Jacob Edmond’s engaging study A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature makes an impassioned call for an increasingly global mindset for comparative literature. To do so, he opens with a striking engagement with and then redeployment of Fredric Jameson’s article ‘Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ in The New Left Review before its expansion into his most famous book. Edmond notes Jameson’s references to China in the article and the San Francisco poet Bob Perelman’s poem ‘China’, followed by the recognition that any contemporary understanding of the notion of late capitalism or the logics of multinational capital today could not undertake the assumption of incongruency upon which Jameson’s emphasis relies. Thus propelled to a global scope, Edmond moves from Russian to Chinese, American to European, poetics. In order to explore the binary of commonness and strangeness that fuels his critical focus, Edmond links six avant-garde poets: Bei Dao (pseudonym of Zhao Zhenkai), Yang Lian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Dmitri Prigov, Charles Bernstein, and Lyn Hejinian. This combines his study of poetics with a transnational project bridging China, Russia, and America. Charles Olsen also receives attention at several points in the book, as do Charles Baudelaire and Alexander Pushkin, and San Francisco as a poetic centre is also discussed, though given the subject matter it is perhaps surprising that Kenneth Rexroth does not figure (though this would create political and perhaps methodological conflict). The broader disciplinary matter of a transnational comparative literature in the rising moment of world literature plays an important role in Edmond’s theoretical work here, as do shifting discourses of globalization and the geopolitics of late-stage capitalism. There is much here to enliven comparative literary studies as well as the internationalization rather than community-studies orientation of American literary studies.
––From the “American Literature: The Twentieth Century” article in the latest Year’s Work in English Studies. Read the full article here.