Chimeras of Form
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In Chimeras of Form, Aarthi Vadde rethinks the classic concept of modernist internationalism in and beyond Europe. She explains how a wide-ranging group of writers used modernist literary forms to shape ideas of international belonging in the wake of imperialism. Rabindranath Tagore, James Joyce, Claude McKay, George Lamming, Michael Ondaatje, and Zadie Smith questioned traditional expectations of aesthetic form and, in doing so, cast doubt on parallel notions of the cohesion and wholeness of political communities.
Drawing on her close readings of individual texts and on literary, postcolonial, and cosmopolitical theory, Vadde shows how these writers’ formal experiments took part in debates about transnational interdependence and social obligation. She reads Joyce’s use of asymmetrical narratives as a way to ask questions about international camaraderie and demonstrates how the plotless” works of Claude McKay upturn ideas of citizenship and diasporic alienation. Her analysis of the contemporary writers Zadie Smith and Shailja Patel shows how present-day questions relating to migration, displacement, and economic inequality link modernism and postcolonial literature. Vadde illustrates how writers have reimagined the nation and internationalism in a period defined by globalization, revealing the dual nature of internationalism as an aspiration, possibly a chimeric one, and an actual political discourse.