slickly produced political fantasia. Directed by David Fincher and Beau Willimon, it ran for four seasons on Netflix between February 2013 and February 2016 and was programmed for a fifth. The show was put together on the basis of an algorithm culled from marketing metadata on viewer genre preferences, suggesting that each plot turn or character-​device reflects an invisible factor of statistical outcome-​modeling. Kevin Spacey as Francis (Frank) Underwood is a Democratic Congressman from South Carolina and House Majority Whip. The formula is The Prince crossed with Richard III, Macbeth, and a dash of King Lear. Like its British forbear, House of Cards presents politics as an agon of monster egos, with fights to the death, contests of will, dangerous games of entrapment, blackmail, and cover-​up, all mired in the desiderata of administration and political

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management (how to get a bill passed, how to get rogue players lined up for a vote). An episode from Chapter  6, Season 1 of House of Cards explores a moment of Shakespearean vulnerability where the hero, normally unstoppable, is hoisted on his own rhetorical petard. A teacher’s strike has broken out, put into motion by Marty Spinella, who opposes Frank Uunderwood’s reforms to the teachers’ unions. Under pressure to drop his entire education bill, Frank arranges for a brick to be thrown through the window of his townhouse so he can blame it on Spinella’s protesters. He plans to shame Spinella during a televised debate, thereby garnering enough PR ammunition to ram through his bill:  “I’m ready for battle,” he confides right before the debate, “watch me put the final nail in Spinella’s coffin.” Frank:  You know what I’d like . . . an apology, when that brick came through the window. Spinella: Are you serious? Ok… I  am sincerely sorry that you had to go through that ordeal, it sickens me what you had to go through in your home. But what sickens me more, [and he turns to face Claire who is looking on from the newsroom floor] is that your husband is using you as a prop on national TV to win a debate . . .

Furious and thrown off guard by the address to his wife, Frank takes a wrong turn into the alphabet. He crosses the letters I, O, U, with the vowel series, A, E, I, O, U, losing track of the errant E of “Education” along the way. There is a moment of panic as he tries to rectify cognitive dissonance—​perhaps the viewer wonders, he is trying to eradicate the specter of what the strikers feel they are “owed,” or “O’ed.” But Frank runs aground in the confused positioning of the U and the I, losing his own subject-​position in the process and committing the horrendous lapsus, “defecation” for education.” He effectively shits himself on national TV. Frank:  You’ve got this wrong, there is no “you” nor “I” but education with a capital E, you know what I’m talking about. You and I in education. You want to play the vowel game with me. Y O I am . . . you left out E for education, defecation Spinella:  You like Sesame Street so much . . . Frank:  what I’m trying to say about education . . . I  guess you schooled me there Marty.

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Of particular interest here is the way in which the vocables of uncontrolled speech disturb the airbrushed screen of televised debate, revealing the sheer vacuity of phatic political utterance. We are in reverse mode here from say, Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardner in Being There (1979),22 where the character’s gnomic pronouncements are taken by the public as the coin of a political metaphysics dealing in sacred truth-​saying (à la Ben Carson). What happens in this scene is closer to Warren Beatty’s performance in Bulworth (1998) where the controls of the superego are blown off their axels as the presidential candidate starts to rap his fund-​raising speech, letting fly what he really thinks about big oil, big pharma, banks, and corporate ownership of elections. As in Bulworth, or the real-​life case of Rick Perry, who forgot several branches of government in a debate on national TV in 2008, this episode in House of Cards exposes phatic speech and political filler to ridicule. Rote sound bites and point scoring, constitutive of what Jean-​Claude Milner has dubbed “le parler politique” (“political talk”), are exposed as flimsy rhetorical contrivances. If my first House of Cards example emphasized the alphabet soup in which politicians discursively swim and occasionally drown, my second focuses on how, as in Tanner ‘88, parliamentary procedure is conscripted televisually as a language of unexceptional politics. The scene in which senators are dragged into the Senate chamber in handcuffs is based on a real-​life event. In 1988 in which Republicans left the Senate chamber so a quorum could not be reached and Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd ordered them back. Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon was found hiding in his office and carried into the chamber. The House of Cards episode starts with Frank’s efforts to avoid a government shutdown. He extends an olive branch to the Republicans, figuring that in return for their support for his plan to raise the retirement age he will help them pass an omnibus bill with bipartisan support. Everything seems on track, with Frank arriving at a compromise with Republican Senate Majority Leader Hector Mendoza, until Tea Party leader Curtis Haas balks and takes his caucus with him. The Republicans’ absence means that the Senate will no longer have the quorum necessary for a vote, so Frank uses an arcane parliamentary measure to compel the absent senators to appear under threat of arrest. After six of them are handcuffed and hoisted bodily into the chamber, the vote passes. This prompted one House of Cards commentator to observe wryly: “It’s actually a rather interesting episode, if you enjoy the inner workings of the Senate. However . . . ‘There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make ‘em—​laws and sausages.’ ”23

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Cloture, quorum call, filibuster, “medieval” maneuvers that involve recognizing a minority leader’s motion to compel the attendance of senators, this is the stuff of political serials that treat parliamentary procedure as the matter of politicking. Obstructionism takes on the character of a political kind of political materialism that sublates human agency and ideological telos. We move well beyond what Claude Lefort identified as the “malefic logic” of Machiavellianism, which aligns ruse with intention and affirms the persona of the serenely perverse sovereign who hews to his objectives. House of Cards portrays political ends, even when they are realized, as mired within arcane procedures and nonevents; occurrences that, examined in close-​up, appear as befuddling as Frank Underwood’s vowel game. If TV political serials—​the branded form of serial politics—​have emerged as a preferred medium, rival to as well as continuous with American World Literature in the stream of cultural artifacts for export, we can perhaps explain the appeal, at least in part, by the way in which they perform the fascinating pageant of soul-​destroying entelechy, communicated not through exceptional characters but by means of epic unexceptionalism, or micro-​scaled “small p” politics. Here I approach the recouping of ordinariness that Lauren Berlant is after when, in Cruel Optimism, she argues on behalf of “the situation as a genre of unforeclosed experience.” For Berlant, “the situation” (as opposed to the high-​stakes “event”), in affording a “historical sense of the present as immanence, emanation, atmosphere or emergence,” proves capable of “releasing subjects from the normativity of intuition and making them available for alternative ordinaries.”24 At its most “optimistic” this micropolitics of adjustment, incoherent narrative, and unmanageable contingency promises some modicum of relief from the feeling of “stuckness with relation to futurity.” My reading of political serials as serial politics, stays in the thick of obstruction and a kind of bleakness that comes with seriality itself (the compulsion to repeat, making a [serial] killing on the political market, the death drive in its most prosaic guises). Political serials provide a guilty pleasure, they permit wallowing in stuckness or political impasse; they produce Schadenfreude at one’s own expense. In the contemporary period, (even post-​Trump, which has made politics tout court flush with politics as a reality show), televisual political serials, much like Disraeli’s Coningsby or Trollope’s Whiggish Palliser novels in the nineteenth century, strike a nerve; offering a high-​def picture of an era in which personal trivia and technical point scoring, often conjugated together, exert a strange fascination. There may be nostalgia for American exceptionalism and

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grand narratives of triumphalism—​to wit, Trumpism—​but the nostalgia ultimately dissipates into the effluvia of social media. What we are left with is an inchoate morass of political reality effects that suffuse the atmosphere. Their units are nanoscaled and unaccountable; as imperceptible as high-​frequency stock trades, bits of metadata, or trace-​free instances of back-​channeling that will never figure in the annals of diplomacy. If this layer of politics “smallest p” is hardly perceptible, it makes all the more visible evidence that the state has waned, that the demos is undone, and that political parties have become an anachronism, fully supplanted by donor networks. The political serial as a premier “form” of serial politics deflates the myth that a superstate like “America” or a transnational cultural imperium might still really exist. From Tanner ‘88 to House of Cards you go looking for sovereign allegory, or “the Political” in a story, a narrative arc, a tragedy, a melodrama. But what you discover is that the plot eventually sputters and flatlines; what remains is a flurry of bait and switch that just goes on and on.

Notes 1 Claude Lefort, Democracy and Political Theory, trans. David Macey (London: Wiley, 1991). 2 See, Thibaut de Saint-​Maurice, “Philosophie en series—​saison 2” (Paris: Ellipses, 2011), 11. And Sandra Laugier, “Les séries télévisées: éthique du care et adresse au public,” Raison publique 11 (October 2009): 277–​88. As cited by Marjolaine Boutet, “Philosopher avec The West Wing” 2015. https://​tvseries.revues.org/​629. 3 Elisabeth Bronfen, “Shakespeare’s Wire,” paper circulated online at https://​www. academia.edu/​17469214/​Bronfen_​Elisabeth._​Shakespeares_​Wire._​2015 4 Ophir Levy, “Projectiles: De l’usage du plan-​séquence dans The West Wing” in T.V./​ Series (2015). https://​tvseries.revues.org/​693. 5 My critically ambivalent approach to “real abstraction” in relation to the mimesis of unexceptional politics in political fiction and TV serials is comparable to the one developed by Leigh Claire La Berge in her book Scandals and Abstractions: Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), which argues for a less abstracted abstraction in relation to the periodized genre of “financial print culture.” Reviewing the book, Nicholas Dames eloquently summarizes La Berge’s recuperation of financial representation: La Berge is careful to avoid nostalgia for the Marxist theory that came under fire in the 1980s, but she wants to signal the blindnesses of the insights that

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124 Emily Apter supplanted it. Primarily, the emphasis on the “abstraction” of finance, a term that echoed the sublime aporias of poststructuralist theory in its pomp, slid unhelpfully into a sense of finance as “unrepresentable.” La Berge is canny in the way she shows how an acute recognition of the abstractions of post-​regulatory capital flows became a (rather aestheticized) capitulation to the self-​serving obscurantism of a financialized economy. The abstraction of finance from production, when it is, rightly or wrongly, understood as an abstraction that has always already escaped definition—​and, not coincidentally, regulation—​becomes a kind of literary-​theoretical admonition that whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Against this elision of abstraction and unrepresentability—​ part of the intellectual history of “the long 1980s”—​La Berge wants to recover a particular representational history in the abstractions of finance.

  Nicholas Dames, “Fictions of Capital,” New Left Review 99 (May/​June 2016): 152. See too, La Berge’s article “Fiction is Liquid: States of Money in The Sopranos and Breaking Bad,” Journal of American Studies (October 2015), where she develops the thesis that fiction may be seen as a kind of liquidity, a form taken by capital through money-​laundering, or the conversion of a criminal economy (based on “toxic assets”) into its double, the so-​called legitimate economy. 6 David Cunningham, “Capitalist Epics: Abstraction, Totality and the Theory of the Novel,” Radical Philosophy 163 (September/​October 2010): 16. 7 Ibid. 19. Cunningham cites Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah, trans. Virginia Jewiss (London: Pan Macmillan, 2008), 282. 8 Enzo Paci as cited by Alberto Toscano, in “Real Abstraction Revisited: Of Coins, Commodities and Cognitive Capitalism.” www2.le.ac.uk/​departments/​ management/​research/​documents/​research/​research-​units/​cppe/​seminar-​pdfs/​ 2005/​toscano.pdf 9 See Joshua Clover, “Retcon: Value and Temporality in Poetics,” Representations 126.1 (Spring 2014): 14, 9. The opposite of “Retcon,” in Clover’s scheme, is “Hysteron proteron,” associated with the “epistemological shudder of causality’s collapse” (15). 10 Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby (Bungay, Suffolk: Penguin Books, 1983), 52. 11 Ibid., 39–​40. 12 Ibid., 92–​3. 13 Adam Gopnik, “Trollope Trending,” The New Yorker (May 4, 2015). http://​www. newyorker.com/​magazine/​2015/​05/​04/​trollope-​trending. 14 Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 361. On the obstructive role of bureaucratic rules and procedures in the maintenance of political structures of domination, see Béatrice Hibou, La bureaucratisation du monde dans l’ère néolibérale (Paris: La Découverte, 2012).

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15 House of Cards IMDb Quotes http://​www.imdb.com/​title/​tt0098825/​quotes. 16 Ian Parker, “Expletives Not Deleted: The Profane Satire of Armando Iannucci’s ‘Veep.’ ” The New Yorker (March 26, 2012). http://​www.newyorker.com/​magazine/​ 2012/​03/​26/​expletives-​not-​deleted. 17 Matt Bai, “How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics,” The New York Times Magazine (September 18, 2014). http://​www.nytimes.com/​2014/​ 09/​21/​magazine/​how-​gary-​harts-​downfall-​forever-​changed-​american-​politics. html?_​r=0. 18 Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-​Events in America (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 11. 19 Ibid., 30–​1. 20 Ibid., viii. 21 Disraeli, Coningsby, 57. 22 Adapted from 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski, who also did the screenplay. 23 Andrea Reiher, “ ‘House of Cards’ Season 2 Episode 3: Doormats and Matadors, Laws and Sausages,” zap2it.com (February 18, 2014). http://​zap2it.com/​2014/​02/​ house-​of-​cards-​season-​2-​episode-​3-​doormats-​and-​matadors-​laws-​and-​sausages/​. 24 Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 5, 6.

Works cited Bai, Matt. “How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics.” The New York Times Magazine (September 18, 2014). http://​www.nytimes.com/​2014/​09/​ 21/​magazine/​how-​gary-​harts-​downfall-​forever-​changed-​american-​politics.html?_​ r=0 Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. Boorstin, Daniel. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-​Events in America. New York: Harper & Row, 1961. Boutet, Marjolaine. “Philosopher avec The West Wing.” 2015. https://​tvseries.revues. org/​629 Bronfen, Elisabeth. “Shakespeare’s Wire.” Academia.edu. 2015. https://​www.academia. edu/​17469214/​Bronfen_​Elisabeth._​Shakespeares_​Wire._​2015 Clover, Joshua. “Retcon: Value and Temporality in Poetics.” Representations 126.1 (Spring 2014): 9–​30. Cunningham, David. “Capitalist Epics: Abstraction, Totality and the Theory of the Novel.” Radical Philosophy 163 (September/​October 2010): 11–​23. Dames, Nicholas. “Fictions of Capital.” New Left Review 99 (May/​June 2016): 151–​9. de Saint-​Maurice, Thibaut. “Philosophie en series—​saison 2.” Paris: Ellipses, 2011. Disraeli, Benjamin. Coningsby. Bungay, Suffolk: Penguin Books, 1983.

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126 Emily Apter Gopnik, Adam. “Trollope Trending.” The New Yorker (May 4, 2015). http://www. newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/04/trollope-trending Hibou, Béatrice. La bureaucratisation du monde dans l’ère néolibérale. Paris: La Découverte, 2012. “House of Cards Quotes.” IMDb.com. http://​www.imdb.com/​title/​tt0098825/​quotes. La Berge, Leigh Claire. “Fiction is Liquid: States of Money in The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.” Journal of American Studies 49.4 (October 2015): 755–​74. La Berge, Leigh Claire. Scandals and Abstractions: Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Laugier, Sandra. “Les séries télévisées: éthique du care et adresse au public.” Raison publique 11 (October 2009): 277–​88. Lefort, Claude. Democracy and Political Theory. Trans. David Macey. London: Wiley, 1991. Levy, Ophir. “Projectiles: De l’usage du plan-​séquence dans The West Wing.” T.V./​ Series. 2015. https://​tvseries.revues.org/​693 Parker, Ian. “Expletives Not Deleted: The Profane Satire of Armando Iannucci’s ‘Veep.’ ” The New Yorker (March 26, 2012). http://​www.newyorker.com/​magazine/​2012/​03/​ 26/​expletives-​not-​deleted Reiher, Andrea. “ ‘House of Cards’ Season 2 Episode 3: Doormats and Matadors, Laws and Sausages.” zap2it.com (February 18, 2014). http://​zap2it.com/​2014/​02/​ house-​of-​cards-​season-​2-​episode-​3-​doormats-​and-​matadors-​laws-​and-​sausages/​ Saviano, Roberto. Gomorrah. Trans. Virginia Jewiss. London: Pan Macmillan, 2008. Toscano, Alberto. “Real Abstraction Revisited: Of Coins, Commodities and Cognitive Capitalism.” Seminar. 2005. http://​www2.le.ac.uk/​departments/​ management/​documents/​research/​research-​units/​cppe/​seminar-​pdfs/​2005/​ toscano.pdf/​view

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Weltliterature? American Literature after Territorialism: Manifesto for a Twenty-​First-​Century Critical Agenda Christian Moraru

It is impossible to read the work of Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat, Robert Hass and Jorie Graham, Dave Eggers and Jhumpa Lahiri without seeing that—​for all these authors—​the frames of reference are not just the United States, but a larger, looser set of coordinates, populated by laboring bodies, migrating faiths, generational sagas, memories of war, and accompanied by the accents of unforgotten tongues, the tastes and smells of beloved foods and spices. Tracing these planet-​wide arcs through the microhistories of individual lives, they distill broad swaths of the world into intimate settings, into the heat and furor of local conflicts, giving us both the amplitude of space and the jaggedness of embodied passions. —​Wai Chee Dimock with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehardt1 “My reporting over three decades,” writes Robert D. Kaplan in The Revenge of Geography, “has convinced me that we all need to recover a sensibility about time and space that has been lost in the jet and information ages, when elite molders of public opinion dash across oceans and continents in hours, something which allows them to talk glibly about what the distinguished New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman has labeled a flat world. Instead,” Kaplan tells us, “I will introduce readers to a group of decidedly unfashionable thinkers, who push up hard against the notion that geography no longer matters.”2

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By 2012, when Kaplan’s book came out, Friedman himself had fallen out of fashion, and so the “flat world” argument hardly needed any more debunking. Nor are my efforts below entirely aligned with Kaplan’s. I do want, however, to welcome his polemical intervention upfront. True, he does not deal with things literary. However, his work is directly and indirectly a timely reminder that geography, more specifically, world geography, complete with its political boundaries and their markers on the world map, has not only always mattered in US literature as well, but it has also been consistently and fundamentally instrumental to the making of this literature throughout history. Further, I do take Kaplan’s point that the significance of world geography, and with it of the global world tout court for the American literary-​cultural domain—​and for the United States at large—​has grown exponentially after the epochal fall of the Berlin Wall and all the more so in the wake of September 11, 2011, the 2016 Presidential elections’ outcome notwithstanding. I would insist, then, in a similar vein, that a distinct, “worlded” geopolitical imaginary consequently informs post-​Cold War-​era US literature and culture in general and twenty-​ first-​century American fiction in particular, underpinning as it does the world-​ picture limned by major US writers of a whole range of backgrounds, from Joseph O’Neill, Colum McCann, Michael Chabon, Chang-​rae Lee, Suki Kim, Sahar Delijani, and Jonathan Safran Foer to Junot Díaz, Karen Tei Yamashita, Mohsin Hamid, Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Dave Eggers, Ruth Ozeki, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alexandar Hemon, and Gary Shteyngart.3 This is the shorter version of a much longer list that also features prose authors who belong to generations different from O’Neill’s, authors who are, much like him or Hamid, associated with American literature in nonconventional, sometimes multi-​affiliational ways, and who, like Don DeLillo, can be said to have illustrated the worlded imaginary and to have established themselves during the Cold War already. But even if older and more canonical figures such as DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Philip Roth, Charles Johnson, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Bharati Mukherjee were not part of this cluster, the case could be made, as I am here, that the combined, cross-​generational output of such writers has reached a critical mass. Further, the sheer volume, coherence, and cultural-​theoretical relevance—​I might say, urgency—​of this corpus render a number of interrelated questions about how we do our job as critics of American literature quite pressing. I contend that answering them should make up the bulk of Americanists’ agenda on the threshold of the third millennium.

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Laying out this critical program, however, involves at this juncture, as the reader will notice throughout, formulating more questions than answers. To begin with those most apposite to Kaplan’s “sensibility,” if “geography” etymologically designates, as he reminds us, a “writing [de-​scription] of the earth [world],” then, in response to this fast-​expanding body of work, we should ask ourselves: Why is it that, for so many contemporary American authors, writing entails, terminological distinctions aside, “earth-​,” “world-​,” or “planet-​writing,” regardless of what else they may be writing about?4 Put otherwise, why do world geography and, particularly, geopolitics and geopolitical borders captivate writers so intensely at a time characterized, according to Kaplan’s pundits, by worldwide porousness of national frontiers and unhindered transnational exchanges of all sorts? More basically still, why are novelists so fascinated by political boundaries, national jurisdictions and territories, and their cartographic representations, and how do twenty-​first-​century American writers themselves map out our worlding world and America’s place in it? Where and how do contemporary artists locate their country in this world and, vice versa, the world in their country? Furthermore, and most significantly, in asking about a literary “trend,” about what seems to emerge as a tendency, symptom, or trait, one also asks implicitly about criticism’s ability to pick it up and account for it—​about our own critical maps’ “sensibility” about it. Therefore, in the prevailingly theoretical considerations that follow, I will dwell on the transforming impact of Manuel Castells’ world network society on post-​1989 American letters, mainly fiction, but also—​and in response to this paradigm shift inside and outside literature—​ on the need to take stock of our own, critical paradigm and perhaps fine-​tune our instruments as critics, literary historians, and theorists to tackle this literary production. Two things bear pointing out before I  proceed. First, this adjustment has been under way for more than two decades now. American and other literatures’ sensitivity to world space and its geopolitical distribution and representation has received increasing and sometimes trailblazing attention in various quarters especially after the momentous “spatial turn” in the humanities. Since the mid-​1990s, postcolonial, cosmopolitan, trans-​and postnational, global, and comparative studies specialists have highlighted the shortcomings of the nation-​state-​endorsed algorithms of reading. These critics include the founder of “geocriticism,” Bertrand Westphal, Michel Collot (a géographie littéraire proponent), Peter Hitchcock (a leading scholar of transnational spatiality), Franco Moretti (a world-​systems and big-​data theorist), Masao Miyoshi—​like Gayatri

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Chakravorty Spivak and Sonja A. J. Neef, an advocate of “planetar[ian]ism”—​ Ursula Heise (an authority in “eco-​cosmopolitanism”), Caren Irr (a student of the “geopolitical novel”), Paul Jay, Paul Gilroy, Wai Chee Dimock (Americanists who have studied issues of cross-​cultural “scalarity”), and translation and World Literature specialists like Thomas Beebee, Emily Apter, and Pascale Casanova, to name but a few.5 One way or the other, they have all queried principally the “one-​on-​one correspondence between the geographic and ethno-​linguistic origins of a text and its evolving radius of literary action.” “We need,” as Dimock has persuasively underscored, “to stop thinking of national literatures as the linguistic equivalents of territorial maps . . . [O]‌utliv[ing] the finite scope of the nation, [literature] brings into play a different set of temporal and spatial coordinates.”6 In his landmark 2011 book The Global Remapping of American Literature, Paul Giles speaks eloquently against this equivalence.7 “The identification of American literature with U.S.  national territory,” he specifies in the volume’s aptly titled introduction “The Deterritorialization of American Literature,” “was an equation confined to” what he determines as the “national period” in US literary, cultural, and intellectual history. According to Giles, this phase ended when Jimmy Carter’s presidency did. “Since about 1981,” the critic goes on, “the multinational effects of globalization have reconfigured the premises of U.S. national identity in relation to a wider sphere.”8 Giles parts company with Americanists like Malini Johar Schueller in his conclusion (“American Literature and the Question of Circumferences”), where he observes that, in hindsight, scholarly “postnationalism” turned out to be not so much about, and definitely not just, rereading literary-​cultural history via race, class, and gender even though such rereading and postnational research overall did end up “complicating” how we picture national literature and identity. The “post”—​or the “trans,” rather, for these prepositions are not interchangeable—​attests precisely to the spectacular and paradigm-​altering “broadening [of] the field beyond the nation” (Schueller’s words).9 It conveys not only the salient spatialization of the critical episteme in American Studies with Edward Soja, David Harvey, and others through whose work spatiality makes a spectacular comeback in cultural analysis after the mid-​ 1980s; it also documents a respatialization of our major topological frameworks around a geocritical matrix less and less bounded territorially, linguistically, politically, and otherwise by the nation-​state, and it is pretty clear, to me at least, that the old-​fashioned, Leninist, neo-​, or postcolonial model of anti-​imperialist “critique” of spatial extensions, shifts, realignments is bound to fall short should we rely on it to come to grips with such developments—​with such “worldings”

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occurring “out there,” in the wide world, as well as in the books we are reading. These processes constitute, as Giles rightly emphasizes, a fundamental shift, and the late 1980s are its stage. In The Global Remapping of American Literature as well as in a previous, 2010 essay collection, Transnationalism in Practice, Giles does acknowledge, however, that a global, trans-​, or international take on American literature does not dismiss “the signification of spatial location or corporeal embodiment,” but, quite the contrary, “make[s]‌place contingent.”10 The formula is spot on and as succinct as it is capacious. Like Heise, whom he also references, Giles submits that we only begin to pay attention to place, location, and the “realities on the ground,” honor their ethno-​cultural configuration, and take their “authenticity” seriously when we treat locality as “juncture[e] where the proximate and distant illuminatingly converge and diverge.”11 Done right—​ all the more so today, in the age of ever-​thickening networks, than earlier in US and world history—​American Studies must of necessity undertake a reinscription of its subject into broader horizons, where this subject has always been and belonged. Hence Giles’s plea for a comparative tack adequately equipped to get a handle on the accelerated, material and aesthetic “deterritorialization” of America after the Cold War.12 It goes without saying, any historical evaluation and reading in general are retrospective. But looking back does not have to be an anachronistic or “presentocentric” construction of the past, recent or remote. Granted, resetting the geoparameters of our interpretation of America and its literature may seem more germane to what is going on in the late-​global world, but it does not pertain exclusively to contemporary mappings. Hemispheric, intercontinental, and planetary intellectual grids may also cast new light on previous centuries even though earlier America’s involvement in world affairs was different from today. This ecumenism was real and yet, by comparison, quasi territorialized, grounded in a national (not always “nationalist”), continental, or regional model. It is only toward the end of the twentieth century that the model becomes patently “global.” The distinction is notable and has to do both with scale and quality. Very simply speaking, a new cultural dominant, cohering around a global being-​in-​the-​world kind of cultural-​textual self-​reflexiveness comes to the fore in the American arts and humanities after the 1980s. A critical “sensibility” receptive to this dominant has taken some time to evolve given that the classical brief of American Studies has, as Giles also comments, a patriotic ring to it occasionally reminiscent of the territorialist-​nationalist “specifism” rampant in Continental histories and theories of culture ever since the late nineteenth and

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early twentieth century. As he remarks in the introduction to Transnationalism in Practice, this mission became during the Cold War even more conspicuously driven by the “patriotic desire to identify certain specifically American values and characteristics.” This aspiration yielded “various mythic idealizations of the American spirit in seminal critical works of the 1950s” and, long term, a veritable impasse across the discipline in the 1980s.13 In this context, the emergence of a less narrowly framed, poststructuralist, culturalist, and geopolitically comparative approach to that “spirit” allowed for a veritable rejuvenation of the field. Thus “reconstructed” on a concomitantly supraterritorial and interdisciplinary basis, American Studies no longer pursues—​nor should it pursue—​for reasons as methodological as historical, a “nationalistic synthesis.”14 Giles speaks here as one of the British and, of late, Australian Americanists who have taken decisive steps to put the area on a comparative track. I have gone down this track myself, mostly in my books after Cosmodernism.15 As I  have done so, it became clear to me—​and this is the other thing I would stress before going any farther—​that, as far as I am concerned, literature does something in the world and to it; that literature is, or can be, in its most inspired and inspiring moments, ethically performative and politically transformative to the extent that it projects a world, that it takes in the world we know and reworlds it into previously unknown, unrecognized, or underappreciated worldly possibilities—​into a world spatiality of possibility. This “plausible” reworlding, as Westphal might call it, rests on a rewording, on a respeaking and rewriting of the empirical earth.16 When examined closely and dispassionately, these literary operations hint that, under certain circumstances, fictional works do not kowtow to the world “as is” and looks like on available maps of territorial jurisdiction and political, economic, and military control. In fact, even the most “geomimetic” of these texts supplement the extant world with an ontological potential that accrues exponentially as they put forth plausible pictures of reality, aspirational versions thereof, and pretty much anything in between. It may be true, as Kaplan claims, that the “uncritical” euphoria surrounding the 1989 spectacular dismantling of the Berlin Wall—​the Cold War’s defining “man-​made boundary”—​“made us blind” to how much existing natural and artificial borders, especially those separating nation-​states, were, and are, shaping life on the planet.17 But, for one thing, the writers enumerated earlier are hardly unaware of this reality. For another, these novelists paint a world-​picture that both resembles and challenges geographical and geopolitical realities on the ground. That is to say, they draw veritable maps fictionally, engaging in an aesthetic cartography whose national, regional, and

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world maps seldom reproduce the demarcations and national contours we see in our travel guides and on our GPS devices. Nor does this difference stem from “blindness” to the actual geographical and geopolitical divisions, classifications, and mappings. Quite to the contrary, the “alternate cartography” of these novelists speak to their sensitivity to and dissatisfaction with the global world realities official maps represent and, as these authors imply, help perpetuate. The writers’ redrawing of these maps is “pushing up” symbolically against these realities, and so their fictional cartography is not only aesthetic but also critical: their work can be viewed as a sui generis form of “world critique,” as a blueprint for another world of “worlding” protocols in a Heideggerian sense.18 This geocritique targets, among other things, the privileged place occupied by the nation-​state on world maps and, more generally, on our intellectual maps and mental grids. As these authors hint, the world political atlas, on one side, and, on the other side, virtually any country’s major cultural histories share the same principle of intelligibility: the nation-​state. For, whether we are talking about a literal mapping (cartography) of international space or about a metaphorical mapping (critical understanding) of the cultural production within a country’s borders—​whether we draw an actual map of the world or we write, say, a history of French or American literature—​the nation-​state has functioned during the past century and a half or so as the default unit of description. Accordingly, much like the world has been represented on the world’s political map as a juxtaposition of distinctly marked and separated sovereign entities, literary cultures evolved presumably within—​but in all actuality across—​such entities have been read routinely through the lens of the nation-​state, for the epistemological function of the nation-​state has been paramount throughout the modern humanities. Therefore, to wrap our minds around these writers’ aesthetically configured world ontology, the metaquestions implicit, as suggested above, in our musings and perplexities about what contemporary US literature does qua earth-​writing must explicitly ask what contemporary commentators should do to catch up so as to make sure their own cartographies of this writing provide accurate descriptions. Thus reformulated, such questions might sound something like this: How are we, critics and literary historians, to orient ourselves on these authors’ symbolic maps? How do we deploy our own, interpretive topologies as we focus on our time’s literature? That is, how do we “place” this aesthetic production? How do we find a place (or places) for it in this world, but also a time (or times)? How do we inscribe this new literature into the traditionally—​and territorially—​ bundled narrative also known, and known in such emphatically nationalistic

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terms, as literary history? In the same vein, what does it mean to have or to reclaim such a history, tradition, or patrimony? And just one such “elucidating” lineage or context? More perhaps? More than one at the same time? Also, what does it mean to be claimed, to be interpellated by it/​them if you are an author—​ to recognize and affiliate yourself with a literary evolution and its genetic space but also to be recognized, categorized in a specific fashion, pressured to belong, minded by audiences and critics in a certain way and thus placed willy-​nilly in a certain geography of the world and of the mind, located and handled physically and intellectually? That these questions are urgent is an understatement. Today more than ever, a major part of our job as American critics, I  argue, is to locate—​better yet, to relocate—​American literature. To paraphrase Homi K. Bhabha, the problem vingt ans après no longer is the location but the relocation of culture—​the world relocation of national culture or, as Rebecca Walkowitz recycles Bhabha in the title of a 2006 article, “the location of literature” in the age of “the transnational book.”19 For, we realize now more than Bhabha could have in 1994, literature and culture are less and less where material objects, places, or polities lie in our travel guides, road atlases, and on the world’s political map, where countries are so discretely—​so neatly and, yes, so “unaesthetically”—​marked out. In fact, and especially as far as national entities go, a physical map and a novel are becoming increasingly discrepant world cartographies. It is this geocultural discrepancy, this defining twenty-​first-​century asymmetry that prompts us to try and resituate American fiction, and America through it, in the world, to look, if you will, for a new “situation” for the country, its literature, and those of us keen on belonging to either. This situation, I propose, is a matter of place and structure. It does activate the word’s etymology, the Latin situs, “position” or “site,” but this site also pertains to the status, state, or stage of American letters today. In this case, too, ontology is a function of topology, as it were: what things are and what they signify to you hinge on where they are physically, where you see them, basically as it may sound. So, no less basically, we might also ask: “Where is American literature?” “Where ‘in the world’ is American literature today”? What I am implying—​what I am calling for—​in posing these questions is an act of critical geopositioning. But this is not just something the critic does, a reading decision. This is, once more, what a sizeable segment of late-​global-​era American literature itself has been undertaking in the first place and in order to take place, to come into being, positioning itself in a space that, most notably, no longer coincides with the US

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territory (if it ever did). The problem is what kind of world positioning—​and world behavior—​are we to read for and perhaps to encourage in this “deep” or “long” space, given not only our hopes but also the track record of America’s extensions and inscriptions into the world? For, even though this worldly inscription, this positioning, is not new, there have been some notable shifts of late in American and other literatures, “big” and “small,” “central” and “peripheral” to the world-​system, and these processes point to cultural-​spatial changes worth examining. I have been busy over the past couple of years working out a methodology for mapping out this evolving, shape-​changing location—​a geomethodology that comes in handy when one is confronted with what critics have labeled “worlded American literature.”20 To reiterate, this literature is shaped by a characteristic imaginary or, better still, geoimaginary. A way of seeing the contemporary world not so much as one already but as inching gradually, oftentimes inconsistently and violently, toward some kind of unprecedented integration, this geoimaginary can be in turn viewed as a pattern of representing individuals, ethno-​religious groups, communities, polities, discourse, identity, and the human generally as tied loosely, or more loosely than in the past, to particular, territory-​bound formations, principally to nation-​states understood institutionally and, especially, territorially. Instrumental to this schema is a characteristic, textual and cultural management of physical distance, which no longer solely keeps apart but also brings together and, as such, is seminal to a new or newly intensified human togetherness. An unstable, culturally and politically still ambiguous synthesis of expansions, contractions, displacements, and relocations of life, capital, information, and affect across space, this novel proximity designates a redeployment as well as an ontological hallmark of humanity, for it both reallocates the human across the world by relocating our whereabouts and shows how the human is, namely, under which modality we can be said to be in the world. Under the sway of this twin redistribution-​redefinition of the human, its culture, and their relation to place, a wholesale planetary remapping of the human has been under way, and to this remapping American writers have responded strongly. Lagging behind both the world itself and its writers, the world maps currently in use in fields as diverse as politics and literary criticism have, by contrast, lost much of their guiding effectiveness when it comes to orienting us across America, its literature, and culture in the third millennium. This is because the fundamental, in-​progress decoupling and unorthodox recoupling of discourse and place—​national location, more precisely—​is enacted by literature itself,

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which both resonates to fresh geolocational reconfigurations and anticipates them. “The republic of [the] imagination,” to quote the title of Azar Nafisi’s latest book, does not overlap, geographically and otherwise, with the actual Republic.21 The map unfolded by the literary imagination, the map of imagined America, is one thing; the territory under internationally recognized US administration, as well as the expanse covered by what we variously identify as US world “presence,” “influence,” “might,” or “empire,” is quite another. So where is American literature, then? To answer, let me begin by calling attention here, as I have elsewhere, to the lexicon of worldliness fast accumulating around our subject matter in the wake of intertwined developments such as the spread of the “one-​world”—​whether neoliberal or ecocritical—​argument, the cognate appeal of Heideggerian ontology’s lingo of “worlding,” world-​systems analysis in the Immanuel Wallerstein line, and, most consequentially, Goethean Weltliteratur’s return in, and reinvigoration of, the putatively “dying” discipline of comparative literature as World Literature.22 “Worlded” and “worldly America”; “the world-​becoming of the United States”; “the worlding of US culture”; “American world literature”; and “world American literature,” too:  still met with skepticism in various quarters, riddled with inescapable ambiguities and crying out for qualifications as they obviously do, the worldly rhetoric has accrued, as I  have pointed out repeatedly over recent years, a certain cachet across specialties, discourses, and publication venues. Moreover, not only is the recently minted terminology of US worldliness common in casual conversation, in the popular media, in diplomatic parlance, and in the humanities, but it also points to a commonplace:  America’s world presence—​material and cultural, military and literary—​has amplified in the post-​Cold War epoch steadily and spectacularly.23 The question, of course, is what the upshots of this “situation” are for America in general and for its literature in particular. The other, cognate question (or worry) is how enthusiastic we should be about this at a time the interleaving of language and literature, literature and commerce, and commerce and power is getting even more conspicuous than in the past. The exceedingly amorphous field of global studies and its disciplinary subsidiaries and partners known as transnational and (neo)cosmopolitan scholarship, (new) comparatism, and (new) World Literature have not ignored this problematic. And yet, the multiple, often contradictory implications and ramifications of the corporate, political, territorial, military, philanthropic-​ humanitarian, and literary-​cultural being-​in-​the-​world of the United States still evade their pursuers. This is not unexpected. The issue we are facing here, as

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well as the history behind it, is quite daunting and must be recognized as such in all its complexity. I would insist, in fact, on this recognition, on acknowledging the full gamut of the socioeconomic and cultural factors involved in the reshaping of America, of the world with it and, I hasten to add, of the world within it, of the world that has transformed—​indeed, worlded—​the US and its society, politics, policies, and cultural practices, be these collective or individual, public or private. This is, actually, a major preoccupation of novelists like O’Neill: the world inside us (US) and what this world stands for, with and after September 11, 2001—​a glimpse into the frightening Real, a threat, a fracture, a wound to heal, or an opportunity. For, in the Cold War’s aftermath, more and more Americans demonstrably think, dream, write, and, to recall Thomas Pynchon’s Oedipa Maas, “project a world” in terms themselves “worlded.” That is to say, these projections are couched in the language of the bigger world that, as President Obama reminded Americans on April 18, 2015, neither ends nor begins at North American shores. Much like economy proper, literary economy is less and less coextensive with territory. I submit that this is far clearer now than during the Cold War and truer of the world poiesis, of the “world-​building” typical of a lively segment of contemporary, world-​minded, world American, or American world literature. At play in some of the best writers of our time from DeLillo and Chang-​rae Lee to Lahiri, Hamid, Arthur Phillips, and O’Neill, this georhetoric of stylistic delimitations and cultural-​imaginary unlimitations opens up, inventively and provocatively, America and the world individually and to one another, greatly stretching their mutual and transforming reach in time, space, and meaning. Markers of these new, temporal, spatial, and semiotic extensions are few and far between on our “official” political and critical maps, and this is largely because, as Jacques Derrida would tell us, these maps register separations, supposedly static geopolitical units, and cultural patrimonies rather than the encounters, passages, onto-​expressive fluidity, bricolage, and relations that give birth to, and sometimes are obscured and obstructed by, said territorial demarcations, differentiations, communal idioms, singularities, and ethno-​cultural entities in the first place.24 However, to be in the world is, today more than ever, a relational proposition. It is to be with, in, or on the way to an elsewhere or to be with an other and to depend on this unstable, fungible, yet culturo-​genetic adjacency for your livelihood as a commoner as well as a writer whose education, training, tradition, inspiration, intertextual repertoire, publisher, audience, lay reader, and professional critic are de-​and extra-​territorialized too, with respect to you

