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).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Jennifer Barker
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of English, Bellarmine University, 2001 Newburg Rd., Louisville, KY 40205, USA
Interests: Animation; film history and aesthetics; transatlantic modernism; antifascism; cosmopolitanism
Dr. Christa Zorn
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of English, Indiana University Southeast, 4201 Grant Line Rd, New Albany, IN 47150, USA
Interests: 19th and 20th century British literature; women’s studies; aesthetics; Vernon Lee

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

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.

The deadline for submission of articles to guest editors is December 30, 2018. Please email articles directly to Jennifer Barker [email protected] and Christa Zorn [email protected]

Dr. Jennifer Barker
Dr. Christa Zorn
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Cosmopolitanism
  • internationalism
  • modernism
  • literature
  • film
  • aesthetics
  • culture
  • global citizenship
  • migration
  • post-colonial
  • postmodern

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Introduction to “Re-Mapping Cosmopolitanism”
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 127; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030127 - 16 Jul 2019
Abstract
Debates about the concept of cosmopolitanism have flared up repeatedly in the twentieth and twenty-fist centuries, not so much as a set or coherent theory, but rather as an alternative model of thinking in opposition to excessive nationalist ideologies; or, more recently, as [...] Read more.
Debates about the concept of cosmopolitanism have flared up repeatedly in the twentieth and twenty-fist centuries, not so much as a set or coherent theory, but rather as an alternative model of thinking in opposition to excessive nationalist ideologies; or, more recently, as an intervention into hegemonic global strategies [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Inhabiting Liminality: Cosmopolitan World-Making in Naeem Mohaiemen’s Tripoli Cancelled
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020117 - 24 Jun 2019
Abstract
Motivated by “the need to embody … the palpable tension between the North and the South as it is reflected, articulated, and interpreted in contemporary cultural production”, documenta 14’s selection of Athens as a “vantage point … where Europe, Africa, the Middle East, [...] Read more.
Motivated by “the need to embody … the palpable tension between the North and the South as it is reflected, articulated, and interpreted in contemporary cultural production”, documenta 14’s selection of Athens as a “vantage point … where Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia face each other” is in line with the ancient Greek concept of the ‘cosmopolite’, a term that Diogenes first coined “as a means of overcoming the usual dualism Hellene/Barbarian”. In this article, I suggest that Naeem Mohaiemen’s feature film, Tripoli Cancelled (2017), commissioned by documenta 14 and premiered at the National Contemporary Art Museum in Athens, proposes a rich and compelling model of cosmopolitan world-making. Shot at the abandoned Elliniko Airport, the film is poetically suspended between fact and fiction, past and present, the historical and the incidental, the local and the global. Creatively positioning the concepts of cosmopolitanism, nostalgia, and hospitality in dialogue, I develop a theoretical model through which I seek to explore how the literally and metaphorically liminal space inhabited by the film’s anonymous protagonist resonates with the contemporary conditions of desperate migration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film)
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Open AccessArticle
The American Film Musical and the Place(less)ness of Entertainment: Cabaret’s “International Sensation” and American Identity in Crisis
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020099 - 19 May 2019
Abstract
This article looks at cosmopolitanism in the American film musical through the lens of the genre’s self-reflexivity. By incorporating musical numbers into its narrative, the musical mirrors the entertainment industry mise en abyme, and establishes an intrinsic link to America through the [...] Read more.
This article looks at cosmopolitanism in the American film musical through the lens of the genre’s self-reflexivity. By incorporating musical numbers into its narrative, the musical mirrors the entertainment industry mise en abyme, and establishes an intrinsic link to America through the act of (cultural) performance. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the chronotope and its recent application to the genre of the musical, I read the implicitly spatial backstage/stage duality overlaying narrative and number—the musical’s dual registers—as a means of challenging representations of Americanness, nationhood, and belonging. The incongruities arising from the segmentation into dual registers, realms complying with their own rules, destabilize the narrative structure of the musical and, as such, put the semantic differences between narrative and number into critical focus. A close reading of the 1972 film Cabaret, whose narrative is set in 1931 Berlin, shows that the cosmopolitanism of the American film musical lies in this juxtaposition of non-American and American (at least connotatively) spaces and the self-reflexive interweaving of their associated registers and narrative levels. If metalepsis designates the transgression of (onto)logically separate syntactic units of film, then it also symbolically constitutes a transgression and rejection of national boundaries. In the case of Cabaret, such incongruities and transgressions eventually undermine the notion of a stable American identity, exposing the American Dream as an illusion produced by the inherent heteronormativity of the entertainment industry. The film advocates a cosmopolitan model of cultural hybridity and the plurality of identities by shedding light on the faultlines of nationalist essentialism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film)
