Affective Transnationalism: Writing Anglo Decline in the Afro-Celtic World-System, 1880-1980
This dissertation argues that the literature of a fading, Atlantic-imperial system of mines and plantations had a decisive and under-examined impact upon twentieth-century globalization. Adopting a world-systems perspective, this project investigates how the literature of declining Anglo settler classes – in particular, the Anglo-Irish and Anglo-South Africans – constructed a series of stylized emotional dispositions so as to position these classes as mediators between rising national movements and an emerging global economy. Turning to novels, plays, and non-fiction prose by a British-based group of colonial writers who mixed dissident and privileged politics in equal parts – Olive Schreiner, George Bernard Shaw, William Plomer, Sarah Gertrude Millin, Elizabeth Bowen, J. M. Keynes, and J. M. Coetzee – Affective Transnationalism shows how the Anglo-Irish Big House novel, the South African plaasroman/farm novel, and the South African mine novel provided familiar images of an older Atlantic semiperiphery through which to make sense of an emergent, despatialized semiperiphery governed by professionalized labor and emotional ambivalence. Where the Atlantic mines and plantations featured in Anglo-Irish and Anglo-South African fiction had translated between local, highly-racialized labor systems and metropolitan commodity markets, twentieth-century globalization and the concomitant growth of finance capitalism caused both local, national-political institutions and global economic institutions to exist in the same space. This dissertation thus examines how Anglo settlers developed a formalist epistemology of emotion in which ambivalent emotions like sympathy, envy, hysteria, stoicism, and ecstasy enabled them to orient themselves simultaneously toward national-political and global-economic institutions, thereby using their own increasingly-negligent semiperiphery as a model for the new semiperiphery they now occupied as budding professionals. Most important, by using the Atlantic semiperiphery as a generic model for their experiments with affect, Schreiner, Shaw, Plomer, Millin, Bowen, and Coetzee reveal how literary and economic structural forms repeat across time in a discontinuous historical trajectory. Thus, in contrast to the evolving technologies, political forms, and economic logics we normally associate with “globalization,” the affective mediations we find in Anglo-Irish and Anglo-South African literature illustrate the formal continuity behind the various material and affective technologies tasked with organizing discrepant economies into a global world-system.
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