Nathan K. Hensley is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University. He is the author of Forms of Empire: The Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty (Oxford, 2016) and co-editor, with Philip Steer, of Ecological Form: System and Aesthetics in the Age of Empire (Fordham, forthcoming 2017). His current project is about the problem of imagining action from within massive and often failing systems.
Nathan K. Hensley
Transnational, geopolitical, cosmopolitan, planetary: the language of the global turn in modernist studies is now instantly recognizable to the field’s professional and aspiring practitioners. This new lexicon percolates across journals, conferences, monographs, and other sites of consecrated disciplinary activity, and represents what Aarthi Vadde, in her contribution to this cluster, refers to as global modernism’s “definitional proliferation.” Like any other expansion of specialized terms, the language game of global modernism takes the form of scholarly disagreement: it generates affiliation and disaffiliation at the levels of panel and plenary, article and book. Yet arguments among partisans of this term or that one paper over an implicit consensus about the coherence and importance of its central concept, modernism, an agreement that (in Adorno’s words cited above) “illuminates the ether in which the jargon flourishes.”