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Modernism, Empire, World Literature
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: May 2021
  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online ISBN: 9781108698146
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Book description

After World War I, American, Irish and then Caribbean writers boldly remade the world literary system long dominated by Paris and London. Responding to literary renaissances and social upheavals in their own countries and to the decline of war-devastated Europe, émigré and domestic-based writers produced dazzling new works that challenged London's or Paris's authority to fix and determine literary value. In so doing, they propounded new conceptions of aesthetic accomplishment that were later codified as 'modernism'. However, after World War II, an assertive American literary establishment repurposed literary modernism to boost the cultural prestige of the United States in the Cold War and to contest Soviet conceptions of 'world literature'. Here, in accomplished readings of major works and essays by Henry James, Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O'Neill and Derek Walcott, Joe Cleary situates Anglophone modernism in terms of the rise and fall of European and American empires, changing world literary systems, and disputed histories of 'world literature'.


‘Joe Cleary's Modernism, Empire, World Literature is that rare of gems; a book that synthesizes a wide range of materials into a succinct and clear argument that also manages to illuminate original pathways through the main debates in the field. The book reminds us of the best in literary criticism that we have been used to in the likes of Edward Said, Frederic James, J. Hillis Miller, and a handful of others.'

Ato Quayson - Stanford University

‘In this compelling book, Joe Cleary traces the Anglophone genealogy of contemporary world literature. His masterful and rich readings of key modernist works carefully locate them within their literary fields while showing them at the same time to be part of a mighty struggle of erstwhile provincials to take on the metropole and establish their literary, political, and economic preminence in the world. Truly world literature for the Anglophone age.'

Francesca Orsini - SOAS University of London

‘This book has a dazzling trajectory. It crosses the territories of the republic of letters and of modernism. It surveys the strategic power shifts of the last two centuries in the Anglophone world between English, Irish and American literatures. It analyses and compares many of the great literary works in which these transfers and transitions were made. Literary criticism and intellectual history are interwoven here with such subtlety that the boundaries that once separated them vanish in a  fusion that, long-needed by both, has at last been achieved.' 

Seamus Deane - University of Notre Dame


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