Jacob Edmond has written a remarkable book—impassioned, theoretically astute, and timely—that deserves to garner significant response across many fields in the humanities. The tasks it sets to accomplish—and succeeds admirably in doing so—are manifold. First, it presents a compelling new vision for the role and relevance of the discipline of comparative literature in our rapidly changing times. Second, it argues for the continuing intellectual and political relevance of contemporary poetry and its aesthetic and cognitive projects in the context of globalization, despite the short shrift this form of writing often gets in grand cultural models and the neglect or condescension towards it from many writing on globalization from the disciplinary standpoint of the social sciences. And last but not least, it triangulates between the literary traditions—Chinese, Russian, and American—that to my knowledge have never been considered together at such extent in a book project, with the traditional locus of much comparatist writing, West European literatures, only serving as a foil in the argument the author builds. At best, these national literatures usually appear in comparative models, if at all, in binary structures, juxtaposed with the dominant West European center. A Common Strangeness therefore takes an original and unexpected spin on the call to “provincialize Europe” that has been pronounced by a number of scholars of literature and culture of non-(West) European background.
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