Global Matters

Global Matters: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies

Paul Jay
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Global Matters
    Book Description:

    As the pace of cultural globalization accelerates, the discipline of literary studies is undergoing dramatic transformation. Scholars and critics focus increasingly on theorizing difference and complicating the geographical framework defining their approaches. At the same time, Anglophone literature is being created by a remarkably transnational, multicultural group of writers exploring many of the same concerns, including the intersecting effects of colonialism, decolonization, migration, and globalization.

    Paul Jay surveys these developments, highlighting key debates within literary and cultural studies about the impact of globalization over the past two decades. Global Matters provides a concise, informative overview of theoretical, critical, and curricular issues driving the transnational turn in literary studies and how these issues have come to dominate contemporary global fiction as well. Through close, imaginative readings Jay analyzes the intersecting histories of colonialism, decolonization, and globalization engaged by an array of texts from Africa, Europe, South Asia, and the Americas, including Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Vikram Chandra's Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Mohsin Hamid's Moth Smoke, and Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness.

    A timely intervention in the most exciting debates within literary studies, Global Matters is a comprehensive guide to the transnational nature of Anglophone literature today and its relationship to the globalization of Western culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6035-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: The Transnational Turn in Literary Studies
    (pp. 1-12)

    Since the rise of critical theory in the 1970s, nothing has reshaped literary and cultural studies more than its embrace of transnationalism. It has productively complicated the nationalist paradigm long dominant in these fields, transformed the nature of the locations we study, and focused our attention on forms of cultural production that take place in the liminal spaces between real and imagined borders. This transformation has exploded under the forces of globalization, but it has its roots in political movements outside of the academy and theoretical developments within it that run back to the early 1960s. The civil rights movement...

  5. Part One: Globalization and the Study of Literature

    • 1 Difference, Multiculturalism, and the Globalizing of Literary Studies
      (pp. 15-32)

      Roughly every ten years the Modern Language Association publishes a book entitled Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures. The series began in 1952 in order to clarify the “aims and methods currently adopted in the fields of modern language scholarship in America” (vii). These books, aimed at an audience of advanced students and academics, provide a snapshot of professional scholarship at the time of their publication, including a comprehensive overview of current theories, methodologies, key issues, and fields of study. The newest edition was published in 2007 under the general editorship of David G. Nicholls, director of book...

    • 2 What Is Globalization?
      (pp. 33-52)

      How we define globalization depends on how we historicize globalization. Many critics argue that globalization is a contemporary historical phenomenon defined by a dramatic kind of rupture from the past in which the flow of economic and cultural forces have swamped the borders of nation-states, that the development of electronic media forms in particular have changed entirely the nature of social, cultural, economic, and political relations. From this point of view globalization is a dramatically new phenomenon. Other critics, however, argue that globalization actually has a long history, that globalization in our own time should be seen as a significant...

    • 3 Economies, Cultures, and the Politics of Globalization
      (pp. 53-72)

      While the economic and cultural dimensions of globalization are inextricably linked across the various phases of its development, we cannot understand the acceleration of globalization without recognizing its development first as an economic phenomenon, especially in the twentieth century, when trade and capital exchange across national borders dramatically expanded in response to the increasing modernization of technologies of transport and communication. Here it will be instructive to return to Stiglitz’s definition of globalization: “What is this phenomenon of globalization that has been subject, at the same time, to such vilification and such praise? Fundamentally, it is the closer integration of...

    • 4 Border Studies: Remapping the Locations of Literary Study
      (pp. 73-90)

      One of the most important lessons contemporary theory about space, place, and location has taught us is that, to a significant degree, we construct the locations we study. It is true that the national model for literary studies is the product of a focus on literature produced in countries that have an empirical existence. These nations are not, strictly speaking, locations that have been constructed by scholars and critics.¹ My point, however, is that we make a choice to study literary texts and other cultural forms as national productions, and that organizing literary studies around departments of English, Spanish, German,...

