The Defense Rests
The last issue of volume twenty-nine of Modernism/modernity is ready and wending its way to your inboxes as I write. As always, we are sharing with you on this site, a teaser article—Jon Najarian’s fascinating and richly illustrated consideration of Rockwell Kent’s art and illustrations—and a review as well, Pardis Dabashi’s assessment of Sarah Keller’s Anxious Cinephila. We hope that these temptations tide you over as you watch your mailbox for the print issue. And, if your subscription (and membership to the Modernist Studies Association) has lapsed, perhaps these can serve as inducements to renew. We hope so.
This week, my coeditors and I were reminiscing about a certain kind of awkward conversation with a skeptic who, upon hearing about our work, says, “Why? What is the point of that?” How to answer the impertinent question? It’s tempting to rise up, with Jamesian confidence, and declare “One doesn’t defend one’s god; one’s god is in himself a defense.” No Jamesian, I still get a little rattled by the impertinent “why?” as I strive for that Jamesian magnificence.
How heartening then to edit this journal and find myself drawn into all your personal “whys,” introduced to the gods of scholars from around the world, some of whom I know well, and others I have yet to meet. The field of modernist studies is vast, and as I edit, sometimes my familiarity with a topic means that I immediately grasp the stakes of an argument; sometimes, a topic is unfamiliar but immediately announces its interest with a spectacular, weird, or compelling subject; sometimes, I am drawn in, and the apparently familiar, dull, or flat teaches me, as I edit each sentence, paragraph, and line, how to be interested in the topic. By the time my work as editor is done, the work on this website and between the pages of the issue needs no further defense: it comes to you fully defended, ready for you to read, and in the hopes that it enriches your mind.
In the print issue, in addition to a discussion of Rockwell Kent, you will find a discussion of Walter Benjamin’s Moscow diaries and how highly personal documents arise to resonant historical significance in certain moments; a discussion of Charlie Chaplin’s participation in the discourse of ‘the little man’; a reconsideration of Willa and Edwin Muir’s translations of Kafka (including the persistent erasure of Willa Muir’s coequal contribution to their project), and more.
Here, on the Print+ platform, since our last print issue, we have published two articles that you will only find here—on Beckett and chorus girls—an important and ambitious cluster on the Body Politic in Pain, blog posts, and a capsule review.
It’s a cornucopia abundant enough to restore the most skeptical reader’s faith. And with that, the defense rests. Read on!
—Anne E. Fernald