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“Calcutta-London-Madrid: The Politics of Translation in Global Modernisms,” Gayle Rogers, University of Pittsburgh

“Calcutta-London-Madrid: The Politics of Translation in Global Modernisms,” Gayle Rogers, University of Pittsburgh

Monday, October 20, 2014 12:15 pm
- 1:25 pm EDT

This talk approaches a longstanding question in modernist studies through a different critical route: how are we to study global modernisms without replicating the Anglo-European criteria of what "counts" as modernist (formally, temporally, spatially), and at the same time, preserve some sense of what "modernism" means as a movement?  I aim to reorient our thinking on this question by leaving London at the center of a global literary phenomenon, but by demonstrating the ways in which its institutions--and the English language--were only a temporary way station for some more fruitful modernist exchanges.  I follow the translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s works from Bengali to English to Spanish: in English, his fame was short-lived and precarious, while in Spanish, thanks to the extensive and creative translations by Juan Ramón Jiménez, he remains an influential poetic figure.  The world republic of letters contained exchanges of modernist texts, styles, and critiques that went far beyond London, New York, Paris, or Berlin, of course, and one way to recover them, I argue, is to reconceive translation as a practice that decenters modernism and shows its lateral emergence across a range of disparate literary economies. 

Gayle Rogers is associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.  He is the author of Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History (2012), and of publications in PMLAModernism/modernity, Comparative Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, James Joyce Quarterly, and other journals.  His current book projects are Modernism: Evolution of an Idea (co-written with Sean Latham forthcoming 2015) and Between Literary Empires: Translation and the Comparative Emergence of Modernism, a study of English/Spanish translation practices from the Spanish-American War of 1898 to the present.