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and themselves, occupying that elsewhere and bodying forth its ethnographic otherness. The challenge here is obvious also, and picking up the gauntlet forces us to pose another set of tough questions: What do we have in mind when we attach the modifier “world” to “American literature” or, conversely, “American” to “world literature”? In what way—​internationalist, cosmopolitan (classical or “from below”), ethical, imperialist—​is “American” modifying and fashioning the world, and, vice versa, how is the world worlding America? What is the formula, the discursive and cultural protocol of this dynamic? In what sense are the novelists listed at the outset our (US) writers? And, if we agree that they are, which are our agreement’s bearings on the world, on the postcolonial world (still with us? behind us?), on “global Anglophone literature,” and, last but not least, on American literature and its history? All these questions are important, but the last stands out insofar as it cuts across the others, combining as it does concerns of national territory, sovereignty, citizenship, collectivity, tradition, and the like. Consequently, it is worth dwelling more systematically on what it means to write literary history not only after “the transnational turn in literary studies,” to quote the title of Jay’s 2010 book, but also after such mutation has occurred in the worlding world of the late 1980s.25 The quick—​if not rushed—​answer is that this history simply cannot be written any more. In fact, American critics no longer write American literary histories, at least literary histories in the Romantic sense of the notion. Illustrated by the great late nineteenth-​century histories of Western literatures done by scholars like Francesco De Sanctis and Gustave Lanson, this concept overall foregrounds an organic, integrative, and teleological understanding of literary community as a source of discourse whose evolution corroborates the similar—​and similarly fictional—​progress of national narrative. Partial exceptions such as Linda Wagner-​Martin’s 2013 A History of American Literature:  1950 to the Present notwithstanding, American critics have abandoned this kind of project a long time ago, whereas European critics are still undertaking literary histories of their countries as well as of the United States. In 2014, Austrian critic Mario Klarer has published one, 130 pages long.26 True, its title is A Short Literary History of the United States, and the book is advertised as “introductory.” Richard Gray, a British Americanist, did a similar “brief history” in 2011, which is the shortened version of the one he had published in 2004. Even so, I doubt an American critic would be eager to write anything like this or that he or she would do it alone. Then, of course, there is something to be said about the limited impact of such panoramas, about their meager presence in curricula and on doctoral reading

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lists, for there is some deep-​seated skepticism regarding exactly what this type of scholarship can accomplish. From early on, American literary historians have been very upfront on the bewildering diversity and scope of their subject, to the point of admitting to how much one has to exclude in order to produce a minimally coherent narrative. The outcome has been the quasi-​extinction of the traditional genre. Otherwise, there have been plenty of historical projects, and this is the best term I  can come up with to reference the collective volumes edited by Emory Elliott (the 1988 Columbia Literary History of the United States, for instance), or Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors (the 2009 1000-​page A New Literary History of America). To be sure, these examples are testimonies to a new understanding of literary history, of national history, of the nation, and of its place as world and in the world, and so is the other genre that has been replacing old-​fashion literary history for decades: the multivolume anthologies such as the Heath, of late the Norton itself, and so on. All these intimidating doorstops scramble to capture the historical multiplicity and dissemination of American letters across all sorts of boundaries, taxonomies, and canons. Both recovery work and organization of the already recovered, they seem to pursue a process of dispersion, a decentering movement of a mosaic-​kind of heterogeneous material rather than its gelling into an intelligible literary picture of the nation. In a sense, they are not histories but counter-​histories. However, they do not betray critics’ lack of appreciation for or interests in history, or in national history for that matter. It is not so much that they feel apprehensive or apologetic about such endeavors either, although some do. As mentioned before, a major and characteristic concern has been that the consistency of the historical account comes at a price, and, further, that this price—​the simplification and marginalization of surveyed phenomena—​is too high. Under the circumstances, many deem not looking at, or for, the “big picture”—​the world picture or the world’s picture actually—​preferable to painting too narrow a picture. Hence what I  would define as the “micro” approach to things literary, the deliberate and insistent focus on small things, on regional and subregional things (on literary and cultural regionalism), on limited time periods, and then on race, ethnicity, and gender inside such things and intervals, on the local, the highly idiomorphic, the exceptional, the dissenting (rather than the rule or norm), and the like. This is how we have learned quite a bit about a lot of significant issues that otherwise would have fallen through the cracks of more ambitious, perhaps too assuming, “big-​hole” kind of intellectual charts; this is how we have been giving the lie to these charts and to their epistemologically

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“grand” narratives. But, as I have tried to show in various places, post-​Cold War literature has been drawing bigger and bigger tableaus of the human, painting more and more insistently not so much a more and more unbounded world but a world in which boundedness obtains according to a new literary mindedness, if you will, to new coordinates. By the same token, literature itself is reshaping its critics’ program, pushing us back from the canvas, pressing us to look not only for the trees but also for the forest and its conflicted ecologies while remaining aware of the shortcomings of the literary history that has traditionally professed to attend to the big picture. It is in this vein that, alongside others, I have been advocating a comparative approach to American literature and its history. This approach rests on a reading framework mindful that the tiny, the local, the particular, the one-​of-​a-​ kind, or the one so perceived, as well as the seemingly cloistered, isolated, and indigenous have always been lodged at the crossroads of the world, and so they are world intersections, overlaps of territories, communities, culture, and style patterns. These mark places where paradigms and patrimonies dovetail and mix rather than separate, discretely territorialized sites of human life and expression. But the scope and bearings of dovetailing, the overlaps, the wavelike flux of discourse across statal borders and post-​Westphalian territorialities have never been wider and more world-​transforming, more de-​and re-​territorializing than at our moment in history. Therefore, neither the state-​sponsored epistemology embedded in traditional literary history nor the institutional territorialization of literature studies, according to the ethno-​linguistic-​territorial principle, into national literature fields and departments is up to the challenge of the post-​Cold War years. This provocation is massive, and it concerns our critical creativity; the implication is that critics’ imagination is lagging behind writers’ imagination. At issue here, then, is our ability to reconsider how our critical gaze constitutes its literary object; how this object aggregates as we scan it; and how its aggregation jibes with extant aggregation units such as those coalescing around practices of faith, labor, finance, and nationhood, where the latter have been, throughout modernity, the most consequential, the most territorializing spatially and cognitively by far. Complicating the separatedness-​or statal paradigm-​based model shaped by the center/​margin, “in here”/​“out there,” our culture/​theirs, and other similar disjunctions typical of coloniality, postcoloniality, and the earlier stage of multicultural awareness, the critical and literary-​historical model I am envisaging and the methodological agenda that might work it out are moving toward

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a conjunctive or relational model. This model is informed by cross-​cultural, cross-​ geographical, indeed, world-​ scale contacts, juxtapositions, and borrowings. Simply speaking, what it all comes down to is a relational dynamic wherein local, seemingly stand alone, and autonomous units become more apparently that which they have been, if less extensively and conspicuously, all along: “attachments,” relations, anchors in the elsewhere. This is a transnational dynamic that calls for a comparative approach, specifically, for a de-​or, better still, trans-​territorialization of literary histories themselves. As appendixes to various national histories and in that still indebted to a nineteenth-​century mindset, these histories have been territorialized—​have been defined and confined in terms of coverage—​on the model of national history, that is, on the model of the nation-​state. But the genetic itineraries and living ramifications of culture already extended to, and distinguishable between, the lines of Twain, Thoreau, Melville, Emerson, Whitman—​not to say Eliot, Faulkner, Pynchon, DeLillo, Morrison, Díaz, or Charles Johnson—​cut across and reach far beyond the US territory, through other countries and continents literally and metaphorically. The last sentence is, of course, a reference to Dimock’s 2007 book, Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time. In “Scales of Aggregation: Prenational, Subnational, Transnational,” Dimock’s introduction to the 2006 American Literary History special-​topic issue on new models of historical analysis, and more extensively in Through Other Continents, she underscores the “diminished sovereignty of the nation-​state” and the bearings of this process on the twentieth-​century humanities.27 Obviously, national borders, jurisdiction, and political leverage continue to exist; states have not fizzled out, and some of them lay worrisome, nationalist and imperialist claims. But the way scholars like Dimock map artistic phenomena overlaps less and less with the nation, more precisely, with the nation-​state’s territorially paradigmatic identity and imperial ambitions. Thus, competing scales of aggregation—​pre-​, sub-​, and transnational—​defy the classical paradigm of national territoriality. In other words, where US literature “is,” where it “comes from,” where it occurs, where it evolves, and, more and more today, where it is disseminated, read, responded to, where “it makes a difference,” and where it may spawn imitations, rejoinders, parodies, perhaps whole fashions and “traditions” may differ from the geopolitical location and leverage of the American nation. Thoreau, shows Dimock, already was “on three continents.” In Charles Johnson’s novel Middle Passage Louisiana is geoculturally closer to West Africa than to Illinois, for this is the kind of network the novelist’s oeuvre is—​and it is because, in turn, it participates

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in other, broader webs of text and context, which do not coincide, spatially and otherwise, with US territorial jurisdiction. The same goes for E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime and German literature: the former is the greatest late twentieth-​century response to Heinrich von Kleist and so belongs to German literature and inhabits the German world in no negligible degree and in ways that challenges us to rethink location and to what extent being situated somewhere is bound up with belonging, representativeness, and membership. With writers like Mukherjee, O’Neill, Shteyngart, and Hamid things are getting even more complicated—​and more exciting, too. What this new, cross-​territorial, cross-​cultural, and cross-​linguistic scalarity helps visualize cartographically and appreciate critically is how extensively these writers and US culture with them—​not unlike any other culture—​have borrowed from world cultures and, accordingly, how much of the nation’s cultural fabric consists of patterns, threads, strains, thematic-​stylistic investments, and “credit lines” from elsewhere. But this appreciation does not come easy in a critical culture still beholden to what German sociologist Ulrich Beck dubs “methodological nationalism.”28 In territorializing and thus limiting to statal territoriality the creative-​interpretive play and overall domain of literary-​cultural and humanistic discourse, the centripetal pressure of the state jars with the actual cross-​ cultural/​cross-​territorial scenarios through which this discourse comes into being, grows, spreads, is received, and is mapped by scholars. A serious test of critical instruments designed to do the bidding of national and nationalist epistemologies, this discourse demands from us a radical methodological update. There is no question that most if not all of the younger writers mentioned above remain difficult to pin down, place in a series, and read, especially when one does so through nation-​state-​oriented interpretation procedures. Most disconcerting, for instance, is that reading charts ordinarily pressed into service to gauge a writer’s position in US literature and even his or her “Americanness” do not work in such cases. In many ways, to take up O’Neill one more time, he is an American author. His latest novels do “belong” to American literature, and they hardly ignore American issues. But, in his 2014 novel The Dog even more than in his 2009 bestseller Netherland, the American identity of the writer and of his writings are not couched in terms—​plots, narrative structures, settings, cultural habits, or membership rites—​a reading informed by the traditional paradigm would spontaneously register as sites and encodings of Americanness. The latter’s thematic, imaginary, and stylistic signifiers abound in O’Neill, but not in locations and forms in which one would expect them; some of them at

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least are, thematically and stylistically, elsewhere. What is more, O’Neill himself appears to belong somewhere else. A citizen of Ireland and the US, he is the author of one of the quintessential post-​9/​11 American novels, Netherland, which was praised by President Obama himself—​incidentally, the other quintessential novel is by Frenchman Frédéric Beigbeder. At any rate, O’Neill is a formerly British, now American, writer of Turkish-​Irish descent who grew up in the Netherlands and other countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and is currently residing in New  York City. “Worlded,” his oeuvre canvasses a zone outside and across the United States and other national territories. His characters are cosmopolites at ease in English, Dutch, French, and Urdu. Expats, migrants, and refugees, they call Brooklyn, London, Dubai, and Beirut home, often simultaneously. Their familial, erotic, and professional commitments and fantasies remind one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “ice-​filled streams” overflowing nations’ “banks.” In O’Neill and other writers like him, these yearnings, re-​ affiliations, and trajectories open up spaces quite distinct from that contoured by the national-​territorial definition of the United States and its literature. With one word, all these longings and imaginings territorialize—​situate and map—​ America and Americanness differently. They re-​and trans-​territorialize US individual and collective identity by restaging it in conflict with the nation-​state’s sociocultural “constraints” and geographical-​epistemological jurisdiction. This is how, with O’Neill and writers like him, a new, aesthetic sovereignty comes into being during the post-​Berlin Wall decades, which are “atomistic” geopolitically and epistemologically, foregrounding the nation-​state’s deepening crisis as an administrative and intellectual map. This period has witnessed the nation-​state’s deepening predicament as a sociopolitical apparatus and explanatory grid—​as an instrument to manage a community’s affairs in the face of one transnational crisis after another and, at the same time, as a master framework for organizing, ordering, and otherwise making sense of aesthetic and cultural practices whose scope, structure, and meanings lend themselves, similarly, less and less to readings primarily if not exclusively subtended by national and sometimes nationalist categorizations and tropes of sovereignty, territory, community, culture, tradition, and citizenship. Thus, rising outside, athwart, and sometimes against this ordering agenda of nation-​state-​beholden modern literary history and criticism is another, geoliterary order. Making up the latter is a rapidly swelling cluster of recent fictional narratives that, in US and other literatures, feature plot structures, settings, situations, and characters that, together, build communities, carve out shared

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spaces, move around, and interact in ways that trace itineraries and map out cultural zones less and less overlapping with or limited to national territories. The life stories told by these novels run along coordinates suggestive of another, fluid geography, of another world configuration of place, passion, and material culture, in which, indeed, Louisiana draws closer to West Africa, as in Johnson, and the Tropic of Cancer and its Mexican landscape cross the Rio Grande, as in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange. An urgent task of American critics is to map this order and geolocate US literature in it. This order or world-​picture has come into being through narrative games with (and against) existing national borders and maps, as well as with national (sometimes nationalist) claims about territorial jurisdiction, authorial identity and belonging, tradition, patrimony, and literary-​cultural history. And, because these games have been so instrumental to literature’s new geopolitical imagination, they should be a central focus of our scrutiny. To that effect, critics should examine, specifically, how such geoimaginary plays variously entail an “earth-​writing” that programmatically rewrites—​transgresses, redraws, reimagines, and otherwise plays with—​extant political maps, borders, territories, and the nation-​state’s political, cultural, and epistemological authority over them; how these cartographic games and the imagination driving them are currently undergirding a whole spectrum of novelistic forms, stylistic patterns, and cultural themes; and how the literature coalescing around such forms, patterns, and themes calls for a systematic approach; how this approach, as noted earlier, has been hindered by the crisis of statal jurisdiction in matters economic and political as well as aesthetic, cognitive, institutional, and so on; how the new cartographic imagination calls for a reading model that encourages a new way of thinking about classifying literary texts and their authors, as well as about how we do (American) literary history; how the lives of both fictional characters and their authors (O’Neill, Hamid, McCann, Hemon, Akhtiorskaya, and countless others) are marked, on the one hand, by “atomizing” phenomena of disintegration and disaffiliation from national polities, traditions, and citizenship conventionally defined and, on the other hand, by integrations into supra-​ and trans-​national sodalities, institutional assemblages, associations, and places where multiple and frequently conflicting affiliations come into play; and how, accordingly, the entire issue of authorship, of an author’s identity, residence, political allegiance, citizenship, and so forth would have to be reconceptualized so as to be brought in line with geopolitical and geolocational processes that

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scatter more and more American authors across the world while bringing the world into these writers’ books.

Notes 1 Wai Chee Dimock with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehardt, “Introduction: A Twenty-​First-​Century Platform,” American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler, eds. Wai Chee Dimock with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), 1. 2 Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate (New York: Random House, 2012), xix. 3 For an extensive analysis of this imaginary, see my book Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011). 4 Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography, xix–​xx. 5 On geocriticism in the work of its leading American representative, Robert T. Tally Jr. who is also one of Westphal’s English translators, see my review-​essay “Geocriticism and the ‘Reinstating’ of Literature,” in American Book Review 37.6 (2016): 6–​7. The issue focuses on geocriticism and features a piece by Westphal himself. 6 Wai Chee Dimock, “Literature for the Planet,” PMLA 116.1 (2001): 173–​88. 7 See a more detailed discussion of Giles’s book in my review of The Global Remapping of American Literature, The Comparatist 36 (2012): 305–​8. 8 Paul Giles, The Global Remapping of American Literature (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011), 1. 9 Quoted in Giles, The Global Remapping of American Literature, 259. 10 Ibid., 259. 11 Ibid., 258. 12 Ibid., 264. 13 Paul Giles, Transnationalism in Practice: Essays on American Studies, Literature and Religion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 19. 14 Ibid., 34. 15 Christian Moraru, Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015), and The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century, eds. Amy J. Elias and Christian Moraru (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015).

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146 Christian Moraru 16 This is a reference to Bertrand Westphal’s “geocritical” landmark Le monde plausible. Espace, lieu, carte (Paris: Minuit, 2011). 17 Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography, 3. 18 I have discussed this problem extensively in several places in my recent work, including “ ‘World,’ ‘Globe,’ ‘Planet’: Comparative Literature, Planetary Studies, and Cultural Debt after the Global Turn,” in Futures of Comparative Literature: ACLA State of the Discipline Report, ed. Ursula K. Heise, with Dudley Andrew, Alexander Beecroft, Jessica Berman, David Damrosch, Guillermina De Ferrari, César Domínguez, Barbara Harlow, and Eric Hayot (London: Routledge, 2017), 124–​32. 19 Rebecca L. Walkowitz, “The Location of Literature: The Transnational Book and the Migrant Writer,” Contemporary Literature 47.4 (2006): 527–​45. 20 See Moraru, Reading for the Planet. 21 See Azar Nafisi, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books (New York: Viking, 2014). 22 See Moraru, “ ‘World,’ ‘Globe,’ ‘Planet’: Comparative Literature, Planetary Studies, and Cultural Debt after the Global Turn.” 23 See, among other places, my essay “American Literature Unlimited: Toward a New Geoliterary Order,” American Book Review 36.5 (2015): 3–​4. 24 Jacques Derrida, Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan, eds. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005), 12. 25 See Paul Jay, Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010). 26 See Linda Wagner-​Martin, A History of American Literature: 1950 to the Present (Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2013). 27 Wai Chee Dimock, “Scales of Aggregation: Prenational, Subnational, Transnational,” American Literary History 18.2 (2006): 219. 28 Ulrich Beck, “Toward a New Critical Theory with a Cosmopolitan Intent,” Constellations 10.4 (2003), 453–​68. Beck develops his critique of “methodological nationalism” across a number of articles. Anthony Giddens and Herminio Martins have also theorized, and critiqued, the concept.

Works cited Beck, Ulrich. “Toward a New Critical Theory with a Cosmopolitan Intent.” Constellations 10.4 (2003): 453–​68. Derrida, Jacques. Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan. Eds. Thomas Dutoit and Outi Pasanen. New York: Fordham University Press, 2005. Dimock, Wai Chee. “Literature for the Planet.” PMLA 116.1 (January 2001): 173–​88.

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Dimock, Wai Chee. “Scales of Aggregation: Prenational, Subnational, Transnational.” American Literary History 18.2 (Summer 2006): 219–​28. Dimock, Wai Chee. Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Dimock, Wai Chee with Jordan Brower, Edgar Garcia, Kyle Hutzler, and Nicholas Rinehart, eds. American Literature in the World: An Anthology from Anne Bradstreet to Octavia Butler. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. Elias, Amy J. and Christian Moraru, eds. The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015. Giles, Paul. Transnationalism in Practice: Essays on American Studies, Literature and Religion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Giles, Paul. The Global Remapping of American Literature. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011. Jay, Paul. Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010. Kaplan, Robert D. The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against Fate. New York: Random House, 2012. Moraru, Christian. Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011. Moraru, Christian. “Review Essay.” The Comparatist 36 (May 2012): 301–​12. Moraru, Christian. “American Literature Unlimited: Toward a New Geoliterary Order.” American Book Review 36.5 (July/​Aug 2015): 3–​4 Moraru, Christian. Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. Moraru, Christian. “Geocriticism and the ‘Reinstating’ of Literature.” American Book Review 37.6 (Sept–​Oct 2016): 6–​7. Moraru, Christian. “ ‘World,’ ‘Globe,’ ‘Planet’: Comparative Literature, Planetary Studies, and Cultural Debt after the Global Turn.” In Futures of Comparative Literature: ACLA State of the Discipline Report. Ed. Ursula K. Heise, with Dudley Andrew, Alexander Beecroft, Jessica Berman, David Damrosch, Guillermina De Ferrari, César Domínguez, Barbara Harlow, and Eric Hayot. London: Routledge, 2017. 124–​32. Nafisi, Azar. The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books. New York: Viking, 2014. Wagner-​Martin, Linda. A History of American Literature: 1950 to the Present. Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2013. Walkowitz, Rebecca L. “The Location of Literature: The Transnational Book and the Migrant Writer.” Contemporary Literature 47.4 (2006): 527–​45. Westphal, Bertrand. Le monde plausible. Espace, lieu, carte. Paris: Minuit, 2011.

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Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy in American World Literature Jonathan Arac

The critical, theoretical, and historical perspectives of world literature offer me, as an American Americanist, a necessary resource by which to evade American exceptionalism, what the late Sacvan Bercovitch called the “auto-​American”1 enclosure of Americans talking about Americanness. To consider American literature as world literature—​just what this book does—​ risks seeming grabby, overweening, another example of American empire for liberty. Certainly not all American literature is world literature in the sense David Damrosch usefully and powerfully proposed: “circulating out into a broader world beyond its linguistic and cultural point of origin.”2 Nonetheless, the history of settler colonialism means that almost all writing produced in the United States draws from previously existing literatures from elsewhere. We have been part of their circulation. This derivativeness—​Americans wrote fiction, poems, plays, essays, and so forth, just as did writers in other, older cultures—​ produced anxieties, polemics, and manifestoes far beyond the first century of national independence.3 American literary nationalism crucially shaped most of what we now consider American literature, all the more because that same nationalism also shaped most of the history of American literary study.4 Argumentative critique has importantly challenged and superseded that nationalism, but so has scholarly interpretation that embraces American classics for their embrace of older cultures and traditions accessed through translation.5 Yet the voracity of American writers has not proved omnivorous. There continue to exist authors, works, genres practiced elsewhere that have played no part in American literature, have not even appeared in English, yet have affected each other, and to that

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extent there exists a world literature apart from and independent of American literature. There exist now also works of American literature that draw their being only from prior American literature and that prove uninteresting to the rest of the world—​the actual instances of what in 2008, Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Nobel prize jury, asserted of American literature overall: “The US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature.”6 One understood the message telling Philip Roth not to expect any calls from Stockholm. Incidents like this underline the complex relationships of unequal and rivalrous power and prestige within World Literature, inseparable from its utopian dimensions, but my point is simpler. Some works of American literature have nothing to do with world literature. If some world literature has nothing to do with American literature, and some American literature has nothing to do with world literature, then I think it makes sense to explore the category “American world literature” to name what is only a portion of each, a residue, not an empire.7 That is where this chapter focuses. Before discussing Amitav Ghosh at some length, I  will offer three brief instances of how American world literature operates, all three starting with the first age of World Literature, from Goethe’s formulation of the term and problematic in 1827, up to the mid-​nineteenth-​century Communist Manifesto. World Literature, and its relation to the United States, has a long history as an intellectual and cultural concern—​nearly two centuries since it was named and began specifically to be thought about. World literature does not derive from postcolonialism or from 1990s globalization or from American response to the trauma of 9/​11, however much all these have inflected the ways scholars think about it and writers enact it. I begin with the key moment from Marx and Engels. The Communist Manifesto’s most famous phrase in English already shows a world-​literature dynamic: “All that is solid melts into air,” comes from Shakespeare’s Tempest to translate a term that in German had very different resonances—​with allusion to the steam engine, verdampft means evaporates. The key passage begins with “world market” and ends with “world literature.” In between, its abstract references could be filled in with particulars, which would include the shift in British textile production from domestic wool to cotton imported from the hot climates of the world, especially the American South; and the further shift in British consumer habits that brought to India the cultivation of tea, formerly restricted to China, and that mixed tea with sugar grown in the

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West Indies. Britain even succeeded in exporting printed cottons to India, the source from which many of the print designs were taken, and for centuries before 1800 the world’s leader in cotton production and technologies.8 Here is the passage: The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country . . . All old-​ established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries . . . that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw materials drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-​sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property . . . and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.9

This is the world from which I  draw my three beginning instances:  first, from intellectual culture, focused on Thomas Carlyle; next, from emergent mass culture, focused on Edgar Allan Poe; and finally from literary culture, focused on Herman Melville. Think of what follows as three film clips, because World Literature strives to capture motion. Around 1830 the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle worked both east toward Germany and west toward America. Carlyle’s engagement with German literature helped Goethe toward his formulations of Weltliteratur, and reading Carlyle helped guide and inspire the emergent American intellectual Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Anglophone world at that time did not have much use for Carlyle’s translation of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (1796; Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, 1824), now heralded as the first Bildungsroman, but Anglophone readers eagerly took up Carlyle’s bizarrely experimental pseudo-​ German fiction called—​in English—​Sartor Resartus (1836), Latin for the ‘tailor retailored’, which purports to be the life of a German scholar stitched together after his death from a patchy archive. Emerson found Sartor Resartus a publisher who issued it as a book in the United States before anyone did in the United Kingdom, and its model of Bildung had far more impact in the United States for most of the nineteenth century than did Goethe’s. Melville drew on it for the strange form of Moby-​Dick.10

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In the 1830s, around the same time that Nikolai Gogol’s St. Petersburg and Honoré de Balzac’s Paris inaugurated the fiction of the modern city, Edgar Allan Poe was inventing the detective tale. Poe’s afterlife makes a wonderful case of American world literature. His younger French contemporary, the poet Charles Baudelaire, found far more in Poe than any American reader had, and Baudelaire’s translations of Poe make up the bulk of Baudelaire’s complete works. Baudelaire’s Poe reached Fyodor Dostoevsky in Russia soon after Dostoevsky returned in 1861 from political imprisonment in Siberia, and translations of Poe’s stories “The Black Cat” and “The Tell-​Tale Heart” appeared in the first issue of a new journal that Dostoevsky edited. The disturbed psyches and strange narrations of these tales helped inspire Dostoevsky’s next two major works—​Notes from Underground (1864) and Crime and Punishment (1866). Through Dostoevsky, Poe came back to the United States in African-​American writing nearly a century later, with crucial references in Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940) and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952).11 Showing the possibilities of intralingual world literature, important recent English-​language novels have reworked Moby-​Dick (1851). I  am thinking of the African-​American Charles Johnson’s National Book Award winner Middle Passage (1990), the British Barry Unsworth’s Booker Prize cowinner Sacred Hunger (1992), and the amazing Ibis trilogy by the Indian-​born, British educated, long-​time American resident Amitav Ghosh—​especially the trilogy’s two oceanic volumes, Sea of Poppies (2008) and Flood of Fire (2015). Johnson, Unsworth, and Ghosh all respond to the challenge posed to Moby-​Dick by the Trinidadian radical C. L. R. James. James’s 1953 book takes its title from Melville’s resonant phrase for the sailors who man the Pequod: Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways. James has plenty to say about Ahab and Ishmael, but his big question is in effect “what about the crew?” or the laboring class more broadly. All three of these recent authors write historical fictions. This poses a big question for the history and theory of the contemporary novel that I  cannot give enough time to but highlight for further thinking. Johnson and Ghosh set their action at about the same time as the voyage of Melville’s Pequod. All three recent writers shift their emphasis from the exploitation of nature—​Melville’s whaling industry—​to the exploitation of human beings. The quest for profit loads these ships not with oil but with living bodies. The charismatic, deranged old captains in Johnson and Unsworth seek gold, in contrast to Melville’s passionately anti-​capitalist Ahab, and the driven quester in Ghosh is a merchant and free-​trade ideologue, Mr. Burnham (while his sick old sea-​captain proves

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insignificant). Johnson’s Middle Passage sets its action in the 1830s, involving the illegal American harvesting of enslaved bodies from West Africa. Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger takes on all aspects of the Liverpool slave trade of the 1760s, just before the rise of active Abolitionism, and it features the economic triangle joining England, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Ghosh’s trilogy takes place over the years from 1838 to 1842 and achieves expansive global purview. Centered in what was then called Calcutta, the seat of India’s British colonial administration, it follows the recruitment and transport of indentured Indian laborers, so-​called coolies, west to Mauritius, counterpointed to the production of Indian opium and its transport east to China, leading to the Opium War of 1841–​42, which made Hong Kong a British possession until its return to China in 1997. The inspiration from Melville shows most in Ghosh’s over-​the-​top delight in presenting the language of the sailors, the hybrid lingua franca known as Lascari. This is what Melville’s Fedallah and his crew would have spoken. More largely, I think, Melville fosters Ghosh’s ambition to do anything it takes to make your vision known, however strange that vision may seem. Finally, beyond Ghosh’s substantial residence in the United States and his inspired appropriation of Melville, I consider his work as “American world literature” because he writes into the book one single but very significant American. The trilogy charts the remarkable rise in wealth and power of a free African-​ American, Zachary Reid, who gains the opportunity to pass as white. Zachary had been a fellow worker in the Baltimore shipyards with “Freddy Douglass,”12 the real-​life Frederick Douglass whose 1845 narrative of escaping slavery is a landmark in American literature. In scholarly fact, Douglass only took that name after his escape. In the Baltimore yards, he was still Fred Bailey. To grasp what this trilogy may mean, you need to take a position concerning Zachary’s trajectory. As a bright, handsome, and ignorant young sailor, he becomes at sea the protégé of the head Lascar, Serang Ali, and on land in Calcutta he begins courting the orphan girl Paulette, daughter of a French naturalist and raised by a Bengali ayah. He also fascinates the Hindu mystic administrative agent for the British opium merchant Burnham, Baboo Nob Kissin, who sees him as marked by the spirit of Krishna—​connected to his mysterious characterization as “Black.”13 All these components of the first novel seem to point to the young American becoming a postcolonial and cosmopolitan figure, defined by positive allegiances with the Global South underclass. As things develop, however, by the third volume, he breaks with Serang Ali and also with

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Paulette, to her great pain; and he enjoys a torrid sexual romance with Mrs. Burnham, while finally rejecting the love she comes to feel for him, because he needs the support of Mr. Burnham for his career as an opium trader. In his upward rise, he destroys both Mrs. Burnham’s treasured first love and also Paulette’s best friend, transforming, in the eyes of his Hindu patron, into a force that ushers in the “Kaliyuga, the age of apocalypse” and the end of the world.14 At one level, he is an attractive, if mixed, figure like Balzac’s Rastignac in Père Goriot (1835), at another he provides the occasion for an apocalyptic Jeremiad. He allegorizes an America that denies its subaltern heritage to team up with the empire it had rebelliously defeated, threatening the world with capitalist domination. To think of Melville together with Ghosh allows us to question the category of “postcolonial” writer. In one respect they make a perfect parallel: Melville helped found an American literature; Moby-​Dick (1851) appeared some seventy-​five years after the United States declared independence (1776). Ghosh completed the trilogy (2015) nearly seventy years after India won independence (1947). English is one of the official national languages of India and is the most geographically widespread among the Indian elite, yet few would argue that work written in English can be Indian in the same sense that work written in English can be American. This problem offers opportunity for rethinking the relation between these writers as American world literature. Ghosh himself has had a good deal to say about Melville: The writers who have profoundly influenced me and my project are Americans, Melville most of all . . . Melville is the greatest writer that America has ever produced . . . [H]‌e was just about the only one of the nineteenth century nautical writers who paid enough attention to the world of the sea to actually write about Indian sailors . . . Melville has a level of curiosity, a level of engagement with the world that is completely absent from 19th century English writing.15

In Ghosh’s embrace of Melville, he reenacts a pattern that Melville enacted with Shakespeare. This structure I call “imperial eclecticism.”16 Imperial eclecticism defines a way of using the heritage an empire leaves to new nations after it withdraws. Imperial culture allows the postimperial writer a range of reference and sense of free choice that expand the horizons of creativity. Melville the American chose English Shakespeare, Ghosh the Indian chose American Melville, in each case a towering figure in another culture joined to one’s own through the empire left behind.

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The great past figure requires mediation in the present, or else the new writer will succumb to the burden of the past, the despairing sense that prior greatness is unapproachable. Melville found his mediator in Nathaniel Hawthorne, his older contemporary. Melville’s review-​essay “Hawthorne and his Mosses,” written while composing Moby-​Dick, directly reflects on the relation he finds between Hawthorne and Shakespeare, which gives him the confidence to claim that Shakespeare may be surpassed. V. S. Naipaul’s writing seized Ghosh early, and Naipaul became the enabling older contemporary. Perhaps Ghosh’s commitment to the humanity of indentured Indian laborers, so-​called coolies, shipped in repurposed slave ships to the Caribbean and Mauritius, forms part of his tribute to Naipaul, whose own ancestors came from India to Trinidad in that condition. Here is Ghosh on Naipaul, writing in 2001, when Naipaul won the Nobel Prize in Literature: I was in my teens when I read Naipaul’s essay on how, in the Trinidad of his youth, the flowers of the Caribbean were rendered invisible by the unseen daffodils of text-​book English poets. That essay sparked so powerful a jolt of recognition that the moment has stayed with me ever since. As a child, while reading “The Mutiny on the Bounty” I’d been fascinated by the word “frangipani”. . . Then one day I discovered that the gnarled old branches by my window belonged to none other than a “frangipani” tree: I’d been staring at them for years. My response was . . . a sudden awareness of the anomalousness of my own place in the world. This was not an awareness I had ever seen reflected in anything I’d read—​until I came across Naipaul’s essay . . . This was the magic of reading Naipaul in those years . . . [H]‌e had found words to excavate new dimensions of experience . . . It was Naipaul who first made it possible for me to think of myself as a writer, working in English.17

The world Ghosh imagines and creates in Sea of Poppies connects to the world of known history in ways just as precise as the time and place he provides for the novel’s opening, in the “second week of March, 1838.”18 The schooner Ibis arrives then “off Ganga-​Sagar Island, where the holy river debouches into the Bay of Bengal.” From the perspective of what was then called Calcutta, the capital of British India, this was a moment of double possibility. The trade in opium to China was increasing, with tensions that soon led to the so-​called Opium War, fought in the name of Free Trade and all its virtues of human improvement. The British commitment to human improvement had also abolished slavery in the Empire in 1834, and that opened a whole new set of opportunities for those who controlled India. The poorest and most hopeless of Indians could be sent

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out to Mauritius and the Caribbean as indentured servants, coolies, in place of enslaved Africans. The Ibis had been a slave ship, and with minor refitting it could be adapted to free human cargo, allowing Mr. Burnham the opium magnate a new possibility for profitable investment. Ghosh spelled out his own overview of this complexity: India was to the nineteenth century what Africa was to the eighteenth . . . Everywhere that Indian migrants went in the nineteenth century, they went after the banning of slavery . . . Where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean trade met was London . . . The opium trade came into existence because of tea . . . it had to be drunk with sugar, and the sugar was being grown in plantations, first with slave and then migrant labour. This resulted in an economy that tied the whole world in a web. One set of ships would bring opium from India to China; another set would take tea from China to England; another set would bring sugar from the West Indies to London.19

Both novels deal with exploitative industries that damage the natural world and human life alike, and Moby-​Dick is just as committed to exploring the global economics of whaling as Ghosh is to his subject, but America dominates Melville’s concerns more centrally than any one place does Ghosh’s. Whaling did not “tie the whole world in a web” to the extent that the movement of bodies, sugar, tea, and opium did. Writing in the twenty-​first century, Ghosh presents globalization both more deeply and more widely than Melville did, in ways that connect to his own most recent book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016). The action of Moby-​Dick takes place at just about the same time as the action of Ghosh’s novel, and Melville understood enough of the totality of that world to inspire Ghosh, as we have seen, and yet the whole human and economic complex that Ghosh places his characters within escapes Melville. In the first chapter of Moby-​Dick Ishmael imagines his voyage as ordained by the Fates, humorously placing himself in a position that still addresses Americans in 2016:  between “Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States” and “BLOODY BATTLE IN AFGHANISTAN.” Yet so world-​historic a matter as the end of British slavery eludes the novel’s attention. Even though Melville had read Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-​Eater, the word opium appears only once in Moby-​Dick, and then only in an analogy in the “Mast-​Head” chapter. However, Ghosh, too, omits one aspect of Calcutta in 1838 crucial to the existence of his novel. In 1838 Thomas Babington Macaulay returned to England, after

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having served five years as the Legal Member of the Supreme Council of India. In 1835 his Minute on Indian Education set the path for making English the language of India’s educated elite. Its continuing impact includes Ghosh’s novels.20 Ghosh strives brilliantly to stretch the bounds of English, above all by expanding its vocabulary to register the mixtures of global encounter. Like Melville’s “Extracts” that begin Moby-​Dick, Ghosh ends Sea of Poppies with a “Chrestomathy,” a treasure-​chest of lore about some of its special words. The novel in its first hundred pages shows both Zachary Reid, the African-​ American carpenter who becomes an officer, and Jodu, the Bengali boat-​boy, learning “Laskari—​that motley tongue, spoken nowhere but on the water, whose words were as varied as the port’s traffic.” The novel then goes on to name types of seacraft from many languages and cultures: “an anarchic medley of Portuguese calaluzes and Kerala pattimars, Arab booms and Bengal paunchways, Malay proas and Tamil catamarans, Hindusthani pulwars and English snows—​yet beneath the surface of this farrago of sound, meaning flowed as freely as the currents beneath the crowded press of boats.”21 Melville’s Shakespearean language works the way that Erich Auerbach in Mimesis argued realism does, through a mixing of styles in which everyday and vernacular and eloquent vocabulary and syntactic patterns interact to make moving and powerful the depths of human existence in ordinary people. In contrast, Ghosh favors translingual hybridity, as in this spectacular passage, spoken by Mr. Doughty, the Burnham company’s pilot, not in Laskari but in Anglo-​Indian. He is reminiscing about the festivities put on by “the old Raja of Raskhali . . . Rascally-​Roger, I used to call him.” Doughty continues: “Wasn’t a man in town who could put on a burra-​khana like he did. Sheeshmull blazing with shammers and candles. Paltans of bearers and khidmutgars. Demi-​johns of French loll-​shrub and carboys of iced simkin. And the karibat! In the old days the Rascally bobachee-​connah was the best in the city. No fear of pish-​pash and cobbily-​mash at the Rascally table.”22 Yet a linguistic counterforce checks this expansion. Paulette is the orphaned daughter of a French savant, nurtured by her Bengali ayah; fleeing the oppressive household of the pious opium magnate Burnham, she stows away on the Ibis. She cannot resist peeking into the small prison on board, and there she views two more of the trilogy’s main characters: as curious a pair as ever she had laid eyes on. One had a shaven head, a skeletal face, and looked as if he might be Nepali; the other had a sinister tattoo

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Through Paulette’s snoopiness, readers both recognize and enjoy a moment of artistic self-​reference—​the book depends on the magic of English throughout—​ a moment that is also, within the action, intensely melodramatic, but then the book is melodramatic, and never more than as it approaches its end. In the last twenty pages of Sea of Poppies two ruling-​class villains die spectacular deaths inflicted by prisoners; and on its last page, Flood of Fire concludes with “yet another miracle,” a magical vanishing act; the Ibis, “that marvelous vehicle of transformation,” after several days quietly at harbor, suddenly “was gone.”24 Ghosh risks framing a world full of horror and danger, while within that frame telling a tale of survival. The insulted and injured, the wretched of the earth, make a world together, built from their small acts of hope and trust set against desperation, until the momentum becomes a destiny. Ghosh uses the still undervalued form of the historical novel to construct a utopia that reciprocally validates and is validated by the best possibilities of our present. Ishmael asks, “who ain’t a slave?” yet Moby-​Dick does not carry through this potential of radical democracy. In their different ways, Johnson in Middle Passage and especially Unsworth in Sacred Hunger and Ghosh in his trilogy take up this challenge. Melville holds fiercely to Shakespeare as tragic, and this commitment to a particular type of plot limits him as well as energizes him. By the time Moby-​ Dick ends, it is no longer a “great kick at misery” (as D. H. Lawrence had insisted tragedy must be).25 In the Ibis trilogy, whatever happens in China, Deeti’s cave in Mauritius has promised from the book’s beginning that some visions come real. By making his historical climax the British gaining Hong Kong, Ghosh sets his action in a past world, an era that has closed. Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, and today China and India greatly overshadow Britain in the world. Ghosh’s work of American World literature challenges the United States to read and revise its place.

