Introduction: Multilingualism, Modernism and the Novel

  • James Reay WilliamsEmail author
Part of the New Comparisons in World Literature book series (NCWL)


Williams argues for a new chronology of the modern novel which emphasises the native multilingualism of the form over other thematic and periodical categories. Drawing on recent perspectives on the linguistics of multilingualism, this introduction argues that our understanding of the novel must reflect the history of the multilingual as a shared human experience of modernity, of empire and of decolonisation: the notion of a monolingual literary form does not hold up to scrutiny in a multilingual world. If we acknowledge this fact, Williams argues, we can understand modernist experimentation as an engagement with the linguistic history of empire which inaugurates a century of multilingual writing in Europe and the Caribbean.


  1. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised ed. London: Verso, 1991.Google Scholar
  2. Apter, Emily. The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  3. Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhailovich. The Dialogic Imagination. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.Google Scholar
  4. Balibar, Renée. Le Colinguisme. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1993.Google Scholar
  5. Beecroft, Alexander. ‘World Literature Without a Hyphen: Towards a Typology of Literary Systems’. New Left Review 54 (November–December 2008): 87–100.Google Scholar
  6. Berman, Jessica. Modernist Commitments: Ethics, Politics and Transnational Modernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  7. Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. Modernism. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.Google Scholar
  8. Brathwaite, Edward Kamau. History of the Voice: The Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry. London: New Beacon Books, 1984.Google Scholar
  9. Casanova, Pascale. The World Republic of Letters. Translated by M. B. DeBevoise. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  10. Conrad, Joseph. The Secret Agent. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  11. Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  12. Edward, John. Multilingualism. London: Penguin, 1995.Google Scholar
  13. Forsyth, Marc. The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase. London: Icon Books, 2013.Google Scholar
  14. Friedman, Susan Stanford. ‘Planetarity: Musing Modernist Studies’. Modernism/modernity 17.3 (September 2010): 471–499.Google Scholar
  15. Gikandi, Simon. Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature. London: Cornell University Press, 1992.Google Scholar
  16. GoGwilt, Christopher. The Passage of Literature: Genealogies of Modernism in Conrad, Rhys, and Pramoedya. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  17. Hayot, Eric. On Literary Worlds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  18. James, David, ed. The Legacies of Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  19. James, David. Modernist Futures: Innovation and Inheritance in the Contemporary Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  20. Kellman, Steven G. The Translingual Imagination. London: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  21. Lalla, Barbara, Jean D’Costa, and Velma Pollard. Caribbean Literary Discourse: Voice and Cultural Identity in the Anglophone Caribbean. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  22. Lazarus, Neil. The Postcolonial Unconscious. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  23. Makoni, Sinfree, and Alastair Pennycook, eds. Disinventing and Reconstituting Languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2007.Google Scholar
  24. Mao, Douglas, and Rebecca Walkowitz. ‘The New Modernist Studies’. PMLA 123.3 (2008): 737–748.Google Scholar
  25. Miller, Joshua. Accented America: The Cultural Politics of Multilingual Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  26. Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. London: Verso, 2013.Google Scholar
  27. Nien-Ming Ch’ien, Evelyn. Weird English. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  28. North, Michael. The Dialect of Modernism: Race, Language, and Twentieth-Century Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  29. Ramazani, Jahan. ‘Modernist Bricolage, Postcolonial Hybridity’. Modernism/modernity 13.3 (September 2006): 445–463.Google Scholar
  30. Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage, 1993.Google Scholar
  31. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  32. Stavans, Anat, and Charlotte Hoffman. Multilingualism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Google Scholar
  33. Sternberg, Meir. ‘Polylingualism as Reality and Translation as Mimesis’. Poetics Today 2.4 (Summer–Autumn 1981): 221–239.Google Scholar
  34. Taylor-Batty, Juliette. Multilingualism in Modernist Fiction. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013.Google Scholar
  35. Valdez Moses, Michael. ‘Disorientalism: Conrad and the Imperial Origins of Modernist Aesthetics’. In Modernism and Colonialism: British and Irish Literature, 1888–1939, edited by Richard Begam and Michael Valdez-Moses, 43–69. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  36. Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. London: The Bodley Head, 2015.Google Scholar
  37. Williams, Raymond. Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists. London: Verso, 2007.Google Scholar
  38. Wilson, Diana de Armas. ‘Where Does the Novel Rise? Cultural Hybrids and Cervantine Heresies’. In Cervantes and His Postmodern Constituencies, edited by Anne J. Cruz and Carrol B. Johnson. New York: Garland, 1999.Google Scholar
  39. Wollaeger, Mark, and Matt Eatough, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.Google Scholar
  40. Yao, Steven G. Translation and the Languages of Modernism: Gender, Politics, Language. New York: Palgrave, 2002.Google Scholar
  41. Yildiz, Yasemin. Beyond the Mother Tongue: The Postmonolingual Condition. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

Personalised recommendations