Cosmopolitan Minds

Cosmopolitan Minds: Literature, Emotion, and the Transnational Imagination

ALEXA WEIK VON MOSSNER
Copyright Date: 2014
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/739086
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    Cosmopolitan Minds
    Book Description:

    During World War II and the early Cold War period, factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or class made a number of American writers feel marginalized in U.S. society. Cosmopolitan Minds focuses on a core of transnational writers—Kay Boyle, Pearl S. Buck, William Gardner Smith, Richard Wright, and Paul Bowles—who found themselves prompted to seek experiences outside of their home country, experiences that profoundly changed their self-understanding and creative imagination as they encountered alternative points of views and cultural practices in Europe, Asia, and Africa.Alexa Weik von Mossner offers a new perspective on the affective underpinnings of critical and reflexive cosmopolitanism by drawing on theories of emotion and literary imagination from cognitive psychology, philosophy, and cognitive literary studies. She analyzes how physical dislocation, and the sometimes violent shifts in understanding that result from our affective encounters with others, led Boyle, Buck, Smith, Wright, and Bowles to develop new, cosmopolitan solidarities across national, ethnic, and religious boundaries. She also shows how, in their literary texts, these writers employed strategic empathy to provoke strong emotions such as love, sympathy, compassion, fear, anger, guilt, shame, and disgust in their readers in order to challenge their parochial worldviews and practices. Reading these texts as emotionally powerful indictments of institutionalized racism and national violence inside and outside of the United States, Weik von Mossner demonstrates that our emotional engagements with others—real and imagined—are crucially important for the development of transnational and cosmopolitan imaginations.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75764-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION. LITERATURE, EMOTION, AND THE COSMOPOLITAN IMAGINATION
    (pp. 1-28)

    On may 25, 1948, former broadway actor and war veteran Garry Davis walked into the United States embassy in Paris and handed the authorities his American passport. He no longer had any use for identification papers, he declared to the perplexed officials, because from now on he would live without his U.S. or any other citizenship—a free and independent man. While dropping bombs on German civilians during World War II, Davis explains in his 1961 autobiographyThe World Is My Country, he had come to understand that the roots of war were inherent within the nation-state system, built as...

  5. CHAPTER 1 EMPATHETIC COSMOPOLITANISM: KAY BOYLE AND THE PRECARIOUSNESS OF HUMAN RIGHTS
    (pp. 29-57)

    The year 1939 was an important point in the history of Europe and the world. It was the year in which Germany and the Soviet Union concluded a nonaggression pact, the year in which Hitler’s armies invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the year in which France, Britain, and the countries of the Commonwealth declared war on Germany: the year in which World War II officially began. For the American expatriate writer Kay Boyle, who at the time lived in Mégève in the French Haute-Savoie, 1939 was an important year personally as well. It was the year in which she met...

  6. CHAPTER 2 SENTIMENTAL COSMOPOLITANISM: THE TRANSCULTURAL FEELINGS OF PEARL S. BUCK
    (pp. 58-88)

    When pearl sydenstricker buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 for her evocative books about China, the majority of the American literary establishment was vaguely shocked. Given the fact that Buck was only the third American writer and the first American woman to be honored with the prize in the thirty-seven years of its existence, one might have expected a little more patriotic solidarity and pride from Buck’s peers. However, not only was the general consensus among U.S. literati at the time that no American woman writer produced work that was significant enough to deserve the important award,...

  7. CHAPTER 3 COSMOPOLITAN SENSITIVITIES: BYSTANDER GUILT AND INTERRACIAL SOLIDARITY IN THE WORK OF WILLIAM GARDNER SMITH
    (pp. 89-119)

    In 1952, william gardner smith welcomed the chief editor of an American magazine into his shabby quarters at the Hôtel Tournon, which at the time was a popular haunt of black American expatriates in Paris. In his autobiographicalReturn to Black America(1970), Smith recalls this moment and the editor’s “utterly stupefied look as he stood in the doorway of my little attic room, fresh from his luxurious American apartment, staring at the ugly peeling wallpaper, the lumpy iron bed, the bare lop-sided table, the rickety chairs, the worn linoleum, and the washstand attached precariously to the wall” (4). “My...

  8. CHAPTER 4 COSMOPOLITAN CONTRADICTIONS: FEAR, ANGER, AND THE TRANSGRESSIVE HEROES OF RICHARD WRIGHT
    (pp. 120-150)

    “I’m a rootless man,” richard wright declares boldly inWhite Man Listen!(1957), “but I’m neither psychologically distraught nor in any wise particularly perturbed because of it” (xxxviii). With this audacious statement, Wright claims for himself, and decidedly embraces, the status of the rootless cosmopolitan, the man who does not “hanker after, and seem[s] not to need, as many emotional attachments, sustaining roots, or idealistic allegiances as most people” (xxviii). This radical emotional independence, Wright “confesses” to his reader, is by no means a coincidence, nor is it a “personal achievement” of his (xxix). Instead, he has “been shaped to...

  9. CHAPTER 5 THE LIMITS OF COSMOPOLITANISM: DISGUST AND INTERCULTURAL HORROR IN THE FICTION OF PAUL BOWLES
    (pp. 151-180)

    Paul bowles was only nineteen years old when he ran away from home and sailed to Europe in 1929. He first went to Paris and then, following the advice of Gertrude Stein, to North Africa, where he traveled throughout Morocco, the Sahara, Algeria, and Tunisia. The natural and cultural environment of the Maghreb made a deep impression on him, and in 1947, Bowles exchanged a quasi-nomadic life as a composer based in New York for a quasi-nomadic life as a writer based in Tangier, Morocco. With a fresh advance from Doubleday, he revisited the Sahara desert, which had impressed him...

  10. CONCLUSION. (ECO-)COSMOPOLITAN FEELINGS?
    (pp. 181-186)

    In the preceding chapters, I have tried to analyze from a cognitive perspective some of the ways in which cosmopolitan literary texts encourage readers to feel with others across national, ethnic, and religious boundaries. While the narrative emplotment of cosmopolitanism can be and has been approached from various perspectives, I believe that an increased attention to the rhetorical strategies and emotionalizing techniques of such narratives can add something valuable to the vigorous discourse already underway. Not only are emotions at the heart of our engagement with literary texts of all kinds, they also operate in our daily lives and crucially...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 187-208)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 209-226)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 227-236)