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- A Common Strangeness
Why is our world still understood through binary oppositions—East and West, local and global, common and strange—that ought to have crumbled with the Berlin Wall? What might literary responses to the events that ushered in our era of globalization tell us about the rhetorical and historical underpinnings of these dichotomies?
In A Common Strangeness, Jacob Edmond exemplifies a new, multilingual and multilateral approach to literary and cultural studies. He begins with the entrance of China into multinational capitalism and the appearance of the Parisian flâneur in the writings of a Chinese poet exiled in Auckland, New Zealand. Moving among poetic examples in Russian, Chinese, and English, he then traces a series of encounters shaped by economic and geopolitical events from the Cultural Revolution, perestroika, and the June 4 massacre to the collapse of the Soviet Union, September 11, and the invasion of Iraq. In these encounters, Edmond tracks a shared concern with strangeness through which poets contested old binary oppositions as they reemerged in new, post-Cold War forms.
Jacob Edmond teaches English at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
"This book examines the changes in poetic discourses that have followed from the end of the Cold War and the rise of a global literature, and it engages with impressive competence in the fields of Chinese, American, and post-Soviet literary cultures. . . . An understated, versatile, and clear exponent of poetic analysis and cultural commentary”––Andrew Kahn in the Slavic Review
“Edmond’s book offers a rich and thought-provoking study and stimulates comparatist research. . . . the book offers an interesting juxtaposition of ‘estranged’ poets of various backgrounds and calls the reader’s attention to important politically and culturally controversial trends in societies such as China, Russia, and the U.S. It opens up new research vistas by drawing scholarly attention to issues that have become increasingly important in the contemporary world where old oppositions are no longer operative”––Marina Grishakova and Märt Läänemets in Recherche littéraire / Literary
“The strength of Edmond’s study is the close readings of each poet, which are subtle and insightful across the broad range of national traditions he examines.”––Joseph Acquisto in The Modern Language Review
"In this ambitious and rich work, Jacob Edmond explores the relationship between recent poetry and globalism. Rejecting both the traditional East/West binary and the local/global opposition which he sees as its replacement, Edmond maps out the middle ground- an area of contact and exchange in which seemingly disparate poets pursued a common poetics of strangeness in the post- Cold War years."—Slavic and East European Journal
“The words transnational and globalization appear frequently within scholarship on contemporary poetry, but so far there have been few sustained attempts to narrate recent developments across more than two language-groups or geographical regions . . . At least one person can now be said to fill the bill. . . . Edmond shows himself to be thoroughly grounded in the relevant literary traditions, and whether a given poem is written in English, Russian, or Mandarin, he proves able to supply the kind of intensive, patient, erudite textual analysis that one associates with the Yale school back in its heyday.”—Brian Reed, Contemporary Literature
“There is no doubt that A Common Strangeness, with its focal point in the aesthetic concept and device of estrangement, is a valuable contribution to recent scholarship that aims at finding new ways to look at the intricate network of relations of poetry to the world.”—Cosima Bruno, The China Quarterly
"Each iteration--each chapter here, each poet turning toward a different land of language and location--performs a differential repetition, or what Edmond calls a differential 'insistence,' that can turn us constantly toward attention to each other and our practices. It is that kind of attention, that suspending of tribal blinders, that Edmond's book encourages, and it is a pleasure to see this kind of work in the world."—Landfall
"Jacob Edmond's new book, A Common Strangeness, is anything but common and signals what I hope will be a new trend toward more ambitious studies of late-modernist to contemporary poetics on a global scale."—Jonathan Stalling, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture
"Jacob Edmond has written a remarkable book—impassioned, theoretically astute, and timely—that deserves to garner significant response across many fields in the humanities."—Vitaly Chernetsky, New Zealand Slavonic Journal
“One of this book’s secrets: it is, above all, a long essay on the relation between the general and the particular after deconstruction. What is it possible to say about poetry, or the global, in the face of the poem and the individual? As an antidote to these dichotomies, A Common Strangeness gives us triangles, operating in varied scales. Edmond’s analysis of poets from the US, Russia, and China allows him to shed new light on the patterns of literary making and cosmopolitan thinking that drive the aesthetics of globalization today. Overlapping, Edmond’s philosophical and linguistic triangles become hexagons, enneagons, dodecagons. These multiplying shapes provide fertile new ground for anyone interested in comparative poetics after 1989.”—Eric Hayot, Pennsylvania State University
"A Common Strangeness is unique among studies of contemporary poetics in being genuinely global in its perspective and its reach. At home in Russian and Chinese as well as American poetry and that of his native New Zealand, Jacob Edmond pinpoints the crucial relationships that exist between what are seemingly disparate poetic cultures. The Chinese poet Yang Lian, who lived in exile in Auckland, is read under the sign of Benjamin and Baudelaire. The American Language poet Lyn Hejinian’s important dialogue with the Russian avant-gardist Arkadii Dragomoshchenko is studied carefully, and Bei Dao, Dmitri Prigov, and Charles Bernstein are treated as representative figures of cross-cultural thinking in the age of globalism. Edmond’s is a provocative, exciting, and genuinely original study of the new poetics; we will all be learning from it!"—Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita, Stanford University
"This bold triangulation of six Chinese, Russian, and American poets advances lively current debates about global literature by exploring encounters that challenge the old binarisms and chart possibilities of literary singularities for a future poetics. Edmond’s shrewd account of literary crossings in post-Cold War history helps us imagine how we can experience the challenge of new literary configurations."—Jonathan Culler, Cornell University
"Jacob Edmond addresses what he calls 'forms of textual strangeness' across contemporary poems of beautiful complexity and staying power. This theoretically astute book challenges us to read with a keener eye and to recognize how much poetry can tell us about political catastrophes, national dislocations, and promises of cultural renewal."—Stephanie Sandler, Harvard University
"Jacob Edmond’s work places the discipline of comparative literature against a deeply cosmopolitan, yet rarely juxtaposed, series of lyrical contexts. From the stakes of high modernism to the controversies over global literature and contemporary geopolitics, his discussions are admirable in their linguistic range, erudition, and critical vision. Cultural encounter––that experience so typically poised between strangeness and commonality––becomes here a poetic event. An original, sophisticated, and remarkable book."––Citation, Honorable Mention, Harry Levin Prize 2013
Runner-Up for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Book Prize
In this remarkable book, comparative literature outdoes itself, becoming fully contemporary and transnational: Edmond innovates a genuinely global poetics that discovers the fullest cultural crossings among Chinese, Russian, and U.S. poets. Reading correspondences among Yang Lian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, and Lyn Hejinian, Bei Dao, Dmitri Prigov, and Charles Bernstein, among others, Edmond aims to give a field “still shaped by the history and conceptual and political structures of the Cold War” the resources to read the “appositional, transnational, and multicultural poetics of our current era”; its focus is contemporary poetry’s “common commitment to forms of strangeness,” which disallow old assertions of what unites or foreignizes the world’s populations. And its great advantage is a sense of literary culture equally powerful in its three languages, which translates to interpretive insight uniquely adequate to the world today.
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