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Notes 1 Sacvan Bercovitch, Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 170, 179. 2 David Damrosch, What Is World Literature? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 6. 3 For influential recent perspective on this topic, see Paul Giles, Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730–​ 1860 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), and Paul Giles, Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002). British by origin, Paul Giles spent years in the United States and now works in Australia. 4 The richest current engagement with this topic comes in the work of Donald Pease, inaugurated in Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987) and elaborated since through the notion of “New Americanists” in his own many essays, as well as edited volumes and a book series with Duke University Press. 5 For the pathbreaking example, see Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006). 6 Suzanne Goldenberg, “No Nobel Prizes for American writers: They’re too Parochial” (2008). https://​www.theguardian.com/​books/​2008/​oct/​02/​nobelprize. usa. 7 On relations between the categories of national literature and world literature, see Alexander Beecroft, An Ecology of World Literature: From Antiquity to the Present Day (London and New York: Verso, 2015), which also includes discussion of Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy as “global literature,” 291–​5. 8 As argued in Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014). 9 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, ed. Lewis S. Feuer (Garden City: Doubleday, 1959), 11. In German, see Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei,” in Deutsche Geschichts-​Philosophie: von Lessing bis Jaspers, ed. Kurt Rossmann (Bremen: Carl Schünemann Verlag, 1959), 247–​8. 10 For Carlyle and Melville, see Jonathan Arac, Commissioned Spirits: The Shaping of Social Motion in Dickens, Carlyle, Melville, and Hawthorne (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1979) and for Carlyle and Goethe, see

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15 16

17 18

Jonathan Arac, “Literary History in a Global Age,” New Literary History 39 (2008): 747–​60. For a fuller account, see Jonathan Arac, “Transatlantic Literary Networks: E. A. Poe from Germany to Russia to Chicago,” in Traveling Traditions, ed. Erik Redling (De Gruyter Mouton, 2016), 3–​15. Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), 50. Ibid., 161. Frederick Douglass took his name from a poem by Walter Scott. The Gaelic basis for this name comes from a root meaning black, as does the Sanskrit basis for Krishna. See Carl Darling Buck, A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-​European Languages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), 1055. Ghosh’s use of this color-​threading will bear further study. Amitav Ghosh, Flood of Fire (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), 258. See also The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters (New York: Penguin, 1998) by the Scottish writer William Dalrymple (b. 1965), who has long lived in India. Amitav Ghosh, “Conversation with Chris Lydon,” November 19, 2008. http://​ radioopensource.org/​amitav-​ghosh-​and-​his-​sea-​of-​poppies/​ Jonathan Arac, “Imperial Eclecticism in Moby-Dick and Invisible Man: Literature in a Postcolonial Empire,” boundary 2 37.3 (2010): 151–65. Back in the early 1980s, Salman Rushdie argued against the category “Commonwealth Literature” as both incoherent and restrictive. Specifically, it limited the freedom of writers by imposing stereotypes of cultural purity. Opposing this, Rushdie invoked “eclecticism” as the practice of actual writers (such as himself). Confusingly, he then elaborated eclecticism as a peculiarly Indian practice. Now, decades later, I find eclecticism useful to challenge ideas of postcolonial writing, the category that Rushdie helped to establish in place of Commonwealth Literature, because the category, once again, seems to limit the resources from which writers should draw. I can imagine arguing for Rushdie an imperial-​eclectic pattern where, for instance, Joyce might be the starting point. See Salman Rushdie, “‘Commonwealth Literature’ Does Not Exist,” in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–​1991 (New York: Penguin, 1992), 67. Amitav Ghosh, “Naipaul and the Nobel,” 2001. http://​www.amitavghosh.com/​ essays/​naipaul.html. Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies, 10. Ghosh includes for each of the three volumes acknowledgements that detail both primary sources and also recent historiography that he has used. I would draw special attention to the work of Clare Anderson on convict transportation to Mauritius, which has led her to a remarkable work, Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790–​1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and also to Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-​Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000).

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19 Amitav Ghosh, “History Is at the Heart of the Novel,” 2013. https://​novel.trinity.duke.edu/​news/​2013/​03/​27/​ novel-​interview-​ghosh-​history-​is-​at-​the-​heart-​of-​the-​novel 20 On Macaulay in India, see Jonathan Arac, “Peculiarities of (the) English in the Metanarrative(s) of Knowledge and Power,” in Intellectuals: Politics, Aesthetics, and Academics, ed. Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), and Jonathan Arac, “World English/​World Literature,” in Blackwell Companion to the English Novel, eds. Steven Arata, J. Paul Hunter, Jennifer Wicke (Oxford: Blackwell, 2015). 21 Ghosh, Sea of Poppies, 102. 22 Ibid., 46. This passage gains its effect from sound and rhythm, but here is a glossary: burra-​khana, big dinner; sheeshmull, entrance-​hall; shammers, mirrors?; paltans=pultans, large military unit, figuratively a crowd; khidmutgars, waiters; loll-​shrub, red wine; carboys, large bottles; simkin, champagne; karibat, meal [i.e., dinner]; bobachee-​connah, kitchen; pish-​pash, child’s rice-​soup; cobbily-​mash, [unappealing] dried fish. Ghosh’s “Chrestomathy” at the end of Sea of Poppies is attributed to one of the trilogy’s characters, who was fascinated by how many Indian words had come to enter English. It contains only words authorized by English sources, primarily the Oxford English Dictionary and the great lexicon known as Hobson-​Jobson, originally Henry Yule and A. C. Burnell, Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-​Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical, and Discursive (1886). These are the resources I have drawn on. 23 Ibid., 355. 24 Ghosh, Flood of Fire, 606. 25 D. H. Lawrence, “Letter to A. W. McLeod, 4 October 1912,” in The Letters of D. H. Lawrence, vol. 1, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

Works cited Anderson, Clare. Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790–​1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Arac, Jonathan. Commissioned Spirits: The Shaping of Social Motion in Dickens, Carlyle, Melville, and Hawthorne. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1979. Arac, Jonathan. “Peculiarities of (the) English in the Metanarrative(s) of Knowledge and Power.” In Intellectuals: Politics, Aesthetics, and Academics. Ed. Bruce Robbins. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. 189–​99.

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162 Jonathan Arac Arac, Jonathan. “Literary History in a Global Age.” New Literary History 39 (2008): 747–​60. Arac, Jonathan. “Imperial Eclecticism in Moby-​Dick and Invisible Man: Literature in a Postcolonial Empire.” boundary 2 37.3 (2010): 151–​65. Arac, Jonathan. “World English/​World Literature.” In Blackwell Companion to the English Novel. Ed. Stephen Arata, J. Paul Hunter, and Jennifer Wicke. Oxford: Blackwell, 2015. 456–​70. Arac, Jonathan. “Transatlantic Literary Networks: E. A. Poe from Germany to Russia to Chicago.” In Traveling Traditions. Ed. Erik Redling. De Gruyter Mouton, 2016. 3–​15. Beckert, Sven. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. Beecroft, Alexander. An Ecology of World Literature: From Antiquity to the Present Day. London and New York: Verso, 2015. Bercovitch, Sacvan. Puritan Origins of the American Self. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975. Buck, Carl Darling. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-​European Languages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949. Dalrymple, William. The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters. New York: Penguin, 1998. Damrosch, David. What Is World Literature? Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. Dimock, Wai Chee. Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. Ghosh, Amitav. “Naipaul and the Nobel.” 2001. http://​www.amitavghosh.com/​essays/​ naipaul.html. Ghosh, Amitav. Sea of Poppies. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. Ghosh, Amitav. “Conversation with Chris Lydon.” November 19, 2008. http://​ radioopensource.org/​amitav-​ghosh-​and-​his-​sea-​of-​poppies/​ Ghosh, Amitav. “History Is at the Heart of the Novel.” 2013. https://​novel.trinity.duke. edu/​news/​2013/​03/​27/​novel-​interview-​ghosh-​history-​is-​at-​the-​heart-​of-​the-​novel Ghosh, Amitav. Flood of Fire. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015. Giles, Paul. Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730–​1860. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Giles, Paul. Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002. Goldenberg, Suzanne. “No Nobel Prizes for American Writers: They’re too Parochial.” 2008. https://​www.theguardian.com/​books/​2008/​oct/​02/​nobelprize.usa. Lawrence, D. H. “Letter to A. W. McLeod, 4 October 1912.” In The Letters of D. H. Lawrence. Vol. 1. Ed. James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979. Linebaugh, Peter and Marcus Rediker. The Many-​Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.

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Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. “Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei” (1848). In Deutsche Geschichts-​Philosophie: von Lessing bis Jaspers. Ed. Kurt Rossmann. Bremen: Carl Schünemann Verlag, 1959. Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy. Ed. Lewis S. Feuer. Garden City: Doubleday, 1959. Pease, Donald. Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987. Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–​1991. New York: Penguin, 1992.

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Part Three

Experience, Poetics, New Worlds

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Whitman’s Polyvocal Poetic Revolution: Equality and Empire in New World Literature Gabriel Rockhill

This study seeks to demonstrate the political plurivocity of aesthetics via an exploration of the motley dimensions of Walt Whitman’s proposed poetic revolution. In resisting the widespread reduction of individual writers or works of art to single political positions (or a set of distinct, sequential views, as when an artist changes political orientations over time), it highlights the multiple dimensions of politicity operative in artwork. It begins, then, with an elucidation of Whitman’s provocative account of aesthetic revolution as the necessary cultural supplement to a purely political revolution, explicating how art and literature compose a people by simultaneously depicting and forging its culture, norms, affects, and personalities. It then situates his project in the historical nexus it calls its own, detailing Whitman’s unique contribution to the revisionist historiography of democratic theodicy, and more specifically American manifest destiny. Finally, it explores the diverse ways in which the poet of new world literature, at least in certain of his writings, subjected other people—​particularly the enslaved and the colonized—​to a brutal process of decomposition.

Historical poetry and the future of a people The self-​proclaimed bard of America’s “athletic Democracy,” Walt Whitman framed his poetic project in terms of the need for a deep cultural transformation that would enhance the material revolution of political democracy in the United States by forming “a nationality superior to any higher known, and outtopping

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the past.”1 In this light, he described America as simultaneously the “daughter of a physical revolution” and the “mother of the true revolutions.”2 The former was presumably the War of Independence from Britain, and thus the founding of the American republic. However, Whitman insisted on the fact that, for his own work, the real revolutionary spark came from the Civil War, which brought forth “the final reasons-​for-​being of an autochthonic American song.”3 The true revolutions alluded to are those that take place in “interior life” and “the arts.”4 “For so long as the spirit is not changed,” he claimed, “any change of appearance is of no avail.”5 Indeed, art and literature are uniquely capable of fashioning the inner life of a people by providing it with models of existence and enforcing them over time. They are privileged vehicles for a type of cultural hegemony that deepens, spreads, and concretizes democratic revolution through artistic means. The aesthetic revolution is thus ultimately the true revolution for Whitman because it extends beyond the scope of governmental changes to transform the social, cultural, moral, and psychological order. It composes a new people. This is the historical stage upon which Whitman presented his own poetic work and described his aspirations for a literature of the future. Anchored in a very specific social world and time period, he thereby situated his poetry in a present surrounded by the bookends of a dual revolution: a past political transformation that was behind it and a future literary reconfiguration that was to come. Whereas what had occurred, with the founding and development of America, had primarily been material and physical, the revolution to come was spiritual and cultural. Whitman hence positioned himself at a watershed moment in history, in which the material revolution of politics was beginning to convert itself into the aesthetic revolution of a new cultural empire via an unprecedented poetry of the people. He conceived of his work as part of the link between past and future, between the political and the poetic, between the material and the spiritual. It was the lynchpin of history, purportedly connecting the onset of modern political democracy to the experiment of democratic literature in a profound spiritual renewal. He described his magnum opus in the following terms: “One genesis-​motive of the verses was my conviction that the crowning growth of the United States is to be spiritual and heroic. To help start and favor that growth—​or even to call attention to it, or the need of it—​is the beginning, middle and final purpose of ‘Leaves of Grass.’ ”6 In what follows, I  will unravel the various threads of Whitman’s historical description in order to see how they are intimately woven together in an account of new world literature as a democratic spiritual revolution. To begin with, it is

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important to emphasize the fact that Whitman’s poetry was profoundly historical, in the modern sense of the term. It was explicitly and repeatedly connected to a specific time and place, which it attempted at once to support, to channel, and to advance.7 “A new Literature,” he wrote, “perhaps a new Metaphysics, certainly a new poetry, are to be, in my opinion, the only sure and worthy supports and expressions of the American Democracy.”8 Although he clearly admired the poetry of the past and admitted that it had been the necessary condition for the development of his own work, he also explicitly identified it as being part of a distinct era. “The Old World,” he asserted, “has had the poems of myths, fictions, feudalism, conquest, caste, dynastic wars, and splendid exceptional characters and affairs, which have been great; but the New World needs the poems of realities and science and of the democratic average and basic equality, which shall be greater.”9 It is not only, then, that he positioned the classics in a separate and unique past, but this “chansonnier of a great future” inscribed them in a progressive historical narrative according to which they would be surpassed. In other words, at the same time that the past was rendered autonomous, the future became an open horizon of possibility, and above all, of promise.10 The linear, evolutionary, and even teleological model that undergirds his work thereby severed ties with the classical paradigm of history, according to which the past housed a set of archetypal exemplars that transcended time as the true paragons of all future activity.11 This cyclical vision of time, in which it was the duty of the future to appropriately repeat the past (with the insistence being on the adverb appropriately), gave way to a more or less unilinear conception of history. There was thereby a displacement from the classical to the historical past, from the repetitive to the revolutionary future. The past, we might say, became truly past, since it could no longer serve as the temporal compass for the present, and the future became authentically future in unleashing unforeseen possibilities. Furthermore, Whitman’s historical poetry called into question the classical distinction between history and poetry, which was prominently theorized by Aristotle in the book that would come to function as the touchstone for classical art and literature: From what we have said it will be seen that the poet’s function is to describe, not the thing that has happened, but a kind of thing that might happen, i.e. what is possible as being probable or necessary [φανερὸν δὲ ἐκ τῶν εἰρημένων καὶ ὅτι οὐ τὸ τὰ γενόμενα λέγειν, τοῦτο ποιητοῦ ἔργον ἐστίν, ἀλλ᾽ οἷα ἂν γένοιτο καὶ τὰ δυνατὰ κατὰ τὸ εἰκὸς ἢ τὸ ἀναγκαῖον]. The distinction between historian and poet is not in the one writing prose and the other verse—​you might put the

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work of Herodotus into verse, and it would still be a species of history; it consists really in this, that the one describes the thing that has been, and the other a kind of thing that might be. Hence poetry is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its statements are of the nature rather of universals, whereas those of history are singulars [ἡ μὲν γὰρ ποίησις μᾶλλον τὰ καθόλου, ἡ δ᾽ ἱστορία τὰ καθ᾽ ἕκαστον λέγει].12

Whitman breached this divide. His historical poetry was simultaneously about what is actual and what is possible. It bore on the singular while culling from it the universal; it immersed itself in the timely precisely in order to unearth the timeless. In fact, it was by chronicling the singularity of what exists, particularly the myriad minutiae of Civil War-​torn America that escaped the history books, that it beckoned toward what is possible.13 Ultimately, this is what he referred to as a restoration of the true idea of Nature and the unification of the people under “the central divine idea of All.”14 It is here that we see, perhaps most clearly, the influence of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and more generally the German romantics.15 The historical process of poetic forms that he described is one of a gradual synthetic unification in which the singularities of history would contribute to a universal future, which poetry was tasked with both expressing and shepherding. Whitman thereby made his own one of the intriguing but fragmentary claims advanced in the laconic manifesto-​like text, entitled “Oldest Programme for a System of German Idealism” (1796): Thus poetry gains a higher honour, it finally becomes what it was at its inception—​the teacher of humanity; for there is no longer any philosophy, any history; the art of poetry alone will outlive all other sciences and arts [Die Poesie bekommt dadurch eine höhere Würde, sie wird am Ende wieder, was sie am Anfang war—​Lehrerin der Menschheit; denn es gibt keine Philosophie, keine Geschichte mehr, die Dichtkunst allein wird alle übrigen Wissenschaften und Künste überleben].16

Merging history into poetry, Whitman’s testimonial verse was a literature of the future and a forger of facts.17 In lending his voice to the diversity of the vox populi of nineteenth-​century America, and praising its own poetic power of making, he sought to express the soul of a nation while simultaneously forming and sculpting it.18 It is this dual status that was at the heart of his work: through a historical description and the expression of a particular cultural state of affairs, it poetically molded this very same descriptum. His poetry was ultimately a

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two-​sided composition in that it wrote the history of a people in order to forge it for the future. It was thus a form of Bildung or cultural training, binding the past of history to poetic futures. It is precisely in this sense that Whitman’s verse was ultimately a “history of the future,” meaning a future perfect account of what will have become through the civilizational creation of a potential people.19 This operative understanding of historical poetry as a two-​way educational formation allows us to further elucidate the relationship between literature and politics. The reason that poetry was political, for Whitman, is that it functioned as the spiritual and cultural forge of a population. Politics in the restricted sense of the term primarily addressed material aspects of collective existence. If it was a necessary condition for the formation of states, it was in no way a sufficient condition for the cultivation of its spirit, which Whitman tended to call its “nationality.”20 What institutionalized politics is to the body, poetry is to the soul. In this sense, the American republic was understood as an unprecedented body politic that had yet to fully develop its own soul, which could only be provided by a new world literature.21 His historical poetry therefore set as its task the transformation of democratic matter from the past into the spirit of an unprecedented people, which promised to be superior—​in his mind—​to all former civilizations. “Poetry, largely considered,” he affirmed, “is an evolution, sending out improved and ever-​expanded types—​in one sense, the past, even the best of it, necessarily giving place, and dying out.”22 His poetic politics sought to give new shape and meaning to the populace, fashioning novel personalities and untapped possibilities for a glorious future. Poetic politics is more profound and expansive than governmental politics.23 It is the forge of nationality and personality, the factory of collective consciousness, culture, customs, mores, and morality. Literature was thus capable of instigating “moral revolutions,” which reconfigure the very social fabric of a people.24 As a matter of fact, Whitman actually considered poetry to be “the dominant moral factor of humanity’s progress . . . The religious and aesthetic elements . . . seem to me more indebted to poetry than to all other means and influences combined. In a very profound sense religion is the poetry of humanity.”25 Furthermore, just as politics in the broad sense far supersedes government, poetry is irreducible to art. Whitman was critical of ornamental language, poetry for its own sake, and the tropes and forms of traditional verse. Far from primarily aiming “toward art or aesthetics,” he described his poetry in the following terms: “the deepest moral, social, political purposes of America (aye, of the modern world,) are the underlying endeavors at least of my pages.”26 His

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work thus reveals a highly significant proximity to the ancient Greek understanding of ποίησις (henceforth poiēsis), which is a general act of making or creating (ποιεῖν) that includes but is nowise reducible to wordsmithing. Poiēsis can perhaps best be rendered in English as composition. It is an act of scripting and constructing, as is clear for instance in the case of subjects, for it produces personality types, fashions their thoughts and affects, provides them with life narratives, and generates or perpetuates cultural norms. It is in this capacity that Whitman considered writers to be God-​like: “They too in all ages, all lands, have been creators, fashioning, making types of men and women, as Adam and Eve are made in the divine fable.”27 Their archetypes “put the nation in form” and are thus more fundamental than government and the military.28 Poiēsis is, in short, the immanent maker of a people. “The literature, songs, esthetics, etc., of a country,” Whitman claimed, “are of importance principally because they furnish the materials and suggestions of personality for the women and men of that country, and enforce them in a thousand effective ways.”29 In providing life models, poiēsis is capable of putting forth, condoning or encouraging new lifestyles and novel ways of being. As a customs factory, it can develop alternative narratologies that part ways with the stock characters of the past, if it be woman in her traditionally inferior role, the commoner as someone to be disregarded, the worker as a person to be looked down upon, the “black with his woolly head” as a lesser being, or the libertine as someone lecherous.30 Literature is the space for composing new life scripts for a people by recognizing that there is nothing natural or inherently valuable in those that have been inherited. It is the site for the palimpsestic recomposition of a collectivity.

Democracy, literary, and otherwise Whitman’s literary project was explicitly dedicated to singing the praises of American democracy and furthering its cause. Historically, this is both significant and singular. For although contemporary common sense tells us that the United States was founded as a democracy, it was in fact explicitly established as a republic, in direct and forceful opposition to democratic modes of governance.31 In the terminology of the Enlightenment, a republic guaranteed proper governance because it was rooted, among other things, in a clear distinction between those capable of leading and those who needed to be governed. The former were generally adult, white, male, deist, property-​owning

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individuals of European descent, and the latter included everyone else, meaning the overwhelming majority of the population. This small minority, it was generally maintained, was better educated and had more time to dedicate itself to the important tasks of the res publica. Edmund Rudolph’s clarion call, which opened the famous meeting of elite members of the landowning class in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft a federal constitution, clearly expressed the dominant view of the so-​called founding fathers: “Our chief danger arises from the democratic parts of our [state] constitutions. It is a maxim which I hold incontrovertible, that the powers of government exercised by the people swallows up the other branches. None of the [state] constitutions have provided sufficient checks against the democracy.”32 John Adams had the candor to highlight the core of the problem: if the masses were given real political power, they would vote to redistribute land and wealth, thereby destroying the very fabric of society that was the condition of possibility for a functioning republic (economic stratification being what produces the educated leisure class that is purportedly best suited to rule).33 The gradual conversion of the United States from an elitist, oligarchic republic into what is now called a democracy was purely rhetorical. In the 1830s with the election of Andrew Jackson and the rise of more populist forms of political campaigning, the terms democracy and democrat—​which were words “made of rubber,” to borrow Auguste Blanqui’s perspicacious depiction in 1852—​increasingly came to be used to describe a system that itself had not undergone any structural change. Through a powerful and pernicious rebranding campaign, which we must admit from today’s vantage point as having been an utter success, an oligarchic and plutocratic system—​which was also xenophobic, imperialist, racist, and sexist—​was renamed with a term suggesting broad popular participation and support. Blanqui presciently exclaimed:  “Beware of words lacking definition; this is the favorite instrument of schemers . . . Everyone purports to be a democrat, above all the aristocrats.”34 Whitman significantly contributed to this cultural valorization of the term democracy, as well as to the revisionist history regarding the supposed democratic founding of America. Blankly asserting that he would “use the words America and democracy as convertible terms,” he appears to have lacked the incisive critical acumen of the young Arthur Rimbaud.35 The latter’s poem “Democracy,” written as a prosopopoeia invoking the brutal colonial endeavors of the French Republic, stands in stark contrast to Whitman’s work and comparable poems like “For You, O Democracy.”36 Rimbaud carefully

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inverted the colonial schema by identifying the purportedly civilizing forces of democracy as the true sources of savagery and barbarism. In his poem, it is the “civilized” who speak patois, and his words progressively take on a rhythm suggestive of pidgin as they advance in their description of the death march through the colonies, which crushes logical revolts in the name of a ferocious philosophy of unbridled, unrepentant, and unlimited exploitation. This is precisely what the hypocritical flag of democracy strives to dissimulate as it gracelessly traverses otherworldly landscapes in search of consumerist comforts. Slaughtering and extracting profit from everything in its path, this savage Juggernaut deceitfully waves the banner of goodwill as it pretends to pursue the only true way forward by cutting a pitiless swath through all other cultures and civilizations. The tenor of Whitman’s poem, by contrast, is of a decidedly different nature: “For You, O Democracy” Come, I will make the continent indissoluble, I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon, I will make the divine magnetic lands,     With the love of comrades,       With the life-​ long love of comrades. I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,     and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,     I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,     By the love of comrades,        By the manly love of comrades. For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme! For you, for you I am trilling these songs.37

Nevertheless, Whitman’s embrace of democracy was by no means blind, and it was very much oriented toward what was to come, as is clear for instance in his repeated use of the future tense in the poem just quoted, or again in the closing lines of “To a Historian”: “Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be, I project the history of the future.”38 He was vigilantly aware of many of the limitations of the current state of so-​called democracy in his day and age. In particular, he underscored the limitations of a vulgar, soulless democracy driven by material gain and business interests.39 The justification for his own literary project, as well as his call for a new world literature, were precisely in

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terms of the need to transform material democracy into a spiritual democracy capable of begetting new personalities and an unprecedented nationality: What American humanity is most in danger of is an overwhelming prosperity, “business” worldliness, materialism: what is most lacking, east, west, north, south, is a fervid and glowing Nationality and patriotism, cohering all the parts into one. Who may fend that danger, and fill that lack in the future, but a class of loftiest poets?40

He thereby dedicated himself to creating a vernacular poetry of the people. On the one hand, his was verse from the people, insofar as it drew on the common population as a source and inspiration. On the other hand, it was literature for the people by being dedicated to cultivating the democratic spirit of the general populace. Whitman was clearly a trailblazer in singing the praises of commoners and the “lowly,” including farmers, the working class, women, foreigners, children, and even animals and plants. After providing a long list of all of the diverse things he has heard and seen, he concluded in verse 10 of “Salut au Monde”: I see ranks, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, I go among them,    I mix indiscriminately, And I salute all the inhabitants of the earth.41

There is present in his work a certain aesthetics of equality, by which he sought to remake the poem into a “Song of the Open Road” that is for everyone and everything: Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial, The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas’d,     The illiterate person, are not denied; The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar’s tramp,     The drunkard’s stagger, the laughing party of mechanics, The escaped youth, the rich person’s carriage, the fop, the eloping couple, The early market-​man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town,     the return back from the town, They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted, None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.42

He embraced the dirty and the downtrodden, the clamor of modern cities in an effort to be absolutely modern (where he rejoined ranks with a certain Rimbaud43), the banality of the average, social and cultural detritus, the physical

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and the fluid, the vegetal and the mineral. His aesthetics pried open registers of sensibility so that all could—​at least in principle—​be listened to, seen, and felt. He wrote in “To a Common Prostitute”: Be composed—​be at ease with me—​I am Walt Whitman,      liberal and lusty as Nature, Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you, Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and he leaves to rustle for you, Do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you.44

He cultivated, and invited his readers to nurture, an indiscriminate sensorial engagement with—​and celebration of—​what exists. This was not only political and social but cosmological. The poet’s song of self was a song of all, including all living beings, but also the totality of the natural world, and ultimately of the universe. An environmental thinker avant la lettre, Whitman’s poiēsis sought to merge with the expansive process of world making—​of cosmic poiēsis—​out of which it had itself emerged. It was a world composition: Fill me with all the voices of the universe, Endow me with their throbbings, Nature’s also, The tempest, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and dances, Utter, pour in, for I would take them all!45

Political plurivocity: From the aesthetics of equality to imperialist poetics All too often, the cutting-​edge aspects of Whitman’s work have been foregrounded at the expense of paying attention to the complex and variegated terrain of a corpus replete with nuances, counter-​positions, and contradictions. This is partially due to his social reputation, but it is also bound up to a large extent with the political univocity of art, which is the assumption that each individual work or artist expresses a single political position (or a finite set of sequential positions if the artist in question shifted allegiances over time). This is frequently tied, in turn, to what I  have called the talisman complex, or the presumption that the politics of art is akin to a magical force inherent within the work itself, like the superstitious powers imbued in a talisman.46 Each aesthetic artifact presumably has a particular force, which is then judged to be either positive or negative according to a binary normativity. In what follows, I would

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like to demonstrate, via Whitman, the political plurivocity of aesthetics in order to identify the various—​and sometimes conflicting—​dimensions operative in artistic work, as well as to provide space for the multiple voices of interpretation (which are part of the social politicity of aesthetic practices). Without denying the arguments that have been marshaled above, it is important to foreground significant aspects of Whitman’s work that risk being forced underground in order to create the illusion of a univocal political position. Consider, for instance, his statements on the social order and its politico-​ economic coordination of gender roles. On the one hand, he celebrated women and insisted on their absolute centrality in the perpetuation of humanity. He mused as well that democracy’s ideals might be such that women could “become the robust equals, workers, and, it may be, even practical and political deciders with the men.”47 Like Courbet in a different genre, he praised above all woman as the origin of human life: A man is a great thing upon the earth and through eternity,     But every jot of the greatness of man is unfolded out of woman.48

In so doing, he simultaneously identified the feminine with sexual reproduction and maternity, which is a patriarchal motif that tends to situate women at the bottom of a politico-​economic hierarchy where they are isolated in the domestic sphere and the realm of care work. Moreover, it serves to both reduce women to mothers and to lose sight of the simple fact that not all women actually are mothers. It is not surprising, then, to see Whitman occasionally praising women in their traditional social roles of “cooking, washing, child-​nursing, house-​tending.”49 Race is also a case worth scrutinizing for the ways in which it is constitutive of socioeconomic systems of oppression. While some of Whitman’s poetic works celebrated all races and spoke in comprehensive terms, his journalistic writings and personal exchanges were of a decidedly different tone. Political plurivocity often only multiplies when one traverses the variegated terrain of a writer’s entire corpus, particularly when there are different genres or authorial voices involved. Most readers of Whitman’s poetry, for instance, would be surprised to learn that the author of “Song of the Open Road” did not support abolition before the war. When the question was raised, he was also opposed to African-​American suffrage:  “As if we had not strained the voting and digestive calibre of American Democracy to the utmost for the last fifty years with the millions of ignorant foreigners, we have now infused

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a powerful percentage of blacks, with about as much intellect and calibre (in the mass) as so many baboons.”50 In an 1858 article in which he expressed his support for the exclusion of African-​Americans from Oregon, he insisted on the importance of maintaining the “natural” barrier between the races: “Who believes that White and Black can ever amalgamate in America? Or who wishes it to happen? Nature has set an impassable seal against it. Besides, is not America for the Whites? And is it not better so?”51 He reiterated this white supremacist opposition to amalgamation in his discussions with Horace Traubel, clarifying in the starkest possible terms the implacable laws of evolutionary history as he saw them: “The nigger, like the Injun, will be eliminated: it is the law of races, history, what-​ not:  always so far inexorable—​always to be. Someone proves that a superior grade of rats comes and then all the minor rats are cleared out.” I said: “That sounds like Darwin.” “Does it? It sounds like me, too.”52

In passages such as these, the halcyon project of composing an unprecedented people through a new world literature takes on a very different light, revealing the extent to which it presupposes the brutal decomposition of other people. Indeed, Whitman’s attitudes toward Native Americans were clearly guided by the perverted moral compass of manifest destiny.53 According to George Hutchinson and David Drews, “Whitman never felt driven to take up the cause of the multitudes of Native Americans massacred by white soldiers and settlers throughout his poetic career. Instead, he eulogized the idea of the ‘vanishing’ Indian whose positive traits he hoped would be absorbed by white Americans to help distinguish them from Europeans.”54 One must wonder if Whitman’s social Darwinism ultimately supports the uncompromising equation of ruthless social, political, economic, and cultural colonialism: no composition without decomposition. These racist, imperialist, and phallocentric propensities manifested themselves in his discussion of “the appalling dangers of universal suffrage in the United States,” as well as in his descriptions of the true nature of democracy.55 While there is no doubt that he was pro-​democratic, the precise meaning of this term merits serious qualification. He insisted on democracy being pulled between two principles. The “leveling tendencies,” which “bring in stragglers and reduce everything to a dead level,” were clearly pernicious and debilitating in Whitman’s eyes (at least to some extent).56 The doctrines of equality and fraternity, which were accompanied by “a certain liability,” needed to be

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counterbalanced by what he called “American individuality,” as heroic individuals freely rose above the fray in order to give meaning and purpose to the nation.57 Mass democracy of equality was thus juxtaposed to the heroic democracy of free individuality. Although Whitman had described, earlier in Democratic Vistas, these two tendencies as paradoxically codependent,58 it is certainly arguable that his politics of individual prominence took precedence in international relations. Far from advocating for a worldwide equality of peoples and cultures, he had the conviction that the world needed a heroic country to serve as the vanguard: “the individuality of one nation must then, as always, lead the world. Can there be any doubt who the leader ought to be?”59 The answer to this rhetorical question was obviously America. Indeed, in effusive acts of jingoism, he described the “American-​born populace” as “the peaceablest and most good-​natured race in the world, and the most personally independent and intelligent.”60 This is not only a problematic value judgment, to say the least; it is part of a teleological historical narrative inscribed within the colonial doctrine of manifest destiny. Lauding capitalist expansion and exuding an irrepressible admiration for the material gains of the United States, he unflinchingly asserted: The triumphant future of their business, geographic and productive departments, on larger scales and in more varieties than ever, is certain. In those respects the republic must soon (if she does not already) outstrip all examples hitherto afforded, and dominate the world.61

The self-​declared bard of democracy, in passages such as these, lent his voice to ardent nationalism and colonial imperialism, according to which one nation, headed by white males of European descent, was to conquer the globe. Indeed, the worldwide spread of so-​called democracy was described in “Years of the Modern” as the freedom-​seeking quest of “average man” to break down the borders of old aristocracies via capitalist expansion: His daring foot is on land and sea everywhere,     he colonizes the Pacific, the archipelagoes, With the steamship, the electric telegraph, the newspaper,     the wholesale engines of war, With these and the world-​spreading factories     he interlinks all geography, all lands.62

The political plurivocity animating Whitman’s work comes to a head in the key but ambiguous expression he used to describe his overall project: new world

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literature. On the one hand, this could be taken to mean a new literature of the world, which would be open to other cultures. It would be a literature of, by, and for the globe as a whole, which would appear to be in harmony with Whitman’s egalitarian cosmology. On the other hand, however, it could signify the literature of the new world, meaning American literature. Rather than an international, egalitarian poiēsis, this literature would manifest the individuality and native expression necessary to heroically lead the world as a whole through a free, national poiēsis.63 In capitalizing the expression as New World literature, Whitman appears to have resolved this ambiguity by specifying that what he had in mind was American literature. However, since this body of writing was purportedly destined to become the leader of world literature in general, this ultimately suggests that the expression “New World literature” actually synthesizes these first two meanings: the literature of the New World is the literature for a new world. It is New World Literature. It was destined to heroically lead the charge by making its literature into a global art form. This imperialist poetics was the cultural supplement to colonial politics: one national literary heritage was to impose itself on all others through the heroic force of its individuality, thereby creating an unprecedented world poiēsis by composing the world in its own image.64 If Whitman strived to instigate a poetic revolution that would serve as the cultural forge of a new people, this was but one dimension of his work. It was intertwined—​and partially in tension—​with other dimensions, including his contribution to democratic theodicy and American manifest destiny, his penchant in certain writings for patriarchal phallocentrism and racism, as well as his elaboration of an imperial poetics that sought to make all other nations’ literature orbit around his own in a new world cultural empire.

Notes 1 Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: The Modern Library, n.d.), 5; Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas and Other Papers (Amsterdam: Fredonia Books, 2002), 4. In what follows, I will concentrate primarily on these two books. 2 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 62. 3 See ibid., 132. 4 Ibid., 62.

