The Ohio State University Press

Transoceanic Studies

Edited by Ileana Rodriguez

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

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Transoceanic Studies

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Five Strands of Fictionality

The Institutional Construction of Contemporary American Fiction

Fictions, we are so often told, are everywhere in America today. The extravagant claims of advertising are everywhere, much of the day’s news concerns “pseudo-events” like rallies or ceremonies staged so that they can be reported on, and philosophers doubt even the possibility of any knowledge being objective. Thus we seem less and less able to distinguish between the real and the invented. In Five Strands of Fictionality: The Institutional Construction of Contemporary American Fiction, Daniel Punday examines the “postmodern” expansion of fictionality—the feeling today that the line between the real and the invented is harder to draw—and argues that this feeling reflects a struggle by different cultural groups to define how we tell and use “literary” stories. He discusses the literary texts of John Barth, Alice Walker, and Ishmael Reed; paraliterary forms like science fiction and electronic writing; and resolutely nonliterary texts, especially role-playing games, in terms of how each responds to the institution of literature through its definition of fictionality. For too long, postmodernism has been described by easy generalizations—relativist, indeterminate, commercialized—that have rendered the term nearly worthless. Punday applies a more nuanced understanding of fictionality to a variety of contemporary narrative forms that occupy different locations within postmodern literary culture. Approaching postmodernism as a configuration of institutions that legitimize fictionality, he illuminates the nature of creative writing and the conflicts between different literary groups in America today.

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Learning to Unlearn

Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas

Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas is a complex, multisided rethinking of the epistemic matrix of Western modernity and coloniality from the position of border epistemology. Colonial and imperial differences are the two key concepts to understanding how the logic of coloniality creates ontological and epistemic exteriorities. Being at once an enactment of decolonial thinking and an attempt to define its main grounds, mechanisms, and concepts, the book shifts the politics of knowledge from “studying the other” (culture, society, economy, politics) toward “the thinking other” (the authors). Addressing areas as diverse as the philosophy of higher education, gender, citizenship, human rights, and indigenous agency, and providing fascinating and little-known examples of decolonial thinking, education, and art, Madina V. Tlostanova and Walter D. Mignolo deconstruct the modern architecture of knowledge—its production and distribution as manifested in the corporate university. In addition, the authors dwell on and define the echoing global decolonial sensibilities as expressed in the Americas and in peripheral Eurasia. The book is an important addition to the emerging transoceanic inquiries that introduce decolonial thought and non-Western border epistemologies not only to update or transform disciplines but also to act and think decolonially in the global futures to come.

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National Consciousness and Literary Cosmopolitics

Postcolonial Literature in a Global Moment

National Consciousness and Literary Cosmopolitics: Postcolonial Literature in a Global Moment by Weihsin Gui argues that postcolonial literature written within a framework of globalization still takes nationalism seriously rather than dismissing it as obsolete. Authors and texts often regarded as cosmopolitan, diasporic, or migrant actually challenge globalization’s tendency to treat nations as absolute and homogenous sociocultural entities. While social scientific theories of globalization after 1945 represent nationalism as antithetical to transnational economic and cultural flows, National Consciousness and Literary Cosmopolitics contends that postcolonial literature represents nationalism as a form of cosmopolitical engagement with what lies beyond the nation’s borders. Postcolonial literature never gave up on anticolonial nationalism but rather revised its meaning, extending the idea of the nation beyond an identity position into an interrogation of globalization and the neocolonial state through political consciousness and cultural critique. The literary cosmopolitics evident in the works of Kazuo Ishiguro, Derek Walcott, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Preeta Samarasan, and Twan Eng Tan distinguish between an instrumental national identity and a critical nationality that negates the subordination of nationalism by neocolonial regimes and global capitalism. Through their formal innovations, these writers represent nationalism not as a monolithic or essentialized identity or body of people but as a cosmopolitical constellation of political, social, and cultural forces.

