Gayle Rogers is professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Incomparable Empires: Modernism and the Translation of Spanish and American Literature (Columbia University Press, 2016) and Modernism and the New Spain: Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History (Oxford University Press, 2012). With Sean Latham, he is co-author of Modernism: Evolution of an Idea (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), which launched the New Modernisms series that they co-edit. His essays and translations have appeared in PMLA, Modernism/modernity, Comparative Literature, NOVEL, Journal of Modern Literature, James Joyce Quarterly, Revista de estudios orteguianos, A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism, The Cambridge Companion to the American Modernist Novel, 100 Escritores del siglo XX, and other publications. His current book project is a history of the concept and practices of speculation from the late medieval era to the present.
Only Disconnect?: The Flickering Circuits of Modernist Translation
As E. M. Forster implied, connection often creates more problems than it solves. Indeed, one of the many lessons of the 2016 election cycle and the current political climate in the United States is that few things drive people farther apart than being connected to one another. The utopian dreams of the 1990s in which the World Wide Web would foster a harmonious global village have splintered into immeasurably vast fields of divergent realities, unknowable terrains of digital echo chambers and of silos filled with conspiracy theories; here, self-sufficient “facts” are constructed and rarely questioned. From yellow journalism to “fake news,” only the names and technologies that simultaneously inspire phantasms of social cohesion and create indelible fractures are new. As Virginia Woolf put it in 1927 when assessing the global empires of her moment, “the streets of any large town . . . [are] cut up into boxes, each of which is inhabited by a different human being who has put locks on his doors and bolts on his windows to ensure some privacy, yet is linked to his fellows by wires which pass overhead, by waves of sound which pour through the roof and speak aloud to him of battles and murders and strikes and revolutions all over the world.” To understand connection itself as a mediated potentiality and a problem—as a double-edged condition—is to recover some of the lived dangers, silences, and fissures of this era and of our own