To Live Here: Worlds of the Modernist Haiku
In a span of about twenty years, starting at the turn of the twentieth century, the haiku went from being barely known outside of Japan to what could fairly be called a world literary form. In addition to the widespread translation (often retranslation) of Japanese haiku, there also arose an original literary production in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and other languages. This included not only the bits of lyric exoticism one might expect, but also works that engaged with many of the central issues of modernist poetics and indeed modernity more broadly. Specifically, the history of the modernist haiku foregrounds and elaborates tensions between conceptions of poetry as an increasingly concise, anti-discursive showing or shock, on the one hand, and the reinscription of those fleeting moments into complex and sustained projects of personal, national, and historical memory.
My talk will focus on three key moments in the modernist haiku tradition: the earliest French-language collection, Au fil de l’eau (1905); haiku written about the experience of trench warfare during the First World War and its connections to the avant-garde (most notably Julian Vocance’s Cent visions de guerre (1916)); and the Mexican haiku movement of the 1920s, including its reception in Europe. My conclusion turns to Shiki’s reinvention of the haiku form in order to consider how a more comparative history of the modernist haiku might help us interrogate not only the world but also the literature of “world literature.”
Christopher Bush is Associate Professor of French at Northwestern University, where he co-directs the Global Avant-garde and Modernist Studies graduate cluster and co-edits Modernism/modernity. His first book, Ideographic Modernism: China, Writing, Media, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010 and he is currently completing The Floating World: Modernism’s Japan (for Columbia University Press) and working on several projects on the early twentieth-century avant-gardes.