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5 Ibid., 62. 6 Ibid., 137. 7 Whitman announced what we might consider his principle of historical poetics in Good-​Bye My Fancy: “No great poem or other literary or artistic work of any scope, old or new, can be essentially consider’d without weighing first the age, politics (or want of politics) and aim, visible forms, unseen soul, and current times, out of the midst of which it rises and is formulated” (Walt Whitman, Complete Poetry and Collected Prose [New York: The Library of America, 1982], 1249). 8 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 70. 9 Ibid., 94. 10 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 241. 11 On this point, see Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, trans. Keith Tribe (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004) and François Hartog, Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time, trans. Saskia Brown (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016). 12 The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 2322–​3. 13 See, for instance, Whitman’s description of Leaves of Grass in Democratic Vistas (86–​7), as well as the section of Specimen Days entitled “The Real War Will Never Get in the Books” (Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, 778–​9). Literature’s ability to capture some of what is lost in the narratives of history is a theme that links Whitman’s work to a literature-​qua-​micro-​history lineage, which includes prominent figures such as Victor Hugo and Leo Tolstoy. In Leaves of Grass, he further develops a metaphysical claim regarding the power of poetry. Whereas history is dependent upon material records, poetry indiscriminately bears the trace, like nature itself, of everything that has happened. “Not a mark, not a record remains—​and yet all remains,” he wrote in “Unnamed Lands” (Leaves of Grass, 294). Poetry archives the history of the forgotten by being the spiritual bearer of an entire cultural heritage. 14 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 72. 15 In Democratic Vistas, Whitman wrote: “what Herder taught to the young Goethe, that really great poetry is always (like the Homeric or Biblical canticles) the result of a national spirit, and not the privilege of a polished and select few; second, that the strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung” (139). 16 J. M. Bernstein, ed., Classic and Romantic German Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 186. 17 See Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 106. 18 Jason Frank has cogently elucidated how Whitman envisioned the people as both a poetic construction and “a poetic, world-​making power”: “Whitman’s invocation

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of the people is . . . sublimely autopoetic rather than autonomic; the people are at once the inexhaustible inspiration and the effect of poetic mediation. Through his poetry, Whitman claimed to sing the multitudinous diversity of the vox populi back to the people themselves, thereby enhancing their latent poetic capacity and aesthetically enabling a radical democratic politics of collective revision” (“Aesthetic Democracy: Walt Whitman and the Poetry of the People,” The Review of Politics 69.3 [2007], 403–​4). 19 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 5. 20 See Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 147–​8: “For the first time in history, a great, aggregated, real PEOPLE, worthy the name, and made of develop’d heroic individuals, both sexes—​is America’s principal, perhaps only, reason for being. If ever accomplish’d, it will be at least as much, (I lately think, doubly as much,) the result of fitting and democratic sociologies, literatures and arts—​if we ever get them—​as of our democratic politic.” 21 Whitman writes that “until the United States have just such definite and native expressers in the highest artistic fields, their mere political, geographical, wealth-​ forming, and even intellectual eminence, however astonishing and predominant, will constitute but a more and more expanded and well-​appointed body, and perhaps brain, with little or no soul” (Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, 1014). 22 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 106. 23 In this vein, he wrote that a new class of native authors, literatuses, was needed, “affecting politics far more than the popular superficial suffrage” (Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 5). 24 Ibid., 88. 25 Ibid., 140. See also ibid., 8. 26 Ibid., 138. “No one,” he affirmed, “will get at my verses who insists upon viewing them as a literary performance, or attempt at such performance, or as aiming mainly toward art or aestheticism” (138). 27 Ibid., 39. 28 Ibid., 55. 29 Ibid., 39. 30 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 118. 31 I have made this argument in detail in Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017). 32 Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. 1 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987), 26–​7. 33 See John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, vol. 6 (Boston: Charles

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C. Little and James Brown, 1851), 8–​9. Alexander Hamilton made very similar comments at the Philadelphia Convention (see Max Farrand, The Records, 299). 34 Auguste Blanqui, “Lettre à Maillard,” June 6, 1852, Textes choisis (Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1971), 131. 35 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 3. Stephen John Mack has cogently captured Whitman’s contribution to what I proposed to call “democratic theodicy” in Counter-History of the Present: “the poet effectively insulated democracy from criticism by redefining it as a program for personal, cultural, and spiritual reform. For Whitman, democracy became less a political process than an interrelated set of educative practices requiring the stewardship of enlightened democratic poets. And since its fruition was forever in the future, it could not be held accountable for the maladies it exists to remedy. So, while he continues to insist that democracy and America are synonyms, Whitman’s angst about the real America has forced him to separate it categorically from the ‘theory’ it purports to realize” (“Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas: The Original Edition in Facsimile, ed. Ed Folsom [review],” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 28.4 (2011): 211). 36 See Arthur Rimbaud, Œuvres complètes, ed. Antoine Adam (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1972), 153–​4; Arthur Rimbaud, Collected Poems (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 309 (translation slightly modified): Démocratie “Le drapeau va au paysage immonde, et notre patois étouffe le tambour. “Aux centres nous alimenterons la plus cynique prostitution. Nous massacrerons les révoltes logiques. “Aux pays poivrés et détrempés!–​au service des plus monstrueuses exploitations industrielles ou militaires. “Au revoir ici, n’importe où. Conscrits du bon vouloir, nous aurons la philosophie féroce; ignorants pour la science, roués pour le confort; la crevaison pour le monde qui va. C’est la vraie marche. En avant, route!” Democracy “The flag moves through a disgusting landscape, and our patois drowns out the drum. In the interior, we shall fuel the most cynical prostitution. We shall massacre every revolt which makes sense. Hello, sodden lands of spices!–​–​serving the most monstrous industrial or military exploitation. Goodbye to here, anywhere will do. Conscripts of good will, our philosophy will be ferocious; knowing nothing about science, everything about comforts; the world and its ways can go hang. This is the true way forward. Quick march!”

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37 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 95–​6. 38 Ibid., 5. 39 See, for instance, Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 12: “in business, (this all-​devouring modern word, business,) the one sole object is, by any means, pecuniary gain. The magician’s serpent in the fable ate up all the other serpents; and money-​making is our magician’s serpent, remaining to-​day sole master of the field.” 40 Ibid., 151. 41 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 114. 42 Ibid., 118. 43 See Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 99. 44 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 304. 45 Ibid., 320. 46 See Gabriel Rockhill, Radical History & Politics of Art (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 47 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 35. 48 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 307. 49 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 49. 50 Prose Works, 1892, ed. Floyd Stovall, vol. 2 (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 762. According to Stephen John Mack, this passage was removed from Democratic Vistas (see page 212 of his review of Folsom’s edition of this work). Paul H. Outka has argued that Whitman’s racism only deepened over time and as he aged (see “Whitman and Race (‘He’s Queer, He’s Unclear, Get Used to It’),” Journal of American Studies 36.2 (2002): 293–​318). 51 I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times by Walt Whitman, eds. Emory Holloway and Vernolian Schwarz (New York: AMS Press, 1966), 90. It is true that he quickly adds the following qualification, which nonetheless remains highly problematic: “Yet we believe there is enough material in the colored race, if they were in some secure and ample part of the earth, where they would have a chance to develop themselves, to gradually form a race, a nation that would take no mean rank among the peoples of the world” (90). 52 Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, vol. 2 (Norwood: The Plimpton Press, 1915),283. A long footnote details Whitman’s embrace of the progressive narrative of providential history (see Whitman, Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, 1027–​9). 53 See Ed Folsom, “Native Americans [Indians],” in J. R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). 54 George Hutchinson and David Drews, “Racial Attitudes,” in J. R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia.

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55 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 2. 56 Ibid., 134. “Democracy,” he claimed, “looks with suspicious, ill-​satisfied eye upon the very poor, the ignorant, and on those out of business” (29). 57 Ibid., 134. 58 Ibid., 38. 59 Ibid., 67. 60 Ibid., 21. 61 Ibid., 3. See also Ibid., 169: “An enlarged general superior humanity, (partly indeed resulting from those,) we are to build. European, Asiatic greatness are in the past. Vaster and subtler, America, combining, justifying the past, yet works for a grander future, in living democratic forms.” 62 Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 381. 63 Whitman, Democratic Vistas, 62. 64 This is not to deny, of course, that Whitman occasionally provided a more benevolent and egalitarian tonality to his conceptualization of world literature. “My dearest dream,” he wrote for instance in a letter endorsing the Russian translation of Leaves of Grass, “is for internationality of poems and poets, binding the lands of the earth closer than all treaties and diplomacy” (Ibid., 175). Also see this statement: “I would inaugurate from America, for this purpose, new formulas—​ international poems…I have thought that both in patriotism and song…we have adhered too long to petty limits, and that the time has come to enfold the world” (Complete Poetry and Collected Prose, 1025). The precise meaning of “enfolding the world” nonetheless remains open to debate, of course, and recalls the double-​ edged expression “new world literature.”

Works cited Adams, John. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations. Vol. 6. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851. Aristotle. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Vol. 2. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. Bernstein, J. M., ed. Classic and Romantic German Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Blanqui, Auguste. “Lettre à Maillard.” June 6, 1852. Textes choisis. Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1971. Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 1. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987.

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Folsom, Ed. “Native Americans [Indians].” Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia. Eds. J. R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. Frank, Jason. “Aesthetic Democracy: Walt Whitman and the Poetry of the People.” The Review of Politics 69.3 (2007): 402–​30. Hartog, François. Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time. Trans. Saskia Brown. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. Holloway, Emory and Vernolian Schwarz, eds. I Sit and Look Out: Editorials from the Brooklyn Daily Times by Walt Whitman. New York: AMS Press, 1966. Hutchinson, George and David Drews. “Racial Attitudes.” In Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia. Eds. J. R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998. Koselleck, Reinhart. Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. Trans. Keith Tribe. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Mack, Stephen John. Prose Works, 1892. Vol. 2. Ed. Floyd Stovall. New York: New York University Press, 1964. Mack, Stephen John. “Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas: The Original Edition in Facsimile, Ed. Ed Folsom [review].” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 28.4 (2011): 211–​13. Outka, Paul H. “Whitman and Race (‘He’s Queer, He’s Unclear, Get Used to It’).” Journal of American Studies 36.2 (2002): 293–​318. Rimbaud, Arthur. Collected Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972. Rimbaud, Arthur. Œuvres completes. Ed. Antoine Adam. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1972. Rockhill, Gabriel. Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. Rockhill, Gabriel. Radical History & Politics of Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. 2. Norwood: The Plimpton Press, 1915. Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. New York: The Library of America, 1982. Whitman, Walt. Democratic Vistas and Other Papers. Amsterdam: Fredonia Books, 2002. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. New York: The Modern Library, n.d.

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Experience to Experiment, Signs to Signals: Toward Flusser’s New World Aaron Jaffe

Globalization takes place only in capital and data. All the rest is damage control. Gayatri Spivak1 As Karl Rossmann, a poor boy of sixteen who had been packed off to America by his parents because a servant girl had seduced him and got herself a child by him, stood on the liner slowly entering the harbor of New York, a sudden burst of sunshine seemed to illumine the Statue of Liberty, so that he saw it in a new light, although he had sighted it long before. The arm with the sword rose up as if newly stretched aloft, and round the figure blew the free winds of heaven. “So high,” he said to himself, forgetting to disembark and was gradually edged to the very rail by the swelling throng of porters. Franz Kafka2 This was the first Presidential Inauguration that the country saw on high-​definition TV. I don’t care if Trump is a reality TV star who isn’t politically correct. The Inauguration was great television, beautifully photographed and edited, and Washington DC looked magnificent. Melania was gorgeous and Jackie Evancho sang beautifully. Trump’s speech sounds like it could have been delivered by Jeff Daniels in “Independence Day.” The purpose of the Inaugural speech is to make people feel great about America, and it worked for me. I know he can’t

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accomplish half of what he said he would do. But if he doesn’t deserve respect then neither does a union boss who advocates for school funding when all of the money will go to teacher pensions. Matthew from Pasadena in the comments section of the New York Times

Kafka’s Amerika begins aboard a transatlantic ocean liner entering New York harbor, as the protagonist Karl Rossmann experiences a puzzling view of the Statue of Liberty. For some reason, the de facto symbol of America is different. Her raised arm juts a sword into the sky. Looming over an anxious arrival, the Statue styled originally as the Modern Colossus seems in Kafka’s version, burnished sword at the ready, to transmit a signal about a new monstrosity of administrative authority. Under this Variant Colossus, then, at the verges of American terra firma, all of yesterday’s knowledge becomes hearsay, and counted among this hearsay is the American sign par excellence of Liberty Illuminating the World itself. Instead of her famous torch—​tablets of law, broken chains, scales of justice, a satchel of nuclear launch codes, or any equipment, for that matter—​the arm heaves a flaming sword upwards (like the one from Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force). A screaming comes across the sky . . . An inevitable sign, as Roland Barthes might say, the sword cuts parabolically into the stratosphere prefiguring the gigantic scissors Claes Oldenburg will later envision for the Washington Mall between the Lincoln memorial and the Capitol building.3 Pharos becoming paper shredder, sharp edges underscore not just that there are many versions of America—​diverse opinions about the meaning of a particular symbol—​but also that what is apprehended from afar is a wide-​reaching circumference of America’s biopolitical omnia potenta. Whether pointing inward toward the American hinterland or outward back out to sea, this much is clear about the sword. Red tape will be cut. Heads will roll. Indeed, Oldenburg’s take on the Variant Colossus for Liberty Island, as an enormous desk fan, fan blades constantly churning, pushes the ships back out to sea, and wrecking them in an enormous pile near Ellis Island.4 Instead of a beacon, this Colossus sends out warnings to newcomers: they will face hardships.5 Similarly, Kafka’s Liberty, imagined as gigantic border guard, functions also as monstrous valve for extreme vetting into America, the proper noun, the monstrous signifier of precarious exceptionalism in which people will have old national attachments cut and then at last disappear.

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The most obvious meaning for a national monument is to promote exceptional feelings about a nation. All nations are unexceptional in this way. Matthew from Pasadena correctly intuits an appeal to authority in a generic sense. True for the Commander in Chief and for the Union Boss, it has less to do with honoring everything America than being insulated inside retropresentist obedience amid an explosion of national signs. How did it get so high? For an Oldenburg monument, picture a super-​sized aerosol can pushing out plasticized panegyric like silly string, the kinds of “high sounding exclamations” familiar from political pep rallies in disaster movies. A former model stands by mutely on the plinth, gorgeously clothed; a recent winner of a televised singing contest awaits a cue to perform the patriotic hymn; air force jets streak far overhead.6 For Vilém Flusser—​and, for Kafka as well, perhaps—​this kind of scene executes an all-​too-​ familiar program of nationalism qua kitsch—​“lust elevated to the level of social reality.”7 Ungrounded in any one nation, the migrant has a different relation to all the surface signs. The fictional event—​the sudden shaft of light, the phenomenonal cut—​transmits a signal, a surprise disclosure at the very moment of an initial glance, orientation mediated by a landmark, an ominous message about an all-​too-​possible reality, gauged from afar. At a distance, Kafka, who never visited America himself, gets the communiqué only from hearsay, from postcards, perhaps, from pictures on stamps on letters from friends, or from family members who emigrated. Still, there can be no doubt that Liberty Illuminating the World broadcasts a certain telematic signal to him carrying particular super-​sized bromides. Thinking with Kafka, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi imagines Karl R. as an alternate version of Kafka himself—​a younger brother, perhaps, receptive to the signals from America.8 The variant K., who never was, is more adaptable and eager to please, a better escape-​artist, with a heartier stomach, more robust lungs, and a better singing voice. Unlike the actual Kafka, this one finds the escape hatch out of Central Europe into a “land of open pathways and immensely charted skies that the seduction of being what one was not in the beginning holds the most power.”9 For those who arrive, the bottom falls out. The Colossus above, following Vilém Flusser, resembles Kafka’s Administrative God. The Higher-​up, “[a]‌pathetic and disinterested in our fate,” “pedantic, over-​organized, ridiculously incompetent, sick and tired of himself is nothing other than the increasing accumulation of man’s reflection on nothingness,” the administrative Colossus raises the generalized anxiety about nothingness to “gigantic proportions,” like the giant adenoid in Gravity’s Rainbow.10 The Administrative God is a God of platforms—​format, bureaucratic technicity,

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dimensionality: “the apathetic higher powers show their indifference towards us when they play with our lives absurdly and regardless of rules—​or, we might say, idiotically.”11 If nothing else, Karl R., the would-​be migrant, is an avant-​garde receiver for indifferent, absurd, and idiotic information—​noise, feedback, signals—​which are, in Flusser’s word, always “premature,” “distorted and unconvincing.”12 (This is why, Flusser writes, the rest of us are in a new world and “waiting for Kafka.”) Indeed, Karl R. closely resembles the actual, real-​life Vilém F., the same peripatetic Jewish, Czech-​born Brazilian media theorist who fled the Nazis in the late 1930s and spent at least some of his time in Brazil thinking about “waiting for Kafka” and these very themes, writing in English as well as German, Portuguese, and French, and trying to crack open the door—​cut through the skies—​into the North American academic world. Significantly, his writing of the mid-​1960s is preoccupied with the precarious exceptionalism of nationality, the hazardous existence of the migrant, the mutating effects of conflicting signals, media, and telematics. For Flusser, the disorienting experiences of the migrant—​the receiver of premature, distorted, and unconvincing information—​ register feedback about national signification from loss of grounding, different signal to noise ratios, and conflicting frequencies that yield potential for critical experimentalism. The troubles with the term America for criticism are familiar. Not just a sobriquet for one country—​it also designates various pluralities, two contiguous continents, and proximate lands. With particular reference to its tendentious place in Flusser’s career, my chapter explores the role of America in the genesis of his ideas of experience and migrancy. The very status of nationality—​ American or otherwise—​is a reified aesthetic frame rebuked by the instable experiences of the migrant who shows the notion that the signifiers of national values are plastic, subject to disorienting re-​signification, available for possible variation as well as pre-​programmed for data-​throughput and colossal, monstrous projections. Somewhere beneath the skin of Liberty—​inside the folds of the drape—​is the Eiffel Tower, or Roland Barthes’s interpretation of it. Gustave Eiffel himself did in fact also design the real Statue of Liberty’s support structure. For Barthes, the Eiffel Tower is a Semiotic Colossus that surpasses any attempt to restrict its meaning—​including any conventional national meaning. It functions as the ultimate sign. Touching every upward glance, its form becomes the supreme specimen, recognizable everywhere—​Paris, France, the World—​abundant with associations and with potential meanings. A gigantic monument to signification

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as such, the Tower taps into the “general human image-​repertoire,” Barthes writes: its simple, primary shape confers upon it the vocation of an infinite cipher: in turn and according to the appeals of our imagination, the symbol of Paris, of modernity, of communication, of science or of the nineteenth century, rocket, stem, derrick, phallus, lightning rod or insect, confronting the great itineraries of our dreams, it is the inevitable sign; just as there is no Parisian glance which is not compelled to encounter it, there is no fantasy which fails, sooner or later, to acknowledge its form and to be nourished by it; pick up a pencil and let your hand, in other words your thoughts, wander, and it is often the Tower which will appear, reduced to that simple line whose sole mythic function is to join, as the poet says, base and summit, or again, earth and heaven.13

For Barthes, in a sense, semiotic universalism comes with a particular French twist, tinged with the emancipatory language of its enlightenment discourse and its revolutionary glancing blow for universal emancipation. A lightning bolt that comes to the ground, infinite and inevitable, the Eiffel Tower is the sign that is also a signal. It stands for an amiable semiotic voyage out, the liberating powers radiating modernity’s benefits outward in the form of pluripotent signification. Even as the insectile exoskeleton—​the last, weirdest, most inhuman association Barthes suggests—​the Eiffel Tower signals a power station for a new telematics, condensing and transmitting biomechanical life-​force, as if the very engineered character of the wrought iron truss-​work seethes raw, swarming biopower. “The Tower,” he writes, “ultimately reunites with the essential function of all major human sites: autarchy; the Tower can live on itself: one can dream there, eat there, observe there, understand there, marvel there, shop there; as on an ocean liner (another mythic object that sets children dreaming), one can feel oneself cut off from the world and yet the owner of a world.”14 In terms of its association with any one nation-​state (i.e., France), the Eiffel Tower’s infinitude calls forth both a way in and a way out. It is both the ladder and the fire escape. Insofar as the scaffolding collapses being looked upon and being on the lookout, the Eiffel Tower inevitably evokes Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, the famously unbuilt tribunal to internationalism, manned by Lenin, fashioned to look out for an alternative beyond nationalisms into the universe of alternative affective platforms. Yet, even if its appeals are autarchic not autocratic, there is something imperious in such messages, too.

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Look upon an image of the infrastructure of the Statue of Liberty—​diagrams of its inner skeletal structure, photographs of its girders and undercarriage—​ the Eiffel Tower exists inevitably and infinitely there, too. Invisible, inside the stretched copper skin of the inevitably and infinitely American symbol, one detects a specific semiotic provenance from elsewhere, the gift from French friends, commemorative emancipatory associations and expectations, and so on. The infrastructure recalls Barthes’s point about the inevitability of more signification. Liberty means more than the meanings most obviously attached to it; more than its association with American-​style liberty, for one, the self-​applied exceptionalism of a national case, the beacon-​lure for tourist-​migrants; more than economic opportunity or political sanctuary for desperate multitudes; more than a hidden antennae for transmitting and receiving potential messages. The data invites doubt not dogma. More than this, too. Exhibited, the hidden infrastructure points to modernity as an unfinished disorientation platform. Doubt on a pedestal. Turning the Statue back into the Tower, one might revise Barthes further: under the folds of the signifier—​in its hidden infrastructure—​ exist uncertainties, variants, possibilities, other signals. The Variant Colossus is at once Modern, Semiotic, and Variable. Flusser himself mentions the Eiffel Tower in his essay on Landmarks, discussing the Landmark not as a sign ready-​made for discourse but as a potential signal for orientation in the context of the way travel guides rate sights.15 Travel guides, he notes, promote a binary form of accounting in which most things about a given place do not rate as sightworthy and thus do not get mentioned. What is the real place except the invisible ubiquity of everything omitted by a travel guide. What is worth seeing, Flusser notes—​the Eiffel Tower in France, Cristo Redentor in Brazil, the Statue of Liberty in the United States, and so on—​ is coded in terms of its worthiness to be looked upon and ranked accordingly with stars. Finding one’s way into this world gives a somewhat banal approximation of what Flusser means elsewhere when he describes the universe of technical images as pathways of disorientation: The disappointment we currently experience in every explanation, interpretation, and reading of the world (the discovery that there is nothing behind the world to be discovered) leads to a revolutionary new attitude toward the world. Disappointed, we stop bending, straighten ourselves up, and stretch out our arms against the world to point an index finger at it. From now on, all pointers, signs, traffic signals, and indicators point eccentrically away from us, and

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nothing more points toward us. From now on, we are the ones who project meaning on the world. And technical images are such projections.16

The passage among starred sights has no relation to actual finding aids but instead produces and is produced by a diagrammatic constellation of other starry sights. Karl R.’s disappearance in America anticipates precisely this kind of passage, a journey that deposits him, in effect, at the end of the line into an advertising poster for the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. The first stop in an unfamiliar country begins and ends at the postcard rack from which one intuits what not to see—​what sights are not worthy of experience and consequently are forever invisible. Flusser calls this practice the Guillotine method, because it cuts the head off everything not worth seeing. Through it, one capitulates to the supreme capability of the technical image.17 The value of being looked at exemplified in the guide-​ book model executes—​in the sense of the guillotine level or the command line of a computer program. It decapitates the intellectual-​experiential dimension of orientation (orientation through first-​ order, discovery-​ grade mapping) and communicates by means of rankings or ratings to receivers that mislead them into a pseudo-​evaluative trance state. Tellingly, his reference is another modern colossus closely associated with the trance state of nationality (built in collaboration with another French engineer), namely, Christ the Redeemer on Mount Corcovado overlooking Rio, Brazil, South America, where Flusser landed in 1940: It is impossible to be too radical where [the image of the landmark] is concerned. Heads roll. First, it becomes necessary to review one’s view of picture post cards. And then one’s view of Rio. And so on: one must review one’s view of the statue on Corcovado, and of the motive which has led to the construction of the statue. In another direction one must review one’s views on photographing. In yet another direction one’s views on the origins of views (on “opinion formation”). And possibly even must one review one’s view on Salvation which the Savior means which the statue means which the picture postcard means which [the travel guide/​the tourism leader] photo means . . . In sum: if looked at carefully, that photo undermines all our views based on any authority of any kind, and nobody can know where this might lead to. It may even lead one to the extraordinary painful situation, in which one is forced to form one’s views without any leader. Which of course one may then fix of picture post cards of one’s own making.18

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Flusser writes against the travel guide principle, against the authority ascribed to Landmarks by a Reiseführer, for example—​the German word for travel guide is translated more concretely as travel leader. Approaching a Semiotic Colossus, in Flusser’s account, as anything besides a Landmark is disorientating. The approach presents a kind of asymptotic, infinite regression into mise en abîme, tantamount to losing one’s way in a labyrinth of signs and associations. The supposed inherent meaning that the Landmark stands for—​in the case of Brazil and Cristo Redentor that his outstretched arms promise to “lift the teeming millions who live there towards Salvation”—​is not readily accessible at first but comes last, if at all. Indeed, if looked at critically enough, Flusser suggests, even these ends are dubious, the certitude of all viewpoints start to sound suspicious.19 One travels to the Landmark not to look at it—​not to be touched by the sign that touches all—​but to confirm the redundancy of the dataset: the view from above, the view from history, the patriotic view, the religious view, and so on. Turning from Flusser’s Brazil to Kafka’s America, the migrant confronts the sudden visibility of a Nation-​State through its ultimate Landmark as an extraordinarily painful situation. The upward glance upon a variant Liberty with her counterfactual sword gives an alternative picture of a particular nation and the fact of variability discloses the nation-​state as a container of themes. Each contingent meaning—​though potent in particular ways—​carries varying degrees of efficacy and value when viewed at a distance. Each nation-​state comes with a different colossus of evitable and finite signals, and only the migrant punctuates the ubiquitous invisibility with questions. And, in this sense, the question mark remains paradigmatically “the mark of our times,” and, to borrow from Marshall McLuhan, it stands for a generalized, “revulsion against imposed patterns.”20 Anke K. Finger, Rainer Guldin, and Gustavo Bernardo write of the key role the question mark plays in Flusser’s thought.21 Flusser even devotes a short essay to the mark as a turn signal of sorts at the level of sentence punctuation. Connected, perhaps, to his ideas about landmarks, too, the question mark supplies a monumental form for casting doubt for Flusser. Recalling Karl R.’s apprehension of a Variant Liberty, they extrapolate that “[t]‌he question mark has perhaps taken on greater significance than the cross, than the hammer and sickle, than the torch of the Statue of Liberty, because it points to the atmosphere that encloses us. It is an atmosphere of suspicion, of exploration, and of doubt.”22 *** The three key words of this collection—​American World Literature—​do not appear frequently in the Flusser lexicon, yet Flusser, the perpetually unsettled,

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philosophically oriented writer, who lived from 1920 till 1991, might be an ideal exemplar for a particular form of American World Literature understood as the nexus of three distinct conceptual problems. What I have in mind for American World Literature is less a special patriotic container—​and even less a market for some worthy literary objects in an age of US-​American hegemony—​and more three monumental question marks, a belated sense of need for methodological orientations for a kind of mobile “theory auteur,” or wayward literatus, “in a plastic and assimilable age,” to borrow Flusserian language.23 Vilém Flusser is not very well known in the Anglophone world outside some quarters of Art and Media Studies. Yet, he belongs to a famous generation of literary drift—​from the old world to the new, into the speculative space of Theory—​exemplified by Paul de Man. Theory might be thought of as a name for the fitful, wayward, belated transmission of media thinking across national frontiers in second modernity. But, I will get to the comparison and this point a bit later. American World Literature—​following the Flusserian variant—​is a sort of constellation of the long now as if thrown onto a hemispheric ceiling by a planetarium projector. So moving from the inside out: First, World is foremost a matter of telematics and geophysical dis/​orientation not geopolitical accident. Second, perhaps the most difficult issue for this seminar and for Flusser as well: literature naming a critical problem of value around the necessity of reading and writing in post-​history, which is to say the future. Third, America is a kind of vexing conceptual landmark for Flusser, which he connects gesturally to the gluttonous contiguity of life-support on an endless information feed, conceiving of life, as de Man puts it, “not just in biological but [also] in temporal terms as the [special] ability to forget whatever precedes a present situation.”24 As de Man wrote of literature and modernity and history, it is not at all clear that literature and American and world are in any way compatible concepts.25 The troubles with the term American are familiar. To make a somewhat stale point, it is not a sobriquet for just one political entity, the United States, but also designates various pluralities on two contiguous continents and various proximate lands. A hemisphere, half a world brain, the word designates a force field of reception—​a form of quasi-​nationalism attached to semi-​formed, even inchoate feelings. Flusser, who spent much of his three decades in Brazil writing in English and trying to crack open the door of the North American academic world, was suspicious of nationalist hypostasis in all forms—​and was particularly wary of the idea of nationalism in the United States. Despite its “many fluttering flags” and often “virulent” strains of patriotism, “the North

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American continent,” he writes in The History of the Devil, “is the only place on Earth which has been spared nationalism strictu senso.”26 This book—​his Portuguese opus—​is at once a philosophical fable and a kind of theoretical novel about the principle of history, told via the seven deadly sins, and the injunction to move beyond the impasses of ontology into methodological layers of a multiply-​stratified present. Nationalism, for Flusser, is little more than displaced lust:  “lust elevated to the level of social reality,” he calls it; a sublimated romantic discourse for organizing collectivity through an unthinking relation to the sham, well-​worn fixities of blood and soil.27 Schools serve as incubators for softening humans into habitual stupidities in literature and all other things, as if insulating them in warm blankets: “the history of humanity is . . . reduced to a monotonous series of fights between peoples, intercalated by brief proofs of superiority of our own people, or by events that prove how our people, in their innocence have been exploited.”28 By midcentury, writes Flusser, the explosion is past, but “the flakes of nationalism fall like radioactive ashes of the burning Earth.”29 Flusser likens what he sees across the Americas to gluttony or its negative image, hunger—​the “Americanization of the world” provides a format that overwhelms access by swallowing everything and spewing techne everywhere: “inhabitants . . . so preoccupied devouring their products that their machines spill out [and they] don’t have the opportunity to open their mouths to sing [proper] patriotic hymns in the praise of the people.”30 The lust for nationalisms belongs to a decaying past—​prettified kitsch, lackluster hymns and parades; the gluttony of new continent spanning things belonging to the future: “the furious advance of technology will soon catch up with the population’s growth curve, and transform material misery into a mental misery of boredom and nausea,” he writes.31 Before the authoritarian turn of the late sixties, Brazil seemed to Flusser like a place full of potentialities, ready for new non-​Eurocentric codes and primed for a search for new forms of “communications theory,” the literary-​theoretical aspect of which he explicitly opposes to natural sciences. It is, instead, “concerned with the human being’s unnatural aspects.” Making a prescient connection, developed elsewhere by Lyotard and more recently by Reza Negarestani, Flusser notes that “the American term humanities [best] underscores that the human being is an unnatural animal.”32 Only a non-​native ear like Flusser’s, perhaps, catches the weird pluralities that the suffix -​ities calls forth from human/​ humanity/​humanism in this peculiar Americanism (as idiosyncratic as Theory, in its own way).

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In his intellectual biography, written in German as Flusser left Brazil in 1972 for France, Flusser remembers fleeing the gas chambers thirty years before and throwing himself into dialogical project greedy for “new, humane and unprejudiced” orientations to the inhuman: searching for “a secret code [for] a future Brazilian heimat [that transforms] adventure into habit [and after the] hallowings of habit [into a residue that] remain[s]‌charged with excitement.”33 The network, once woven, he hoped, would remain open: “For example, [a] philosophical institute in which Italian students of Croce, German Heidegger scholars, Portuguese followers of Ortega, Jewish positivists from Eastern Europe, Belgian Catholics, and Anglo-​Saxon pragmatists took part had to open itself up to Japanese students of Zen Buddhism, a Lebanese mystic, and a Chinese literary scholar, and it had to make room for a Talmudist from Western Europe as well.”34 He imagined taking part in a decades-​long project, a second modernism, that would “attempt to synthesize a Brazilian culture out of a mixture of Western and Eastern European, African, East Asian, and Indian cultural elements.”35 According to Flusser’s Atlas, the world—​understood as the earth’s flattened surface—​has become increasingly uncanny. You cannot “feel at home in any of [its] projections,” he writes. In effect, actual maps work like Google Earth long before that was a technical possibility.36 What you see, he writes, is “not history [marked as lines] but history hacked into chunks. Rather than showing a film, a sequence of photographs was presented. It offered not a procedural but a quantified view. The flow of history became a mass of grains of sand.”37 It was already “impossible to capture the connections between geographically separate regions.”38 Flusser’s history of the devil contrasts this weak, almost skin-​like atlas—​ and any affirmative commandment to describe superficial matter upon it (!) —​with more deeply situated layers for methodological speculation. At once artificial construct and natural feature, Flusserian multidimensional space is material media topology, a strong mediator extending far away in space and way back in time. Characteristically, Flusser pushes to the bottom rather than the top: The subterranean cave, for example, functions as a paleo-​dwelling place and ground-​ zero for the art world; the arena works as a site for the staging of personae before audiences seated on steps that resemble strata cut into the earth; the table, outside the theater, is not only the place where assorted business gets brokered but also alludes to another interface of geophysical mediation, the subterranean water-​table and hidden conduits for sedimented drift. These stratigraphic tropes, in effect, serve as fossilized technical images that give objective, inhuman character to aesthetic agencies over epochal timespans. Technical images, he writes,

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“liberate their receivers by magic from the necessity of thinking conceptually, at the same time replacing historical consciousness [and] the ability to think conceptually” with programs.39 *** Against cultura experimentalis (Siegfried Zielinski’s coinage for the salutary form of life as experimental-​aesthetic practice after media) going deeper today often means reading less or sometimes nothing at all. The so-​called new critical modesty—​surface reading in an age of tl;dr40—​triggers acute feelings for some about the revenge of the entire zeitgeist on postmodern thought. The second time as Farce; the first time as Theory. To show you what I mean I am going to pluck something off my feed from not too long ago. It seemingly appeared “accidently”: The Double Life of Paul de Man, by Evelyn Barish, twenty years in the making, finally hitting bookstores. The octogenarian author of the biography retired from academia in the mid-​1990s, spent her last years on a definitive, and dutifully joyless, dirt dump on de Man’s reputation, well after its dust has dispersed. Barish took on the project just after the revelations broke about de Man’s wartime writing in Nazi-​occupied Belgium: “I wanted to get deeper,” she states, “and actually understand what he had done.”41 Her biography covers the first forty-​one years of de Man’s life—​the part that does not matter as it were, the rough draft, and ends as he finishes his PhD (“Mallarme, Yeats and the Post-​Romantic Predicament”) just before he embarks on his professorial career in earnest at Cornell—​six years before deconstruction, six years before de Man became interesting, as it were.42 De Man had an unusual CV; his first book Blindness and Insight only appeared in 1971. According to one highly exercised Amazon reviewer, who either got his hands on an advanced copy of the biography or is lying (he claims to have read nearly all 560 pages of it in one sitting), Barish did a “staggering” amount of research for her book: “talked to everyone [;]‌labored in all the archives.”43 And, in interviews, she describes the drudgery of hundreds of personal interviews and returning from Belgium with 54 cartons of papers, piles of yellowed printed matter placed on a dining room table in her New York apartment, which she draped with a sheet. “It looked like a corpse,” she recalls.44 There it was: a second lifeless body. The curious thing is that for all her labors over de Man’s corpse she does not have any inclination to read the actual corpus—​the 22 boxes archived at UC Irvine: “In another lifetime, I would have gotten hold of more of it,” she writes. “In many ways, I don’t understand it . . . To me, it’s just a waste of time.”45 A waste of time—​this from someone who spends her retirement sifting through heaps of elapsed and forgotten letters

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in search of the fascist penetralium that motivates a writer she finds otherwise impenetrable. Nazis had better ways to communicate—​more efficacious media modalities—​than via Deconstruction, it should be observed. The de Man bio is of one piece with a pervasive ontology of retropresentism, which I shall return to later. As I hinted earlier, as a wayward literatus, de Man might be usefully compared with Flusser. Both were World War I babies, born just five months apart, after Armistice in Antwerp and Prague, respectively, each from a cultural capital of a vexed minority language. De Man was Francophone Flemish; Flusser, a German-​speaking Jew. Both were members of cosmopolitan, polyglot, polymath families, and it would not take an extreme Hegelian to notice that both represent a certain thwarted transeuropean literary-​academic intellectual ambition. Both became exiles and migrants. De Man—​who was not Jewish, it should be observed, and was likely somewhat of a scoundrel—​claimed to have been turned back from Spain in 1940, and eventually emigrated to the New York in 1948; Flusser—​who was Jewish and lost his entire family to death camps—​made it to London and then São Paulo.46 Both had visa issues, literary-​intellectual ones linked to the fitful transmission of incomplete European academic credentials across the Atlantic, difficulty planting themselves into new institutional/​ academic-​bureaucratic contexts. Belatedness is the decisive factor. The experiences of both—​their respective decisions to flee—​comes with a disorienting failed telos, an experience, not yet experienced, in Flusser’s words, of the unanticipated “human horror of the camps.”47 Flusser himself derives a useful concept in this connection—​Bodenlosigkeit—​ which he connects to his own intellectual efforts to hybridize experience and experiment. The word Bodenlosigkeit is frequently translated as rootlessness. This translation follows a familiar account that figures the intellectual as a deracinated, wandering stranger—​someone without roots. But Flusser explicitly rejects the ethnic-​racial-​identitarian organicism here, the notion of Würzel. The word he employs conveys something quite different. Boden means ground, artificial or not; the surface, built or unbuilt, for putting things upon; the bottom; the floor; the staging area; the depth charge. The horizontal plane that interrupts the vertical axis is an hallucinatory membrane. What is the meaning of the self without a base, asks Flusser, in Bodenlos, his philosophical autobiography (recently translated into English as Groundless).48 He describes Bodenlosigkeit as a hybrid of concept and experience, a concept in which experience dwells, albeit temporarily, and is done. It is, in effect, a conceptual laboratory. Elsewhere

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in his writings, Flusser links the idea to the requisite ruination of concepts like homeland; human beings may settle and dwell but in the end they lack homeland, or Heimat. He uses this particular German word, Heimat—​and the work of negating Heimat is critically and technically significant for Flusser. The idea calls to mind Walter Benjamin’s line in “The Storyteller” essay about the generation that came back from World War I experientially homeless: “A generation that had gone to school on a horse-​drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.”49 Benjamin subtly alludes to the German word for homelessness—​Obdachlosigkeit—​being under the open sky; being without a roof. Flusser, who was a full generation younger than Benjamin—​and, thus went to school on electric streetcars—​modifies the concept somewhat: Obdachlosigkeit becomes Bodenlosigkeit. Instead of experience without a roof, we have one without a floor. To be unsettled, one first has to be settled, he writes, and it is his methodological credo. The dissociation of experience and experiment, which Benjamin foretells in his Storyteller essay, had become calcified with the post-​World War II consensus that systematically shackles an unmovable triad—​state-​corporation-​citizen—​to the fluid uncertainties of finance and work. On the one hand: experience becomes fungible; it accumulates, passes by, and is communicated or distributed. But such a comprehension of experience also falls, partially, into the trap of linear, developmental, and historical progression of thought, as Flusser points out, where “the object was to gather one experience after another.”50 In this sense, experience is always packaged in the past tense, as junk, and cultural space is allotted for discarding experience as so much rubbish. On the other hand: experiment seems to disavow precarity, since it presupposes security. Yet, Flusser insists on occupying experimental precarity—​being without Heimat, so to speak—​because, he writes, he learned that too many Heimats already dwelt within him. Heimat is not eternal or immutable quality, he discovered, but a technology, a comfortable, historically convenient error for confusing the private self and the entire world. Prague is crumbling, I am crumbling is an ontological error, he writes. That the error is felt acutely by the migrant longing for a particular smell (stew-​meat braised in cream is his example) does not change its status as erroneous form of retro-​presentism. Flusser clarifies: the search for the lost Heimat—​Heimweh, homesickness—​is the equivalent of prejudice rooted in place; the Francophone nostalgie only

