He is a walking paradox: a loner who desires the crowd, “a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito,” a spectator who casts off his air of detachment, a skeptic who can experience states of childlike wonder, “an ‘I’ with an insatiable appetite for the ‘non-I.’” More gaze than body, he is a phantom of the arcade, “a mirror as vast as the crowd itself . . . a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness” (Baudelaire, “Painter,” 9). Who is this person? “Observer, philosopher . . . —call him what you will,” the flâneur is the modern man par excellence, an urban stroller who will always be encountered, en passant, in the act of capturing “the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent”—that is, the contradictory, enigmatic, and elusive condition otherwise known as modernity (13).
In an essay on Herman Melville, D. H. Lawrence describes the Pacific Islands as “a vast vacuum, in which, mirage-like, continues the life of myriads of ages back.” Modernist studies has yet to awaken from this dream of Oceania as the hazy antithesis of modernity, a place “not come to any modern consciousness”: although the tide is turning, the Pacific has typically been treated not as an active site of cultural production, but as a tropical backdrop for the adventures of the likes of Gauguin, Stevenson, and Melville (Lawrence, “Herman Melville,” 114). Uncalculated as this scholarly exclusion may be, it cannot but reinforce the sense that modernism and modernity demand an unmodern Other, figuring Pacific peoples in binaries that the new modernist studies has worked to undermine.
Long considered epistemologically naive, realism has, in the last ten years or so, undergone something of a rehabilitation, as scholars such as Anna Kornbluh, Caroline Levine, and Matthew Beaumont have shown realism to be, in Kornbluh’s words, “a mode of production rather than a mode of reflection.” If this work has often focused on nineteenth-century texts, another set of scholars has described what Devin Fore’s 2012 book helpfully calls Realism after Modernism. Jed Esty and Colleen Lye’s special issue of MLQ
Serialized in the first years of Japan’s modern Shôwa period (1926-1989), Hayashi Fumiko’s wildly popular Diary of a Vagabond (Hôrôki) recounts, in playful turns both confessional and elusive, its author’s formation in the provincial mining communities of southern Japan and the booming Tokyo metropolis of the 1920s.
In September 1927, Edward McKnight Kauffer’s “One Third of the Empire is in the Tropics” poster set appeared on over 1,000 specially built poster frames across Britain and in capital cities across the British Empire (figs. 1 and 2). Commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board (EMB), an organization established by the British government in May 1926 to increase sales of Empire goods and products, it was the Board’s first modernist poster series.
The development of the new modernist studies of the past fifteen years has involved what we could term, to borrow a phrase that has circulated in the social sciences since the nineties, a “new institutionalism.”
If later testimonies are to be believed, around 1927 Peruvian poet Carlos Oquendo de Amat (1905-1936) published in Lima, under the title Celuloide (Celluloid), a magazine devoted to film news and reviews.
In twenty-first century poetry about the millennial wars in Iraq, the deities and heroes of ancient Mesopotamia are congregating. Dunya Mikhail’s “Inanna” imagines the eponymous Sumerian goddess decrying the sight of “antiquities / scattered / and broken / in the museum.”
Ever since the publication of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, the phrase “empty, homogenous time” (borrowed from Walter Benjamin), has become synonymous with the historical imagination of nationalism.