Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary by Christian Moraru (review)
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Reviewed by
Christian Moraru. Cosmodernism: American Narrative, Late Globalization, and the New Cultural Imaginary. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2011. xii, 428 pp.

Written with exquisite circumspection and intellectual generosity, Cosmodernism is at once a period-study, a theoretical platform, a curriculum for World Literature (or better, Post-Global Studies), a critical broadside, an incitement to join a particular critical community, and an ethical primer to empowerment under current prevailing political, economic, and technological operating systems. Christian Moraru makes clear, even while launching an ambitious, far-sighted new program for critical commentary, to demonstrate both how and from whence he has derived the dominant attitudes, strategies, and encomia that he unveils in this trend-setting study. As bold as his conclusions and suggestions may be, they are the direct outgrowth of meticulous and ingenious close readings that he has extracted from texts that he has clearly addressed with devotion. Any interpretation and prognostication that Moraru allows himself take place under the current dominant critical contract of strenuous and inventive exegesis. At the same time that he gathers such writers as Chang-rae Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith, Bharati Mukherjee, Azar Nafisi, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Suki Kim together as cornerstones to a new Post-Global Studies (or World Literature curriculum), he freely acknowledges instruction that he has gained from some of his long-standing inspirations and interests: above all, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Emmanuel Levinas on the philosophical side; Don DeLillo, Raymond Federman, Paul Auster, and John Updike on the literary. Under the aura of the irreducibly heterogeneous field that Moraru calls "Cosmodernism," criticism becomes a strategic, open-ended adaptation to an environment in which formerly discrete and diverse ideologies, idioms, belief-systems, and material footprints have become vibrantly and intensely interactive and coterminous. The polyphony of contemporary commentators on the nature and impact of such phenomena as globalization and cultural diaspora and hybridity that Moraru gathers within the library of Cosmodernism is a Who's Who of those (primarily in philosophy and Comparative Literature, but also in geography and the social sciences) who have contributed vibrantly to this discourse so far. The dialogue is so vast and inclusive (one is tempted to say "global") that Cosmodernism becomes an invaluable new sourcebook for literary and cultural research and instruction. [End Page 1194]

Given Moraru's rigorous commitment to an irreducibly heterogeneous field of exegetical rendering and idiomatic as well as cultural interaction, it is not surprising that Cosmodernism breaks down into multiple spheres of critical engagement and rhetorical articulation. Under the rubrics "Idiomatics," "Onomastics," "Translations," "Readings," and "Metabolics," Moraru maps out exhaustively the repercussions of our now living on "cosmodern" time - as new rubrics reverberate across the gamut of our collective cultural experience, from our names and the dialects we speak to our bodies. Within the phenomenological sphere, this study is to be commended for the broad arena that it opens up for cultural experience, even at a moment when the input to this cross-pollination — linguistic, literary, sociological, and historical — is irreducibly diverse and polyphonic. "On this account, culture is not one, 'homogeneous,' even though this has been how it has advertised itself historically. A potpourri, a heteroclite assemblage, culture's fundamental condition is heterogeneity and fluidity" (31). Part and parcel of the Babelic exchange of tongues, idioms, and expressions defining cosmodernity is the attitude of empathy characterizing its cultural interactions. "Pivotal here are a propensity for putting oneself in the other's place ethically, a proclivity grounded in shared feelings, which in turn hinges on the self's knack for seeing itself in that very place, shouldering the other's burden, 'feeling' alongside and 'for' him or her. In this sense, cosmodernism's imaginary, its onomastic imaginary in particular, is distinctively empathic" (155). Levinasian thinking constantly vies for primacy within the heterotopia of cosmodern motives and sensibilities, precisely by virtue of this drift toward the empathic projection of the other's predicament and struggle, toward true "collegiality" in the planetary field of communications and interactions.

As a talisman of the decisive factors at play in our uncanny and in many respects unprecedented cultural moment, cosmodernism resides at the confluence of history, language, and...