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conveys loss; only the Portuguese word saudade—​in which similar experience exposes dizzying, prismatic possibilities—​is multivalent and critical enough to please Flusser.51 Here, we arrive at the verges of the new world of what Siegfried Zielinski calls variantology, a new covenant about experience and experiment.52 In the opening pages of Bodenlos, Flusser notes the absurd narcissism of the self, considered like a plucked flower in a vase, un-​available for replanting, and so on. Instead, he positions bottomlessness as a critical orientation—​not a stance but, better, an in-​stance, an approach to necessary methodological risk-​positioning. A search without ground for a situation in which “culture can be experimentally realized [erkennen] in terms of different alternative possibilities.”53 For Flusser, these experience-​experimental matrices begin with a migrant’s linguistic frustration when language becomes an opaque, denaturalized, technical means for navigating alien environments.54 He describes this approach as “bodenlos Dasein.”55 What’s more, it is an encounter with the baselessness of ontology in all forms, and as such it is the target of the exercise of critical irony in The History of the Devil, which proceeds from an experiential-​experimental premise that is also the migrant literati’s hard-​won and seemingly dizzying conclusion: nothingness forms the bedrock of reality.56 The crucial pivot leads us into technical media and Flusser’s treatise on the vampire squid from hell—​his curious anatomy of both the media system and a deep ocean invertebrate, the Colossus in the harbor, as it were, sinks beneath the surface. Once again, method involves going deeper into depthlessness, plumbing depths without bottom: He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. Demonstrations; Monsters; the common denominator is, of course, the Latin verb, mōnstrāre, To Show. And Flusser wants to change the game of media study, swapping in shown for where shown from was. Among its other merits, the vampire squid book is a fable about plunging depthless hell of a media history for counsel about a possible future. It proposes fantastic convergences that link the odd existence of a tentacled life-​form, complexly equipped for probing the deep ocean, to the inhuman consequences of our emerging system of new media. Humans increasingly approximate the strategies of invertebrate life, Flusser writes:  “As our interest in objects began to wane, we created media that have enabled us to rape human brains, forcing them to store immaterial information. We have built chromatophores of our own—​televisions, videos, and computer monitors that display synthetic

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images—​with whose help broadcasters of information can mendaciously seduce their audiences.”57 Claiming Flusser as a past master, Zielinski seeks to transform a bottomless abyss of expired databases, dated theories, and dead links into experimental practice. The bottomless abyss becomes a pile of possibilities. This method self-​ consciously tumbles forward rather than looking backward: “Dead ends, losers, and inventions that never made it into a material product have important stories to tell,” Zielinski affirms.58 The “stories” are written—​in the spirit of Flusser—​as a history of the devil explicitly opposing positivist teleology. The point of experimental paleofuturism is not simply to look forward rather than backward but to resituate the new against the past as an experimental lab for discontinuity. Methodological nomadicism, in other words, is not a hindrance but both a goal and working method for understanding how new media determine our situations—​modulating in affective/​aesthetic terms—​to modify Friedrich Kittler somewhat, as well as reroute our spatial and temporal positioning. Describing the genealogy of this approach, Zielinski notes his disaffection from the idea of technological telos: “I doubted very much that our epoch embodied the greatest possibilities of progress in the history of civilization, if one used diversity—​the richness of variety in existing things, forms, techniques, arts, etc—​as criteria for progress.”59 “To be different, divergent, changing, alternating, are alternative translations for the Latin verb variāre.”60 Instead, this method works on an x-​y axis: “one through the verticality of phenomena and processes, which means in effect, the attempt to get to the bottom of things” and the other “characterized by the conceptual dance on the plateau.”61 Significantly, Zielinski credits not Deleuze but Flusser for teaching him the merit in abandoning the romantic search for the absolute in all things and embracing the cunning of “fortuitous finds.”62 *** A collection on this topic is very much an exercise in thinking about enormous subjects. Gigantomachy—​a struggle for conceptual profundity between concepts in an age in which such projects are no longer legitimate. I wish to pull another conversation into the gravitational vortex of American World Literature, namely the current discourse about the so-​called Ontological turn that often comes bundled with the conclusion that criticism has run out of steam—​to reference Latour’s title.63 Oddly, this move frequently gets further coupled with calls for a new critical humility and special antipathy to the literary-​critical work associated with the lessons of post-​structuralism. For instance, Rita Felski’s The Limits

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of Critique argues for the necessity of a “postcritical” approach that borrows from Bruno Latour’s “actor network theory,” a format that somehow shows how “everything is connected” without epistemology and in Felski’s variant provides a strong positive value emphasis for the Humanities in an age of austerity.64 That the very popular figure of the network has anything to do with the associated logic of capital and data must pass unnoticed. The “postcritical” may seem new (descriptive), but in its very gesture to novelty, the mask slips. As Boris Groys says, “to ask about the new”—​whether this be new American studies, new materialism, new media, new humility, new realism—​“is tantamount to asking about value.”65 In this light, postcritical means value—​hunger that ontologizes privations of knowledge and simultaneously depends on a fantasy of authentic access to a continuous transcript of uninterrupted experience (devoid of any landmarks of literary-theoretical experiment). Further, the newest ontological turn is also of one piece with the notion of “reality hunger” put forward forcibly by David Shields in a manifesto about a “new” turn to belle-​lettristic amateurism in a much discussed essay called Reality Hunger.66 The polemic claims that Literature Now has dead-​ended at an impasse between roughly speaking reality and story. Citing an inventory of contemporary literary figures from the American World Literature circuit—​ Shields comes down hard with a preference for reality (understood as messy space, or clutter) over story (understood as well-​ordered time, or calendar management). My descriptivism; your proscriptivism. My data; your plot-​form. My irrelevant memoirs; your historicist novels. The miniaturization of all zones of attention; the endless vastness of the internet. Here, as elsewhere, the rigidity of oppositions seem critically misguided. Perversity in a time of American World Literature is the dogmatic drumbeat for a new critical modesty. In a sense, the formula also embargos fabula in the name of sjužet. Binarism returns with a pleonastic vengeance, the post-​historical echo chamber that re-​describes an older aesthetic framework about format and character. American World Literature functions as a matrix for something like database biography whereas the Flusserian method works like a projector of experience and experiment. Just as for de Man, the capacity for unsettling concepts is critical. Against the premature settlement of antagonisms, Flusser underscores the gesture of expulsion. He does so, he writes, “to stress the extent of the problem [is] not just about [a new world] of boat people, or Palestinians, or the Jewish emigrants from Hitler’s Europe but also about the [relentless] expulsion of the older generations from the world of their children and grandchildren

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and the expulsion of humanists from the world of apparatuses.”67 The expulsion of humanists from apparatus follows from arrival of expulsion as a condition of being in a world “primarily organized by the exchange of and interaction with information” in which humans and things (i.e., technology) cannot be easily disaggregated. As Chadwick Smith notes:  “Flusser is not [celebrating] exile [here], promoting it as a voluntary path to [so called] truth [because] those persons expelled from their homes [. . .] are likely not greeted as critical observers of the culture of their new homes and are often rather abused, hated, and detained in murderous prisons that are themselves apparatuses.”68 Every shift of dimensionality involves expulsion from habit, risks exposure to invisible agencies and hidden mechanisms of value—​downshifts and upshifts in dimensionality—​+1 and –​1—​exposures to risk and entropy at the limit of the interface. Following a Flusserian definition of American World Literature, then, is an act of expanded hermeneutics into something no less elemental than finding the future of the future in the production of new meaning.

Notes 1 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013), 1. 2 Franz Kafka, Amerika (New York: Penguin, 1967), 13. 3 Claes Oldenburg and Germano Celant, Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology (National Gallery of Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995), 275. 4 Ibid., 273. 5 Oldenburg’s remarks quoted in Mark Rosenthal, “ ‘Unbridled’ Monuments; or, How Claes Oldenburg Set Out to Change the World, in Claes Oldenburg and Germano Celant, Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology (National Gallery of Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995), 254–​5. See also Geoffrey H. Hartman’s discussion of the deconstruction of monumentalism in Saving the Text: Literature/​Derrida/​ Philosophy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981). 6 Vilém Flusser, The History of the Devil (Minneapolis: Univocal, 2014). 7 Ibid., 72. 8 The idea is presented in the context of an imaginary letter from Kafka to his Czech translator and amanuensis Milena Jesenska. Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, “A Sword in the Arm of the Statue of Liberty As If Nearly Stretched Aloft,” The New Inquiry (September 18, 2012). https://​thenewinquiry.com/​blogs/​southsouth/​a-​sword-​in-​ the-​arm-​of-​the-​statue-​of-​liberty-​as-​if-​nearly-​stretched-​aloft. Accessed February 1, 2017.

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9 Ibid. 10 Vilém Flusser, Writings (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 155–​6. 11 Ibid., 156. 12 Ibid., 156. 13 Roland Barthes, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1979), 4. 14 Ibid., 17. 15 Flusser, “Land marks,” unpublished manuscript. 16 Vilém Flusser, Into the Universe of Technical Images (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 47. 17 Flusser, “Land marks.” 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994), 5. 21 Anke K. Finger, Rainer Guldin, and Gustavo Bernardo, Vilém Flusser: An Introduction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 27. 22 Ibid. 23 Flusser, Writings, 198. 24 Paul de Man, “Literary History and Literary Modernity.” 25 Ibid. 26 Flusser, The History of the Devil, 27 Ibid., 72. 28 Ibid., 74. 29 Ibid., 77. 30 Ibid., 77. 31 Ibid., 77. 32 Flusser, Writings, 3. 33 Ibid., 98. 34 Ibid., 98. 35 Ibid., 98. 36 Vilém Flusser, “My Atlas,” Flusser Studies 14 (November 1, 2012). http://​www. flusserstudies.net/​sites/​www.flusserstudies.net/​files/​media/​attachments/​flusser-​my-​ atlas.pdf. 1. Accessed February 1, 2017. 37 Ibid., 3. 38 Ibid., 3. 39 Vilém Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (London: Reaktion, 2000), 17. 40 “Too long; didn’t read.” 41 Jennifer Schuessler, “Revisiting a Scholar Unmasked by Scandal,” The New York Times (March 9, 2014), C1.

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206 Aaron Jaffe 42 Evelyn Barish, The Double Life of Paul de Man (New York: Liveright, 2014). 43 “Werner Cohn,” Customer Review, March 9, 2014, https://​www.amazon.com/​ Double-​Life-​Paul-​Man/​dp/​0871403269. 44 Tom Bartlett, “Paul de Man’s Many Secrets,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 21, 2014). http://​www.chronicle.com/​article/​The-​Many-​Betrayals-​of-​ Paul-​de/​142505. Accessed February 16, 2017. 45 Schuessler, “Revisiting a Scholar Unmasked by Scandal,” C4. 46 Siegfried Zielinski, Peter Weibel, and Daniel Irrgang, eds., Flusseriania: An Intellectual Toolbox (Minneapolis: Univocal, 2015), 456–​60. 47 Vilém Flusser, The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism (Champaign-​Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 3. 48 My reading here comes from the German version, Bodenlos (Mannheim: Bollman, 1992). For the English, Flusser, Groundless (Minneapolis: Metaflux, 2017). 49 Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (New York: Schocken, 1968), 84. 50 Flusser, The Freedom of the Migrant, 68. 51 Ibid., 93. 52 See Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006); as well as, Siegfried Zielinski and Silvia M. Wagnermaier, eds., Variantology—​On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König, 2005). 53 Flusser, Bodenlos, 82. 54 Ibid., 82. 55 Ibid., 170. 56 Ibid., 130. 57 Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise, with a Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2012). 58 Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media, 3. 59 Siegfried Zielinski, “Interview with Siegfried Zielinski,” Rhizome (April 7, 2006). http://​rhizome.org/​community/​36098. Accessed February 16, 2017. 60 Zielinski and Wagnermaier, Variantology, 8–​9. 61 David Senior, “Interview with Siegfried Zielinski.” 62 Ibid. 63 Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter 2004): 225–​48. 64 Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). 65 Boris Groys, On the New (Verso: New York, 2014), 8. 66 David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (New York: Vintage, 2011). 67 Flusser, The Freedom of the Migrant, 82.

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68 Chadwick Smith, “’Inter, but not national’: Vilém Flusser and the Technologies of Exile,” Escape to Life: German Intellectuals in New York—​A Compendium on Exile after 1933,  Eckart Goebel and Sigrid Weigel, eds. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012), 507.

Works cited Barish, Evelyn. The Double Life of Paul de Man. New York: Liveright, 2014. Barthes, Roland. The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies. New York: Hill and Wang, 1979. Bartlett, Tom. “Paul de Man’s Many Secrets.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 21, 2013). http://​www.chronicle.com/​article/​The-​Many-​Betrayals-​of-​Paul-​ de/​142505. Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. New York: Schocken, 1968. de Man, Paul. “Literary History and Literary Modernity.” In Blindness and Insight. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. 142–​65. Felski, Rita. The Limits of Critique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. Finger, Anke K., Rainer Guldin, and Gustavo Bernardo. Vilém Flusser: An Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Flusser, Vilém. Bodenlos. Mannheim, Bollmann, 1992. Flusser, Vilém. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion, 2000. Flusser, Vilém. Writings. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. Flusser, Vilém. The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism. Champaign-​ Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003. Flusser, Vilém. Into the Universe of Technical Images. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. Flusser, Vilém. “My Atlas.” Flusser Studies 14 (November 1, 2012). http://​www. flusserstudies.net/​sites/​www.flusserstudies.net/​files/​media/​attachments/​flusser-​my-​ atlas.pdf. Flusser, Vilém. The History of the Devil. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2014. Flusser, Vilém. Groundless. Minneapolis: Metaflux, 2017. Flusser, Vilém. “Land marks.” Unpublished manuscript. Flusser, Vilém and Louis Bec. Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise, with a Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2012. Gharavi, Maryam Monalisa. “A Sword in the Arm of the Statue of Liberty As If Nearly Stretched Aloft.” The New Inquiry (September 8, 2012). https://​thenewinquiry.com/​blogs/​southsouth/​ a-​sword-​in-​the-​arm-​of-​the-​statue-​of-​liberty-​as-​if-​nearly-​stretched-​aloft. Groys, Boris. On the New. Verso: New York, 2014.

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208 Aaron Jaffe Hartman, Geoffrey H. Saving the Text: Literature/​Derrida/​Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981. Kafka, Franz. America. New York: Penguin, 1967. Latour, Bruno. “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern.” Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter 2004): 225–​48. McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994. Oldenburg, Claes and Germano Celant. Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology. National Gallery of Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995. Rosenthal, Mark. “ ‘Unbridled’ Monuments; or, How Claes Oldenburg Set Out to Change the World.” Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology. Claes Oldenburg and Germano Celant. National Gallery of Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995. 254–​5. Schuessler, Jennifer. “Revisiting a Scholar Unmasked by Scandal.” The New York Times (March 9, 2014). https://​www.nytimes.com/​2014/​03/​10/​books/​revisiting-​a-​scholar-​ unmasked-​by-​scandal.html?_​r=0 Senior, David. “Interview with Siegfried Zielinski.” Trans. William Rauscher. Rhizome (April 7, 2006). http://​rhizome.org/​community/​36098. Shields, David. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. New York: Vintage, 2011. Smith, Chadwick. “’Inter, but not national’: Vilém Flusser and the Technologies of Exile.” In Escape to Life: German Intellectuals in New York—​A Compendium on Exile after 1933. Eckart Goebel and Sigrid Weigel, eds., Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012.  499–​510. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. “Werner Cohn.” “The Psychopath as Professor.” Customer Review of The Double Life of Paul de Man by Evelyn Barish. Amazon.com (March 9, 2014). https://​www.amazon. com/​Double-​Life-​Paul-​Man/​dp/​0871403269. Zielinski, Siegfried. Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. Zielinski, Siegfried and Silvia M. Wagnermaier, eds. Variantology—​On Deep Time Relations Of Arts, Sciences and Technologies. Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung König, 2005. Zielinski, Siegfried, Peter Weibel, and Daniel Irrgang, eds. Flusseriania: An Intellectual Toolbox. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2015.

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Un-​Making American Literature: Mind-​Making Fictions of the Literary Alan Singer

I put emphasis in my title on the act of making, literary making specifically, because making is evidence of mindedness. I defer to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s notion of mindedness: that which is opposed to Naturalness, that which presupposes the necessity of some enterprise of imaginative making in order for us to gain secure purchase on human nature. This pertains to ideas of identity claimed under the flag of nation and national literature. I think it is fair to say that human nature makes a home for itself in mindedness before it asserts the sovereignty of a mind that might devolve, in the course of historical tradition, to a problematic cultural narcissism. The prospect of this devolution prompts difficult questions. Does the making of national identity/​national literature therefore call perversely for its unmaking in order to keep faith with the freedom from natural determinism implicit in Hegelian mindedness? Or do we misunderstand what is at stake in the enterprise of making human nature within the sacred precincts of cultural production like national literature? My inquiry, in these pages, seeks answers to such questions as a way of reckoning with what it means to posit American literature as world literature. With the category of world literature, as per my engagement of mindedness, I am courting a cultural view that seeks to supplant parochially nationalistic ways of world making with ways of making that do not presuppose the world in which they are made intelligible. Arguably the act of making the nation, figured as an endlessly unfolding imaginative enterprise, is especially prominent in American national literature. A broad swath of American literature, from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Herman Melville to Walt Whitman, to Henry James, to Hart Crane, to F. Scott Fitzgerald,

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to William Gaddis, is manifestly preoccupied with the way in which Americans are tirelessly about the business of making America up. I am by no means courting the romance of American exceptionalism. After all, we must admit that any claim to such exceptionalism would be knowable only in its dissemination beyond the geographical boundaries of the nation, which would, of course, be its unmaking. By the same token, however, I do not want to indulge the idea that simply by crossing geographical boundaries, American literature, or any national literature, opens a privileged political/​sociological space unencumbered by the narcissism of self-​proliferating cultural identities. Quite to the contrary, Gertrude Stein’s continent-​sized novel, The Making of Americans, epitomizes what I wish to consider here, without inviting loose talk about national identity as a predicate of human making, literary and otherwise. Its title notwithstanding, I  would say that Stein’s novel belies nationality as a predicate of making in the very epistemic resourcefulness of its narrative métier. Sentences like the one that introduces Stein’s protagonist Julia Dehning show us how the task of reading is complicit in the act of making. Here is the sentence: “And so those who read much in story books surely now can tell what to expect of her [Julia] . . . neither her father for her, nor the living down her mother who is in her, for I am not ready yet to take away the character from our Julia for truly she may work out as the story books would have her or we may find all different kinds of things for her, and so reader, please remember, the future is not yet certain for her, and be you well warned reader from the vain-​ glory of being sudden in your judgment of her.”1 Stein’s admonition to the reader to recompose herself, to reconfigure her disposition toward the story-​telling of “story books,” is already underway in the reader’s grasping the admonition itself as a unique temporality. Within the temporality of the sentence, readerly attentiveness is modified by syntactical inversion, repetition, analepsis, delay, and persistent suddenness. It is impossible to read Stein’s sentence without realizing that the place in which we dwell as readers is not map-​able in geographic space. But my point here is not about Stein’s aesthetic feat per se, nor to bid for the novel’s canonical status on that basis. Nor is this the place for a close reading of her text. Rather, I  take the Steinian sentence as a touchstone for her own observation about the ways in which aesthetic gestures, modes of making within ever more vibrantly felt constraints of experience, inevitably devolve to self-​ transfigurations. When Stein writes that The Making of Americans morphed from “. . . a history of a family to being a history of everybody the family knew, . . .

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the history of every kind and of every individual being . . .,”2 she gives urgency to the belief that who we are in the world, and, I would add, where we are in the world, depends on what we are doing in time. History, from this vantage point, is made in recognition that the self is forever an adaptive creature. We selflessly adapt to consequences that belie whatever intentional acts permitted us to conceive of the self as a dispositive maker in the first place. It should not surprise us that Stein thought of her novel as a “space . . . filled with moving.”3 Space conceived in this way takes no precedence over such movement inasmuch as such movement is not, strictly speaking, contained within the spatiality it instantiates. In this context we may say space is borderless but not unbounded. It is not territorial. Along these lines, I want to argue that The Making of Americans effectively fictionalizes the mind in the act of making its conditions of self-​knowledge apparent. And the relevant native tongue, in this case is most readily specifiable as a self-​complicating syntax that, if it hearkens to any homeland, brings to mind something like what Hegel, in his Aesthetic Lectures, calls Humanus. Hegel speaks of Humanus in terms of art stripping itself of all “fixed restriction to a specific range of content and treatment . . .” Thus, “the artist acquires his subject matter in himself and is the human spirit actually self-​determining and considering mediating, and expressing the infinity of its feelings and situations: nothing that can be living in the human breast is alien to that spirit any more.”4 For Hegel this epistemic homeland is bounded only by the limits of determinate experience. It is however not a question of the artist making him or herself at home in any particular guise of cultural practice, historical moment, or style of homo faber. Indeed, Humanus is concordant with the self-​transcendence of art proper or what we, along with Hegel, can dismiss as mere aestheticism. As Hegel insists, “art does not need . . . to represent only what is absolutely at home at one of its specific stages, but everything in which man as such is capable of being at home.”5 Or, as Benjamin Rutter has put it: “Art [for Hegel] becomes modern when it grasps the fact that regardless of national and religious affiliations its subject has been . . . the predicament and the possibility of rational agency.”6 The artfulness of literary making that I defend here is thus a reach beyond the scope of ideal forms that are privileged according to the mandates of cultural identity or national tradition. I therefore hope to persuade my reader that the increasingly apparent statelessness of literature, touted by globalists and planetary critics, is an occasion for us to consider what makes literature a proper home for humanity. I do not want

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to be misconstrued as promoting humanist universals. Rather, by hewing to the Steinian/​Hegelian values I am glossing here, I think that, even in our appreciation of the fact that literature crosses national boundaries, we might focus more productively on how literature calls critical attention home to the mindedness that it embodies in the act of reading. I speak therefore of the mind that literature makes for us relatively independent of nationality. This does not mean that I  am indulging a presumptive norm of literarity, though, as will become apparent in what follows, if there is such a thing as literarity, I believe that it is to be understood normatively. Nor am I privileging a tasteful palette of aesthetic qualities. I will, however, be defending the aesthetic as a threshold of experience without which any claims of worldliness are existentially unwarrantable. The relevant world in this context has less to do with representations of nationality than with resources of representability itself, which too often are masked by the national identities we purvey in solidarity or in conflict with others. Here I must stipulate that Humanus, as I deploy it in the interest of elucidating aesthetic making, entails an unfashionable faith in translatability. I do not invoke translatability in the linguistic sense of identifying a heuristic correlative to the lexicon of a “privileged” target language. In the realm of Humanus what we aim to translate, so to speak, is a moving target. What is to be translated will entail a sufficiency of mind to the knowability of the world that animates it. Therefore I take translatability as a marker for intelligibility, or what the normativist philosopher Stephen Turner calls the possibility of “intelligible error.” As we will see, the conditions under which error can be rendered intelligible make translatability a counter for reason-​giving and, correlatively, for protocols that sanction our accepting reasons as good enough to follow in admittedly improvisational contexts. Hence for the sake of this discussion the operative term of art must be translatability as intelligibility. Turner, after all, treats translations as inextricable from theoretical explanations. As he states, “The project of translation is bound up with the rest of understanding which includes . . . intelligible errors that make up the content of actual speech and action.”7 For Turner, this possibility is governed by a native disposition toward empathy, a capacity for finding relation where incommensurability otherwise thwarts explanatory initiative.8 It is worth noting that in a related gesture, Robert Pippin9, attempting to grasp what Hegel ultimately means by invoking the role of the artist in the project of philosophy, sees Hegel’s Humanus as radicalizing Kantian aesthesis. Kantian aesthetics locates a unique sensible-​affective disposition toward the sensorium

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of Nature and, by extension, what the human mind perpetually makes of nature. For Kant, this human uniqueness follows, as we know, from its irreducible intelligibility according to the protocols of judgment. Pippin helps us to see that, with Humanus, Hegel goes a step further by insisting that a sensible-​affective human nature is preeminently self-​knowing/​self-​realizing, ineluctably mired in the circumstance of human activity. Humanus after all, humbles life to the quotidian reality that we make up for ourselves out of the resource of our sense-​guided attentiveness to the world. The universal forms of art, Hegel stipulates, “had a bearing above all on the absolute truth which art attains, and they had the origin of their particular differences in the specific interpretations of what counted for consciousness . . ..”10 Following both Turner’s and Pippin’s leads, I  will argue that the Hegelian self-​knowing/​self-​realization that obtains within the habitus of Humanus might elucidate most clearly what, in the title of my essay, I am calling “mind-​making fictions of the literary.” In no small way, I  am working against the grain of a commonplace notion, entertained by Hegel himself. For Hegel the trajectory of meaning within the realm of Sittlichkeit, where all human activity gets ethical traction, goes from social conditions to aesthetic determinations. Aesthetic intelligibility piggybacks on social intelligibility. Here I will try to make a case that the trajectory is potentially and beneficently reversible. Aesthetic determinations may be understood to be the conditions of social identity, especially the identities we claim under the flags of nationhood. The intelligibility of nations is, after all, accessible through the making activity of their citizens, which for Hegel always involves some recognitive protocol. One could argue that the same reciprocity that obtains between self and other in Hegel’s Phenomenology presupposes a reciprocity between works of art and their social conditions in the Lectures on Fine Art. But let me get directly to the importance of intelligibility with respect to aesthetic making, since making does not ensue except according to a presupposition of intelligibility. Hegel gives me some solid ground to stand on with respect to my claim that Humanus (which at this point we might take to be interchangeable with mindedness tout court) conceivably elides with Turner’s rendition of translatability as intelligibility. Not surprisingly, in his account of the fate of Humanus, Hegel castigates the French penchant for “translating” Greek and Roman heroes, Chinese, and Peruvians into French princes and princesses. His riposte is that “all materials, whatever they be and from whatever period and nation they come from, acquire their artistic truth only when imbued with

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living and contemporary interest.”11 Contrary to a common misreading of his Lectures on Fine Art, here Hegel does not valorize contemporaneity as a token of some transhistorical or transnational universal or some kind of deontological presentism. The “contemporary interest” operative here remains the human interest in ongoing self-​realization, the threshold of which is intelligibility, or, to be more precise, intelligibility in the making. Making is, after all, necessarily making known. As I anticipated, Turner gives this post-​Hegelian commonplace a slightly more rationalist and normativist spin. Obviously, translatability/​intelligibility for Turner has nothing to do with expanding the commercial markets for a national literature, let alone globalizing markets, phenomena to which contemporary inquiry increasingly appeals for intimations of a new political subjectivity. But I would argue that Turner’s translatability as intelligibility does have consequence for a citizenry coming to grips with communities of knowledge. What I am calling communities of knowledge has more to do with broadening the experiential horizon of the knowable than with the kind of knowing that presupposes getting it right. In my view, and with a view of the aesthetic as preeminently agential, Turner is interested in intelligibility because it is formative rather than merely representative or representational. I must of course clarify the specific trajectory of normative thinking for Turner in order to make this point serve my larger argument, especially since Turner has no investments in the realm of the aesthetic in general or in the literary specifically. For Turner, norms arise in the context of reason-​giving rather than rationalist dicta. Reason-​giving is de facto wherever we wish for mutual comprehension with respect to what presents itself as untranslatable, wherever we demur incommensurability. The circumstance from which the normative reasoner necessarily proceeds is what Turner calls “explicable error.” It is a procedural assumption. What appears to be inexplicable, owing to some erroneous presupposition or conclusion, denotes a necessary recourse for the reasoner, to understand by other means, to translate. Inasmuch as explicable error is the kind of human circumstance we encounter when we try to recognize what another person means, it involves us in hypothesis making and hypothesis testing. Donald Davidson has explained that hypothesizing, that is, grasping what another is aiming at where unintelligibility threatens, mandates what I might call an “interpretive charity (what Davidson himself calls a “principle of rational accommodation”).”12 We must be predisposed to “attribute rationality—​in a sense yet to be defined . . .”13 wherever we aspire to make intelligible what is experienced without

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immediate recognition. We are, in a sense, procedurally bound to foster a community of knowledge on the assumption that intelligibility will be borne out only by our striving to extend the limits of the intelligible, by incorporating what is not readily intelligible to what is. Turner stipulates that this is possible only by hypothesizing error14 in lieu of unintelligibility or untranslatability. Error, by contrast with sheer unintelligibility or untranslatability, is repairable according to hypotheses about which reasons might suffice in a circumstance where current reasons do not serve. Just as in our attempts to gain rapport with the beliefs of other people, so when we are presented with the compositional gestalt of any immediately unintelligible, and so presumed to be untranslatable text, we might say that our dilemma is never a question of penetrating some secret inner life. Rather, it is only a question of imagining how apparently erroneous conclusions point us to alternative explanatory hypotheses. In other words, intelligibility is de facto formative insofar as it involves us in an imaginative and empathic relation with what we do not yet comprehend, rather than honoring whatever stymies our comprehension. Both Davidson and Turner are here simply acknowledging that reasoning, unlike deduction from rational principles, is, perhaps surprisingly, involved in the practices of the anthropologist: interpreting behavioral facts as they present themselves and revising interpretations in light of attempts to make sense of them.15 Behavioral facts are, after all, the threshold of our knowledge that intelligibility is ineluctable in the way of Humanus. As Hegel never stops affirming, nothing that can be taken in by us is alien to us. I would extrapolate that behavioral facts are no less urgently the threshold of aesthetic engagements with the world, at least as I have tried to typify them in the act of reading a sentence by Gertrude Stein. In this context, it is worth pointing out that Humanus, in Hegel’s mind, has nothing to do with a privileged form of art or any singular form of experience. It has to do with the kind of mindedness that is tantamount to the improvisational protocols of intelligibility we are caught up in is by countenancing confounding behavioral facts in the first place. This is the case whether such facts present themselves in the guise of a practical, existential circumstance of cultural life or in the guise of the epistemic circumstance proffered in aesthetic compositions. Indeed, I invite a conflation of the two, if only for the sake of giving speculative thrust to the question: what kind of sense does it make to worry the identity—​national, global, planetary—​of a work of art if we are disposed to consider that, epistemically, identity takes a back seat to making meaning?

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I am of course assuming that Humanus could matter only in the context of making meaning. After all it arises on a threshold of something like incommunicability. Hegel’s insistence upon the self-​transcendence of art compels us to treat self-​realizing Humanus as knowable only insofar as it makes something out of its relation to the indeterminate. It makes something determinative for the sake of a worldliness that otherwise would remain all too elusively unbounded. Here I am advancing the claim that any such unbounded worldliness would be little more than a bid for something like postmodern sublimity. I have acknowledged that for Hegel Humanus is not bound to a unique form. But neither is it formless. I  think that globalists and planetaritists succumb too readily to the seductions of sublimity. For this reason, I am proposing that formative intelligibility, coordinate with the tasks of translatability and interpretive charity, is a more pragmatic alternative to honoring untranslatability in the interests of sheer unboundedness. It is an alternative means to promoting the prospect for what Franco Moretti might call a more capacious “ecosystem” within which human identity will flourish. Moretti is not alone among globalists and planetaritists in treating the limits of intelligibility as a de facto passport for traveling beyond the borders of uncomfortably narrow concepts of the human: those inculcated in the discourses of the post-​Enlightenment humanities. When I speak of this aspiration in terms of a bid for postmodern sublimity, I am thinking of partisans of the untranslatable like Paul Gilroy, Ray Brassier, Jean-​François Lyotard, and perhaps even Jacques Rancière. They hold in common a faith in the kind of human freedom epitomized in Hegel’s Humanus. But the worlds of experience they can proffer are, to my way of thinking, all too virtual, all too notional, all too lacking in experiential imperatives. The appeal of the sublime appears to be that it is a touchstone for untranslatability, in the sense that it refuses determinate conceptualization. I am in full agreement that the migration of literary forms is a conceptual good. But what this migration means in any particular conceptualized circumstance seems to be a less urgent question for theorists of growing the literary ecosystem. In other words, they seem disposed to decouple the enterprise of mindedness or Humanus from the planetary mission. Moretti’s high altitude surveillance of literary production privileges macro-​ structures of readability. In “Conjectures on World Literature” he pointedly sets his aerial sights on transformations of “devices, themes, tropes—​or genres and systems.” I would say that Moretti, perhaps unwittingly, reminds us that where we focus on the slippage between cultural expectations with respect to these

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relatively abstract forms, we are bound to thematize. We thematize in lieu of engaging the circumstances that thematic knowledge purports to render intelligible. This is not Turner’s intelligibility. Rather, the literary text on this account is an object of thought more than a vehicle for the kind of mindedness that would serve the experiential dimension of literary forms. This experiential dimension is, of course, what I  am arguing remains vital within the Hegelian protectorate of Humanus. Because Moretti maintains “[F]‌orms are the abstracts of social relationships,”16 he is committed to taking literary forms as counters for locating centers of social power. This has the effect of schematizing in ever larger patterns of association, subsuming the particulars of literary experience to a beyond of knowledge about what suffices as ultimate knowledge. This has always been the seduction of the sublime.17 Paul Gilroy, in After Empire (2004), provokes a similar skepticism about the planetary mission. Gilroy’s approach to planetarity courts self-​mystification, as Wai Chi Dimock attests in her own attempt to sample the prospects for planetary literature.18 After all, Gilroy’s version is operative only in the “optative” mood.19 Conjuring something like the indeterminacy of the sublime, Gilroy’s notion of a planetary literature is largely heuristic. As Dimock sharply observes, it is conceived as a “habitat still waiting for its inhabitants, for a humanity that has yet to be born.”20 In other words, as with the case of untranslatability, the dispositive knowledge that would attend upon a planetary literature is effectively a deferral. Gilroy looks to something beyond the immediate incommensurability of the diverse meanings that texts reveal within the framework of ever-​proliferating interpretive contexts. He and other partisans of untranslatability posit this proliferation as inescapable. In such cases translation error would not necessarily be explicable error. There would be no warrant to see apparent horizons of intelligibility as anything more than mirages. Likewise, Ray Brassier’s Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction gives dire momentum to the commitment of planetary theorists to untranslatability. Though his concern is not, strictly speaking, literary culture, it has obvious ramifications for planetary literary theory which emphasizes on untranslatability as self-​perpetuating indeterminacy. Brassier’s contemplation of planetary extinction is a threshold for entertaining what he dubs an “unhuman” knowledge. Drawing on Lyotard’s posit of the “inhuman,” Brassier takes the prospect of planetary extinction as an occasion for asking the following questions: “How does thought think a world without thought? How does thought think the death of thinking?” Brassier’s bid for the possibility of thinking without thought has

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strong affinities with the super-​sensible aspect of Kantian sublimity that so notoriously obviates worldly experience in deference to deontic principles. Perhaps, within the horizon of Brassier’s contemplating the end of the planet, this is ultimately unproblematic. But from the point of view of countenancing literature as a salient venue of persistent mindedness, Brassier’s questions are unproductive. Oddly enough, Lyotard’s own dabbling in catastrophic thinking about the planet proffers a potentially more edifying prospect. Lyotard specifically articulates his “inhuman” in relation to a recommissioning of sublimity in the service of art: avant-​garde art in particular. While Lyotard’s curious amalgamation of the Kantian–​Burkean sublimes entails what he stipulates is a relation to indeterminacy, and while he does invite much talk of the “deposition of consciousness” with respect to the time of post-​Enlightenment industrial “development,” his orientation is something more than a capitulation to indeterminacy as unintelligibility.21 While Lyotard’s riff on the dawn of the inhuman appears to be a confirmation of Brassier’s catastrophic thinking22—​Lyotard is somewhat more circumspect. He couples his desire to honor indeterminacy as the antagonist of development with the caveat that wherever the “infinite is in play,”23 we must also sustain a coordinate “dialectic of research.”24 This promise of intelligibility is Lyotard’s charge for literature (and the other arts and sciences): to keep faith with the venerable epistemic burdens of the avant-​garde. These burdens he stipulates entail the task of posing questions such as “What is it to paint?” “What is thinking?” and we can easily extrapolate, “What is writing?”25 To be sure, Lyotard also poses the sublime as a state of aesthetic knowledge that surpasses the doctrinaire mindedness of post-​Enlightenment systems of development. These leanings in the direction of pure indeterminacy, notwithstanding, Lyotard’s commitment to the role of the avant-​garde as posing questions with presumable answers (if only in artistic/​philosophical practices), betrays an investment in knowing, rendering translatable, and soliciting intelligibility. Certainly this is the case with respect to the kind of mindedness that the dutiful Hegelian mind can know itself to be accountable for. Since such mindedness has been my chief concern in consideration of the fate of national literatures trespassing beyond the borders of intelligibility, and since I am contending that such mindedness is under threat of being sublimed into abstraction by overly generalized valorizations of such transport, it behooves me to offer a counterexample. Granted, the expository space remaining to me here guarantees the inadequacy of the gesture. Nevertheless, I want to suggest that even nominal exemplification will help to show how Humanus might be more

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urgently relevant to the project of enlarging the ecosystem of the literary than the sublime trajectories of globality and planetarity profess to be. Cormac McCarthy’s 1973 novel Child of God could not be colored with more American locality, set as it is in the aboriginal hill country of Tennessee. But I am less interested in thinking about this novel as one that has been widely translated and traveled, scrutably enough, beyond its native terrain. I am more interested in the ways in which the novel exhibits how the boundary of the human itself, to which I would argue the concept of nation is beholden, is always already trespassed upon in any aesthetic gambit bold enough to invite unintelligibility for the sake of intelligibility. McCarthy is so bold. Lester Ballard, the protagonist of McCarthy’s novel, is most alive in the author’s way of exposing him to a reader’s condemnation of the most egregious inhumanity: a judgment that we might, all too ironically, be tempted to claim as universal. Lester Ballard is emotionally feral, tempestuously antagonistic toward nature, a murderer, and a necrophiliac. Above all, Lester Ballard is eponymously, “A child of God much like yourself perhaps.”26 Or so McCarthy’s narrator insinuates. In large part, the provocation here is the knowledge that Lester Ballard exists beyond all boundaries but is not unbounded by circumstances or behavioral facts: “much like” our reading selves. Thus I want to say that the power of this novel inheres in the way in which McCarthy cultivates Humanus in the inhuman. He discomfitingly inveigles the thought that, by disavowing Lester Ballard’s “inhumanity,” the reader renounces the possibility of exercising the very empathic capacity by which we would otherwise claim our own humanity to be intelligible, in Turner’s terms. Only then would our humanity be ascertainable in terms compatible with the ecological spirit of planetarity. McCarthy’s protagonist is starkly positioned beyond the boundary of intelligible humanity by virtue of the inexplicability of his violent acts. Still, his “behavioral facts” never cease to invite translatability as explicable error because they are very deliberately rendered as crossings of point of view, with much the same effect as the crossing of the gaze in painting. We might profitably observe how the reader’s initial encounter with Lester Ballard is a case of erroneous knowledge. It is simultaneously a touchstone for the way in which “interpretive charity” works by evoking a disposition to attribute rationality even where any hypothesis of how it obtains has not been conclusively tested. In this case, rationality, like Humanus, denotes a human capacity for the very empathic relation that McCarthy’s protagonist appears to be bereft of himself. Here is our first encounter with Ballard:

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“To watch these things issuing from the otherwise mute pastoral morning is a man at the barn door. He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence . . . A child of God much like yourself perhaps. Wasps pass through the laddered light from the barnslats in a succession of strobic moments, gold and trembling between black and black like the fireflies in the serried upper gloom. The man stands straddlelegged, has made in the dark humus a darker pool wherein swirls a pale foam with bits of straw.”27 The abstract agency denoted by the infinitive “to watch” confoundingly materializes as an act of micturition happening at the barn door. The “man stands straddlelegged” beyond the boundary of what we mistakenly took to be an intelligible perspective because it seemed to be securely in our possession at the start of the sentence. Dispossessed of that perspective our newfound perch for watching turns out to be a vantage point from which we must see ourselves translated, so to speak, as if what would be reflected in the pool of urine foaming before us is our own scrutiny, surprised by indiscretion. The passage enacts a crossing of boundaries by dramatizing our capacity to follow conditions for reasoning that surpass norms of intelligibility, but on a trajectory of ever more resourceful intelligibility. Our ability to follow along, without obedience to already articulable rules, is, as I have already noted, and not coincidentally, the sine qua non of Turner’s explicable error. Where rationality is concerned, Turner tells us, “Our only constraint is the limit of our capacity to make intelligible. There is no gap between what we can recognize as intentional and meaningful . . . that is to say, what we can follow.”28 Where we are empathically disposed to follow along with what we do not yet understand, human identity turns out to be most vitally human. In my effort to make McCarthy’s novel exemplary, I might say that the stakes of reading inhere in the knowledge of Humanus, as a métier for crossing identity-​sanctioning boundaries. By the means I have too quickly sketched here, McCarthy makes his character’s humanity count in a way that a simple representation of his inhuman behaviors would discount. This would be particularly so with respect to the boundary between the human and the inhuman that otherwise looms as an obstacle to empathic readerly rapport. Alternatively, I believe that McCarthy renders his reader part of the mise-​en-​scène of the behavioral facts that constitute the world of the fiction, at least in the passage I  have cited. McCarthy thereby buttresses my initial desire in this essay to think about literature as making a home for itself in acts of mind. The transitional act of mind might then take

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priority over the movement of texts across established national or ideological boundaries. In that realm of concern, I would caution that we risk our attunement with the “making” dimension of mindedness, without which literature almost certainly succumbs to the immobility of cultural territory.

