- Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History by Gayle Rogers
It is certainly possible to understand Modernism and the New Spain as a contribution to the spatial expansion of modernist studies. In five robust chapters, Gayle Rogers asks us to look away from the familiar centers of Paris, London, and New York towards the less familiar outposts of Madrid, Dublin, and Buenos Aires. He reminds us convincingly that Spain belongs on the map of European modernism. Yet, by treating British and Spanish materials concurrently rather than consecutively, Rogers in fact eschews the logic of two-dimensional mapping, which often fails to convey the dynamic geographies of modernism: namely, the practices of translation, circulation, and long-distance collaboration that gave rise to the movement’s literary cultures and lasting accomplishments. As Rogers shows, these practices were often animated by political solidarities, which were nurtured, and sometimes redirected, through individual and institutional circuits of transnational exchange.
Rogers’s book is thus not simply, or even principally, additive (more modernism!) but comparative and radical. Modernism and the New Spain shows that Spanish writers, translators, and critics helped to constitute the modernism we already know (Eliot, Joyce, Strachey, Woolf, and Spender) and the modernism we need to know better (Ortega, Marichalar, Ocampo, Lorca, and Altolaguirre). More than this, it calls for a new understanding of the agents, actions, and eras we associate with modernist production. Rogers’s expansion is thus conceptual above all. To re-open the question of modernism’s where, he argues, we have to re-open the question of modernism’s how, and why.
Modernism and the New Spain reflects on the work of adapting, imitating, editing, reviewing, and republishing that nourished and extended modernist projects throughout Europe and the Americas. In its emphasis on the intermedial pathways of modernist internationalism, Rogers’s study represents an important synthesis of what Douglas Mao and I distinguished in 2008 as the “transnational” and “mass media” turns in modernist studies.1 So, for example, Rogers argues that transnational collaboration took shape through institutions such as journals and newspapers, and also through more ephemeral pathways such as letters, commentaries, and reviews. These media, he suggests, served as conduits of exchange between individual artists working across languages and geographies, and also as artifacts of modernist creativity in their own right. They are part of what modernism made.
Modernism and the New Spain is transnational in at least three ways, and those varieties are worth noting. The first way, as I have suggested, involves comparing writers, critics, and literary institutions operating in Spain with those operating in Britain. The second way involves examining the international aspirations, influences, and paradigms that were present in both spaces. And the third way involves tracing the international circuits through which individual artworks traveled and through which their ideas were transformed. While many critics have examined the first and second kinds of internationalism, the third approach, animated by the history of the book, periodical studies, and translation studies, adds a significant new element. It allows Rogers to demonstrate that internationalist paradigms of the modernist period owe their development to an international print culture. This last claim is a game changer, since it suggests that modernism—that movement of individual authorship and watershed texts—owes its achievements to collaborative production and translation.
To make this point about the collaborative engine that lies at the heart of modernist originality, Rogers turns to some of the most important authors and texts in the canon. In his first chapter, [End Page 863] on T. S. Eliot’s Criterion and Ortega y Gasset’s Revista de Occidente, Rogers draws our attention to the mediators—translators, journalists, critics—who facilitated the exchange between the most eminent figures of British and Spanish modernism. He tells a story about how a “periodical project” of translating works from one language into five other languages functioned as a political project and discusses how both projects, because they were multilingual and intermedial, exceeded the agency, and sometimes the intentions...