  6. Part Two: Globalization in Contemporary Literature

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 91-94)

      I began this book by arguing that two intersecting forces are transforming the discipline of English, one operating within academia, the other outside of it. Within academia, work in virtually every major field in literary studies is becoming transnationalized in its theories, practices, and methodologies. This new work is collectively engaged in a sophisticated and multifaceted exploration of how literature across historical periods reflects—and reflects on—a multiplicity of differences grounded in personal, cultural, and political identities across locations where the boundary lines between cultures, races, genders, classes, and sexualities are much more porous than were heretofore acknowledged. Outside...

    • 5 Post–Postcolonial Writing in the Age of Globalization: The God of Small Things, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Moth Smoke
      (pp. 95-117)

      In part 1 we saw that critics take two general positions on the relationship between postcoloniality and globalization. One group sees conquest, colonization, decolonization, and the postcolonial condition as part of the long history of globalization. The other insists on a strict distinction between the two, and even sees globalization studies as a threat to the political and historical project of postcolonial studies. Where the first position insists on recontextualizing the study of colonialism and postcolonialism within the wider framework of globalization, the second position insists that globalization is a contemporary phenomenon, a dramatic rupture in the history of modernity...

    • 6 Globalization and Nationalism in Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss
      (pp. 118-136)

      Contemporary globalization is characterized, not by the withering away of the nation-state in the face of homogenizing, westernizing, or cosmopolitan tendencies, but by the simultaneous acceleration of globalization and nationalism. This suggests we are living in a paradoxical (but not unprecedented) historical moment in which, on the one hand, migration, the media, and global capitalism are producing subjects whose identities and cultural interests are increasingly appropriated and adapted from a shared westernized pool of images, fashions, foods, and music, and, on the other hand, older historical forces related to longstanding territorial, ethnic, and religious disputes continue to fuel nationalist aspirations...

    • 7 The Cultural Politics of Development in Zakes Mda’s The Heart of Redness
      (pp. 137-153)

      In this chapter I want to return to controversies about the relationship between culture and identity I explored in part 1, particularly to the question of how modernization and development can threaten cultural traditions deeply connected to personal, social, and national identity. Recalling Pratt’s work on contact zones and Appiah’s stress on how cultures are never pure but develop and thrive on intercultural contact facilitated by voluntary travel, forced migration, and trade, we know that this is not a new process. The forces of modernization and globalization have accelerated a basic phenomenon that actually has a long history. The specific...

    • 8 Multiculturalism and Identity in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth
      (pp. 154-175)

      Mobility, which is central to the production of heterogeneous cultural identities under globalization, takes disparate shapes in the novels I have discussed so far. Under forms of colonization like those covered in the historical sections of Red Earth and Pouring Rain it is driven by violent displacement, the mobility of those on the move fleeing subjugation or struggling against it. In The God of Small Things and The Inheritance of Loss relatively privileged postcolonial subjects like Chacko and Jemubhai journey to England and back, bringing with them perverse forms of Anglophilia that feed their own self-hatred and their loathing of...

    • 9 Transnational Masculinities in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
      (pp. 176-194)

      All the novels I have discussed so far dramatically underscore how the transnational turn in literary and cultural studies is mirrored by an explosion of writing in English that is both transnational in its locations and engaged with a range of issues related to contemporary globalization. There is, of course, a symbiotic relationship between the criticism discussed in part 1 and the fiction analyzed in part 2, for the transnational turn in literary production provides an increasing body of texts for analysis by critics interested in the contemporary intersection of literature, culture, and globalization, and the work of those critics...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 195-200)

    In the last chapter I argued that the curse or fukú in Díaz’s novel could be linked to Zadie Smith’s exploration of design and chance in White Teeth as well as to how the experiences of her younger characters are shaped by the colonial histories of their families. However, I also argued that Díaz’s fúku, as a metaphor of the persistent historical effects of material and cultural colonization, stood in broader terms for the constellation of transnational historical forces at work in all of the novels discussed here. We saw that Díaz sets up Yunior’s book as a kind of...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 201-214)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 215-224)
  10. Index
    (pp. 225-232)