Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers University)
Fellow in Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"
June – July 2021
This project at EXC 2020 focuses on new experiments in multilingual writing. Walkowitz argues that a new generation of migrant novelists, essayists, and nonfiction fabulists are changing the way we encounter world languages, how we know and read them, and how we organize, publish, review, honor, and teach the literary works circulating today. An essay taken from the first chapter, On Not Knowing, appeared in New Literary History in 2020. A second essay from that project, Less Than One Language, appeared in SubStance in 2021, in a special issue on The Postlingual Turn, which she co-edited with yasser elhariry. Thinking about literature in a truly global perspective, she argues, we must rethink the way we calculate languages and how we understand where and when languages begin. Sensitive to the political currency of dominant tongues, contemporary writers are using new narrative and visual strategies to create the impression of “additional,” “secondary,” or “translated” words and to transform present readers into future readers. Walkowitz traces these strategies and their impact through a range of contemporary texts, including novels, essays, and campaign posters, and considers what a literary history beyond monolingualism would look like. We must begin, she argues, by learning to count differently. Because all languages are foreign languages, she avers, inclusive languages must be additional languages: acquired, comparative, and imperfectly known.
Rebecca Walkowitz is Dean of Humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University. As Distinguished Professor of English and Affiliate Faculty in Comparative Literature. she writes and teaches courses about modernism, twentieth-century British fiction, the contemporary anglophone novel, translation, world literature, and transnational approaches to literary history. She is the author of Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature (2015; 2021, Japanese) and Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation (2006), and editor of eight books and two journal special issues. Professor Walkowitz was President of the Modernist Studies Association in 2014-2015 and a faculty member at the Institute for World Literature in June 2016 and July 2019. She has delivered more than 80 distinguished lectures in the fields of modernism, contemporary fiction, and world literature in Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America. Recent lectures include the Wolfgang Iser Lecture at the University of Konstanz (2017), a plenary lecture at the 90th annual meeting of the English Literature Society of Japan (2018), the George Steiner Lecture in Comparative Litertuare at Queen Mary, University of London (2019).