Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 April 2022
Beginning with Claude McKay’s “The Harlem Dancer”—in which the national space of Harlem opens up to the Caribbean from which its eponymous dancer has likely emigrated—this chapter reads the mass migration resulting from the structures of imperial capital as the determining social ground of modernist literature. Indeed, modernism registered, to an unprecedented degree, in both formal and thematic terms, an early moment of what we have now come to call globalization. But if modernist form betrays a complicity with globalization, in its persistence representation of the way national literary spaces open themselves up to cultural materials from elsewhere, it also levels a consistent critique of both capitalism and nationalism, a critique that unites its left and right wings. Modernist texts thus tend to separate economic and cultural globalization, critiquing the first, while advocating for the second, even as they demonstrate their deep inter-relationship.