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Oriental Shadows

The Presence of the East in Early American Literature

Through the use of several iconic early American authors (Anne Bradstreet, James Kirkpatrick, Benjamin Franklin, and Edgar Allan Poe), Jim Egan’s Oriental Shadows: The Presence of the East in Early American Literature explores the presence of “the East” in American writing. The specter of the East haunted the literature of colonial British America and the new United States, from the earliest promotional pamphlets to the most aesthetically sophisticated works of art of the American Renaissance. Figures of Persia, China, Arabia, and other Oriental people, places, and things played crucial roles in many British American literary works, serving as key images in early American writers’ efforts to demonstrate that early American culture could match—and perhaps even surpass—European standards of refinement. These writers offered the East as a solution to America’s perceived inferior civilized status by suggesting that America become more civilized not by becoming more European but instead by adopting aesthetic styles and standards long associated with an East cast as superior aesthetically to both America and Europe. In bringing to light this largely overlooked archive of images within the American literary canon, Oriental Shadows suggests that the East played a key role in the emergence of a distinctively American literary tradition and, further, that early American identity was born as much from figures of the East as it was from the colonists’ encounters with the frontier.

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Prophetic Visions of the Past

Pan-Caribbean Representations of the Haitian Revolution

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In Prophetic Visions of the Past: Pan-Caribbean Representations of the Haitian Revolution, Víctor Figueroa examines how the Haitian Revolution has been represented in twentieth-century literary works from across the Caribbean. Building on the scholarship of key thinkers of the Latin American “decolonial turn” such as Enrique Dussel, Aníbal Quijano, Walter Mignolo, and Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Figueroa argues that examining how Haiti’s neighbors tell the story of the Revolution illuminates its role as a fundamental turning point in both the development and radical questioning of the modern/colonial world system. Prophetic Visions of the Past includes chapters on literary texts from a wide array of languages, histories, and perspectives. Figueroa addresses work by Alejo Carpentier (Cuba), C. L. R. James (Trinidad), Luis Palés Matos (Puerto Rico), Aimé Césaire (Martinique), Derek Walcott (Saint Lucia), Edouard Glissant (Martinique), and Manuel Zapata Olivella (Colombia). While underscoring each writer’s unique position, Figueroa also addresses their shared geographical, historical, and sociopolitical preoccupations, which are closely linked to the region’s prolonged experience of colonial interventions. Ultimately, these analyses probe how, for the larger Caribbean region, the Haitian Revolution continues to reflect the tension between inspiring revolutionary hopes and an awareness of ongoing colonial objectification and exploitation.

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Transatlantic Correspondence

Modernity, Epistolarity, and Literature in Spain and Spanish America, 1898–1992

Transatlantic Correspondence: Modernity, Epistolarity, and Literature in Spain and Spanish America, 1898–1992 by José Luis Venegas explores how influential Spanish and Spanish American writers used letters in their literary works to formulate distinctive visions of modernity. Bringing into the discussion authors such as Rubén Darío, Miguel de Unamuno, Carmen Martín Gaite, and Gabriel García Márquez, Venegas reveals unsuspected connections between the authors’ literary use of epistolary writing and their opinions about the place of Hispanic culture and civilization within a global context. Transatlantic Correspondence contributes to broader debates on literary transnationalism and the contradictory nature of modernity. Each chapter frames literary works by authors from both sides of the Atlantic within key historical events spanning the loss of Spain’s overseas possessions in 1898 to the commemoration of Columbus’s quincentennial in 1992. This broad range of historical reference is counterpointed by the nuanced examination of a single formal feature in a wide variety of canonical and non-canonical texts. Drawing on insights from postcolonial studies, the book addresses the link between historical transformations that traverse decades and continents and specific stylistic choices in order to foster an understanding of Hispanic literary and cultural studies that is not limited by categories such as “movement,” “generation,” and “national literature.”

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Writing AIDS

(Re)Conceptualizing the Individual and Social Body in Spanish American Literature

Writing AIDS: (Re)Conceptualizing the Individual and Social Body in Spanish American Literature by Jodie Parys examines the ways in which AIDS has pervaded the personal and social imaginings of the body by highlighting textual representations found in Spanish American literature where AIDS has a significant role. This book addresses the current void in literary theory about HIV/AIDS in Spanish America by drawing together diverse literary texts to illuminate how these Spanish American writers have chosen to depict this disease and how their texts will be archived for future generations. All of the works are united under the broad topic of the body, conceived of as the individual comprising a physical, emotional, and spiritual entity both in isolation and in communion with others. Because HIV and AIDS are physical viruses that attack real bodies, it is the initial portal of entry into the exploration of the notion of identity and how it is impacted and altered by the arrival of AIDS. However, each individual is also a part of a larger community, and the virus itself impacts society as well as individuals. These separate but related concepts—the individual and social bodies—are the uniting themes that are woven throughout the entire study.

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