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  • Afterword:Mapping Socialism Across Eurasia
  • Edward Tyerman (bio)

The title of this special issue of Cross-Currents, "Writing Revolution Across Northeast Asia," announces a compelling confluence of text and map. The articles presented here share a common concern with tracing the textual circulation of leftist culture in the early twentieth century across a circuit that linked Russia and the Soviet Union to Japan, Korea, and China. At the root of these investigations lies the question of what happens when transnational and internationalist ideologies (such as Marxism and anarchism) move from the political into the cultural sphere. Can we speak of "cultural internationalism," and how should we speak about it? How do ideas claiming a certain universality travel across different cultural regions with different historical legacies?1 How can we describe socialist culture of the early twentieth century in its transnational complexity and internationalist ambition while remaining true to the concrete dynamics of its embodiment in situated texts, discourses, and practices?

This attempt to trace socialist culture as a transnational and transregional phenomenon perhaps inevitably encounters the question of how to think about space. The articles in this special issue share a common concern with exploring and interrogating a series of spatial models operative in the fields of social and cultural theory: bounded nation-state, region, center-periphery, and network. These models appear here not only as descriptions of political power and social formations but also as forms that shape the circulation, translation, and transculturation of texts. Center-periphery dynamics [End Page 533] describe hierarchies of global, imperial, and transregional relations, counterbalanced in various ways by the logics of networks, regions, and nations. On the evidence of these articles, tracing the histories of socialist culture across Northeast Asia would seem to require a "multi-scalar" approach that can hold these spatial models in dynamic interaction.2 In this afterword, I will attempt to draw out the spatial concerns that unite these articles and assess their implications. This interrogation of spatial models no doubt suits a special issue that itself works to disrupt boundaries, both disciplinary and regional. Merging world literature and close reading with intellectual and social history, this collection of articles brings together two regions—Russia/Eurasia and East Asia—traditionally held apart by the spatial divisions of area studies. In so doing, it offers productive insights into how these two spaces and their interactions might de-center hegemonic models of global space, global history, and world literature in the early twentieth century.

Heekyoung Cho's article makes a case for studying the relationship between Russian and East Asian literatures as a way of de-centering Europe from the core of two canonical models of world literature, those of Franco Moretti (2000) and Pascale Casanova (2004). Cho contests the center-periphery dynamics in these models, which understand world literature as always emitting from or mediated through a European center. Cho argues that both Moretti and Casanova fail to consider modes of relationality and exchange that do not travel from center to periphery. Networks of literary exchange between Russia and East Asia, Cho suggests, offer an instance of exchange between "semi-peripheries" that does not pass through the European center. A network of "entangled literary and cultural relations" steps forward here as a more egalitarian alternative to the center-periphery model. Cho also uses the Russia-East Asia case to contest Casanova's market-based model of a world republic of letters, in which works complete for an audience and for the cultural capital of approval by the center. The leftist political sympathies that undergird much of the networked transmission of literature from Russia to East Asia, Cho argues, replace market-based competition for readers with a literature based on social solidarity and social mission.

Cho's turn to the network as an alternative spatial model echoes David Damrosch's definition of world literature as "less a set of works than a network" (2003, 3), though tied in this case to a concrete sense of specific [End Page 534] regional and transregional dynamics. At the same time, although Cho contests the diffusionist model of world literature that Moretti derived from world-systems theory, this account of Russian literature's reception in...


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pp. 533-542
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2020
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