Notes 1 Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (Normal: Dalkey Archive, 1995), 15. 2 Ibid., xix. 3 See Steven Meyer’s “Introduction” to Stein, The Making of Americans. 4 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 607. Here it is worth pointing out that with the term Humanus, Hegel picks up a motif or allegorical figure from Goethe’s little known and unfinished poem The Mysteries (“Die Geheimnisse”). As Benjamin Rutter points out in Hegel on the Modern Arts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): “The content of such an art is neither a pantheon nor a holy family but simply ‘the appearance and activity of imperishable humanity,’ ‘the depths and heights of the human heart as such, mankind in its strivings, deeds and fates’ ” (44). It will be no surprise if I point out that Hegel is borrowing from Terence’s nihil humani a’ me alienum puto, which Hegel cites on page 46 of the Lectures. 5 Hegel, Hegel’s Aesthetics, 607. 6 See Ruttter, Hegel on the Modern Arts, 44. 7 Stephen Turner, Explaining the Normative (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), 156. 8 Ibid., 160. 9 See Robert Pippin, After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). 10 Hegel, Hegel’s Aesthetics, 606. 11 Ibid., 608. 12 See Turner’s appreciation of Davidson in Explaining the Normative, 161. 13 Ibid., 157. 14 Ibid., 161. 15 Ibid., 164. 16 See Franco Moretti, “Conjectures On World Literature,” New Left Review (January 1, 2000). The irony of what Moretti discovers to be the impossible task of understanding all of literature is that it is not something that any individual reader can do. But computers can. This, for me, is the tip-​off that mindedness becomes the sacrificial lamb in the project of re-​conceiving literary study.

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222 Alan Singer 17 The problem is most glaringly apparent when we see that the real underpinning of Moretti’s methodological initiative in distant reading is his faith that close reading puts us on a trajectory of knowledge that presupposes an infinity of texts. If we can close read all of the novels of Dickens, we are paradoxically cognizant of how little of the Victorian novel is represented therein because Dickens’s Victorianism implicates him in an expanding universe of Victorian novels. We are immediately overwhelmed or sublimed with the knowledge that we can never read enough to know that we have read enough. 18 See Lawrence Buell and Wai Chi Dimock, eds. Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007). 19 Wai Chi Dimock, “Introduction: Planet and American, Set and Subset,” in Lawrence Buell and Wai Chi Dimock, eds. Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 5. 20 Ibid., 5. 21 Jean-​François Lyotard’s point of departure is the infinite expenditure of capital the only limit of which is “the expectation of the life of the sun” (The Inhuman, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991], 7). 22 Ray Brassier references it as a “solar catastrophe” (Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction [New York: Palgrave Macmillan], 2010). 23 Or I would say wherever indeterminacy offers itself to mitigate the imperial egotism of the state or the nation. 24 Ibid., 128. 25 Ibid., 128. 26 Cormac McCarthy, Child of God (New York: Vintage Press, 1993), 4. 27 Ibid., 6. 28 Turner, Explaining the Normative, 165.

Works cited Brassier, Ray. Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Buell, Lawrence and Wai Chi Dimock, eds. Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Davidson, Donald. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme.” In Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984. Gilroy, Paul. After Empire. London: Routledge, 2004. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. 1. Trans. T. M. Knox. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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Lyotard, Jean-​François. The Inhuman. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991. McCarthy, Cormac. Child of God. New York: Vintage Press, 1993. Moretti, Franco. “Conjectures On World Literature.” New Left Review (January 1, 2000): 54–​68. Pippin, Robert B. After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Rutter, Benjamin. Hegel on the Modern Arts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Stein, Gertrude. The Making of Americans. Normal: Dalkey Archive, 1995. Turner, Stephen. Explaining the Normative. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010.

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Part Four

History and the American Novel

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Last American Stories and Their Adventurous Sequels Robert L. Caserio

If I see only insufficiencies in art, will I have maintained myself in the proper environment? William T. Vollmann1

As William T.  Vollmann composed his 2014 volume Last Stories and Other Stories, a ghost communicated to him the following axioms: “(1) To the extent that the dead live on, the living must resemble them. (2) Confessing such resemblance, we should not reject the possibility that we might at this very moment be dead. (3) Since life and death are the only two states which we can currently postulate, then to the extent that they are the same, immortality and even eternal consciousness seems possible.”2 Vollmann responded to the ghost by formulating the mixed condition of mortality and posthumousness as, surprisingly, a romance adventure. Although “the delights of Paradise are hidden” from mortality because of death’s “wall of ill,” despite “all its deadliness,” Vollmann insists, “I do see beauty; I retain my sexual hopes!”3 and then pictures himself as a stoically cheerful pilgrim to a sacred river that is Lethe. The pilgrim’s progress is a metaphor for an “ill-​ward path,”4 wherein romance, a genre that is hospitable to ghosts as well as hopes, is darkened in the direction of tragedy. The genres seem compatible. Romance and tragedy both pivot on chance and contingency, on a surrender to captivation by higher powers. Is not that surrender the grim pleasure of it, even paradoxically a victory? Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came. The first story of Vollmann’s Last Stories fuses adventure, romance, and tragedy in rehearsing a contemporary Serb-​Muslim Romeo and Juliet.

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The Serb-​Muslim story amalgamates history to Vollmann’s generic mix: the deadly real events of ex-​Yugoslavia suggest that history is the mortal wall of ill. Vollmann hit the wall and almost got over it while reporting the conflicts in Sarajevo in 1994. The near fatality did not frighten his narratives back to home base. The thirty-​two stories of Last Stories number only one that is set in the United States. The writer’s adventurous path refuses to exchange a national limitary for an outside world. Even in Vollmann’s sequence of historical novels—​he names them Seven Dreams—​his object is the North American continent, not any single national container. Nationality, perhaps now in its last phase of telling, might represent a posthumous post-​historical condition. What the expansion beyond nationality looks like is currently the object of many a scholarly adventure, or quest romance, or tragedy. Vollmann’s version is one possible guide. It leads, however, in directions that do not complement some current leading scholarly orientations. We want to get past “the nation,” but we are reluctant to get past the all-​determining reality of history. Although Vollmann writes historical novels, his adventurous transnationalism subverts history’s status as a master narrative, as a key to all explanations. The dream component in Seven Dreams exemplifies their art: an aesthetic counterweight to historical discourse. The counterweight is celebrated in what might be considered Vollmann’s ars poetica, his study of Noh drama, Kissing the Mask:  Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater (2010). What draws Vollmann to Noh are conflicts its plays stage—​and embody—​between attachment to history and detachment from it, between life and artifice (romance’s heightening of reality being one marker of artifice). History continues to matter in assessing Vollmann’s work, of course. His Seven Dreams series, indeed all his writings, are pervaded by their author’s painstaking historical research, by his voluminous documentary appendices. It is as if Vollmann deliberately piles the historical record atop his inventive capacity, as a dare to the latter—​to see if invention can escape history’s rule. One avenue of escape for him appears to be a transnational direction. Here history in the form of literary history underwrites Vollmann. Literary history witnesses US precedents for his movement toward “the American world novel.” Is it not possible to argue that “our” tradition of narrative fiction has—​at least since the Civil War—​been beside itself, so to speak, or outside itself, inasmuch as it has portrayed national character or national belonging as a last story, a putative real history devolving into a ghostly reality? “In the first decade of the present century,” begins “Jean-​ah Poquelin” (1875) by George Washington Cable, “when the newly

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established American Government was the most hateful thing in Louisiana . . .”5 The American Government begins, that is to say, by being foreign; and the story goes on to contrast the self-​estranging foreign power—​America—​with Jean-​ah Poquelin, the native ghost-​like leper who is hiding in a New Orleans house that the Government seeks to annex. America achieves the annexation, displacing the past; but the haunting spirit of the leper takes it over. So what is alive, and what dead? The romantic side of familiar things rules. In Cable’s “The ‘Haunted House’ in Royal Street,” the haunting of the Royal Street mansion by the slaves who have died in it, and the hopes of Reconstruction that also have died in it, maintains a progressive national vision, against the grain of Jim Crow laws. Nevertheless, the real house, a stand-​in for the national homeland, is a place not to inhabit. Repeatedly, American novels (and poems) show their protagonists wanting to get out of the nation and into the world. The twentieth-​century expatriate writers are paradigms; they are flanked by such transnational lives (in fiction and out of it) as Henry James’s Gertrude in The Europeans and all her subsequent variants in James; Stephen Crane in England; Jack London in London’s abyssal East End; James Weldon Johnson’s ex-​colored man in Paris and Berlin; Hart Crane in the Caribbean; Faulkner’s Gavin Stevens in Germany; Charles Olson in the Yucatan; Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil. Citizenship seems a brick in the wall of ill. Nationality appears to help build the wall; history authorizes and maintains the nation-​centered construction. In his adventurous global reach, then, Vollmann evokes and extends a traditional outward trajectory that even a most faithful novelist-​citizen, William Dean Howells, exemplifies. I am thinking of Howells’s role, I gather an under-​ attended one,6 in writing about, and thereby introducing to the United States, from the 1880s onward, Scandinavian, Russian, French, German, Italian, and Spanish novelists. Deliberately downplaying English fiction, Howells’s criticism moves the American novel-​reader in an anti-​insular, and even anti-​American direction. “The great and good things in literature now a days are not the national features,” Howells writes in 1891, “but the universal features . . . The most national fiction at present is the English, and it is the poorest.”7 The anti-​national adventurousness of Howells’s reading does not only adhere to his realism. In his appreciations of Tolstoy the realist, Howells blurs the lines that distinguish narrative fiction from actual historical affairs and from moral and political redress for them. The blurring seems to make art, and any special character of its own, go by the board. Nevertheless, in an extraordinary 1902 essay about Zola, Howells analyzes naturalist realism and its moral-​political

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urgency as all of a piece with romance. Zola “was no more a journalist than he was a scientist by nature,” Howells writes, and although “He wished to be a historiographer writing the annals of a family and painting a period . . . in spite of his intentions and in spite of his methods he was essentially imaginative and involuntarily creative . . . He preached a crusade against romanticism . . . only to realize at last that he was himself [a]‌romanticist . . ., and heroically to own his defeat.”8 Howells’s commentary is no attack. It expresses his fervent respect for Zola, whom he might be reading as a double of himself, or as an ego-​ideal. Including the genre of romance (the opposite of “truth in fiction”) in what is meant by “romanticism,” Howells’s essay cannot but make readers think of his martyr heroes in A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890):  a socialist revolutionary and a Christ-​figure. Both characters are cut out of romance cloth. If they were not so derived, and were not thus available to fiction’s ahistorical inventiveness, there would be for Howells’s readers no visionary alternative to the national misfortunes in the real historical record. An implicit logic connects Howells’s Zola essay with Howells’s introduction to a 1907 Harper’s anthology of ghost stories entitled Shapes that Haunt the Dusk. American writers, Howells claims, excel in evoking “the borderland between experience and illusion.” Despite the materialism of American life, we “really live more in the spirit,” and therefore “love the supernatural” as a “common inheritance from no particular ancestry” but from “psychological influences in the past widely separated in time and place.”9 Two ghosts widely separated in time and place—​Cervantes and Washington Irving—​follow Howells when, after fulfilling his life-​long ambition to visit Spain, he celebrates those writers in his 1913 Familiar Spanish Travels. It is worth noting that Howells introduces his volume with a condemnation of Spanish imperialism in the New World and of Muslim imperialism in the Old, but does not judge the spirit of romance in Cervantes or Irving as an ally of world conquest. Indeed he evokes their romance as a mode of nonaggressive unworldly detachment, a point of repair outside and beyond the claims of history. Howells’s American world-​novel reading precedes Randolph Bourne’s launch of the term “transnational.” Although Bourne’s transnational “world-​federation in miniature”10 models an inward-​looking US vision, it also promotes an outward anti-​Anglo-​American one. And if its centrifugal direction involves a postmortem state of the state, we can remember Vollmann’s cheerful valedictory: he sees beauty at the wall [of ill]; and for whatever the value of eros on the verge

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of Lethe, he retains his sexual hopes! A romance orientation can underwrite a transnational quest. It does so in Richard Chase’s 1958 The Democratic Vista where Chase, explicitly standing on Bourne’s transnationalizing shoulders, calls for a literary criticism averse to reconciling cultural conflicts, and thereby suggestive of a merely provisional nationhood, one that remains a prospective adventure. Of course, Chase had already in 1957, by identifying American fiction with a unique relation to romance, rather than to “the novel” proper, put in place a nation-​centered literary history that did not quite match Bourne’s idea. Chase’s swerve is the result of a stumbling block in the way of approach to novels that is an obstacle I am afraid we all—​Americanists or whatever-​ists—​rely on. It is the mistake of still assuming, as Chase did, that romance, and the adventure mode in which it is entailed, can be set apart from other kinds of narrative fiction—​say from realism or naturalism—​and can be assigned to some historical eras or some national determinations rather than others. Whereas Chase argued that Frank Norris’s naturalism was stamped by the romance character unique to American fiction, Howells’s essay on Zola gives the exceptionalism away—​ unless Zola was secretly an American. In the history of the modern novel (from Cervantes to H. G. Wells’s scientific romances to Philip K. Dick’s alternative histories) or in the era of the so-​called novel before the novel (Heliodorus) or in the history of Asian narrative fiction (the sixteenth-​century Chinese Journey to the West, for example) or in the postcolonial novel (think Amos Tutuola) there is no moment when adventure and/​or romance is absent from the form. The alternative assumption, which restricts the novel to its convergence with realism, is what makes history the master discourse in whatever literary history of fiction, including the “world” novel, we take up. It is as a challenge to the master discourse that I presently will outline how and why Vollmann, even as he produces a variant of the so-​called historical novel, keeps truths of history separate from truths of art, so that history does not dominate the production of fictions or the reading of them. We seem to refuse the separation and insist on the domination. The refusal is there in authoritative commentaries about the novel whose empire is hard to shake off. One of them is Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis (1946), reinscribed as authoritative in 2003 by Edward Said; another is Georg Lukács’s The Historical Novel (1937), which Fredric Jameson in The Antinomies of Realism (2013) is only inching past. Both Auerbach and Lukács value fiction inasmuch as it gradually becomes ever more not fiction but historiography, ever more not fiction but

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democratic politics. In both writers romance is sidelined. It is an elitist form for Auerbach, not a democratic vista; his chapter on the romance element in Don Quixote refuses the narrative’s potential to revive, or expand, the power of the genre Cervantes ridicules only nominally. As for Lukács, no respect for his The Historical Novel can overlook the fact that, despite making Scott his hero, Lukács never discusses Scott’s use of romance. Scott’s use, I would argue, is his marker of art’s difference from history; his sign that, without a fictive and formal space that he calls romance, there is no easy passage—​if there is any—​from art to history and back. That is why Lukács neglects the space: a focus on romance would get in the way of Lukács’s claim that Scott’s formal experimentation makes Scott a better historian than historians, and only thereby a better novelist. In other words, history dominates, and fiction is the ruler’s subjected subject. Shades of the Planet, the Wai Chee Dimock–​Lawrence Buell volume about American World Literature, culminates in Dimock’s complex brief on behalf of an aesthetic realm that she describes as “a dimension oblique” to what “dismisses and makes fun” of it.11 Might the ruling discourse of historical determinations be one of the dismissive agents? All Shades’ contributors worry: treatments of fiction’s forms, forays into their obliquity, must not yield, they seem to agree, to what David Palumbo-​Liu calls “sequest[ration] . . . from the material world.”12 So much, then, for the prospects of obliqueness. That we are called to resist sequestration from the material world makes one think that criticism cannot adventure beyond the norm of its practice without insuring itself against its own risks. If only the universe of chance guaranteed the knowledge that intellectual novelty desires in the name of global materiality! If only too there were not decades of critical suspicion heaped on adventure stories. The transnational aims perhaps worry their representatives because they suggest replicating the narratives, in fiction and history, that we have condemned as imperialist romance. Here I return to Vollmann. One of his nonfictional books of adventure might help to allay tender-​minded political fears about romance expansiveness. In his Riding toward Everywhere (2008) Vollmann documents his illegal habit of catching on to freight trains in California, Utah, and the Pacific Northwest. The motive for his version of going down and out in the tradition of Jack London and George Orwell is the sense of “unlimited expansion” that the adventure makes him feel.13 Vollmann wants liberty of a kind that, he says, is under constraint due to national “public dreams that dream you wrongly.”14 One has no obligation to such dreams, so his “rid[ing] away towards everywhere”15 is the solution. But what if he finds the United States everywhere? “America contains

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the entire world, as my President [Bush] and his soldiers daily prove.”16 “My darling America has become a humpyard where cars and citizens can be nudged down the hill onto various classification tracks. I’ve got to get out of here.”17 Significantly, the homeless men and women he meets along the way, who realize that Vollmann is not permanently vagrant, apply to him their most opprobrious epithet: citizen. Citizenship is security. Vollmann is embarrassed to be on the citizen’s classification track, because his desire is to brave not knowing where everywhere will find him. The braving of insecurity depends on expansiveness, but a contraction is immediately at work in the process. The contraction undermines the mastering, imperializing impulse that criticism has come to insist takes the lead in romance adventure. “The frequent lovely surprises of reality,”18 Vollmann says, are what his rides seek and discover. The rides also entail an undergoing of physical pain and mental anxiety, and not self-​assertiveness. The train road “is ugly, hateful, dangerous,”19 because train-​catching vagrants can never be sure where their train is headed. “When you gamble on a freight train it is so much like life, you don’t know the future”;20 but usually in life we trust to continuity, not to leaping away from it. And even if you are gambling on a freight train rationally and purposefully, Vollmann remarks, “your reasonableness may not resemble the train’s.”21 You can read the vehicle’s mind only up to a point. If your life’s direction seems legible in contrast to the illegible thing you are riding, who can say that your plan is more trustworthily knowable than the train’s? “Who am I? Where am I? I know less and less certainly . . . where this grassy, shadowy world is rushing,”22 Vollmann thinks as he rides. What he consciously wants to find is some variant of Hemingway’s Last Good Country, but he admits there might be nothing but the approach to it. The gamble gives the romance leap a tragic cast, one that is confirmed by the vagrants Vollmann meets. In vagrant life the brotherhood of man has no secure ground or hope; Vollmann’s fellow travelers are mostly marked by “wariness, rage, [and] fear.”23 Something unredeemable is operative in the break from established life. Nevertheless, the surrender to the possibility of defeat and disappointed expectations is one of adventure’s necessary conditions. Vollmann’s intermingling of adventure, romance, and tragedy conforms with the substance of Georg Simmel’s essay “Das Abenteuer” (1911) and also with Giorgio Agamben’s “L’avventura” (2015), which depends heavily on Simmel. “The most general form of adventure is its dropping out of the continuity of life,” says Simmel, predicting Vollmann’s “getting out” and his Seven

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Dreams; for, Simmel explains, “the more ‘adventurous’ an adventure . . . the more dreamlike it becomes.”24 “The adventurer is also the extreme example of the ahistorical individual, of the man who lives in the present,” Simmel continues; and his dropping out of continuity also means that the adventurer “abandon[s]‌himself to the meaninglessness of chance.” Eros intensifies abandonment, hence involves itself in the adventure form. Agamben links eros with Goethe’s idea of the daimonic, the amoral interweaving of chance and necessity that drives us, even as we are more deliberatively entrained (so to speak) atop it. The daimonic is a version of The Dark Tower’s fatal magnetism. But all is not darkness. Lest we think that the adventurer’s goal is ultimately as unknowable or ungraspable as the Holy Grail, one must say that it is so, but not exclusively. What Simmel calls “our general longing for light” is not antithetical to adventure, because the latter catches at “brightness,” however evanescently. There is one enduring rather than evanescent brightness, however, to be extrapolated from “Das Abenteuer.” Consider the following passage in Simmel: In both the work of art and the adventure the whole of life is . . . comprehended and consummated—​and this irrespective of the particular theme of either . . . We feel this, not although, but because the work of art exists entirely beyond life as a reality; the adventure, entirely beyond life as [a]‌course which intelligibly connects every [of its] elements. It is because the work of art and the adventure stand over against life . . . that both are analogous to the totality of life itself, even as this totality presents itself [in both] in the . . . summary and crowdedness of a dream experience.

The light offered to our general longing is epitomized in Simmel’s declaration that “The work of art and the adventure stand over against life.” Can the scholarly adventure of pursuing the American world novel make use of Simmel’s light? It strikes me as possible, not only because Simmel says it, but because the history of novels, and their reliance on the romance of adventure, attests it. They illuminate Simmel. Vollmann confirms Simmel because Vollmann issues from the world of novels. As for Vollmann’s world novels, the impact of their situating art and adventure “over against life” appears most clearly in Kissing the Mask. But because that volume is a treatise, I first want to illustrate the nature of history, and what is suggested about it, in The Rifles (1994), the penultimate historical novel in the sequence of Seven Dreams, although one of the earliest written.

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The Rifles, in setting adventure “over against” life, identifies “life” with history. The identification is one that we (not Simmel) make when we refuse to sequester the material world. Vollmann, a thoroughgoing scholar, also refuses the sequestration. As I  have noted, he appends to every Dream a voluminous historical apparatus, “Sources,” which includes distinguished professorial assessments, solicited by him, of the real-​world nonfictional matter of his texts. The reader of The Rifles, his or her curiosity stimulated by the text’s historical materials, early seeks attachment to those referee sources, because they promise authoritative guidance, a totality of coherence that one might expect from a corroborating determination of fiction by history. Nevertheless, it becomes clear that Vollmann includes sources in order to perplex a reader’s orientation as much as to illuminate it. The Rifles’s opening sequence presents Vollmann’s search—​in first-​person narration—​for the source of a river he is following along while he is exploring Cornwallis Island in the Arctic circle. The source turns out to be baffling: a matter of speculation, indeed it is missing. It moves away every time Vollmann thinks he nears it. The island geography is disclosed as a “mirrorless house of mirrors,”25 and Vollmann therefore cannot “come to someplace definite.”26 The reader, in trying to follow the baffled narration, inevitably will repair to the “Sources” at the back of the book, so as to come to some place definite, even if behind the back of the author-​narrator. As if Vollmann has not already tried and failed at the same strategy! When historical light fails to find things, however, adventure begins. Adventure in The Rifles is a dark romance. It begins with the bafflement of historical certainty, and intensifies via the text’s multiple fractures of content and form. Vollmann, in a phase of his “getting out” toward everywhere, has in this novel caught a ride to the Arctic circle. The ride is only one of the narrative components. A second and third develop as Vollmann, who besides appearing in the text as the author and narrator, splits into at least three alter ego characters—​each a persona constructed to fit in with and to read the minds of persons and groups newly encountered in the Arctic. The alter egos traverse the territory of an Inuit population that, supposedly for its cultural and economic good—​which includes hunting caribou, seal, and whale with rifles—​has been displaced by the Canadian government from northernmost Quebec province to a farther corner of the northwest. The displacement has had miserable effects. One of the alter egos, stirred to help the Inuit, who long for return to their Quebec origin, gathers their recent history, and hopes to make it intelligible as a way to improve the lives he touches. But what is the

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explanatory source, what the solution? Is the nonlocalized world history of rifles the explanation? Did the Cold War influence the Inuit removal? Did the Canadian Royal Mounted Police exploit the Inuit women for sexual favors, and did Ottawa respond callously to the subsequent Inuit complaints? The alter ego’s need to probe multiple sources for the truth intensifies when he is taken over by eros and by a daimonic phenomenon. A  liaison develops between him and an impoverished, drug-​dependent Inuit single mother; and, simultaneously, he is captured by a ghost, by what he calls his “grave-​twin”: the historical Sir John Franklin, English commander of the fatal quest for the Northwest Passage in 1845–​47. There is so much life and so many sources to search for, inquire into, direct, and master! Life, dividing itself and multiplying mysteries, seems to make Vollmann the train-​jumping historian say “Who am I? Where am I? I know less and less certainly where this shadowy world is rushing.” Nevertheless, The Rifles proposes, history itself is the northwest passage, through which, by means of which the historical novelist—​the adventurer turned historian, and dominated by historical discourse—​will cut his way. Expanding thereby the possibilities of global traversal, the fusion of adventurer and historian promises to reveal the intelligibility of the whole. But, as with Franklin, so with Vollmann’s split-​self narrative, there is no such passage. Walls of ice, walls of impenetrable ill block the way. History, the fusion of present and past minds, attempts to resolve the apparent destructive effect of the past on the present. But Vollmann shows the attempt—​the metaphorical transfer by which the relation between the activist and the Inuit woman repeats the quest for a Northwest Passage—​to be an arbitrary forcing into view of an historical totality that resists coherent materialization. In his “Sources” Vollmann includes his exchange of letters with Canadian authorities from whom he tries to get the truth about the Inuit accusations concerning sexual abuse. The epistolary documents result in a deadlock of perspectives. The expansion of intelligence undertaken by Vollmann the historian, his attempt to master contingencies by making them meaningful as history, is baffled, and must accept contraction. In contrast, for Vollmann the adventurer, the surrender to whatever cannot be controlled by research and deliberation, the romance ride wherever chance and higher or daimonic powers lead, even if they lead to frustration, is success. History, or life as a continuous passage forward from the past, and romance adventure, or life as discontinuous and uncontrolled present passages, cannot be unified. The so-​called historical novel, at least in this contemporary instance of it (if not always), is the vector

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of this two-​in-​one division. An Inuit adventure romance about the cruel contingencies that pervade human eros and nature’s bounty rises to the surface of The Rifles as a more adequate confrontation of the forces Vollmann’s historian-​ self tries to order, and cannot. I do not think the division is engaged sufficiently by attitudes toward history such as the one Paul Giles in Shades of the Planet cites approvingly—​from Paul Ricoeur—​as a “redistribution of horizons”; that is, a “changing [of] our view of the past in accordance with revised expectations about the present and the future.”27 Such a redistribution is adduced by Giles as a necessary component of any transnational turn in scholarship. Vollmann’s alter egos in The Rifles at times rehearse and even achieve such a redistribution; but the plasticity and hopefulness of it fade, perhaps because the past, especially as it recedes, is knowable in Vollmann—​and in life—​as an impassable fact: the fact of mortality, which all changeable views of it hardly revise. Romance is more adapted to mortality: it faces it, as well as braves it, at every turn. But at the start of Vollmann’s Last Stories the ghost that speaks to him tells him in effect that mortality too—​for a person, and maybe for a nation—​is surmountable, because one can be immortal and dead simultaneously. Is that paradox, reminiscent of Simmel’s “summary and crowdedness of a dream experience,” not itself a take-​off point for adventure? What relation does it have to any claim that art and adventure stand over against life, and therefore over against history, whether history is understood as life’s continuity, or as a redistribution of temporal horizons, or as immitigable materialization? Kissing the Mask offers an answer derived from Noh’s essential material: conflicts between our attachments to life (our continuity with it) and our detachments from it. Noh theater is populated by characters who are spectres, alive and dead simultaneously, clinging to life because they are attached to sin, or because they are attached to a still-​living love or lover. Such figures belong to the heightened, unworldly world of romance. In “Matsukaze,” the play that Vollmann says he is most affected by, two sister-​ghosts, who when they were alive loved the same poet-​statesman and were equally abandoned by him, now wait—​against the grain of all possibility—​for him to return to them. While they wait, they recite his poetry. Here we see the dead clinging to life, in a way that defines life as history and as fidelity to the rule of history; and the sisters use the art of poetry not to stand over against life but as a mode of reentering and repeating it. But there is only an illusory continuous passage from one to the other. The sisters’ attachment to material fact deceives them. They live in the world of romance

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moonlight—​they are brine gatherers, and are fascinated by the moon’s reflections in their brine pails—​and yet they want to hold on to a historical reality they have surpassed. The dead need to recognize the fact of their mortality, and the living need to recognize the distance between art and life, and between art and history, that the sisters desire to ignore. What enforces the fact of their detachment from life, against the grain of their misrecognition, is the Noh theater’s artifice itself. The sisters, unlike the audience, are blind to the art world that frames them, and that severs them from historical existence. The historical novelist Vollmann at times in Kissing the Mask has no less difficulty than the sisters in accepting the distance between art’s adventure and life’s. One finds him noting skeptically: “Noh’s critique of attachment is far more ambiguous than it pretends.”28 After all, the content of the plays can present the virtue of constancy as attachment: “in some Noh plays, as in life, constancy to a principle requires us to detach ourselves from people we love. Unfortunately, even then, our principled constancy . . . resolves into another attachment.”29 Given this dialectic, one might think, Vollmann could easily subvert the difference and the romance-​like distance between artifice and history, as well as between detachment and attachment. But the world novel (itself a motor of new attachments and detachments) intervenes just here. Vollmann’s American fiction is pervaded by the influence of his cherished Japanese novelists, whom he repeatedly cites: Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Junichiro Tanizaki. Mishima too was drawn to Noh, and in effect he and his fellow novelists come together in Vollmann’s chapter of meditation about Mishima in Kissing the Mask. They come together in a struggle over Mishima’s denial of Noh’s ethos and aesthetics of detachment. The denial occurs in Mishima’s Five Modern Noh Plays (1950–​55), his prose updating of classical scenarios. They are, Vollmann says, “in shocking contradistinction to the . . . Noh aesthetic of yugen [i.e., ineffability].”30 They replace it with hard literalness, the utter materialism of history and reality. Accordingly, Mishima “recapitulates” the tale of Komachi, a famous heroine of several plays, “on a gruesomely petty scale.”31 Noh depends on aware, which Vollmann defines as “the beauty and harmony beyond direct expression . . . The capacity for appreciating it is sometimes associated especially with the feminine.”32 In renovating Komachi, the masculinist Mishima exemplifies his “typically morbid version”33 of what is beyond: it is only death. Indeed, Vollmann thinks, Mishima’s “attachment merely happened to be to death itself.”34 That attachment deeply worries

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Vollmann because, even while registering ambiguous feelings about Mishima, he sees the Japanese author as a version of himself. Another of Vollmann’s moments of resistance to Noh is at issue:  “I, glorifier of my attachments,” he exclaims, “reject to my utmost power Noh’s assertion that clinging to whatever moves [i.e., to the life of the floating world] becomes torture.”35 But clinging to the material world, Vollmann is startled to realize, might mean taking up Mishima’s position. “Mishima’s Komachi is a horridly convincing argument against me. What makes her horrid is that he has stolen her grace away.”36 And Mishima thereby rejects the grace, the romance, that is an essential object of Vollmann’s transnational quest. He is so bent on finding it that he can see it in Mishima after all. His proof is the appositeness to its author of a sentence in one of Mishima’s novels: “He was always thinking of death, and this had so refined him that the physical seemed to fall away, freeing him from the pull of earth and enabling him to walk about some distance above its surface.”37 Noh, even as it dramatizes the pull of earth, is indeed elevated some distance above its surface by virtue of its artifice. The place of its art is a space apart, which Vollmann, following the Noh playwright Zeami (the principal author of “Matsukaze”), calls Silla, an imaginary capital of a country “where the objects of our attachment live, and therefore the place we can never go.”38 “Each of us perceives the capital in terms of his own attachment”; but the closest we can come to it is the theatrical mask, with its lyric drama and its appurtenances. “Only a mask can be utterly constant. The mask possesses the true flower [i.e., the most perfect beauty]—​as also, I suppose, does a ghost.” Not yet convinced he is a ghost (despite the opening of Last Stories and Other Stories), “I will never go to the capital,” Vollmann admits; he even admits that he does not want to go, because the capital’s formal constraints would be severe, especially in regard to eros and its corporeal habitation. Nevertheless, eros—​in Vollmann’s case so intense a love of women that in recent years he has adopted a transvestite persona, “Dolores,” as part of his worship—​is an urgent initiator of the fascination with life that impels adventure, whose epitome and sequel is art. “The idea of the capital as a heavenly home allures me as much as the fantasy embodied by a maiko [an apprentice geisha] or a man in a woman’s mask [the Noh actor is always male],” Vollmann says, and adds: “Whenever we seek to peer into our own lives and those of others, we place ourselves in a neutrally perfect imaginary place: the capital. Only there can we discern attachments accurately.”39 The capital is the aesthetic realm, not the historical one.

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The American world novel, if Vollmann’s case can exemplify it, has its capital in Silla—​or on the Noh stage. Befitting the source and goal of a romance adventure, “The Noh stage is truly a world set apart from mine,”40 Vollmann writes in his concluding pages; and when he leaves a performance, he says, “I go home to where my losses live.”41 His losses live in the national and historical confines with which he and we are familiar, and which, by fixing him and us to where we are, keep us from riding toward everywhere. Beyond the US story, or the historical story, is “the space between fascination and fulfillment,”42 another version of grace and Silla. It is not only Noh and the modern Japanese novelists who help Vollmann adventure in that direction. Were this sketch more expansive, it would expound the transnational detachments of other writers whom Kissing the Mask brings along with it: Pound and Yeats, who in their own way identified Noh with Silla, the novelist Sigrid Undset, the Icelandic sagas, and Norse eddas. The romance place, the adventurous new literary capital, is American-​ Irish-​Scandinavian-​Icelandic-​Japanese, detached from the origins designated by those names, and creatively en-​ghosted.

Notes 1 William T. Vollmann, Kissing the Mask: Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater (New York: Ecco Press, 2010), 385. 2 William T. Vollmann, Last Stories and Other Stories (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), xxi. 3 Ibid., xvii. 4 Ibid., xviii. 5 George W. Cable, Creoles and Cajuns, ed. Arlin Turner (Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959), 102. 6 The excellent exception is Jonathan Arac, “The Age of the Novel, the Age of Empire: Howells, Twain, James around 1900,” The Yearbook of English Studies 41.2 (2011): 94–​105. 7 W. D. Howells, Selected Literary Criticism Vol. II: 1886–​1897 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 190. Howells’s remark appears in his November 1891 contribution to his “Editor’s Study” column in Harper’s Monthly. 8 W. D. Howells, Selected Literary Criticism Vol. III: 1898–​1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 70. The essay on Zola appeared in North American Review in November of 1902.

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9 “Introduction,” in Shapes that Haunt the Dusk, eds. William Dean Howells and Henry Mills Alden (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1907), v. 10 Randolph Bourne, “Trans-​National America,” The Atlantic Monthly (July 1916): 86–​97, 93. 11 Wai Chee Dimock, “African, Caribbean, American: Black English as Creole Tongue,” in Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature, eds. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 295. 12 David Palumbo-​Liu, “Atlantic to Pacific: James, Todorov, Blackmur and Intercontinental Form,” in Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature, eds. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 223. 13 William T. Vollmann, Riding toward Everywhere (New York: Ecco Press, 2008), 9. 14 Ibid., 103. 15 Ibid., 102. 16 Ibid., 101. 17 Ibid., 108. 18 Ibid., 139. 19 Ibid., 139. 20 Ibid., 86. 21 Ibid., 86. 22 Ibid., 155. 23 Ibid., 145. 24 Georg Simmel, “The Adventure [Das Abenteuer],” trans. David Kettler (April 2002). www.condor.depaul.edu/​dweinste/​theory/​adventure.html. Translation of “Das Abenteuer,” Philosophische Kultur. Gesammelte Essays [1911], 2nd edn (Leipzig: Alfred Kroner, 1919). 25 William T. Vollmann, The Rifles (New York: Penguin Books, 1994), 3. 26 Ibid., 5. 27 Paul Giles, “The Deterritorialization of American Literature,” Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature, eds. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 40. 28 William T. Vollmann, Kissing the Mask, 354. 29 Ibid., 354. 30 Ibid., 323. 31 Ibid., 324. 32 Ibid., 425. 33 Ibid., 324.

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34 Ibid., 326. 35 Ibid., 324. 36 Ibid., 324. 37 Ibid., 328. 38 Ibid., 332. 39 Ibid., 372. 40 Ibid., 374. 41 Ibid., 374. 42 Ibid., 384.

