Reading on the Edge

Exiles, Modernities, and Cultural Transformation in Proust, Joyce, and Baldwin

By Cyraina E. Johnson-Roullier

Subjects: Postcolonial Studies
Paperback : 9780791445426, 240 pages, May 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445419, 240 pages, June 2000

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Table of contents



1. Introduction: Borders, Cultures, and Spatial Politics
"Cultural" Studies/"Culture" Studies
Culture Studies and New Critical Culture
New Criticism and the Sociocultural Role of the University
The Politics of Cultural Space
Culture Studies, Canon Revision, and Cultural Transformation
Culture Studies, Canon Revision, and the Transformation of Culture

2. (An)Other Modernism
Exclusionary Modernism and the Politics of Cultural Space
"Serious Fictions"/Fictional Realities
Post-ing Modernism in the "Other"
The Cultural and Spatial Politics of Modernity

3. Marcel mondain, "Marcel," and the Hidden Diaspora: Author, Voyeur, or Both?
The Critical/Cultural Perspective
"Marcel"/Marcel and the Hidden "I"

4. Stephen Dedalus and the "Swoon of Sin"
A Young Scholar "Joyced" or the Cultural Politics of Institutionalization
Retrospective: Stephen Dedalus and the "Swoon of Sin"

5. "The Bulldog in My Own Backyard": James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room, and the Rhetoric of Flight
Literary Criticism, African-American Literature, and the Legacy of James Baldwin
The Flight into Modernity

6. Conclusion
Canons, Canonicity, Canonization: Literary "Culture" and the Problem of Otherness
Cultural Studies or Transcultural Studies


Examines the notion of exile and hybrid cultural identity in Proust, Joyce, and Baldwin, with implications for our understanding of modernism and the modernist canon.


Reading on the Edge explores the notion of multiple cultural identity and exile in the work of Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and James Baldwin. Focusing on the cultural politics of modernism through the prism of cultural theory, the book reconceives each author's work while at the same time redrawing modernism's traditionally Eurocentric disciplinary boundaries. The book therefore has wide implications for our understanding of modernism and the modernist canon.

Cyraina E. Johnson-Roullier is Assistant Professor of Modern Literature and Cultural Theory at the University of Notre Dame.


"…it effects a series of deft and, in the best sense, unexpected convergences that may point the way towards new phases in the political critique of Joyce and other exiled modernists. " — James Joyce Quarterly

"This is a well-informed, responsible book. There is nothing quite like it in its sweep or in its achievement. Johnson-Roullier navigates the perilous waters of literary theory with the aplomb of a well-weathered pilot. She has no hesitancy in drawing upon the resources of existing scholarship and brings an almost philological attention to matters of erudition. No one concerned with the issues of canon formation, canonicity, and the present difficulties of cultural studies—and who isn't?—can afford to ignore what it has to say. " — Wlad Godzich, University of Geneva

"I was impressed by the author's rigor in confronting the questions of nationalism and ethnicity in the formation of literary canons. Much has been written on this topic, but Johnson-Roullier's comparative analysis brings a welcome sensitivity to the way in which efforts at revision repeat the dynamics of marginalization and institutionalization. By focusing on the primacy of reading in the formation and deformation of canons, and, above all, by bringing a comparativist's perspective to these issues, Johnson-Roullier makes a genuine contribution to our thinking of the place of the other in modernism. Her reconsideration of modernity within the concept of exile opens the door to a revaluation of modernism and canonization that critics ought to heed. " — Joseph Kronick, author of Derrida and the Future of Literature

"This revision of modernism and the ways in which the author seeks to rethink it out from under the limitations of both nationalism and internationalism is both important and timely. Johnson-Roullier has a very clear and intelligent style that allows her to explain complicated concepts and readings with precision and clarity. " — Michael Beehler, author of T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and the Discourses of Difference