Christopher Bush
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A modernism that has not yet been
Untimely Segalen
in 1913: The year of French modernism
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This essay discusses Victor Segalen’s collection Stèles (1912) and its close connection to China, and considers French modernism in global terms. Segalen’s literary and historiographic indeterminacy reveals the extent to which standard literary histories rely on a spatial imaginary of geopolitical unevenness that articulates itself along the terms of ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’. Bush argues that Segalen is neither here nor there, his work is in French but not ‘of France’ as a closed-off nation, and is one of many multipolar actors of modernism. Framing French modernism as largely and already transnational and global in its scope, practice, circulation and impact, Bush proposes French-language modernism – distinct from the French nation-state or from Francophonie – as a lens through which to think modernism in global terms, more effective than the dominant in scholarship Anglophone modernism.

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