Works cited Arac, Jonathan. “The Age of the Novel, the Age of Empire: Howells, Twain, James around 1900.” The Yearbook of English Studies 41.2 (2011): 94–​105. Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis [1946]. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. Bourne, Randolph. “Trans-​National America.” The Atlantic Monthly (July 1916): 86–​97. Cable, George W. Creoles and Cajuns. Ed. Arlin Turner. Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959. Dimock, Wai Chee. “African, Caribbean, American: Black English as Creole Tongue.” In Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Eds. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Giles, Paul. “The Deterritorialization of American Literature.” In Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Eds. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Howells, W. D. “Introduction.” Shapes that Haunt the Dusk. Eds. William Dean Howells and Henry Mills Alden. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1907. Howells, W. D. Selected Literary Criticism Vol. II: 1886–​1897. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. Howells, W. D. Selected Literary Criticism Vol. III: 1898–​1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. Jameson, Fredric. The Antinomies of Realism. New York: Verso, 2013. Lukács, Georg. The Historical Novel [1937]. Trans. Hannah Mitchell and Stanley Mitchell. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983. Palumbo-​Liu, David. “Atlantic to Pacific: James, Todorov, Blackmur and Intercontinental Form.” In Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Eds. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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Simmel, Georg. “Das Abenteuer.” In Philosophische Kultur. Gesammelte Essays [1911]. Second ed. Leipzig: Alfred Kroner, 1919. Simmel, Georg. “The Adventure [Das Abenteuer].” Trans. David Kettler. April 2002. www.condor.depaul.edu/​dweinste/​theory/​adventure.html Vollmann, William T. The Rifles. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. Vollmann, William T. Riding toward Everywhere. New York: Ecco Press, 2008. Vollmann, William T. Kissing the Mask: Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater. New York: Ecco Press, 2010. Vollmann, William T. Last Stories and Other Stories. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

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Transhuman Poetics and American World Literature: James Baldwin’s Demon of History in Just Above My Head Daniel T. O’Hara

I am beginning with a passage from James Baldwin’s last published novel, Just Above My Head (1979), the title no doubt a bit of a riff on that inspirational old gospel song, “Up Above My Head.” It is a long passage, from the fourth “book” of five, as if the novel aspired, however wistfully, to the five-​part structure of some latter-​day Shakespearean tragedy. The passage has as its human focus the late relationship between Arthur Montana, the blues-​soul “emperor” whose life is the subject of his brother’s, the narrator’s, “biography,” which we are reading and Guy, Arthur’s French ex-​soldier-​lover in mid-​1960s Paris, which is still torn by the Algerian conflict. The passage introduces the figure of “the demon of history,” which I  want to discuss as a marker of what I  mean by “transhuman poetics.” Here is the sixfold paragraphed passage, numbered for convenience’s sake: 1. But everyone must be born somewhere, and everyone is born in a context: this context is his inheritance. If he were a Muslim, or a Jew, or an Irish, Spanish, Greek, or Italian Catholic, if he were a Hindu, or a Haitian or a Brazilian, an Indian or an African chief, his life might be simpler in some ways and more complex in others; more open in one way, more closed in another. An inheritance is a given: in struggling with this given, one discovers oneself in it—​and one could not have been found in any other place!—​and, with this discovery, and not before, the possibility of freedom begins . . .

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2. Guy has said that his history is clinging to him, but what he means is that he has no acceptable access to that history; it cannot feed him, it can only diminish him. In any case, it must all be reexamined and overhauled before it can possibly be used, and this examination will take the rest of Guy’s life. Guy, like many another, like Arthur, like you and me, in fact, would rather spend his life without wrestling with history. 3. For this is also Arthur’s torment, although the terms are so unutterably different. 4. To overhaul a history, or to attempt to redeem it—​which effort may or may not justify it—​is not at all the same thing as the descent one must make in order to excavate a history. To be forced to excavate a history is, also, to repudiate the concept of history, and the vocabulary in which history is written; for the written history is, and must be, merely the vocabulary of power, and power is history’s most seductively attired false witness. 5. And yet, the attempt, more, the necessity, to excavate a history, to find out the truth about oneself!—​is motivated by the need to have the power to force others to recognize your presence, your right to be here. The disputed passage will remain disputed so long as you do not have the authority of the right-​of-​way—​so long, that is, as your passage can be disputed: the document promising safe passage can always be revoked. Power clears the passage, swiftly: but the paradox, here, is that power, rooted in history, is also, the mockery and the repudiation of history. The power to define the other seals one’s definition of oneself—​who, then, in such a fearful mathematic, to use Guy’s term [for an economy of calculation] is trapped? 6. Perhaps, then, after all, we have no idea of what history is: or are in flight from the demon we have summoned. Perhaps, history is not to be found in our mirrors, but in our repudiations: perhaps, the other is ourselves. History may be a great deal more than the quicksand which swallows others, and which has not yet swallowed us: history may be attempting to vomit us up, and spew us out: history may be tired. Death, itself, which swallows everyone, is beginning to be weary—​of history, in fact, for death has no history.1 The first paragraph sets the widest and deepest framework for reading by invoking nationalities, ethnicities, religious and cultural differences, widely separated in space and time, a truly transnational, indeed in this sense of the word, transhuman, that is, across the broad human scope. In 1979 this gesture is still

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a bit of a novelty, even as for us now in the age of American World Literature. No doubt, as Magdalena Zaborowska argues in James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade (1961–​71), Baldwin’s residence in Istanbul informs his worldly perspective in every sense. As we can see, the irony of this first paragraph is contained in the last long sentence: “An inheritance is a given: in struggling with this given, one discovers oneself in it—​and one could not have been found in any other place!—​ and, with this discovery, and not before, the possibility of freedom begins.”2 I must pause to acknowledge Donald Pease’s pathbreaking new work on the jouissance of inheritance in an article on F. O. Matthiesen that has helped me to think about this passage in Baldwin. This fraught freedom is Baldwin’s sublime jouissance. Paragraph two continues this irony by completing it but in a way that is opposite to what Guy means when he claims his history clings to him, as the narrator reports before going on to deny this figure for Guy’s experience of history, revising that experience into figures of lack of access, and lack of reexamination and overhauling—​this access, reexamination, and overhaul being essential, apparently, to making use of, of having, an effective history now and going into the future, for exercising and discovering one’s freedom. An existentialist theme that sounds equally Emersonian or Jamesian, but tight-​lipped, not wildly jubilant, a completion of the theme that sounds almost like its direct opposite, the pleasure of freedom being as much an agonizing drive results in a completion of the theme. This complex sense of history, as not being something that clings like a burning shirt to a person, but as being the person’s own continuous wrestling with history, thereby invoking the biblical figures of Jacob wrestling with the angel of death, and similar wrestling matches, leads to the third single-​sentence paragraph, in which whatever relationships we are holding in our minds between the characters, the figures being used, and all the differences between and among them and their allusive ancestors, are at once confirmed and emptied of their otherwise intermingling meanings: “For this is also Arthur’s torment, although the terms are so unutterably different.” Of course, this difference is its potent core and clearly is that of race. The unspoken difference of being black or white in America (versus France) makes for a litotes worthy of Hemingway for punch, hence its single sentence paragraph status. Filling this void of difference next, in paragraph four, is the sublime figure of power arising from the difference between excavating history and reexamining and overhauling it. Excavation of history opens its layers for reexamination

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and overhaul, as we know from Foucault, but in terms Baldwin and he claim are purely of power, in the way we say the victors always write the histories. So, for Baldwin, the sublime figure of power is a misleading trope, itself a necessary misreading, a phantasmic hyperbole, which is seductive, requires a dangerous descent into the abysses of power, and, if we are not canny readers, provides nothing but false witness to what written histories have obscured and forgotten, leaving out of the hidden or unrecognized record the role of love’s empire, its redeeming promise of apocalyptic redemption for the multitudes. The fifth paragraph is perhaps the most complex of all. It introduces, even as it continues the figure of excavation, that of “the disputed passage,” which cannot help but sound like a reference to the experiences of runaway slaves and freed slaves alike during the period up to and including that other passage, of the Fugitive Slave Act, before the outbreak of the Civil War, as well as the original sin of the middle passage voyages of the slave trading ships. But even more than this specific set of historical references, we read, when reading about the annulment of history in the excavation of power, the paradox of recognition as if lifted right out of the Hegelian master/​slave dialectic, revised ironically here into the ever-​shifting perspectives of mockery and repudiation, as if a radical parody (by way of Whitman, Dubois, as well as Foucault, perhaps) insures that we recognize the paradox that in our repudiations of history we discover our own true history, our own true selves, after all. Coming out of the blue as the metaphorical phrase “the disputed passage” does here, the phrase feels like a catachresis, caught in the moment of exploding and so right before the exploded pieces fall and settle into their precarious displacements. This leads us to the short sixth concluding paragraph, which I will cite again entire for convenience’s sake: “Perhaps, then, after all, we have no idea of what history is: or are in flight from the demon we have summoned. Perhaps, history is not to be found in our mirrors, but in our repudiations: perhaps, the other is ourselves. History may be a great deal more than the quicksand which swallows others, and which has not yet swallowed us: history may be attempting to vomit us up, and spew us out: history may be tired. Death, itself, which swallows everyone, is beginning to be weary—​of history, in fact, for death has no history.” The first thing I felt reading this summary judgment was bewilderment since I did not realize that “we” had summoned any demon. Of course the recognition immediately hit me that Baldwin’s narrator had to be right. Baldwin, true to his history as writer and man, writes in a literary and social context that sanctions the creation of literature as a means of self-​knowledge, knowledge of the world,

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and especially, of the prophecies of the soul’s or the imagination’s future history, by staging sublime tests and contests of the original power of vision, in which the ultimate combatants, much as in later Freud, are life and death, the fate of the self. This revisionary pattern of troping—​irony (paragraph 1), synecdoche (paragraph 2), litotes (paragraph 3), hyperbole (paragraph 4), metaphor (paragraph 5), and metalepsis (paragraph 6)—​that these six paragraphs perform, as we know, has been identified by Harold Bloom as the distinguishing mark of romantic and post-​romantic writing, from the Greater Romantic Ode to its many postmodern (self-​) parodic fizzles. It is a poetic practice of self-​divination, a secular theurgy, a topic that Bloom promises his next book will plumb fully, and until then I  can direct to the best available study on the topic generally, Algis Uzdavinys’ Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity (2014). What this means is that literary modernity, from the late eighteenth century to the present moment in Anglo-​American and European literatures, at least, haunts us with and is haunted by this ironic revisionary pattern of secular self-​divination. The modern writer performs the text the way a shaman used to perform the ritual, as a life or death test of their capability to envision the worst and triumph creatively over it, thereby moving step by textual step to the celebrated tragedy of immortalization since such power, albeit symbolic power, appears to require the death of love, the sacrifice of all to the achievement of vision. Ezra Pound, for my own example, summons up Odysseus in Canto I (originally Canto III), for this purpose, even as his putative hero in turn furrows the earth to create a trough into which he pours the blood of the sacrificed animal to lure not his mother who comes first and he must fight off with his short sword, but Tiresias, once again as he had come before at Odysseus’s summons, so as to answer the errant wanderer’s by now weary question about the future, which can be summarized as: “Will I return home, and be finally who I am?” This pervasive gesture of envisioning poetry as a means of knowing the future fortunes of the self makes for the universal theurgic sense of transhuman poetics, I would argue ahead of Bloom here a bit. But to return to my paragraphs: The figure of “the demon of history” in the last paragraph summons similar sparring partners—​of Sin and Death from Book II of Paradise Lost, standing at the gates of hell (the title of the final book of Just Above My Head, by the way); or of Blake’s Tyger and similar daimonic nightmares for their unwilling en-​visionaries; or of Baldwin’s favorite American author Henry James’s great late tale, “The Beast in the Jungle,” at the end of

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which the main character, Marcher, is leapt upon by his fiery spectral revenging conscience-​figure as he lays prone and facedown upon the grave of his unrequited because unrecognized beloved May, recognizing belatedly the waste of love that was his life—​the allegorical tease of these names being part of the late Jamesian charm. And while there are comic versions of such demonic beasts of apocalyptic histories, personal and collective, as in Wallace Stevens’ “Earthy Anecdote”, with its firecat leaping playfully, it seems, in front of Oklahoma bucks and before and after stanza gaps, the final scene is one of the apparently satisfied and perhaps satiated firecat closing its heavy eyelids to sleep; we are more likely to recall their great originals, as in the covering cherub of Genesis standing guard before the gates of paradise, with flaming sword in hand, the first light saber; or even better, as in the composite or compound demon of Lucifer/​Satan/​Beast from the Book of Ezekiel: Thus says the Lord GOD, “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” “You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared.” “You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.” “You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created, Until unrighteousness was found in you.” “By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.” “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, That they may see you.” (Ezekiel 28: 12–​17).

Baldwin’s “demon of history” is his self-​critical Luciferian master figure for the daimonic power of the fierce blocking agent of human narcissism. Our self-​ love prefers its history to be the mirror of its most idealized and so misread and misleading moments of self-​reflecting glory. As Baldwin sees here, such self-​love can in fact only be by reading closely our own self-​repudiating excavations of this history. Thus, we expose all power as a false witness, when we reveal the real truth of histories buried over by power. This is how we celebrate a truth whose

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sublimity is ever new because its moments are ones of learning to see in our repudiations the repudiated other that after all can only ever be: us, originally—​ America, the Beautiful Covering Cherub now, technically in the figural terms deployed herein, the metaleptic catachresis, of all world histories. Baldwin’s narrator, Hall Montana, Arthur’s long-​suffering brother, is akin to Thomas Mann’s narrator, Serenus Zeitblum, who takes over the elite artist novel, Doctor Faustus. And his reflections may or may not also be his author’s own. Late in the novel, when he reflects on this master figure of America, he offers a critique of the West African styled New  York City restaurant he is patronizing; it is, ironically, part of a chic European-​elite chain, with newly arrived refugees mostly decked out in their native garb, as are their American cousins, having discovered recently on TV their roots. This is shortly before Arthur and Jimmy, his last long-​term lover, begin the final phase of their life together. As he and Julia, Jimmy’s sister, former child preacher and high fashion model, incest victim, and drug-​addict prostitute, become reacquainted after her two years in Abidjan, getting straight and finding out who she can now become, Hall thinks suddenly not about the new woman beside him, but of the scene of instruction he and Julia (and all of the others) are inhabiting, under the auspices of a judgment to come that is to be far worse: But [this] is no more foreign, really, than any setting becomes the moment one is compelled to examine, decipher, and make demands on it: no more foreign, certainly, than the European outposts jutting, like rotting teeth, out of the jaws of West Africa. If teeth rot, it is because their host, the body, gives them nearly no nourishment. The explicit or exotic European outposts of North America do not, for the moment, appear to lack vitamins, and yet, they do bring uneasily to mind the notion of a mystery imposed upon a dilemma: details [similarly] ripped from their context manifest a sinister and relentless incoherence. All of the details of the room in which we sat were [also] part of a life elsewhere; a communal, a tribal life, still going on, no doubt, elsewhere, but certainly not, as far the senses are able to report, here . . . So it was true, after all, however cold and brutal, I knew there was no hiding place . . . they were homeless, I was home [in this America].3

We can all bear a certain witness to this uncanny feeling of being home in such a diabolically pervasive America. We are like Arthur Montana near the novel’s end who, suffering a heart attack, falls down the steps to the john of a London bar that are “staring down at him from the ceiling just above his head.”4 Baldwin is recalling Tom Kernan’s similar drunken, albeit comic collapse in the famous

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opening sequence of “Grace” from Joyce’s Dubliners. He thereby reminds us that mortal pratfalls of every kind, where-​or-​when-​ever initiated, are our American world’s latest specialty of the house. Let me be even clearer about what I mean here. Baldwin’s Just Above My Head divines how American culture will handle the representations and representatives of foreign cultures, namely by dissimulating them as additional objects among the bric-​a-​brac of commercial venues of exchange, material and symbol, sites and materials of consumption, much like the newly remodeled restaurant in the passage above. In other words, I am reading in Baldwin’s novel a preemptive critique of the very thesis of this collection, namely, that American Literature can be read as world literature and world literature can be appropriated in translation in an expanded American World Literature curriculum without losing what is critical to understanding any literature, its language, and that language’s historical culture. To nail my last point down, I want to turn to two long passages from “Sonny’s Blues” (1957). What Baldwin has Sonny’s brother John say about music and how jazz musicians communicate while improvising, though its main point is about the superiority, in this instance, of music to words, it can also be read as a displaced reflection by Baldwin on the superiority of one’s own language, mother tongue and one’s variation upon it, to any translation of it. Or so, I want to have it. The first passage is about John, the narrator’s memory of his mother and the circumstances of his and his brother’s childhood, living in a house in the Harlem ghetto where inside on a late Sunday afternoon, with evening coming on, there was a moment of peace, stability, home. Here is the passage in question: This was the last time I ever saw my mother alive . . . She’d be sitting on the sofa. And my father would be sitting in the easy chair, not far from her. And the living room would be full of church folks and relatives. There they sit, in chairs all around the living room, and the night is creeping up outside, but nobody knows it yet. You can see the darkness growing against the windowpanes and you hear the street noises every now and again, or maybe the jangling beat of a tambourine from one of the churches close by, but it’s real quiet in the room. For a moment nobody’s talking, but every face looks darkening, like the sky outside. And my mother rocks a little from the waist, and my father’s eyes are closed. Everyone is looking at something a child can’t see. For a minute they’ve forgotten the children. Maybe a kid is lying on the rug, half asleep. Maybe somebody’s

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got a kid in his lap and is absent-​mindedly stroking the lad’s head. Maybe there’s a kid, quiet and big-​eyed, curled up in a big chair in the comer.

The scene grows even more idyllic, a piece of paradise on earth, for a moment: The silence, the darkness coming, and the darkness in the faces frighten the child obscurely. He hopes that the hand which strokes his forehead will never stop—​will never die. He hopes that there will never come a time when the old folks won’t be sitting around the living room, talking about where they’ve come from, and what they’ve seen, and what’s happened to them and their kinfolk. But something deep and watchful in the child knows that this is bound to end, is already ending. In a moment someone will get up and turn on the light. Then the old folks will remember the children and they won’t talk any more that day.

Finally, the moment of peace fades into a gathering darkness filling the rest of life: And when light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness. He knows that every time this happens he’s moved just a little closer to that darkness outside. The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It’s what they’ve come from. It’s what they endure. The child knows that they won’t talk anymore because if he knows too much about what’s happened to them, he’ll know too much too soon, about what’s going to happen to him.5

It is as if the narrator and his family, especially Sonny perhaps, are floating in this half-​light world with the imminence of the storm welling up precisely out of the vacancy, the soft repression of the violence of the adult world on the Harlem streets. Similarly, the scene with which the story concludes, Sonny playing with Creole and his jazz group in a club for the first time since getting out of prison, I contend, enacts this momentary repressed violence, this avoided violence, in the improvised musical world of the stage performance, as if it is a reading of the earlier scene, even as the earlier scene in what it vacates, avoids, such violence to come, is a prophecy of this moment on stage: All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has

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no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours.

This moment of musical transcendence of language infuses Sonny’s face and body: I just watched Sonny’s face. His face was troubled, he was working hard, but he wasn’t with it. And I had the feeling that, in a way, everyone on the bandstand was waiting for him, both waiting for him and pushing him along. But as I began to watch Creole, I realized that it was Creole who held them all back. He had them on a short rein. Up there, keeping the beat with his whole body, wailing on the fiddle, with his eyes half closed, he was listening to everything, but he was listening to Sonny. He was having a dialogue with Sonny. He wanted Sonny to leave the shoreline and strike out for the deep water. He was Sonny’s witness that deep water and drowning were not the same thing—​he had been there, and he knew. And he wanted Sonny to know. He was waiting for Sonny to do the things on the keys which would let Creole know that Sonny was in the water.

What arises from this purifying musical joy is a freedom given to all, the bedrock of personal and social change: Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did. Yet, there was no battle in his face now, I heard what he had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth. He had made it his: that long line, of which we knew only Mama and Daddy. And he was giving it back, as everything must be given back, so that, passing through death, it can live forever . . . Then it was over. Creole and Sonny let out their breath, both soaking wet, and grinning. There was a lot of applause and some of it was real. In the dark, the girl came by and I asked her to take drinks to the bandstand. There was a long pause, while they talked up there in the indigo light and after a while I saw the girl put a Scotch and milk on top of the piano for Sonny. He didn’t seem to notice it, but just before they started playing again, he sipped from it and looked toward me, and nodded. Then he put it back on top of the piano. For me, then, as they began to play again, it glowed and shook above my brother’s head like the very cup of trembling.6

Here the imagery of “above the head” pops up relatively early on in the career (1957), in this famous short story, even as it reappears later in Baldwin’s final novel; and that it is “the very cup of trembling,” in the words of the Isaiah 51: 22 from the King James version (“Thus saith thy Lord: the LORD, and thy God that

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pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again”)—​all this underscores the righteousness, as it were, of my pairing otherwise apparently disparate passages to re-​form Baldwin’s prophetic circle of self-​ critical reflection, a truly African-​American covering cherub, smiling ironically upon the dissimulated prospect of American Literature as World Literature, in translation.

Notes 1 James Baldwin, Just Above My Head [1979], James Baldwin: Later Novels, ed. Darryl Pinckney (New York: Library of America, 2015), 964. 2 Ibid., 958. 3 Ibid., 1009. 4 Ibid., 1037. 5 Ibid., 841–​2. 6 Ibid., 861–​2.

Works cited Bloom, Harold. The Demon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. Book of Ezekiel. biblehub.com. http://​biblehub.com/​ezekiel.htm. Book of Isaiah. biblehub.com. http://​biblehub.com/​isaiah.htm. Morrison, Toni, ed. James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories. New York: Library of America, 1998. Pease, Donald. Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987. Pinckney, Darryl, ed. James Baldwin: Later Novels: Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone /​If Beale Street Could Talk /​Just Above My Head. New York: Library of America, 2015. Uzdavinys, Algis. Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity. Kettering: Angelico Press, 2014. Zaborowska, Magdalena J. James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

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The Pathos of History: Trauma in Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American Jean-​Michel Rabaté

Trauma strikes in many ways and has taken many forms, from nineteenth-​ century travelers injured in railway accidents to children subjected to sexual abuse by relatives, from victims of collective catastrophes like genocides, mass starvation, torture in death-​camps, suicide-​bombers’ attacks, to the aftermath of natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes or houses on fire, that the term baffles by its ubiquity. Trauma, literally a “wound,” but a wound too deep for words, can be understood as what remains foreign in the psyche; which often entails that the wound does not heal. The wound is kept buried, although not hidden to the point of never reappearing—​for its uncanny reappearance will trigger disquieting symptoms, most of which have been categorized in the abundant literature on Post-​Traumatic Stress Disorder. They were given a comprehensive nomenclature in the last editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, currently the DSM-​5. The term of PTSD became official in 1980 with the DSM-​3. Those symptoms include flashbacks, hallucinations, reenactments, and dissociative states, but also numbing, migraines, phobias, amnesia, recurrent memory disturbances, irritability, hyper-​vigilance, inability to focus, exaggerated startle responses, sleep disturbance, nightmares and restless sleep, palpitations, panic attacks, and catastrophic worrying. Some authors have attempted to organize them in evolutionary sequences, as Chaim Shatam has done for post-Vietnam War syndromes in traumatized veterans: the same pattern was repeated, first they would experience guilt, then a sense of betrayal; rage would follow and numbing; finally, a sense of disconnect from the others tended to create an inability to love or to trust the others.1 Trauma can be transmitted from generation to generation, as has been observed

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with children of Holocaust survivors. An issue upon which specialists disagree is whether trauma is a modern notion that has only a cultural or historical valence, or whether this is a universal phenomenon that manifests itself by neuronic damage in specific parts of the brain, notably the amygdala. Whether the discussion comes from the medical field or from scholars in the humanities, trauma keeps an intimate link with fiction because of a recurrent question posed about the reality or the unreality of its causes, if not of its manifestations. Moreover, trauma poses another question, more delicate perhaps, about the usefulness of verbalization: can words offer a release, a cure, or the possibility of testifying about what had happened? This issue, still hotly debated, points on the one hand to the ethical need to re-​infuse a sense of justice to the victims of the most horrible wrongdoings, while bringing into play a larger, older, and huge archive with blurry narratological categories. Can classical Greek tragedy be subsumed under the heading of trauma? Does it make sense to see Oedipus’s cursed lineage as the consequence of a trauma involving murder and incest? Or, against this inclusive thesis, should trauma literature be restricted to the documents of genocide, whose main paradigm is the Holocaust? Countless authors have been fascinated by personal or collective violence, and the more one studies one historical period in a given country, the more one gets acquainted with the specific features that are taken by trauma narratives coming from one single place, which usually includes a whole history. When South Korean novelist Chang-​Rae Lee decided to evoke the history of his country and focus on the Korean War as he did in his saga The Surrendered (2010), which was nominated for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, he could not avoid giving voice to the multiple forms of trauma experienced by Koreans in the second half of the twentieth century. His stories of torture, rape, mass murder, and psychic scarring are based upon historical events. The relationship between trauma and literature ranges from the need to record what has taken place, as in the abundant and growing literature constituted by survivor’s memoirs, to the wish to heal, more often than not by verbalizing the causes of the trauma. If, however, trauma is defined as a wound that destroys the victim’s ability to express its disruptive horror, the inhibition implied leads to the nagging question whether trauma can “speak,” that is be amenable to an expression in words. The very possibility of a literature of trauma generates paradoxes. In a sense, literature has always attempted to apprehend and process traumatic experiences, whether poetic and lyrical or ineffably horrible. T. S. Eliot, in his well-​known and contested essay “Hamlet and his Problems,” asserts that the mainspring of

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the play is a forceful “emotion” and that it keeps too many traces of an “excess” that caused it in the author, so much so that it became unmanageable. If Eliot sees, as most commentators do, that the main emotion of the play is “the feeling of a son towards a guilty mother,”2 he refuses to jump to conclusions and to call it, as Freud did, an echo of a repressed incestuous wish. Eliot concludes that because Shakespeare was unable to tame or channel his character’s emotional excess, Hamlet is an artistic failure:  The play is not only too long and contradictory, but it is also “pathological,” and we can leave Hamlet’s case to “pathologists.”3 Eliot postulates that what makes a good artist is an ability to control such intractable material and present “feelings” that blend with sensations, not an overload of raw emotion. Shakespeare would have lacked artistic control when he “attempted to express the inexpressibly horrible.”4 This was similar to Freud’s interpretation of Hamlet, but Freud saw the same excess in a positive light, because it would testify to the truth of the affects called upon. Should art sublimate the ineffable horror upon which the author’s symptoms are founded? Conrad managed such a feat in Heart of Darkness by putting the urbane skepticism of a narrator like Marlowe as a veil between Kurtz’s awareness of the African “horror” and a genteel British audience. Here is a double problem: how to tame one’s “passions” so as to render them amenable to literature; how to find a narratological model capable of universalizing them. In order to progress toward an answer, I will quote a personal account of post-​ traumatic stress disorder that throws some light on the vexed issue of the links between pathos and history. The vignette was provided by Siri Hustvedt, a writer always ready to share and analyze her own symptoms, as she did brilliantly in The Shaking Woman, its ironical subtitle deftly evoking Freud’s Schreber case: “Or a History of My Nerves.” This time, it is a more recent event. Hustvedt describes the return of the emotional impact caused by an automobile accident ten years before. The car crash that destroyed the car in which she was sitting next to her husband and daughter took place in 2002. In 2012, she attempted to document the traumatic repetition and its attendant dissociation and amnesia. Her essay, “Reliving the Crash,” appeared in The New  York Times of February 18, 2012. Here is a passage from this thoughtful piece: After the accident, I was clearly in a dissociated state—​weirdly detached from myself—​and although I left the hospital without an injury that could be seen on a CT scan, both my memory and my sense of self had been altered by the shock. My amnesia for the accident and the flashbacks that followed, belong to

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260 Jean-Michel Rabaté my psychological state, but they are also, of course, part of my physiological state that involved changes in my brain. This is obvious, and yet this truth has led to a lot of confusion, not only about PTSD, but all mental illnesses . . . My late father, who fought in New Guinea and the Philippines during the Second World War, had repeated flashbacks at night after he returned to civilian life, and once while he was awake—​the intrusive memory seemed to have been triggered by a hymn he was listening to in chapel. As the horrible images unfolded before him, he began to shake uncontrollably, and he found himself back in the Philippines witnessing what he believed was the unwarranted killing of a Japanese officer. . .. In 2006 I developed a mysterious seizure disorder that manifests itself in violent shaking, which I  now control with medicine. The shaking symptoms first appeared when I gave a speech in memory of my father, but I  also once had a seizure while climbing a mountain, which was probably caused by hyperventilation. It is tempting to link my shaking and my flashbacks to my father’s. The question is how? If there is a genetic susceptibility to PTSD, it remains unknown, but both strong emotion—​a psychological state—​and a lack of oxygen—​a physiological one—​are known to cause seizures.5

This article refers back to her 2008 novel, The Sorrows of an American. The section I italicized condenses the problematic deployed by Hustvedt in her recent fiction and essays. What was the cause of her father’s trauma? If Hustvedt readily admits that there was a link between her father’s symptoms and her own symptoms, what triggered such a trans-​generational reiteration? Moreover, can one understand the root of traumatic events by writing a fiction or a memoir? Hustvedt’s novel offers tentative answers to these questions by using the device of a narrator, Erik, who is a male psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst. He too appears eager to make sense of his father’s war trauma. Erik develops a series of meditations on trauma that can be inscribed in the context of current debates about the concept.

Trauma: The debate Erik, as a psychoanalyst, knows that the term of trauma has its roots in Freudian concepts. One of the most outspoken advocates of trauma studies, Cathy Caruth, systematically goes back to Freud as one can see in Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History.6 Caruth’s point of departure is Freud’s notion of a “traumatic neurosis” insofar as it is applied to history, especially to the history

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of Jewish religion. Freud introduced a loaded analogy between patients who have suffered a shock from a wound or after an accident and what happened to the Jewish people as they accepted an originally Egyptian monotheism. In most cases for victims of a trauma, it is only later, after a period of “latency” or “incubation,” that they develop symptoms that repeat the initial traumatic situation.7 Most of the time, moreover, victims of the trauma are not fully conscious of the events that happened. Although at first they have the impression that their emotions are under control, it is only later that symptoms appear. Trauma thus refers to a psychic “wound” that cannot heal, and hence triggers endless repetitions. The notion of trauma implies a break in the integrity of the psychic apparatus, to the point that it cannot absorb, register, or process the shocking or excessive event. If such excess is not controllable or even fully perceptible, it generates intolerable anxiety or endlessly repetitive symptoms. Deferred action implies the idea of the re-​inscription of previously repressed excitations, often sexual in nature. Its temporality is thus not linear but recursive, which complicates the work on memory that psychoanalysis presupposes. It is also the specific temporality of literature. The structure of deferred action is taken as a fundamental hermeneutic paradigm by Caruth. According to her, there is something like an “unclaimed experience” and historical narratives do not follow the experiential model defined by the sequence of events witnessed by observers and later consigned in chronicles. There is no immediate understanding when trauma is concerned. This insight finds obvious applications in the field of Holocaust studies. Following Caruth’s lead, Giorgio Agamben took Primo Levi’s memoirs of Auschwitz as the starting point for his far-​ranging meditation on the unspeakable in history.8 As Levi had argued, the true witnesses were not the survivors but were those who had abandoned all hope in the camps, those who were called the Muselmänner. All died because they had gone too deep into the horror. However, some critics objected to the fetishization of the unspeakable. Ruth Leys attacked Cathy Caruth for what she sees as a misreading of Freud on the concept of trauma, and aims at showing that there are at least two models of trauma for Freud, one in which he believes in the reality of the event, the other in which it may just be a simulation.9 More recently Thomas Trezise has published a virulent debunking of Agamben’s account of Auschwitz in Witnessing Witnessing: On the Reception of Holocaust Survivor Testimony. On the whole, Trezise rejects the theme of an unspeakable event, an event so excessive that it cannot not be inscribed in subjective consciousness or collective memory.

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Suspicious of the rhetoric of pathos deployed by Agamben, he highlights a dangerous consequence of this position: if one can merely repeat the trauma, this will prevent victims from giving any testimony about their experiences, whereas most victims insist upon their ability (or wish) to provide a true account of their condition. This is the heated discussion out of which trauma studies have grown; they include memoirs of abuse, rape, murder, and stories about extreme situations. These events being by definition “excessive,” they cannot be inscribed either in the memory or consciousness. They have to be repeated compulsively, literally, and mutely. Caruth takes examples from Marguerite Duras (Hiroshima My Love), Lacan, and Kleist, that all insist on missed experiences and on the inability to inscribe the trauma in a linear and coherent narrative. Ruth Leys questioned the conclusions reached by physician Bessel van der Kolk and Caruth, who both argue that the symptoms of traumas are literal and veridical repetitions of events that have happened. If those events happened but implied some kind of excess, which explains why they were not fully registered, then the Freudian concepts of repression cannot apply here.10 The “wound” of the trauma would have been so deep that it affected the organs of perception and memory. Leys compares this thesis with the abundant medical and legal literature produced about Post-​Traumatic Stress Disorder since the 1980s. If as we have seen, “PTSD” became an official term in 1980, the recent versions of the DSM have been more cautious in attributing a literal and truthful nature to traumatic phenomena. The growing number of persons suffering from recurrent memories, flashbacks, hallucinations, and nightmares generated by traumatic injuries or experiences has given rise to an enormous archive that is hard to interpret. Freud, who was aware of the phenomenon, ended up thinking that it testified to the existence of a death-​drive that he posited beyond the pleasure principle. However, if the traumatic suffering is undeniable and real, how can we be sure that the cause is a real event? This question takes us back to the interrogations of Freud as he was changing his views about the reality of the seduction of hysterical daughters in the hands of perverse fathers in 1897. For Caruth, victims of trauma can only repeat the events because they have no possibility of narrating them to themselves. Traumatic events are literally happening over and over again:  “The truth of the trauma [is] the failure of representation,”11 she summarizes. Caruth interprets Claude Lanzmann’s film Shoah not as a representation destined to make people understand the transportation toward death camps but as a way of transmitting the trauma as such

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in its incomprehensible horror. The “pathos of the literal” is then Leys’s critical response to a combination of scientism about overwhelmed neurotransmitters and a performative literary theory of the contagion of the unspeakable. More damaging has been Thomas Trezise’s refutation of Agamben’s application of the paradigm of trauma to discuss the quandary in which Holocaust survivors found themselves. Agamben exploits some of Primo Levi’s hesitations about his own role. Levi felt that he was inadequate as a witness, and left that role to those who could not fulfill it by definition since they were the glassy-​eyed vanquished, the haggard mute shadows, those who had abandoned any hope. Trezise’s question is whether the way survivors have witnessed historical events can lead to disclose a truth, whether the silenced speech of survivors brings about a reconstruction of the crime. If the only true witnesses of the Shoah were the catatonic “Müselmänner” who believe that they will never return to the world of the living, their passivity does not leave a chance to those intent upon narrating their experiences. Trezise multiplies examples of witnesses who insisted on their witnessing abilities. For them, it was crucial to convey to the outside world the extent of the horror they had experienced. Important books like Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After and Robert Antelme’s The Human Species are memoirs presenting the survivors of the camps engaged in a frenzy of talk. There was an outpouring of stories about their experiences as soon they were able to do so. Narrating the horror was a way to begin understanding it, which contradicts the paradox of an unspeakable account of the unspeakable. One should be attentive to whether witnesses are capable or not of narrating the trauma.12 Are such witnesses the carriers of a message of which they are unaware, or should there be an ethical decision to be a witness of something that bordered the unspeakable but that can begin to be ordered and sorted out before turning into a narrative. Moreover, if there is a transmission of trauma, as has often been observed with children of Holocaust survivors, such a transgenerational genealogy has also impacted Siri Hustvedt’s relationship with her father’s war trauma.

Either/​Or True to the title of Kierkegaard’s book on which Inga, Erik Davidsen’s sister, has written her dissertation, Hustvedt’s novel is caught up in an Either/​Or. One cannot avoid taking position about the reality and unspeakability of trauma.

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On the one hand, The Sorrows of an American seems to side with Caruth. Erik Davidsen, the hero of the novel, a middle-​aged and divorced male psychiatrist who works at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New York, meditates on trauma and history: History is made by amnesia. In the American Civil War, they called it soldier’s heart, and over time it changed its name to shell shock, then war neurosis. Now it’s PTSD, post-​traumatic stress disorder, the most antiseptic of the terms for what can happen to people who witness the unspeakable. During World War I, in the barracks of field hospitals French and British doctors saw them coming in droves—​men blind, deaf, shaking, paralyzed, aphasic, catatonic, hallucinating, plagued by recurring nightmares and insomnia, seeing and re-​seeing what no one should see, or feeling nothing at all . . . Trauma isn’t part of a story; it is outside the story. It is what we refuse to make part of the story.13

This opinion falls in line with Caruth’s thesis; it underpins the main narrative drift in the novel, the parallel between Erik’s theories and his progressive deciphering, helped by Inga, of the notes and diaries written by their father during the World War II. As we saw, the main source of the trauma experienced by Lars Davidsen was the killing of a Japanese officer who was trying to surrender in the Philippines. The Japanese officer was shot unfairly by an American officer even though he posed no threat. This image of the killed supplicant haunts Lars Davidsen’s memory. It functions as a ghostly remorse and he superimposes it onto older memories of ancient family dramas. His son Erik must tease out the root of his father’s symptoms in order to understand his own predicament. This is now Erik who is speaking: I knew that my research was confirming what I had always felt was true in my patients: their memories of war, rape, near-​fatal accidents, and collapsing buildings aren’t like other memories. They are kept separate in the mind. I remembered the images from PET scans of PTSD patients and the colored highlights showing increased blood flow to the right side of the brain and to the limbic and paralimbic areas, the old brain in evolutionary terms, and decreased flow to the left cortical areas, the language sites. Trauma does not appear in words, but in a roar of terror, sometimes with images. Words create the anatomy of a story, but within that story there are openings that cannot be closed.14

Another passage is devoted to the father’s return to civil life after the war, when he went back to college thanks to the G.I. Bill. The father explains in his diary that one day when he heard the Lutheran hymn “O Day Full of Grace,” he was

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seized by a fit of unstoppable shaking: “To Don’s alarm, I began to tremble. I lied and said it was a touch of malaria. This was my only daytime flashback, but I  lived in fear that more might come. I  read these sentences to myself many times, trying to penetrate their meaning . . . Traumatic memory arrives like a blast in the brain.”15 The son then compares this experience with that of traumatized survivors of 9/​11: “They came to us later with their wounds of indelible memory, the images that were burned into them and then released again and again in a hormonal surge, the brain flood that accompanies a return to unbearable reality.”16 American history has a rich store of similar experiences. On the other hand, these theories of trauma are inserted in a dense narrative web that promises to expose a few “secrets,” that is, to let them speak, which obeys to the logic of what Barthes has called the hermeneutic code.17 On the first page, Erik declares: “I think we all have ghosts inside us, and it’s better when they speak than when they don’t.”18 There are three main “secrets” in the novel: a secret concerning the past sexual life of Inga’s deceased husband, a famous novelist with a complicated past life (solved when compromising letters are bought at the end by a rich friend); a secret concerning Lars’s youth, implicating a woman called Lisa who had mentioned a dead person very early on (solved when Erik and Inga meet the very old woman at the end); and a secret concerning Miranda, the beautiful Jamaican mother of Eggy, both of whom become lodgers in Erik’s house, who is stalked by a photographer (solved when we discover that the photographer is the father of the child and that he desperately tries to have access to her, and to the mother). The three secrets are skillfully intertwined in a complex web of stories marked by suspense and a progressive resolution. Soon, the narrative of the novel picks up speed and gains a Freudian dynamism of its own. As the Kierkegaardian philosopher Inga admits at some point: “We were looking for one story and ran into another.”19 This is a good exemplification of how ramified networks of verbal knots, Freud’s famous theory of the “Knotenpunkte” in The Interpretation of Dreams, generates narratives.

