Why is our increasingly multicultural and multipolar world still understood through binary oppositions 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––as well as historical––underpinnings of these persistent dichotomies between East and West, local and global, commonness and strangeness?
Rejecting the binaries that continue to dominate debates about comparative literature, world literature, transnational modernisms, and globalization, A Common Strangeness advocates and exemplifies a new multilingual and multilateral approach to literary and cultural studies. It also suggests that global modernity be rethought through the prism of just such multilateral cross-cultural encounters. The book begins with the entrance of China into multinational capitalism and the Parisian flâneur into the writings of a Chinese poet exiled in Auckland, New Zealand. Moving among poetic examples in Russian, Chinese, and English, Jacob Edmond 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 readings that range from utopia to bloodbath, Soviet foreign policy to global dinosaur mania, Charles Baudelaire to cultural diplomacy, Viktor Shklovsky to Marianne Faithfull, he tracks a striking shared concern with strangeness through which poets contended old binary oppositions as they reemerged in new post-Cold War forms. Edmond explores how and why at a moment of profound global flux Chinese, Russian, and American writers sought to reimagine history and modernity through the poetics of strangeness and how we might do the same.