Joshua L. Miller is Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies and a Faculty Associate in Comparative Literature, American Culture, and Latina/o Studies. He is the author of Accented America: The Cultural Politics of Multilingual Modernism (Oxford University Press, 2011), editor of The Cambridge Companion to the American Modernist Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and co-editor of Languages of Modern Jewish Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (University of Michigan Press, 2016). He is currently completing a literary counterhistory of immigrant narrative and editing The Cambridge Companion to 21st Century American Fiction. He is also working on a comparative study of race, photography, and modernism.
Joshua L. Miller
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