Secrets and the truth of fiction In the novel, we are told of other traumatic events from the past, like the fire that destroyed the family farm in 1924, but it does not seem to matter whether this was the cause of an original trauma. A family secret finds a solution at the end, when we learn that Erik’s father had helped Lisa Odland give birth to a stillborn

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baby in the woods one night. The stillborn child was not his. Lars, who was fifteen then, buried the little corpse and avoided mentioning the disturbing incident again. It was henceforth buried in his unconscious. The secret is not only a locked crypt, a hidden ghost in the closet; it is also presented as the most precious possession. Inga, Erik’s sister who is a philosopher, quotes Kierkegaard: “Maybe you’ve kept a secret in your heart that you felt in all its joy or pain was too precious to share with someone else.”20 Knowing that “[s]‌ecrets define people,”21 Inga sums up the opening pages of Kierkegaard’s Either/​Or. From a statement about the secrets we all have, and philosophical considerations on the voice as the sense of our interiority and hearing as the sense of the other’s exteriority, Kierkegaard conflates the “secret” and the “secretary” or “escritoire,” the chest of drawers in which the editor pretends to have discovered manuscripts by various authors that constitute the entire book. The secret has to do with writing more than with speaking, which is why Hustvedt follows Kierkegaard’s device of using proliferating masks, gender-​bending projections, multifaceted personas in a calculated use of fictional alter egos. The “secret” concerning Miranda is easier to decipher, and it defines a different type of “event.” The characterization of the crazy and narcissistic artist Jeffrey Lane, Miranda’s estranged father is that of a radical skeptic, who refuses to attribute any reality to trauma or affects. When he has become aware of Erik’s attraction to Miranda, he stalks them and takes numerous photographs that he displays in and around the house. Lane is a typical “post-​modernist” who believes that everything is a simulacrum or replica like Andy Warhol. His art of repetition and intrusion also appears as a parody of the philosophy of Jean Baudrillard or Paul Virilio. This subplot focuses on a series of photographs taken by Lane and showing Erik in an unflattering light: he was so angry that he looks furious, deranged, a true madman, in a sly dig at his profession. When Lane exhibits the photographs in a Chelsea gallery, to great acclaim, this one has a caption saying:  “Head Doctor Goes Insane.” The show is called “Jeff ’s Lives:  Multiple Fictions, or an Excursion into DID.”22 The outcome is a legal suit won by Erik, but the public humiliation remains. It has one positive consequence: an old patient of his dreams of the hammer he is wielding in the photograph and is lifted from her acedia.23 Lane chooses this title to evoke his real (or staged) “Dissociative Identity Disorder.”24 The point is that he feels that he can create art with it. This is a case of art imitating not life but psychic disability. Jeffrey Lane looks very much like a male version of Sophie Calle, the artist who has exploited the blurred limits between art and life. Calle, too, repeatedly

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exhibited photographs of previous lovers and even made a whole show about one of her lovers’ break-​up message. This part of the novel close to the end should be linked with Hustvedt’s forceful rejection of a dated and grating postmodernism. We see this best when she discusses a show organized by Paul Virilio in Paris, in which images of 9/​11 were used to argue that reality has ceased to exist in a technological age. I too saw this show at the Foundation Cartier, and in spite of the brilliance of Virilio’s impassioned rhetoric, I have to agree with Hustvedt: the overall result felt indeed sickening. Hustvedt is unusually snide: “The alarm in Virilio’s writings is palpable; his voice is pitched high. (I venture to say that had he been a woman his fate as a thinker would have been far more uncertain.)”25 The novel offers a parable about the impossibility of postmodernism insofar as it tries to negate reality. Lane is brutally brought back to the real world when Eggy, his beloved six-​year-​ old daughter, falls from a window when she was in his care. We soon realize that it is impossible for Erik and Miranda to have an affair. Erik has helped Miranda overcome a different trauma, the murder of her uncle Richard in Jamaica but, in fact, he will be instrumental in bringing her and Lane back together as a more or less “normal” family: they will be reunited if the miracle of the child’s survival after her coma happens. Stories have their own logic, and one “trauma” can be cured by a narrative generated by another trauma. The little girl played tying up Erik, who then muses: “Telling always binds one thing to another.”26 The last section of the novel should bring about a resolution to the vexed issue of trauma when Miranda and Lane, united in their grief, wait for young Eggy to wake up from her coma. Even if the news looks good, the little girl will have to live with the aftermath of her fall: “I knew that it wasn’t over, that even if she recovered fully, Eggy would live with the story of the fall inside her. She would be changed by it.”27 The ending concludes on an uncertain note: it is not sure whether Erik will let his relationship with Laura become dominant, or whether he will remain single as before. At least he has understood the role Miranda has played as a figure of pure longing and impossible desire. Even if the solutions are partial and imperfect, the drift of the novel follows a Freudian paradigm, because it affirms that talking, like writing, can lift the weight of traumas. Writing transforms the unspeakable wound into a metaphorical scar, making it a true “scar-​letter.” The difficulty of writing a psychoanalytic history when concealment and forgetting have impacted records can be solved by an old and imaginative recourse

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to the dialectics of fiction. The logic of the Greek pseudos (the lie, and any creative mask or departure from truth) provides a bridge between unspeakable facts and the need to bring a testimony. A similar solution is given by Hustvedt’s novel, and it also recurs in her essays and memoirs. A first theoretical key can be found in Hustvedt’s essay on “The Real Story,” in which she juxtaposes fiction with memoirs. Hustvedt rejects the idea that writers are “professional liars.”28 A good novel does not lie, even if some “facts” taken as a point of departure can be altered, transposed, or distorted. Jean-​Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions took some liberties with facts and data in his biography, yet what stands out is that he was able to provide “emotional truth.” Hustvedt rightly praises Rousseau: “His appeal is to the truth of sentiments, to emotional truth.”29 She quotes William James’s The Principles of Psychology: “There is no such thing as mental retention, the persistence of an idea from month to month or year to year in some mental pigeon-​hole from which it can be drawn when wanted. What persists is a tendency to connection,”30 which resembles the principle laid out by E. M. Forster of the need to “Only connect.” Such emotional connections contribute to forge a global history, a poetic history, as the universal history envisaged by Giambattista Vico, for whom memory was the same as imagination.31 Hustvedt explains that her imagination was stirred once she hit upon the idea of her main character, Erik Davidsen. Erik, she felt, could help her by becoming an “imaginary brother.”32 This brother would have to be a psychoanalyst, which led her to invent a fictional therapist obsessed with his father’s war trauma—​the fictive alter-​ego allowed her to overcome the grief that she had felt at her own father’s death. Writing as one’s imaginary twin who happens to be male and in a position of authority facing medical knowledge was not a manner of deferring to a male-​centered ideology of the scientific domination of the psyche. It is rather a bold exploration of otherness and mourning. The logic of mourning colors the dominant affect of “sorrow.” For Freud, the work of mourning (Trauerarbeit) implies that, after a certain period of time, the subject can process a loss, is ready to move on and invest new objects of desire. Because such a process entails “killing the dead person,” it can be blocked or inhibited, which would generate the melancholic position in which the lost object of love cannot be abandoned. In this case, the mourning process entails a certain play with fiction, with fictive others caught up in a bigger History. Thus we find topical allusions to 9/​1133 and to the beginning of the Iraq war. Indeed, Hustvedt’s title has been carefully chosen, for “sorrow” derives from sorg, as in the German Sorge, and generates both “sorry” and “sore.” The

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“sore spot” points to where the trauma has impacted either flesh or the mind, whereas the main character feels the need to apologize, being “sorry” for being an American. Beyond obvious allusions to Goethe’s famous Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), to Shakespeare’s Tempest and to George Eliot’s Middlemarch (Miranda is improbably named Casaubon, which alludes to the stymied and disappointed male mythographer of the novel), we can think of Marie Corelli, whose novel The Sorrows of Satan from 1897 happened to be both the first British best-​seller and the worst novel ever written. What are then those “sorrows” and whose sorrows are they? We have shifted from a discussion of trauma as an unspeakable hole left in the fabric of History to a discussion of narratives embedded in a web of secrets that have to be explained one after the other. One of the main features of Lars’s war trauma is that it has not been caused by a personal wound; Lars, who could have been killed many times in battle, does not seem to have suffered from an accident or a near-​death experience. On the contrary, Lars’s “trauma” caused by the death of the Japanese officer reveals the depth of his empathy. His guilt facing the shooting of an unarmed enemy is a clear metonym for a much greater guilt following mass murder with atomic bombs. The compassion for an unjustly murdered enemy puts a face on the anonymous reality of warfare. The unfairly killed Japanese officer haunts Lars’s dreams more because his murder appeals to his sense of ethics, which includes his participation in a mass slaughter of immense proportions, a juggernaut machine in which he was only a tiny cog. The “sorrows of an American” call up a post-​9/​11 world in which many have discovered that in some parts of the world, to be an “American” can mean to have the face of “Satan.” The author’s recurrent symptom as the “shaking woman” sends us back to a longer legacy whose roots are found in a traumatized Father. What has been transmitted was not just any wound but the danger of disseminating the traumas, of spreading the wound to others. We have all been wounded by the trauma of birth, of separation, of sexuality—​traumas buried in dark forests, the forests of all myths, like the stillborn baby whose death still haunts Lars’s actions. Writing the novel thus took the function of a therapy, but as Hustvedt notes, if one cannot “psychoanalyze” oneself, writing affords a form of psychic relief: “Obviously, writing fictional versions of psychoanalytical sessions is not the same as being in analysis. There is no real other in a novel, only imagined others. But writing novels is nevertheless a form of open listening to those imagined others, one that draws on memories, transmuted by both fantasies and fears.”34

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In the end, it seems that Hustvedt’s fiction rejects the hypothesis of an unspeakable trauma that remains inaccessible to words. She also rejects the opposite view, the postmodern thesis that because there are only virtual copies, and because traces are bound to cover and destroy the aura of any original event, no trauma will ever take place outside of a simulation. Not so for her—​on her view, there are real events at the root of any trauma and they can be couched in words although never fully presented. Hustvedt would thus confirm a basic Lacanian insight: truth can only be brought to us through language; hence it is always “half-​said” (mi-​dite) in a steady structure of fiction.35 The part that has to be left unsaid, the other half of the half “well-​said,” cannot be equated with trauma. The pathos of trauma is superfluous, for the “holes” that any narrative contains are due to the structural condition of language. Indeed, language possesses its own logic: Hustvedt explains that she always listens to the music of words when she writes, but is all the while running after “wild thoughts,” those thoughts that, as Wilfred Bion claimed, are owned by no thinker.36 These thoughts are moreover determined by the recursive temporal logics of Nachträglichkeit: “There are always things that are left unsaid—​significant holes. I was aware that I was writing about memory. Freud’s notion of Nachträglichkeit haunted the book. We remember, and we tell ourselves a story, but the meanings of what we remember are reconfigured over time. Memory and imagination cannot be separated.”37 Nachträglichkeit implies a retrospective arrangement of the past; it organizes a temporality that is not linear but recursive, and this is the temporality of literature, insofar as it tries to express the truth. The truth understood in this way will not be a subjective projection, a glib fiction, or a shared hallucination, but a way of coping with individual and collective traumas.

Notes 1 See Richard J. McNally, “Is PTSD a Transhistoric Phenomenon?,” in Culture and PTSD, Trauma in Global and Historical Perspective, eds. Devon E. Hinton and Byron J. Good (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 125. 2 T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood (London: Methuen, 1976), 99. 3 Ibid., 102. 4 Ibid., 102.

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5 Siri Hustvedt, “Reliving the Crash,” The Opinion Pages, New York Times (February 18, 2012). https://​opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/​2012/​02/​18/​reliving-​the-​crash/​. Italics mine. 6 Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1996). 7 Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (New York: Random House, 1967), 84; and Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience, 16–​17. 8 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, trans. Daniel Heller-​Roazen (New York: Zone Books, 1999). 9 Ruth Leys, Trauma: A Genealogy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 10 Ibid., 230. 11 Ibid., 253. 12 I am condensing here a passage from my Cambridge Introduction to Literature and Psychoanalysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 188–​96. 13 Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American (New York: Picador, 2008), 51–​2. 14 Ibid., 85. 15 Ibid., 136–​7. 16 Ibid., 137. 17 “Under the hermeneutic code, we list the various (formal) terms by which an enigma can be distinguished, suggested, formulated, held in suspense and finally disclosed.” Roland Barthes, S/​Z, trans. Richard Miller (New York: Noonday Press, 1974), 19. 18 Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American, 1. 19 Ibid., 200. 20 Ibid., 252. 21 Ibid., 201. 22 Ibid., 260. 23 Ibid., 266–​7. 24 Ibid., 157. 25 Siri Hustvedt, “Old Pictures,” Living, Thinking, Looking (New York: Picador, 2012), 263. 26 Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American, 276. 27 Ibid., 300–​1. 28 Siri Hustvedt, “Old Pictures,” 95. 29 Ibid., 103. 30 Ibid., 104. 31 Ibid., 106. 32 Ibid., 163. 33 Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American, 4.

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272 Jean-Michel Rabaté 34 Siri Hustvedt, “Old Pictures,” 165. 35 I am quoting the opening of Lacan’s television address: “I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there’s no way, to say it all.” Jacques Lacan, Television, trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette Michelson (New York: Norton, 1990), 3. 36 See Wilfred R. Bion, Taming Wild Thoughts (London: Karnac, 1997) and my analysis of Bion’s concept of “wild thoughts” applied to Samuel Beckett’s texts in The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and Psychoanalysis, 64–​70. 37 Siri Hustvedt, “Old Pictures,” 40.

Works cited Agamben, Giorgio. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Trans. Daniel Heller-​Roazen. New York: Zone Books, 1999. Barthes, Roland. S/​Z. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Noonday Press, 1974. Bion, Wilfred R. Taming Wild Thoughts. London: Karnac, 1997. Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1996. Eliot, T. S. The Sacred Wood. London: Methuen, 1976. Freud, Sigmund. Moses and Monotheism. New York: Random House, 1967. Hustvedt, Siri. The Shaking Woman, or a History of My Nerves. New York: Henry Holt, 2009. Hustvedt, Siri. The Sorrows of an American. New York: Picador, 2008. Hustvedt, Siri. “Old Pictures.” Living, Thinking, Looking. New York: Picador, 2012. Hustvedt, Siri. “Reliving the Crash.” The Opinion Pages. New York Times (February 18, 2012). https://​opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/​2012/​02/​18/​reliving-​the-​crash/​. Lacan, Jacques. Television. Trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, and Annette Michelson. New York: Norton, 1990. Lee, Chang-​Rae Lee. The Surrendered. New York: Penguin, 2010. Leys, Ruth. Trauma: A Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. McNally, Richard J. “Is PTSD a Transhistoric Phenomenon?” In Culture and PTSD: Trauma in Global and Historical Perspective. Eds. Devon E. Hinton and Byron J. Good. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Rabaté, Jean-​Michel. Cambridge Introduction to Literature and Psychoanalysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Trezise, Thomas. Witnessing Witnessing: On the Reception of Holocaust Survivor Testimony. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

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Notes on Contributors Emily Apter is Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Chair of Comparative Literature at New York University. Her most recent books include Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (2013), Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon (coedited with Barbara Cassin, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood, 2014), and The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (2006). Together with Bruno Bosteels she coedited Alain Badiou’s The Age of the Poets and Other Writings on Poetry and Prose (2014). Her most recent project is Unexceptional Politics: On Obstruction, Impasse and the Impolitic (forthcoming). She is completing a book provisionally titled What is Just Translation? Jonathan Arac is Mellon Professor of English and Founding Director of the Humanities Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Author of five books and editor of five volumes of original essays by many hands, he has served on the boundary 2 masthead since 1979, and from 2002 until 2012 he chaired the Advisory Committee for the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. In 2014, he taught as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Naples, Italy, “Orientale” campus. His next book will be Against Americanistics, and he is exploring the “Age of the Novel” in the United States. Lawrence Buell is Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature Emeritus at Harvard University. His books include The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (1995), Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (2001), Emerson (2003), and The Dream of the Great American Novel (2014). Among other prizes and awards, he received the John Cawelti Prize for Writing from an Endangered World (2002), the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Christian Gauss Award for Emerson, and the Modern Language Association’s Jay Hubbell Award for lifetime contributions to American Literature studies (2007). His current book-​in-​progress is on the art and practice of environmental memory.

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Robert L. Caserio is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park. He is coeditor of The Cambridge History of the English Novel (2012), and editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-​Century English Novel (2009). He is the author of two monographs and of more than sixty articles about English and American literature. His The Cambridge Introduction to British Fiction, 1900–​1950 is forthcoming, as is his edition of Wyndham Lewis’s The Lion and the Fox for the Oxford Complete Edition of the Works of Wyndham Lewis. Jeffrey R. Di Leo is Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and Professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Houston-​Victoria. He is editor and publisher of American Book Review, and the founder and editor of symplokē. His most recent books include Academe Degree Zero: Reconsidering the Politics of Higher Education (2012), Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (2013), Turning the Page: Book Culture in the Digital Age (2014), Criticism after Critique: Aesthetics, Literature, and the Political (2014), Dead Theory: Derrida, Death, and the Afterlife of Theory (2015), Higher Education under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct, and the Neoliberal Condition (2017), and the Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory (forthcoming). Paul Giles is Challis Professor of English at the University of Sydney, Australia. Among his books are Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (2013), The Global Remapping of American Literature (2011), Transnationalism in Practice: Essays on American Studies, Literature, and Religion (2010), Atlantic Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature (2006), Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary (2002), Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of American Literature, 1730–​1860 (2001), American Catholic Arts and Fictions: Culture, Ideology, Aesthetics (1992), and Hart Crane: The Contexts of The Bridge (1986). Peter Hitchcock is Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center and Baruch College of the City University of New York. He is also on the faculty of Women’s Studies and Film Studies at the Graduate Center. He is the Associate Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center. His books include Dialogics of the Oppressed (1992), Oscillate Wildly: Space,

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Contributors

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Body, and Spirit of Millennial Materialism (1999), Imaginary States: Studies in Cultural Transnationalism (2003), The Long Space: Transnationalism and Postcolonial Form (2009), The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere (2016; coedited with Jeffrey R. Di Leo) and, most recently, Labor in Culture, or, Worker of the World(s) (2017). His next project is called “The World, The State, and Postcoloniality.” Aaron Jaffe is the Frances Cushing Ervin Professor at Florida State University. He has published Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity (2005) and The Way Things Go: An Essay on the Matter of Second Modernism (2014). He coedits a book series on fan cultures and cultural objects for Indiana University Press, which includes his coedited volumes The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies (2009) and The Year’s Work at the Zombie Research Center (2014). Christian Moraru is Class of 1949 Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. He specializes in contemporary American fiction, critical theory, as well as comparative literature with emphasis on postmodernism and the relations between globalism and culture. His recent publications include the monographs Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary (2011) and Reading for the Planet: Toward a Geomethodology (2015) and the collection The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-​First Century (with Amy J. Elias, 2015). Daniel T. O’Hara is Professor of English and Humanities at Temple University, and is the author of nine books, including Empire Burlesque: The Fate of Critical Culture in Global America (2003), The Art of Reading as a Way of Life: On Nietzsche’s Truth (2009), and Virginia Woolf and the Modern Sublime (2015). He is also the editor or coeditor of six other books, including, with Gina MacKenzie, The Interpretation of Dreams (2005), with Geoffrey Hartman, The Geoffrey Hartman Reader (2005), winner of the Truman Capote Prize for criticism, and with Donald E. Pease and Michelle Martin, A William V. Spanos Reader: Humanistic Criticism and the Secular Imperative (2015). Jean-​Michel Rabaté is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He is one of the editors of the Journal of Modern Literature, a cofounder and senior curator of Slought Foundation, Philadelphia (slought.org) and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Recent publications include Etant donnés: 1) l’art, 2) le crime (2010),

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A Handbook of Modernism Studies (2013), Crimes of the Future: Theory and Its Global Reproduction; Psychoanalysis and Literature (2014), 1922: A Companion (2014), The Pathos of Distance (2016), Think, Pig! (2016), and Les Guerres de Jacques Derrida (2016). Gabriel Rockhill is a philosopher, cultural critic, and political theorist. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and Founding Director of the Critical Theory Workshop at the Sorbonne. He is the author most notably of Logique de l’histoire: Pour une analytique des pratiques philosophiques (2010), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016), and Counter-​History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017). Alan Singer is Professor of English at Temple University. He writes on aesthetics, literature, literary theory, and the visual arts. He is the author of five scholarly books, A Metaphorics of Fiction: Discontinuity and Discourse in the Novel (1983), The Subject as Action: Transformation and Totality in Narrative Aesthetics (1993), Aesthetic Reason: Artworks and the Deliberative Ethos (2003), and The Self-​Deceiving Muse: Notice and Knowledge in the Work of Art (2010). He has also published five novels, the most recent being The Inquisitor’s Tongue (2012).  His most recent book is Posing Sex: Towards a Perceptual Ethics for Literary and Visual Art (forthcoming).

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Index 9/​11 137, 265, 267 costs of 68 and globalization 65, 73–​4 and literary history 75 and neoliberalism 80 post-​9/​11 69–​70 post-​9/​11 literature 80–​1 and theoretical discourse 75 absolute idealism 98–​9 Adams, John 173 Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, Americanah 101–​3 aestheticism 34–​5, 38, 41–​2, 211 aesthetics deterritorialization 131–​4, 143, 144 and global markets 76, 89–​90, 103 of haiku 51–​2, 54, 55 and history 228, 232, 238 and Humanus 211–​14 and intelligibility 213–​15 Kantian 212–​13 of Noh theater 238 of serial politics (see political serials) and Gertrude Stein 210 and sublimity 218 and Vilém Flusser 190, 197, 202, 203 and William Vollman 228, 238 and Walt Whitman 167–​8, 171, 175–​7 Agamben, Giorgio 233–​4, 261–​2, 263 Agassiz, Louis 35 “America” as a term 190, 195 Americana Brazil 96–​7, 98 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah 101–​3 Don DeLillo, Americana 99–​100 Hampton Sides, Americana 97–​9 as object 92–​5, 99, 100 American exceptionalism and 9/​11 66 and democracy 172–​4

and immigration 188 and imperialism 89–​90 and “liberty” 192 and monuments 188–​90 through political serials 122–​3 and Walt Whitman 179 American literature and anthologies 22n. 17, 76 dates of 3 historical context 7–​9 as insular 149–​50 multidisciplinary 10–​11 multilingual 3, 9, 91–​2 (see also translations) multinational 9 need for 72, 76 as transnational 141–​4 uncentralized 10 and US borders 130–​2 American Renaissance in literature 5–​6 American studies 93, 130–​2, 202–​3 anthologies and exclusion 138–​9 worlding of 91 see also literary history; individual titles appropriation 102 Apter, Emily 30, 130 Arac, Jonathan 31 Aristotle 169–​70 Auerbach, Erich 90, 157, 231–​2 Australian literature 31 Bai, Matt 117 Baldwin, James 245–​55 Balfour, Graham 36 Bamyeh, Mohammed 103 Barish, Evelyn 198–​9 Barthes, Roland 190–​2, 265 Baudelaire, Charles 152 Bauman, Zygmunt 65 Beat writers 53, 54 Being There 121

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278 Index Bell, Daniel 69 Benjamin, Walter 200 Bennett, Jane 93 Berlant, Lauren 122 Bhabha, Homi K. 30, 134 Bildung 98–​9, 171 Bin Laden, Osama 68, 74 Blair, Tony 78 Blanqui, Auguste 173 Bloom, Harold 249 Bohemian Club 97, 98 Boorstein, Daniel 118 Borges, Jorge Luis 58 Borradori, Giovanna 66 Bourne, Randolph 230–​1 Brassier, Ray 216 Brazil 96–​7, 98, 193–​4 Bronfen, Elisabeth 109 Brown, Bill 93, 100, 101 Buell, Lawrence 232 Bulworth 121 Bush, George W. 67–​8 Cabeza de Vaca 4–​5 Cable, George Washington 228–​9 Calle, Sophie 266–​7 Cambridge History of American Literature 76 Campbell, Alastair 116 Canada 234–​7 canon 3, 30–​1, 75–​6, 139, 210. See also anthologies; individual authors, such as Whitman captivity tales 4 Carlyle, Thomas, Sartor Resartus 151 Caruth, Cathy 260–​3, 264 Carvalho, Ronald de 57 Casanova, Pascale 10, 49, 93 Castell, Manuel 129 Cavell, Stanley 73 Chase, James Hadley (René Lodge Brabazon Raymond) 101 Chase, Richard 231 China 31 Christie, Chris 114–​15 Christ the Redeemer 193–​4 citizenship 233 Civil War 168

class 67–​70, 74–​7, 80, 100–​1, 107, 154, 179 close reading 42, 222n. 17 Clough, G. Wayne 95 Clover, Joshua 111 Coldplay 102 Cole, Teju 95 Commonwealth Literature 160n. 16 Confederados 96–​7, 98 Coningsby, or, The New Generation 111–​13, 119 Conrad, Joseph 259 Corelli, Marie 269 Coulson, Victoria 33–​4 criticism critical theory 67, 74–​5, 131–​2, 149, 202–​3 literary critics 33, 34, 38, 70, 77–​8, 90, 93, 233–​4, 260–​4 (see also Flusser, Vilém) New Criticism 70 Croker, John Wilson 112 cultural imperialism 89–​90, 149, 180 cultural studies 49–​50, 67, 107 Cunningham, David 110–​11 daimonic 236, 249–​51 Dames, Nicholas 123n. 5 Damrosch, David 91, 149 Davidson, Donald 214–​15 DeLillo, Don 70, 99–​100 de Man, Paul 195, 198–​9 democracy and American exceptionalism 68, 76, 98 see also political serials; Whitman, Walt “democratic theodicy” 183n. 35 Derrida, Jacques 66–​7, 137 Dickens, Charles 222n. 17 Dilke, Charles 32 Dimock, Wai Chee 9–​10, 130, 141, 217, 232 Disraeli, Benjamin 111–​13, 119 Dostoevsky, Fyodor 152 Douglass, Frederick 153 Drews, David 178 economic crash of 2008 67, 68 Eiffel, Gustave 190 Eiffel Tower 190–​2

279

Index Eliot, T. S. 33, 258–​9 Ellison, Ralph 152 Emerson, Ralph Waldo “American Scholar” 71–​3, 79 on national literature, need for 72, 76 Nature 72 and Thomas Carlyle 151 Engdahl, Horace 150 Engels, Friedrich 150–​1 eros 230–​1, 234, 236, 237, 239 Evans, Brad 65 explicable error 214–​15, 217, 219 Felski, Rita 202–​3 Felton, Cornelius 72 flat world argument 127–​8 Fletcher, Angus 58–​9 Flusser, Vilém on American World Literature 194–​6 biographical information 190, 194–​5, 197, 199 Bodenlos 199, 201 and Bodenlosigkeit 199–​200 in Brazil 193, 195, 196 compare with de Man 199 and the Eiffel Tower 192 on experience and experiment 200–​2 and expulsion 203–​4 and Heimat 200–​1 The History of the Devil 196, 201 on landmarks 192–​4 and media 201–​2 multidimentional space 197–​8 on nationalism 189–​90, 195–​6 on question mark 194 folktales 52 Forster, E. M. 268 Franklin, John 236 Freud, Sigmund 259, 260–​3, 265, 268 Freyre, Gilberto 96 Friedman, Thomas L. 127–​8 gender 40–​1 geography challenged by literature 132–​6 and geopolitics 128–​30, 137 and nation-​states 141, 143 as obsolete 127, 141

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and US literature 128 Gharavi, Maryam Monalisa 189 Ghosh, Amitav 152–​8 Giles, Paul 50, 130–​2, 159n. 3, 237 Gilroy, Paul 31, 216, 217 Goethe, Johann daimonic 234 Weltlituatur 91, 136, 151 Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre 151 Gomorrah 110–​11 Gopnik, Adam 113 Gosse, Edmund 57 Gray, Richard 138 “Greater Britain” 32 Grisham, John 1 haiku 51–​6, 59–​60 Harman, Graham 93 Hawthorne, Nathaniel 155 Heaney, Seamus 54 Hegel, Friedrich 170, 209. See also Humanus Heidegger, Martin 93 Hemingway, Ernest 51 hermeneutic code 265 historical fiction 152, 158 history “demon of history” 248, 249–​51 excavation of 247, 250–​1 literary history 228, 232, 234–​7 personal wrestling with 247–​55 and transnationalism 228 and trauma 263–​5 History of America in 101 Objects 95, 100 The History of the World in 100 Objects 94–​5 Hitchcock, Peter 129 Holmes, Oliver Wendell 73 Holocaust 257–​8, 261–​3 House of Cards 108, 115–​16, 119–​22. See also political serials Howe, Irving 69 Howells, William Dean 229–​30 Humanus and aestheticism 211–​14 compared with other authors 216–​21 definition of 211 and intelligibility 215–​16

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280 Index and mindedness 209 and translatability 216 Hustvedt, Siri 259–​60, 263–​70 Hutchinson, George 178 hypothesizing 214–​15 Iannucci, Armando 116 ideology and Americana 90, 92, 99, 101 cross-​cultural dissemination 50, 54 and democracy 58–​9 immigration 199–​201, 251–​2 imperial eclecticism 154 imperialism 230 cultural imperialism 89–​90, 149, 180 India 102 intelligibility 217–​21 intelligible error 212 In the Loop 116–​17 Jackson, Andrew 173 James, C. L. R. 152 James, Henry and aestheticism 37–​8, 40 and anthropology 35–​6 “The Beast in the Jungle” 249–​50 biographical information 22n. 24 and the daimonic 249–​50 on English-​American world 32–​3 on foreignness 38–​40 and gender politics 40–​1 on Henrik Christian Andersen 29 and homosexuality 34–​5 and modernity 33 on national identity versus worldly engagement 37 and Oscar Wilde 35 and Robert Louis Stevenson 33, 36–​7, 41–​2 sales 102 and Samoa 42 and spatial disorientation 33 The Tragic Muse 34, 38–​41 on “world” 29–​30 James, William 30, 32–​3, 35, 268 Japan 238–​9 Johnson, Charles 141, 152–​3, 158 Jolly, Roslyn 37

Joutel, Henri 8 Kafka, Franz Administrative God 189 Amerika 188, 193, 194 and Statue of Liberty 188, 194 versus K. 189 Kant 212–​13, 218 Kaplan, Robert D. 127–​9, 132 Kerouac, Jack 53–​4 Kierkegaard, Søren 266 Klarer, Mario 138 Knowles, Beyoncé 102 Kolk, Bessel van der 262 Korean War 258 Kumar, Amitava 90 Kumar, Krishan 35 La Berge, Leigh Claire 123n. 5 Lacan, Jacques 270 languages and culture 252–​3 music as 253–​4 non-​native English speakers 51, 196, 201 official versus vernacular 154, 156–​8, 174 Lanzmann, Claude 262–​3 La Salle, Rene-​Robert Cavelier, Sieur de 6–​9 Latour, Bruno 114, 202–​3 Laugier, Sandra 109 Lee, Chang-​Rae 258 Lefort, Claude 108–​9 Levander, Caroline 58 Levi, Primo 261, 263 Levy, Ophir 109–​10 Leys, Ruth 261–​3 “liberty” 192 literary history focus 139–​40 post-​9/​11 75 post-​Cold War 138–​9 post-​World Wars 76 see also anthologies Literary History of the United States (1947) 76 literature in academia in England 35 as Eurocentric 91–​2

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Index as multidisciplinary 10–​11 Lowell, James Russell 73 Lukács, Georg 231–​2 Lu Xun 51 Lyotard, Jean-​François 196, 216, 217–​18 MacGregor, Neil 94–​5 manifest destiny 179 Marcus, Greil 2, 77–​9 Marx, Karl 15, 100–​1, 110, 150–​1 Marx, Karl, Communist Manifesto 150–​1 McCarthy, Cormac 219–​21 McDougall, Russell 31 media system 201–​2 Melville, Herman 84n. 58, 151, 152–​8 Metaphysical Club 98 Miller, Daniel 94 Milton, John 116 mindedness. See Humanus Mishima, Yukio 238–​9 monuments 190–​4 Moraru, Christian 70 Moretti, Franco 42, 91, 102, 216–​17 mortality 227, 237–​8, 254 Morton, Timothy 93 Murray, Les 57–​8 museums 93–​5, 100

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and media 201–​2 object ontological critique 92–​3 see also Americana Odysseus 249 Oldenburg, Claes 188 O’Neill, Joseph 142–​3

Naipaul, V. S. 155 Narváez, Pánfilo de 4 national literature, versus world literature 150 nation-​making 209–​10 naturalization ceremonies 21n. 16 neoliberalism 67, 68–​9, 77 Neruda, Pablo 57 network 197, 203 “New Americanists” 149 New Criticism 74–​5 A New Literary History of America (2009) 2, 77–​8, 78–​9 Nigeria 101–​3 Norris, Frank 231 Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alavar 4–​5

Pease, Donald 66, 247 Pedro II, Emperor of Portugal 96 Peel, Robert 111–​12 Pessoa, Fernando 57 philosophy. See aesthetics; theory; individual philosophers, such as Hegel Pineda, Alonso Alvarez de 6–​7 Pippin, Robert 212 Poe, Edgar Allan 152 poiēsis 171–​2, 176, 180 political serials and American exceptionalism 122–​3 cameos, use of 117 and gamed spaces 109–​11 as guilty pleasures 122 House of Cards 108, 115–​16, 119–​22 as literature 107–​8 Machiavellian maneuvers 112, 122 narrative style 112–​14 obstructionism 122 political versus non-​political 108–​10 Tanner ‘88 117–​19 tradition of 111 The West Wing 109–​10 The Wire 109 politics and non-​politics, boundary 108–​10 and obstruction 114–​15 and sound bites 121 postcolonialism 93, 101, 154 postcriticism 202–​4 postmodernism 99 Pound, Ezra 57, 249 publishers and global market 31, 76, 89, 93 self-​publishing 83n. 56 and small publishers 77

Obama, Barack 137 objecthood 99, 100 and artifacts 92–​5

race James Baldwin, writings of 245–​55 (see also slavery)

282

282 Index and passing 153 Richard Wright, writings of 54–​6 and Walt Whitman 177–​8 Rancière, Jacques 98, 216 Raymond, René Lodge Brabazon (James Hadley Chase) 101 real abstraction 110–​11 reality hunger 203 Reconstruction 33–​4 rhetoric on terrorism 66–​7, 69 Whitmanian catalogue 56–​60 Rimbaud, Arthur 173–​4, 175 Robbins, Bruce 70 romanticism 229–​30 and adventure 231–​7 and transnationalism 230–​1 Rousseau, Jean-​Jacques 268 Rowe, John Carlos 32, 34 Roy, Ravi 69 Rudolph, Edmund 173 Rushdie, Salman 160n. 16 Rutter, Benjamin 211 Saint-​Maurice, Thibaut de 109 Sarajevo 228 Satan 250 September 11. See 9/​11 Shakespeare, William 150, 154, 258–​9 Shields, David 203 Sides, Hampton 97–​9 Silla 239–​40 Simmel, Georg 233–​4 slavery 96–​7, 152, 155–​6, 158, 248 Smith, Buckingham 4–​5 Smith, Chadwick 204 Smythe, George 111–​12 Sollors, Werner 2, 31, 51, 77–​9 Sommer, Doris 58 Spain 230 Spanos, William 66 spatial disorientation 33–​4 Spengemann, William C. 32 Spiller, Robert 76 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty 30 Statue of Liberty 188–​90, 192, 194 Stegner, Manfred 69

Stein, Gertrude 210–​11 Sternberg, Meir 34 Stevenson, Robert Louis and aestheticism 37–​8 biographical information 23n. 26 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 41–​2 and Henry James 33, 41 and Samoa 33, 36 and The Tragic Muse 38 sublimity 216–​21, 247–​8, 250–​1 talisman complex 176 Tanner, Tony 33 Tanner ‘88 117–​19. See also political serials terrorism 65, 67–​8, 69. See also 9/​11 Texas 5–​7 theater 228 Noh theater 237–​40 theory critical theory 67, 74–​5, 131–​2, 149, 202–​3 literary theory 30, 50, 152, 169–​70, 216–​17, 263 network theory 202–​3 political theory 69, 108–​9, 115, 129 and Vilém Flusser 190, 195–​6 Thoreau, Henry David 141 Toscano, Alberto 111 translations 91–​2 other cultures, access to 149 from English 99 into English 4–​6 translatability 212–​14, 216, 219–​20 trauma and history 263–​5 Post-​Traumatic Stress Disorder 257, 259–​60, 262, 264–​5 secrets 265–​6 transmission of 257–​8, 260, 263, 269 writing about 258–​60, 261–​2, 263, 267–​70 travel narratives 52–​3 Trezise, Thomas 261–​2, 263 Trollope, Anthony 113 Trump, Donald J. 69, 81n. 9, 122 Turkey 247 Turner, Stephen 212, 213–​15, 220

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Index United States, borders 5–​6, 7–​8, 130–​2, 149 Unsworth, Barry 152–​3, 158 Uzdavinys, Algis 249 vagrancy 233 Vico, Giambattista 268 Victorianism 22n. 17 Vietnam War 74–​5, 257 violence 253, 257–​8 Virilio, Paul 267 Vollman, William 227–​9, 232–​40 The West Wing 109–​10. See also political serials Whitman, Walt America-​centric 58 and American democracy 172, 173–​6 and American exceptionalism 178–​80 on consumerism 174 and cosmology 176, 180 on democracy 177–​9 “For You, O Democracy” 173–​4 on gender 177 and German romantics 170 on history versus poetry 169–​71 Leaves of Grass 56, 58–​9, 84n. 57, 168 and national soul 170, 171 and new world literature 179–​80

poetry 169, 171 on race 177–​8 and revolution 167–​8 “Salut au Monde” 175 self-​published 84n. 57 “Song of the Open Road” 175 “To a Common Prostitute” 176 “To a Historian” 174 vernacular poetry 175 Whitmanian catalogue 56–​60 on writers 172 “Years of the Modern” 179 Wilde, Oscar 35 Williams, William Carlos 100 Winthrop, John 29 The Wire 109. See also political serials Woolf, Virginia 69–​70 Woolson, Constance Fenimore 33–​4 world literature as living museum 93–​4 versus national literature 31, 150 origins of 150 and “world” problems with 90–​1 Wright, Richard 51–​2, 53–​6, 152 Zaborowska, Magdalena 247 Zielinski, Siegfried 198, 201, 202 Zola, Emile 229–​30

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