Open AccessArticle
Terrestrial Cosmopolitanism, Posthumanism, and Multispecies Modes of Being in Cereus Blooms at Night
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020092 - 13 May 2019
Abstract
Cosmopolitanism has generally been used to describe a philosophy that imagines all humans as citizens of a single “human” community. This article explores a terrestrial cosmopolitanism that challenges the colonial discourse of human exceptionalism by extending the democratization of people to include environmental [...] Read more.
Cosmopolitanism has generally been used to describe a philosophy that imagines all humans as citizens of a single “human” community. This article explores a terrestrial cosmopolitanism that challenges the colonial discourse of human exceptionalism by extending the democratization of people to include environmental bodies within their global context, replacing hierarchies with collectivities to reveal humanism’s underrepresented others. Examining interspecies alliances in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night, I look towards terrestrial cosmopolitanism as an alternative to anthropocentric forms of cosmopolitanism that continue to reinscribe colonialist aspirations and ontologically exclusionary practices. Mootoo’s work decenters how we think about humans and the environment and offers a nuanced depiction of a positive interspecies community that resists harmful humanist taxonomies. Reading the novel’s protagonist, Mala, as a posthuman figure, I argue that her rejection of human language, in conjunction with her nonhuman interactions, positions her as a keeper of collectivity, as she creates a third space of subjectivity in her garden that blurs the boundaries between humans and nonhumans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film)
Open AccessArticle
The Civic Scale: Strategies of Emplacement in Dambudzo Marechera and Ivan Vladislavić
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020091 - 10 May 2019
Abstract
This paper identifies and intervenes in the problems posed by reading postcolonial texts as representative, or encompassing of, the nation with which they are associated. Alternatively, it proposes that reading at the scale of the city offers a method for circumventing the elision [...] Read more.
This paper identifies and intervenes in the problems posed by reading postcolonial texts as representative, or encompassing of, the nation with which they are associated. Alternatively, it proposes that reading at the scale of the city offers a method for circumventing the elision of particularity which occurs when the nation, continent or globe are foregrounded in Western or Western-facing responses to these texts. The paper models what such a “scaled-down” reading might look like, attending to Dambudzo Marechera’s House of Hunger (1978) and Ivan Vladislavic’s Portrait With Keys: Joburg and What-What (2006), and their intricate relationships to the urban spaces of Harare and Johannesburg, respectively. At stake in these analyses are opportunities to identify what Jacques Rancière terms dissensus, or political contestation, rendered in spatial terms. This establishes a pliable counterdiscourse of the city which seeks and discerns meaning not through consensus or “sanctioned representation”; but through the complexities of affective attachments, the plurality of experiences, and the teeming heterogeneity of physical and literary spaces that have been previously flattened. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film)
Open AccessArticle
“A Doll’s House Conquered Europe”: Ibsen, His English Parodists, and the Debate over World Drama
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 82; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020082 - 22 Apr 2019
Abstract
The London premieres of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in the late 1880s and 1890s sparked strong reactions both of admiration and disgust. This controversy, I suggest, was largely focused on national identity and artistic cosmopolitanism. While Ibsen’s English supporters viewed him as a leader [...] Read more.
The London premieres of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in the late 1880s and 1890s sparked strong reactions both of admiration and disgust. This controversy, I suggest, was largely focused on national identity and artistic cosmopolitanism. While Ibsen’s English supporters viewed him as a leader of a new international theatrical movement, detractors dismissed him as an obscure writer from a primitive, marginal nation. This essay examines the ways in which these competing assessments were reflected in the English adaptations, parodies, and sequels of Ibsen’s plays that were written and published during the final decades of the nineteenth century, texts by Henry Herman and Henry Arthur Jones, Walter Besant, Bernard Shaw, Eleanor Marx and Israel Zangwill, and F. Anstey (Thomas Anstey Guthrie). These rewritings tended to respond to Ibsen’s foreignness in one of three ways: Either to assimilate the plays’ settings, characters, and values into normative Englishness; to exaggerate their exoticism (generally in combination with a suggestion of moral danger); or to keep their Norwegian settings and depict those settings (along with characters and ideas) as ordinary and familiar. Through their varying responses to Ibsen’s Norwegian origin, I suggest, these adaptations offered a uniquely practical and concrete medium for articulating ideas about the ways in which art shapes both national identity and the international community. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue (Re)Mapping Cosmopolitanism in Literature and Film)
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