Special Issue "(Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film"
A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 January 2019) | Viewed by 22515
Interests: Animation; film history and aesthetics; transatlantic modernism; antifascism; cosmopolitanism
Cosmopolitanism is not a set or coherent theory. Rather, there are multiple understandings of what cosmopolitanism means and how it functions as a worldview or ideology. These varied conceptions often share some characteristics while contradicting others, but each is ultimately rooted in the meaning of the term in the original ancient Greek: “citizen of the cosmos.” Basic to an understanding of cosmopolitanism is the idea of transcending local allegiances by choosing to participate in a broader and more universal culture. Rather than being defined by more immediate cultures, traditions, and social groupings, one must perceive connections further afield than the walls of the city or the borders of a nation. The conceptual presence of “citizen of the cosmos” has been in operation in the West since the 4th century B.C., and from that time it has continually found its way into the political, social, cultural, philosophical and artistic discourse of first western and then world tradition(s) and culture(s). While perhaps most obviously conjoined with the project of empire, cosmopolitanism is also tied to the effects of travel and migration, of a mobile citizenship that can be both desirable and forced.
In particular, since the late 19th century, cosmopolitanism has been a crucial element of modernity connected to various attempts at internationalism, not only in politics but also importantly in modernist art—literature, dance, painting, film, etc.—which deliberately reached beyond national boundaries. Modernist and avant-garde writers were often ex-pats and world travelers who intentionally developed a cosmopolitan perspective in their aesthetics and narratives. The early twentieth century also saw the important development of cinema, which gave cosmopolitanism a new edge: movies disseminated concepts and fashions to different parts of the world, building a global discourse and iconography while maintaining local variations. After WWII cosmopolitanism continued as a conceptual paradigm, exemplified by the destabilizing of national identities with various attempts to create transnational networks and connections that reflected a desire for both a broader European identity and more comprehensive international alliances.
While cosmopolitanism has at times been critiqued for spreading particular (western) hegemonies, as the century progressed, it was complicated by the new and more inclusive views of postmodern writers and filmmakers. Cosmopolitanism has thus been increasingly re-conceptualized in recent decades, such as with the new cosmopolitanism, which is heavily informed by post-colonial theory. This process of analysis and reassessment has led to an expansion of understanding and a rich new tradition of critical approaches exemplified by theorists like Kwame Anthony Appiah, Pheng Cheah, Ulrich Beck, Bruce Robbins, and Rebecca Walkowitz. Such work has proven to be timely: in the past two years cosmopolitanism has resurged as a crucial concept ripe for further examination. The neo-nationalist assertions arising out of Brexit and the Trump presidency have called into question the values inherent in a cosmopolitanism rooted in humanist traditions. When Trump announced soon after his election that there was “no certificate of global citizenship” but only “America first,” he brought into focus a dichotomy between national and international world views that has structured discourse about cosmopolitanism since the beginning.
The challenge of cosmopolitanism does not reside only in political assertions, however. It can be found in a variety of forms—narrative, aesthetic, and cultural—that continue to shape and inform our experiences as citizens navigating a complex world. This special issue aims to re(map) cosmopolitanism by gathering scholarship that rethinks, reevaluates (and perhaps reinforces) the value of cosmopolitanism as expressed in literature and film. Analyses of individual works, multiple works by one or connected artists, and more wide-ranging foci are all welcome. Essays may address any time period; essays that focus on work from the late 19th century (after the advent of film) through the present are particularly welcome.
Dr. Jennifer Barker
Dr. Christa Zorn
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- global citizenship